Nov 24, 2016

The 5 Critical Components of an Optimized Social Selling Approach

by Digital Marketing Institute

As cold calls and direct mail campaigns continue to lose their effectiveness, sellers need to evolve their method for engaging with and converting potential customers. Social selling can help you to surpass lead targets, nurture them more effectively, and boost revenue as a result. All you need to do is optimize your approach…

1. A Strong Personal Brand

Fostering credibility for your brand using online channels is central to successful digital selling. Yet whether you’re part of a small business or a large multinational, the essential starting point for any digital selling strategy is to develop a personable personal brand. There is immense value in being able to present yourself as a seller that your customers can trust. If you’re able to convey yourself as authentic, informative and accessible, you will be able to establish meaningful customer relationships, which will help you to drive more sales and, where possible, encourage repeat purchases. There are a number of ways in which you can build your personal brand:

Be consistent: first impressions count, which is why it’s important to optimize your social media profiles in a consistent manner. Each account is an opportunity to showcase your experience and abilities. If you have a LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook account for professional purposes, make sure that you optimize and update them regularly, and recognize they are all important customer touchpoints. If you don’t have time to manage multiple social channels, you shouldn’t have them.

Use appropriate imagery: most social media platforms allow you to upload a profile picture and cover photo, both of which are valuable branding opportunities. When it comes to profile images, make sure they are professional and natural (avoid anything too contrived or posed). For cover images, be strategic. You can use them to promote particular products, special discounts or offers. Don’t confine yourself to your company logo – be creative!

Create a convincing bio: you need to be able to sell yourself, just as well as any product or service you have to offer. In a limited number of characters, you can outline the unique benefits of your business, any persuasive statistics you may have on customer satisfaction or revenue, and maybe a few personal facts that display your personality in a transparent, humanizing way.

2. An Ability to Identify Potential Customers

Once you’ve determined your personal brand positioning, another integral element to a successful social selling approach is being able to identify and engage the most suitable customers. As social selling is a highly personalized (and affective) approach, the more specifically you can target potential leads, the more streamlined and concentrated your efforts will be. An optimized lead generation plan will help you to best invest your time and efforts, and enjoy a significant return on that investment! Below, we’ve listed the approaches you can use to identify and target the most appropriate leads:

Social listening: there are a variety of tools available that will allow you to identify customers, their needs and preferences. Tweepi can help you to build your Twitter following through the discovery of users who would be interested in your brand. SproutSocial can identify your most popular posts, which will help you to better engage your online community, and consequently grow it. Social Mention, meanwhile, examines brand mentions and interactions within social conversations, so you can learn about the top keywords, users and hashtags associated with your business.

Existing connections: if you’re building social followings from scratch, the best foundation comprises people you already know. Connect with current and former colleagues, old employers or previous clients on LinkedIn and Twitter. This will provide you with an introduction to untapped audiences, as you can examine their own connections and followers, and ask for introductions where appropriate. You can also import email contacts into your social channels, though try to avoid doing this in bulk as it can seem spammy, particularly if you don’t have a solid connection to the contact. This is a beneficial approach as according to LinkedIn, buyers are five times more likely to engage if outreach is conducted through a mutual connection.

Use search functions: LinkedIn and Twitter in particular have advanced search features that you can leverage to grow your network. Enter keywords, such as a job title, company, or industry to find relevant content, and the users that are posting it. Twitter’s advanced search lets you look for exact words and phrases, tweets from or to certain accounts, and tweets that mention certain accounts. With a LinkedIn premium account, you have access to more search fields such as seniority, years of experience, function and company size, and can even save your searches for future reference!

Top tip: LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is the perfect prospecting tool for social sellers. You can search for and save up to 3000 leads and receive real-time updates on anyone you've’ saved.

3. The Patience to Nurture Leads

Establishing and maintaining a valuable relationship with a customer requires time, effort and hard work. For many, it’s too much work – research shows that 80% of sales occur only after at least five follow ups, and 44% of sales reps give up on a lead after one attempt.

