Attract, Engage and Convert Your Customers with Social Selling

Author Sophie Elizabeth Smith

Digital transformation is a phrase that connotes multinational organizations shedding traditional, outdated marketing strategies and sales processes in favor of embracing automated workflows and instant online customer interactions. At a more granular level, it is helping sellers to adapt their approach towards increasingly empowered customers. A recent IBM preference study showed that cold calling, once a tried and trusted sales technique, is ineffective 97% of the time – a figure that has been rising 7% per annum since 2010.

What to expect when you’re social selling…

Social selling is a steadily growing practice that is a necessary response to evolving buyer behaviors. 57% of the purchase decision has been made before a customer even reaches out to a brand representative, and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. Customers are less susceptible to a sales pitch now that they have online content to inform them about products, features, and pricing. They’re more discerning because search engines have opened up a wealth of alternative options and provided them with direct access to a brand and its competitors. And because social channels can instantly connect consumers to their peers and influencers, they can be infinitely less inclined to trust you and your brand.

Digital has created a ‘new normal’ which requires that sellers showcase new ‘capabilities’ in order to remain effective. The purpose of social selling, then, is to equip sellers with a skillset and tools, grounded in social media, that will allow them to generate more leads in less time, and nurture them in a more authentic and effective manner.

In 2015, it was reported that only 1 in 4 sales reps knew how to integrate social media into their sales process, despite its proven, positive impact on revenue growth. In some instances, sales professionals may be engaging in social selling and just not realize it. Whether you choose to use Twitter for building customer relationships, or leverage LinkedIn for targeted prospecting purposes, you are already a (somewhat) social seller! 

Social selling has the ability to positively impact your bottom line

One of the key benefits of social selling is that it allows you to prospect much more efficiently, and provides increased opportunities. You can use social media platforms and social listening tools to gain a detailed level of insight into who you should be targeting within an organization, based on criteria including their job title and location. You can analyze customer behavior such as the hashtags they use and the brands with whom they interact in order to identify new opportunities for you and your brand. You can even quickly carry out competitor analysis that will introduce you to a new target audience - the users they follow and who follows them. This can save you precious time as you know you’ll only be engaging prospects with a genuine need for or interest in the solutions you offer. 

Another advantage social selling offers is the ability to build a strong personal brand – a powerful tool for convincing and converting customers. As peer-to-peer recommendations are valued over transparent sales messaging, there is a necessity to develop meaningful customer relationships that are rooted in authenticity and a strong sense of trust. Social sellers can do this through the creation and distribution of content that is of genuine value to their prospects. Whether it’s a blog article, a webinar, or a simple tweet, creating original content that’s relevant to your target audience and sharing it through social channels can humanize you, making you seem credible and accessible. This in turn increases the likelihood of turning prospects into avid brand advocates that are open to what you have to offer, and say.

Social selling also has the potential to significantly reduce your sales cycle. Not only have the majority of your prospects already carried out a degree of pre-purchase research, your enhanced prospecting capabilities and customer relationships provide you with a next-level of customer knowledge. This knowledge can enable you to identify potential obstacles to conversion and address customer needs at the earliest stages of the sales funnel. This level of specificity and the immediacy with which social channels allow you to communicate with customers invariably mean that the sales cycle will be much shorter.

These are just a few of the various benefits of social selling, but they all serve as strong indicators of how you can utilize this progressive practice to cultivate an impactful sales process that encourages customer loyalty, reduces churn and ultimately improves revenue.

Equip yourself with the right social selling tools

The abundance of tools available to support social selling demonstrate how easy it is for those who adopt the practice to achieve so much more in less time. Thanks to their clean interface and strong focus on user experience, it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned social seller – these tools will benefit you.

Audience research tools will provide you with invaluable insights that will help you to take both a proactive, customer-centric approach to social selling. Native social media analytics platforms within Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will enable you to gather data on your existing audiences. You can also use built-in features such as advanced search and groups to find out more about customer pain-points and preferences. Then, supplement this data with a tool like Hootsuite, which enables you to monitor your own brand, your competitors and find out what customers are saying about you. Followerwonk, meanwhile, will help you to find and connect with the most relevant Twitter users, and will contrast your relationships with your followers with your competitors.

Act-On is a piece of marketing automation software that helps with the creation, curation, and scheduling of social posting, and enables you to easily manage social interactions.

Advanced CRM tools can provide social sellers with another unique advantage. Nimble, for example, is a social CRM that also provides valuable relationship intelligence. You can pull in data from multiple social channels belonging to one prospect, and aggregate it in one centralized lead record. It can also track all of your social interactions with that prospect which makes managing your pipeline infinitely easier, particularly as it can integrate with Outlook, Gmail, and Salesforce to name a few!

Marketing automation tools are for social sellers too! They support triggered, targeted communications throughout the sales process, which can expedite lead nurturing and leaves sellers free to focus on other essential tasks, such as generating new leads, without negatively impacting the customer experience. Act-On is a piece of marketing automation software that helps with the creation, curation, and scheduling of social posting, and enables you to easily manage social interactions. You can pin social posts and updates for follow-up and future reference, and schedule email alerts so you always stay up-to-date with your online community. 

Social selling superstar: SAP

SAP is a German multinational corporation that develops enterprise software solutions to streamline business operations and manage customer relationships. They had acknowledged the effectiveness of social selling and how it can create an essential competitive edge in a modern business landscape.

However, in order to be successful adopters of social selling, SAP needed employees from every company across their organization to cooperate and collaborate.

In order to get employees on board, SAP used a 3-tiered approach:

1. Encourage a culture change

Social selling is cross-functional and collaborative to the core. It is a specialism that recognizes that employees in a variety of roles can play a role in the customer journey and the steps taken to convert them. SAP made the conscious decision to take an organization-wide approach towards adopting social selling, rather than confining it to certain departments or geos. They encouraged their employees to come together, united by a common goal to fulfil the needs of their customers. This new customer-centric attitude that enveloped SAP made it easier to achieve social selling success. This culture shift is reflected perfectly in a brand new SAP sales team who took part in a social blitz (rather than a calling blitz) during their training week and generated one million euros in pipeline, growing the entire pipeline of its market by 44% within a year after initial training.

2. Invest in training

SAP worked with LinkedIn to benchmark its performance and to develop and implement critical, comprehensive social selling training. Maggie Fox, the Senior Vice President of Marketing explains; “What's unique about our partnership is a Train-the-Trainer program that we setup together with them. We're actually running it together as a pioneer customer of LinkedIn. We are taking their education and we're adding our social selling knowledge for our industry and for our company into this concept. And we are rolling that out together, producing coaches and trainers across the globe, because we've seen that that is a big game changer."

3. Use data to identify positive results

SAP focused on gathering and sharing data that would prove the value of social selling and motivate sales teams to get on board.

According to Kirsten Boileau, director, SAP experience innovation: “We focused on making sure frontline sales managers were really involved from the very beginning – when we go to a team to actually train them. If you don’t have that sales management buy-in, you’re missing out on the key influencers for that team.”

Today, social sellers across SAP achieve 32% more revenue and are 10% more likely to achieve quota. By using LinkedIn Sales Navigator alone, the organization’s revenue increased by over 40% in a few short months.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can use social selling to build relationships, establish trust and drive sales, you can download our free ebook here

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

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Sophie Elizabeth Smith
Content Marketer