Nov 2, 2015
“Social selling” is a buzzword that’s becoming increasingly ubiquitous, as sellers look to revolutionise the way they prospect and sell. Social media provides an instant and direct line to countless potential customers, enabling sellers to build meaningful customer relationships, establish trust and consequently drive sales. But as much as it evokes positivity and innovation, social selling is quite a limiting concept too.
If you’re a sales professional who wants to succeed, a traditional selling strategy isn’t enough anymore; cold calling, a tried and tested selling approach, now only has a 2.5% success rate. You need to adapt how you engage and transact with your current and potential customers. Digital tools and techniques continue to penetrate every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional, and they are now a fundamental, necessary component of an effective selling strategy. If you’re serious about achieving ultimate selling success, you need to look beyond using social media to support your sales. Social selling is a small, albeit key component of a much more extensive approach; a modest slice of a large, delicious digital selling pie.
So why limit yourself to a single slice when you can have the entire pie? Everyone is entitled to the occasional Bruce Bogtrotter moment, especially if it’s guaranteed to help you reach quota and exceed your OTE. As well as exploring how to harness the power of social, I’m going to outline how you can apply digital selling, and its associated tools and techniques, to cultivate an efficient, effective approach that will accelerate pipeline.
If you want to enhance your digital selling strategy you need to start by cultivating a persuasive personal brand. Although it might seem like extraneous effort, there is value in building your brand and establishing yourself as a seller that customers can trust. Presenting yourself as an authentic and well-informed influence will help to promote positive customer relationships which will ultimately drive sales and encourage repeat purchases!
Optimise your social profiles
Use a professional photograph: this doesn’t mean it has to be overly formal, or boring; you can still convey your personality within reason; I’d advocate against drunk selfies or pictures from your fancy dress party though. You want to look approachable, friendly and relaxed; someone a potential customer would want to buy from!
Create a compelling bio: Whether it’s your Twitter bio or LinkedIn summary, you should use your social profiles to convey how you are the perfect fit for your potential customers. Think of it a little bit like online dating with less romance and more revenue; you want to demonstrate your compatibility. Clearly articulate the benefits of your product or service and how they align with customer needs. You can use HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool to create personalised buyer personas and benefit from real consumer insights to ensure you’re writing what you customers want to read. Which I’d imagine would be helpful for online dating as well.
Refine your tone
When creating your social profiles and writing updates, you should aim for a tone that is professional, yet accessible and conversational. Not unlike your profile picture, you want potential customers to relate to you, and feel comfortable approaching and engaging with you. Complement educational content and statistics with a few personal facts (not too personal, don’t take the online dating analogy too far) that display your unique personality and indicate a sense of transparency that extends to your selling approach.
Buying behaviours have changed. According to Sales For Life, 77% of buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, 57% of the buying decision is completed before they are willing to talk to a sales rep. Modern consumers are empowered by social media, search engines and mobile devices. In response, sellers need to be just as digitally capable, which should involve conducting a little research of their own.
Digital research can enable sellers to identify and learn about potential customers and assess key industry trends, drivers and influencing factors that can provide an insight into the needs of those customers. You can also use research to better relate to and engage with existing leads, as well as measuring the reputation of and sentiment towards your competitors, which can help you to refine your competitive edge. Essentially, it’s about being able to provide the right information to the right person at the right time using the right channel.
Useful research sources that can help you to tailor your offering to accommodate your customers and surpass your competitors include:
Owned media: An excellent place to start when trying to gain a better understanding of a prospect or competitor. Company websites, social media profile pages, blogs and email newsletters are the essence of a potential customer’s identity, their digital footprint. You can learn a lot about someone from how they choose to present themselves online!
Industry publications: Whether it’s TechCrunch, Forbes or Fly Fishing –The Leading Magazine of Fly Fishing, scanning some articles or publications relevant to your prospect or competitor will help you to develop a more detailed understanding of the developments within their industry.
Forums and Groups: Forums like Quora or Reddit are a platform for candid peer-to-peer discussion on a variety of topics, and could give you an insight into the particular challenges or pain points that particular companies and industries face, as well as the successes they enjoy. Similarly, LinkedIn and Facebook groups are streamlined to accommodate discussions on specific topics that could also benefit your understanding of a potential customer or competitor.
Social listening tools: Social listening is an indispensable weapon in any digital seller’s armoury.Buzzsumo, for example, lets you analyse top performing content based on industry, identify competitors and influencers. Google Alerts enables you to monitor any online mentions of particular companies or brands, and Topsy examines brand mentions within social conversations, aggregating data such as links, tweets, photos and video. If you want to identify prospects, tools like TweePi can help you to discover social media users who might be interested in your brand. Together, these automated insights can form a valuable and sizable part of your digital sales research.
Establishing a relationship with a customer is a traditional method of increasing their likelihood to purchase, but it’s one that remains highly effective! Rather than eradicating time-honoured selling approaches, at its core, digital selling is about building on existing skills and maximising them with digital tools and tactics. This means that with a digital approach, you can ensure your customer relationships are as meaningful and profitable as possible.
There are two key questions that you need to ask yourself in order to make the most of your customer relationships:
What do I want to say?
You’ve established contact and are tempted to launch into your perfect pitch and start name-dropping solutions. But no matter how great your offering might be, before you can sell your product to a customer, you need to sell yourself. The purpose of your initial communications with a customer should always be to establish yourself as an industry thought leader, a trusted authority.
You should aim to provide customers with value and education, to inform them with whitepapers, industry articles, instructional videos, or infographics. It doesn’t matter whether you (or your marketing department) have created this content, or whether you’re curating someone else’s, as long as the content you send is relevant and personalised to your prospect. In short, you need to motivate your customers to engage with you. Once you have piqued their interest, you can move on to sending more tailored, personal messages and follow up emails in an attempt to convert.
How do I want to say it?
The medium is the message, so the channel through which you choose to engage with your potential customer will define how they perceive your communication. At all times, you should focus on enhancing the client experience through effective engagement, and you can amplify this effectiveness by choosing the right channel.
Respond to a comment on a blog or a forum: this is an easy, non-intrusive way of initially capitalising upon a prospect’s specific need, or demand.
Engage in conversation via social media: whether it’s a public Tweet or a private Facebook message, social media is another effective medium for sharing educational, informative content.
Send an email: suitable for a more qualified prospect who is already aware of and interested in your brand, emails are perfect for longer form communications and introducing a potential customer to the solutions you want to offer to them.
Take if offline: sometimes, a digital customer contact strategy can culminate in a phone call or meeting to cement the relationship before closing a deal.
In my upcoming articles I’m going to take a more granular look at how you can use specific digital tools and platforms to generate leads and close deals. In the meantime, if you have any digital selling tips or tactics that you’d like to share, or any thoughts (related to digital selling!) at all, feel free to leave a comment below!