This means that in order to ensure your customer relationships are as meaningful and profitable as possible, you need the patience to nurture them to the best of your abilities. If you want to maximize the impact of your social selling approach, it’s time to start interacting and engaging with your customers as much as possible.

Share, like and comment: these simple social actions, while not too intrusive or overbearing, will raise your lead’s awareness, making you more visible to them. It’s a subtle signal that you’re present, and interested in what they have to say.

Respond to comments: You can try to gradually develop your customer conversations by replying to tweets and comments on blog articles and forum posts (especially if they mention your brand, or a product or service you sell). Wherever it feels appropriate, ask questions, to demonstrate your investment in their needs and keep the conversation going.

Send an email:if you’ve managed to gather a prospect’s email address, you can assume they are considerably more qualified and open to learning more about your brand and how it can benefit them. Email provides a direct, personalized channel of communication that you can use to send more detailed messages in which you can expand upon your unique selling points.

Close with a traditional tactic: even when you nurture a customer using social channels, sometimes it takes a more traditional, personal touch to close the deal. Depending on their preferences, you can conduct a final follow up with a customer via phone, video call or a physical meeting to ground your connection in a more human context.

4. An Appreciation for Content

It’s well known that the role of content in digital marketing has grown in importance in recent years, but content marketing is equally integral to the success of social selling. The purpose of your customer communications are to your brand, and your products and services, and yourself. You need to establish yourself as an industry thought leader, a trusted source of information, from whom customers will feel comfortable buying.

Did you know that a consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content on average, prior to making a purchase decision? It’s essential that you provide your potential customers with value and education. Use content to anticipate their needs, allay their concerns, and answer any questions they may have.

Successful social sellers can target the right people with the right content at the right time.

You should aim to share tailored, relevant content to prospects using the following methods:

Post on your social profiles every day: you should aim to post at least once a day on Facebook and LinkedIn, and three times on Twitter. These figures should increase if you retweet or share other users’ content. In short, the more you post, the stronger your social presence. Post informative content, whether it’s a short status update or a blog article. You could provide a link to an infographic and share some insightful commentary, or circulate an instructional value. As long as it’s relevant to your target audience, it will be valuable to you.

Engage in groups and forums: whether it’s LinkedIn, or Quora, finding industry-relevant communities and threads will guarantee a more engaged audience for your content. You’ll be able to provoke pertinent discussions, or join existing conversations. Use these as opportunities to demonstrate your industry expertise and ability to advise, but also to increase your awareness of potential customer needs and challenges.

Consider publishing platforms: publishing platforms such as LinkedIn Pulse and Medium can help you to significantly expand your reach and foster even more engagement. These platforms are better suited to long-form content which will help you to further establish yourself as an industry authority. If your content generates comments and shares, you can use these interactions to start conversations with your audience, and hopefully develop them into conversions.

5. A Willingness to Analyze Results

Interpreting results and analyzing effectiveness should be just as important to social sellers as it is to digital marketers. If you are committed to optimizing your social selling approach, you need to give consideration to the metrics that matter most. 88% of missed opportunities are caused because sales couldn’t leverage internal resources. Analytics data will help to you improve your approach, both in terms of the customers you target and the content you share.

Email metrics: According to iContact, customers who receive email newsletters usually spend 82% more money. Measure the effectiveness of your email communications with prospective customers by looking at who opens your emails, what they click on, and whether they convert.

Social media metrics: keep an eye on your follower growth, shares, likes and comments to ascertain which types of content your online community prefers to consume, and the platforms on which they prefer to consume it.

CRM metrics: running CRM reports will relate your social selling efforts to the number of sales closed. What is the length of an average sales cycle? How many leads are you converting to customers? How many sales are you making per lead source? All of these insights will play a vital role in refining your social selling.

What are the tried and tested social selling techniques that work for you? Maybe you’re still adopting a traditional approach? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Learn how to make more sales faster and easier using social selling techniques.

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