We all know the internet and social networks are changing the sales process. Buyers now have access to more information and are doing more for themselves.
As a result, sales teams need to think and act differently to engage with and influence prospects.
A huge part of this is through providing helpful online content and information, to build trust and credibility and identify and engage with potential customers through social networks in an approach known as social selling.
How does content fit into the social selling process?
One of the most critical tools in any sales professionals arsenal when it comes to selling online is content.
After all, 67% of top-performing sales organizations support their sales enablement efforts with content while 65% of buyers claim it has influenced their final decision to purchase.
This means that organizations need to provide timely, targeted and relevant to buyers and prospects. This can include blogs, guides/eBooks, infographics and video to share across social networks and measure the response.
Content strategy and social seling
Your content strategy should be designed around providing content that will engage buyers and prospects.
That may sound obvious but it’s regularly overlooked in developing a content strategy. What you think is interesting (e.g. information about your product, service and company) may not be remotely interesting to your prospects and neworks. So, structure your content strategy around their needs.
As Lee Odden says, be the “best answer” to the questions they have, and share this content with them at point of need in the channels they’re most likely to find it - that’s the essence of social selling.
With a needs-based content strategy, you move towards being a consultant and advisor to your prospects and clients. This means playing a longer game, and putting their needs for useful insights ahead of your needs to win business.
It will pay off it you put effort into this strategy.
This strategy requires two forms of content: created content that’s unique to you, and carefully curated content from other sources. Let’s look at both.
Uniqiue content - marketing and sales alignment
Who should create unique content to support you social selling strategy? It may be the sales team, or the marketing team, or a combination of both.
In order to share and promote the right type of unique content, the sales team needs to work closely with marketing. After all, they are the department charged with creating content for lead generation and brand awareness.
However, the sales team are closer to the customer, and will have key insights on the type of content that will most engage them and help them (and by extension build trust and develop the relationship).
Aligning with the marketing team and setting up regular meetings and a sustainable content process can help to inform all sellers of both content coming down the line that they can share and existing content that may provide valuable to prospecting activity.
For example, if one of your sellers is in the early stages of discussion with a pharma company, then any blogs or guides that highlight or provide insight into that sector can be used to promote discussion and help a seller provide solutions to a customer’s pain points in a more natural and less salesy way.
Curation + Creation = Social Selling
However content creation isn’t the only way to engage and influence a prospect.
Curation plays a huge role in how knowledgeable a seller is. Sharing content from reputable sources that can provide insight or solutions to customers problems can build trust between a salesperson and prospect which will go a long way to closing a deal down the line.
What is content curation and how can it be done successfully?
It’s a simple fact that today’s customers (B2C and B2B) are inundated with content in a phenomenon coined as ‘Content Shock’.
Due to this information overload, many customers struggle to get the information they want, when they want it. This means that they struggle to find solutions to their issues (particularly in a B2B space) easily and quickly.
73% of Americans say they suffer from information overload every dayTweet This
10 steps for curating content
The content shock phenomenon presents an opportunity for sales professionals to be effective content curators. Using social selling techniques a seller can cut through the noise, share relevant content and provide insights that prospects and customers are struggling to find.
- Ask Why: What is the goal of curation for you as a sales professional? Are you focused on a specific market or set of clients? What do they need?
- Identify Target Audience: Be clear about the clients and prospects you are going to target with your curated content
- Set up a Baseline: Look at the type of content your target audience regularly like, share and recommend on social networks (primarily linkedIn). This will give you insights into the type of content that is likely to engage them through your curation and social sharing. Tools like BuzzSumo can help you analyse this.
- Research: Find relevant content on the topics and sources that will engage your audience. Quora, Google Searches and LinkedIn can support this, as well as specialist curation tools like Anders Pink.
- Automate: You don’t have time to look for new content from multiple sites and sources every day. Use tools to automate this for you, for example serve you and your team with the latest content about fintech but only if it mentions pharma and only if it’s from the top 500 business sites. Setting rules and filters like this will save you a lot of time (tools like Anders Pink, Curata and others can support this).
- Add Value: Curation is not just about passing on a link in social. Add your personal insights. Why is this relevant, why are you sharing it, what is your take on it? This will bring more of your personality to the social selling process.
- Share: Social selling is powered by sharing relevant content - created or curated - on social. Target the right networks, groups and audiences and always personalize your share for specific clients and audiences.
- Build a Community: It takes time to build a brand and reputation on social networks. It’s achieved one useful insight at a time. So put in the time, engage with your audience, answer their questions promptly and build a routine.
- Share Daily: Social selling is about building a routine to stay top of mind for your audience. You can use scheduling tools to support this, but better if you can make the time to personalize this - it’s a key part of your social selling activities.
- Get Feedback and Refine: Ask your network - did they find this content useful? What would they like to see more of in the future? Don’t just broadcast - social selling is about building a conversation with prospects.
For curated content to be effective the 5:3:2 rule is a handy guide. This means that 50% of your content should be curated from third party sources, 30% from your own organization’s content and 20% that is fun, inspirational or has a human interest element to it.
Keep that in mind - if you’re sharing more than 30% of your own promotional content, you are probably talking too much about yourself and that is off putting to buyers.
What content is most effective?
There are a range of social media platforms to choose from to engage and influence customers.
From the B2B orientated platform LinkedIn to real-time networks like Twitter to visual platforms such as Instagram and Vero the key to social selling is to know which channels provide the best opportunity to target your audience.
The most effective types of content will depend on your audience, your sector and where you are sharing it, but some to consider are:
- Stats and facts
- Research reports
- Relevant news stories
Selling is changing. Smart sellers now realise that to build relationships with prospects, they need to build engagement on social networks.
But you need to add value - cold connecting on LinkedIn won’t work any better than cold calling on the phone . Content is the key to powering your social selling.
Work with your marketing team to build a content strategy that will help your customers and prospects with the issues they care about, create and curate content to support them.
In addition, build a social selling process: sharing the right content with the right audience on a regular routine. This is how your brand and team will build engagement and opportunities through social selling.
Stephen has co-founded three businesses, formed and led global sales & marketing teams, exceeding $20M+ targets. He’s co-founder of global elearning provider Kineo (sold to City & Guilds), BuzzSumo, a content marketing tool (sold to Brandwatch), Anders Pink, a social selling and content curation tool and an advisor on sales, marketing and learning strategy to multiple companies.
He’s passionate about helping learning, sales and marketing teams achieve their goals with technology, content and great service.