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Social selling is a critical part of a high-quality sales strategy. In short, social selling is a form of inbound marketing that helps brands build better relationships with sales prospects as they move through a customer journey map.
As found by Sales for Life, 61% of organizations who engage in social selling report a positive impact on revenue growth. However, the same report found that 72% of sales professionals feel as though they are not proficient in social selling practices.
When done well, a strong social selling strategy allows brands to meet customers where they are online, and guide them through the buyer journey with relevant interactions and engagement. Optimizing the buyer journey can help you shorten your sales cycle so that your team has more time to make the most out of your marketing budget.
61% of organizations who engage in social selling report a positive impact on revenue growth.
The power of social selling
Although social selling is a sales tactic that has been around since social media networks were first used in a professional sense (you can find the top 100 influencers and brands utilizing social selling here), many digital marketing and sales professionals still haven’t begun to fully implement social selling strategies. However, buyers on social media often have higher budgets, which are up to 84% larger than budgets of those who do not use social media.
Along with attracting those with larger spending budgets, social selling strategies can be implemented in a multitude of ways, including lead development, research, and call preparation. Social selling is much more than just a sales fad; it’s a future-forward method of enabling salespeople for success. According to the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, some benefits of social selling tools include:
- Reduced time spent on account and contact research
- Increased conversion rate of leads
- Shorter sales cycles
- Deeper relationships with clientele
So why is it that around 1/3 of salespeople are still not sure about the benefits social selling brings to the table?
If you’re amongst the 1/3 of sales professionals not quite convinced that social selling can help optimize your buyer journey and sales process, let’s jump into the best way to implement social selling into your customer journey map:
Start with an active online presence
No social selling strategy will be effective without a valid presence on various social media channels, such as:
For most sales professionals, LinkedIn is the most important for obtaining new leads and nurturing existing professional connections.
Develop customer personas
Inbound marketing requires an in-depth understanding of your ideal client profile (ICP) and where they spend their time online. Your brand may have multiple ICPs, so it’s best to break them down into customer personas. To create high-quality personas, you’ll have to consider the pain points, emotions, and needs of your target audience.
This process of discovering and understanding your customers will help you streamline the buyer journey, as you won’t need to include unnecessary steps to engage with a wide range of prospects. You only need to include tasks that hyper-target your ideal customers.
Don’t forget to research the buying journey of competitive brands with similar ICPs. Although it may be tempting to copy their buying journey and implement some of their strategies, it’s important to remember that as a competitor, it’s your job to play up your strengths where they’re lacking, not mimic their strong points.
Provide relevant and educational content
Content shared as a part of your social selling strategy should always be useful, relevant, and timely for your targeted persona. Whether you’re creating new content or sharing an educational blog from a trusted source, it’s vital that the information is valuable to your audience.
Providing buyers with helpful advice at multiple touchpoints throughout the customer journey map amplifies your presence as a high-value, reliable brand that they can trust.
Streamline the buyer journey by staying visible
Ideally, your social media presence will solidify your brand as an expert source of information surrounding your product, service, or industry in the minds of your target market. You don’t want to simply be a purchase option, but rather, the answer to their challenges.
High-value content and resources are those that help improve the life of the reader in some capacity. Whether it’s a helpful eBook shared at a strategic phase of the buyer journey or an informative long-form blog post shared by a sales professional to convert a prospect to a customer, you need to make your brand and your content the first that comes to mind when someone thinks of your industry.
Part of staying visible and on the minds of your prospects is responding promptly on social media channels. If a prospect sends a direct message on LinkedIn, make sure you answer it in a timely fashion.
Optimized buyer journeys help attract new prospects
The magic of social selling is that it’s just that: social. Once you’ve funneled a prospect all the way through the customer journey map, they’re ready to act as double-duty agents for your cause. Not only do you have a professional relationship with happy customers, but you also have the potential for repeat sales and referrals.
Generating referrals and sharing them across your social media channels can help attract new leads. To take this a step further, creating a case study based on a satisfied customer is heavy-duty content that can be used in social selling tactics during the end phases of the buying journey.
Optimize the buyer journey with social selling tools
To successfully implement and carry out any social selling strategy that optimizes the buyer journey, digital marketers and sales professionals need the right tools. Luckily, the experts at HubSpot compiled their suggestions for top-notch tools for each stage of the social selling process:
Tools for the “listening” stage: The listening stage (or research stage) enables you to understand your target audience and their needs. One of the most successful social selling tools available to help sales professionals understand their leads better? LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This social selling powerhouse is a sales tool that helps sales professionals engage with prospects, search and filter to find hyper-targeted leads, and develop new professional connections.
Tools for the “participation” stage: In the second stage of a high-quality social selling strategy, you’ve got to begin engaging with leads, prospects, and other sales professionals. Simply start by “liking” posts, content, and statuses, or engage on a more personal level with messaging prospects, leaving relevant and personalized comments, or sharing your own educational content.
Best-in-class customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as these options from Technology Advice allows you to integrate the tools with social media channels. For example, you can use CRM tools to loop in other sales team members to help you handle the new list of prospects generated from a LinkedIn Sales Navigator search. If you’re looking for a way to upskill your digital marketing knowledge for high-value social selling, consider investing in a comprehensive digital marketing program.
Ideally, your buyer journey will be streamlined with the help of these tools, creating a more succinct process for you and your team, as well as satisfied customers. Social selling is a collaborative effort between digital marketers and sales professionals, requiring that they align to create, curate, and share high-quality social content and engagement processes.
The right tools and social selling strategies can take your business or brand to the next level. With the number of worldwide social media users estimated to reach 2.95 billion people by 2020, there’s no better time than now to implement the social selling strategies needed to optimize your buyer journey.
The future of selling is online, and sales teams who are able to utilize digital technologies will soon outperform their not-so-digital-savvy peers.
A well-designed social selling strategy not only provides relevant, useful, and timely content to high-potential prospects but also keeps you at the forefront of a buyer’s mind. Embrace the age of digital transformation by implementing the right tools to develop a streamlined customer journey map that fits the needs of all of your customer personas.