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The idea behind social selling is simple: today’s consumers look to social media when they want to connect with brands and find information about potential products to purchase, and if the brands they support aren't making themselves available on those channels, then they're missing a great opportunity. The key to social selling is using social media sites (the ones your prospects and customers use the most) to build relationships, drive engagement, participate in conversations, answer questions, share valuable content, address customer service issues, and otherwise interact with your audience with the aim of converting leads into loyal customers.
But for salespeople who haven't yet jumped on the social sales bandwagon—and don’t worry, you're not alone: less than 10 percent of salespeople list social selling as a priority—you might be wondering how you can get your feet wet and incorporate this new technique into your repertoire. You might be even more inclined when you hear that 90 percent of the top salespeople do in fact use social selling, so today you'll learn some tactics you can include in your routine to master the art of social selling.
1) Choose Your Forums
Twitter and LinkedIn tend to be the most popular platforms for social selling, but you can engage in this activity on any social network where your audience can be found. If you're not sure where to find your audience, here are some tips you can use to determine which social sites they use most:
- Conduct a survey
- Have a look at what sites your competitors have a presence on
- Use a spy service like Flowtown or Rapleaf (you'll need to provide your customers’ email addresses)
- Ask your best customers
- Use resources like this one from Pew that breaks down social media use by demographic
2) Revamp Your Profiles
Social selling is very personal because it takes place in an arena where most people are trying to make connections. Therefore, it’s important that your profile shows more of what you can do for others and less of what you’ve done. In other words, your profile shouldn’t just be a resume. Instead, you want your profile to present you as a trusted authority in your field who can be a great resource and problem solver.
Start by adding a professional profile picture, and then rewrite your bio to focus on things that your ideal customer would be interested to know, including who you're qualified to help and how exactly you can do that. Finish with a call to action to contact you. Under about or experience sections, focus on results you’ve helped other clients to achieve, and use your headline to present a value proposition. Always remember to keep the emphasis on the improvements you’ve facilitated and problems you’ve helped solved for others rather than making it about you. Finally, link your social media accounts (for instance, add a link to your company’s Facebook page on your LinkedIn profile) so that buyers can easily do a mini reference check.
3) Join Groups and Become a Valued Resource
Social network groups are a gold mine of people resources because they bring together users with similar interests and needs. As a salesperson, you can leverage these groups to help you find prospects, but the important thing to remember is that you use your position in the group not to sell, but rather to provide insights, give information, build relationships, and gain trust. For instance, if you were in art supply sales, you might consider joining the Visual Artists and their Advocates group so that you could provide resources about the latest tools and supplies, answer questions, and join and start conversations about art. The key is contributing valuable information to the group, instead of using it as a platform for a sales pitch. To find the right groups, look at the groups where your customers and prospects are spending their time and join those groups as well.
4) Create or Curate Content to Share
As a social seller, content is one of the most crucial tools you can have in your belt because it’s one of the best ways you can offer value to your audience. Just think about it: everything on social media is about content. Whether somebody is sharing a personal photo, a blog, a news story, or an article from their favourite brand, it’s all content. You can either create your own content or curate it from other sources, but the goal in both instances is the same: share valuable, relevant, informative, and interesting pieces that will engage your audience, start conversations and encourage social signals (things such as likes, shares, and comments). Regardless of whether you're sharing a blog, whitepaper, video, infographic, or any other type of content, the topics should be trending or evergreen, on-point, and add something new to the discussion. If you don’t have time to create all your own original content, here are some ways you can curate it:
- User-generated content
- Subscribe to other people’s blogs
- Services such as Medium, BuzzSumo, and The Moz Top 10
- Follow influencers in your field
5) Share Content to Build Awareness and Generate Leads
Sharing great content to your social circles will get your foot in the door with new prospects. If you're constantly sharing relevant content that your audience finds interesting, then they will begin to recognize and trust you, and these are crucial steps in building relationships. Imagine, for instance, that you were a new artist who had recently joined that aforementioned LinkedIn group in hopes of finding information and resources that might help you achieve your goal of becoming a self-sustaining artist. And now imagine that one of the group members kept posting articles about how to make it in the modern world as an artist, the best ways to cut material costs, budgeting for young artists, and other content that answered the exact questions you’d been asking. Chances are you would start looking to that person as an authority, would trust the comments that group member made and what they said during conversations, and might even approach that person with specific questions. In other words, the content fosters the relationship and creates a lead, but only if the content is relevant and interesting, and provides value to your audience.
So now the big question: how often should you be posting? According to HubSpot, the more you post on Twitter, the better, but you should limit Facebook and LinkedIn contributions to daily posts, and no more than five per week.
6) Drive Engagement with Your Audience
Content, however, isn't the only way to build relationships in social selling, and it’s also important to engage with your audience. There are many ways you can do this, including:
- Starting and taking part in conversations
- Answering and asking questions
- Liking other people’s content
- Making and interacting with new connections
However, the key here is that interactions shouldn’t be seen as sales pitches, but rather an opportunity for you to add value to a conversation, share your knowledge, and demonstrate authority in your field. Moreover, your messages should be personalized rather than general, and everything you add should be thoughtful and germane to the conversation.
7) Watch for Trigger Events
It might seem strange that a blog about sales hasn’t actually mentioned sales yet, but there's a good reason for this: as discussed, social selling is mostly about nurturing leads, building trust, and fostering relationships. However, trigger events are your time to shine, because when a trigger event occurs, that’s when you can swoop in with a subtle sales pitch and save the day. What's more, because you’ve spent all the time and effort nurturing the relationships, when an opportunity for a sale does come along, you’ve already done everything possible to secure it. The best way to stay on top of trigger events is with social listening alerts—such as Social Inbox or Google Alerts—that will notify you when conversations happen that you should be a part of.
Social Selling is Here to Stay
Social selling may not be at the forefront of every salesperson’s mind just yet, but because of how effective the technique is, it won’t be long before it’s widely adopted. For one thing, social media isn't going away any time soon, and the number of active users is always growing on the most popular sites, meaning your possible audience is always growing too. Moreover, today’s consumers want to use social media to help them research and make purchasing decisions, and if you aren't there to make those connections, then somebody else will be.