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How Social Selling Can Improve Your Sales Process

ByKeegan Connolly,
business.com writer
|
Aug 29, 2019
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> Marketing
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Learn how connecting with prospects on social media can improve lead-generation efforts.

  • The world is more connected than ever through the power of social media. How can your sales team use it to your company's advantage?
  • Multiple independent studies have found that salespeople on social media outperform their peers who don't have social accounts.
  • Salespeople can establish themselves on social media by building a profile on LinkedIn and using this platform's sales tools, which give insights, feedback and recommendations based on individual sales performance.

Social selling is a sales method that can help your sales team. But what is social selling? It is not the same thing as social media marketing.

Rather, social selling is a sales method where salespeople use social media to add more people to the sales pipeline and interact directly with prospects. It can revolutionize your sales approach, enable better lead generation and even eliminate cold calling. With the power of social selling, sales representatives can laser-target prospects and build real relationships.

Why is social selling important?

There are strong numbers that show what social selling can do for your sales team. According to an internal study from LinkedIn, salespeople using social selling tactics had 45% more sales opportunities, were 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas and outsold 78% of their peers. CSO Insights also completed a study on social selling, which delivered interesting results. In its study, 70% of B2B professionals reported using social media for lead development, 65% used it for account research, 60% used it for call preparation and 59% used it for contact and stakeholder research.

These numbers demonstrate how salespeople using social media are able to build relationships with their prospects, which leads to introductions and opportunities. As a matter of fact, the IDC discovered that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level/VP executives use social media in making their purchasing decisions.

The social selling framework

According to Mike Montague of Sandler Training, there are five main aspects of the social selling process to focus on.

  1. People. Contact the people making the purchasing decisions for their companies. Salespeople can use social media searches to find these individuals. For example, LinkedIn allows you to search for people by job title, level of seniority and job function.
  2. Channel. Use the correct channel to contact people. There are many social platforms and channels to choose from, but some are more appropriate than others. If you are looking for clients for your fitness-training gym, it might be appropriate to contact individuals over Instagram using direct messages. However, if you are trying to sell B2B software services, you most likely want to connect with people via LinkedIn, which is the most professional social media network.
  3. Message. To build relationships with prospects, your messages should be interesting and relevant. Before sharing content, ask yourself the following questions. What sort of content are my prospects likely to be interested in? What might get the attention of a prospective buyer? What can I share with my prospects to prove my credibility?
  4. Timing. The timing of the messaging can be just as important as the message itself. You want to contact people when they have a reason to be interested in your products.
  5. Ask. Finally, there is the ask. While social media is a great place to prospect and build relationships, it's important not to inundate your prospects with information. If you are constantly sending people calls to action or sales pitches, you are less likely to find success. Instead, build up your relationships and then sell after you have established a rapport.

How to build your presence on LinkedIn

Ensuring that your LinkedIn page is complete and accurate is the easiest way to get started with social selling. Go through your profile page and complete or update all the sections. You want to have an attention-grabbing profile with a profile picture and header image, headline, summary, experiences, skills, endorsements and interests. If you already filled all these areas in, do a quick audit and make sure all the information is relevant and up to date.

One aspect of the LinkedIn profile that few people take advantage of is the ability to attach multimedia to your experiences section. Adding white papers, case studies or other materials from your work that highlight you as a leader is a great way to polish your profile.

Luckily for you, LinkedIn already has a tool in place to help you become a more effective social seller called the LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI). If you're already signed up for LinkedIn, this free tool is available to you at linkedin.com/sales/ssi.   

The LinkedIn SSI Score is a helpful metric for you to figure out how well optimized your profile is for social selling. The score is based on the following four components.

  1. Establish your personal brand. This component is based on how well you have designed your profile. All of your profile sections shoule filled in with detailed information, including your profile picture, headline, summary and experience. Establishing your personal brand also includes posting content and interacting with content uploaded by others with likes and comments. Finally, you can generate endorsements from your colleagues. If you endorse their skills or post a text endorsement on their profile, they are likely to return the favor.
  2. Find the right people. Ensure that you are finding decision-makers by using LinkedIn's advanced search features, which are included with the Sales Navigator platform. Also, connect to second-degree connections (people you aren't connected with that are connected to one of your connections). Finally, LinkedIn tells you who has viewed your profile page. Use this to your advantage by connecting with these people.
  3. Engage with insights. This metric is based on the content that you share and engage with. An easy way to boost this number is to share relevant resources on your feed to promote yourself as a reliable source of information. Next, leverage LinkedIn Pulse to find relevant articles and posts, and use Sales Navigator to follow news about your prospects so you can post comments on the content your prospects are sharing. Finally, make sure you aren't sending the same messages to everyone; customize the messages based on the profile of your prospect and with information that is relevant to them.
  4. Build relationships. This component is possibly the most important – it's also one of the easiest to improve. You simply connect with people to increase the reach of your network. Focus on building connecting with senior-level people who make purchasing decisions. Connecting with your colleagues internally will also help to improve this score, because of LinkedIn's TeamLink. This feature allows you to see if any of your colleagues are connected with your leads so you can gain an introduction. Last, don't just forget about people once you have connected with them. Reach out to people with relevant information at the right times to develop the relationship. A simple "congrats" or "how are things going?" keeps you top of mind.

Although LinkedIn's SSI Score is a helpful tool for you to use, you shouldn't rely on it, because having a great score won't make you a great social seller automatically. Some of the components of the score can be boosted artificially by likes, connection requests, comments and messages. Social selling is a situation where it is important to focus on quality over quantity. Focus on providing quality content, making quality connections and building quality relationships.

Keegan Connolly
Keegan Connolly
See Keegan Connolly's Profile
I am a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell as well as the Sales and Marketing Intern at business.com for the summer of 2019. At UMass Lowell I am working towards a bachelors degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Marketing and International Business. From Westford, MA.
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