Digital transformation is a phrase that connotes multinational organizations shedding traditional, outdated marketing strategies and sales processes in favor of embracing automated workflows and instant online customer interactions.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.
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!
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.
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.
Advanced CRM tools can provide social sellers with another unique advantage.