Digital Selling & Social Selling: Do you Know the Difference?

In recent years there has been a huge buzz around social selling. Tipped as the future for sales professionals, its impact has been significant. Since its introduction, social selling has offered new ways for salespeople to research, approach and engage with prospects. But what about the bigger picture?

For sales professionals and organizations alike, digital selling is emerging as a new and increasingly exciting concept. As the father of social selling (in the sense that social selling makes up just one piece of the overall digital sales process pie), digital selling has the enormous potential to transform a team or organization into a lean, mean selling machine.

So, how should we approach the concept of digital selling? 

Think about digital marketing in today's world. We don't say 'social marketing' because we use more than just social media platforms to reach and engage with our target audience. Digital marketing encompasses a huge range of elements including PPC, SEO, analytics, mobile, email, display and the rest, to build brand awareness.

In much the same way, digital selling is about using social media platforms (social selling), as well as a variety of other digital tools, and processes, to sell and ultimately drive revenue. Let’s investigate this concept and see how it can enhance engagement and drive sales. 

The bigger picture

To outline the importance of digital, and indeed social selling in today's climate, here are some statistics you should be aware of:

  • 75% of people using social media outsell their peers
  • 78 % of buyers expect sales to personalize interactions based on online activities
  • Social selling has the highest lead to close ratio of all prospecting methodologies
  • Sales reps using social media have 3.6 times more chance of meeting a decision maker
  • Subject matter experts active on social networks generate business opportunities seven times more effectively than traditional marketing
  • 86% of IT buyers use social media in their purchase decision process

With these type of statistics to draw from, it's no surprise that many sales professionals are playing catch up to hone their online skills. 

Digital selling vs social selling

For traditional selling, sales professionals relied on lists that were purchased and generally included unqualified data, contact was made using cold calling followed by making an appointment which forced targets into a sales cycle using scripted selling that often involved a lack of listening. 

In comparison, a digital or social seller listens and shares so they can help the target, connects to better engage, understand the challenges and issues a prospect may face and support prospects to find solutions. Digital selling involves a range of strategies to create a well-oiled machine that works together to achieve one overall marketing goal. The elements involved include:

  • Digital Research: Starting with a view of the customer, you need to research both digitally and socially to identify market trends and influencing factors affecting customers within your industry.
  • Sales Enablement: Using digital research in tandem with social tools and platforms to target key decision makers and capture vital information for the CRM.
  • CRM: Managing and analyzing customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle to improve business relationships.
  • Social Content: Interacting and engaging with prospects through the leverage of social media channels and targeted social campaigns.
  • Digital Sales Messaging: Optimizing the sales message to suit the needs and desires of your target consumers.
  • Engagement: Identifying KPIs and leveraging them to spark positive customer engagement.
  • Social Account Management: Using the post-sale process to manage accounts socially and digitally to leverage cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
  • Digital Sales Leadership: Taking charge of all digital sales efforts and initiatives and steering your organization in the right direction.
  • Strategy & Integration: Ensuring all of your businesses digital marketing strategies interlink and are in continuous alignment.

As a branch of digital selling, in social selling, sellers use peer-to-peer social networks to meet a buyer at a precise time during their buying journey and make conversions by helping them through the process through three main sales tactics:

  • Trigger selling: creating conversions by triggering a customer's impulses
  • Referral selling: acquiring new customers through consumer referrals
  • Insights selling: generating leads and sales by being an influencer

In essence, social selling is about leveraging content and social platforms to drive next steps for the buyer, as well as building your personal brand and developing meaningful relationships with potential and existing buyers. Social selling focuses solely on the social aspects of digital marketing and is a key piece of the digital selling pie.

Digital selling in action

For Pitney Bowes, they embraced digital selling to drive sales and increase brand awareness. Despite being one of the world’s top 100 software providers they had a low company profile in the space. In addition, the company was finding it difficult to make contact with senior decision makers and manage multiple stakeholders across prospect companies.

In response, Pitney Bowes developed a social selling program using LinkedIn Sales Navigator and identified an executive sponsor to drive the digital selling program throughout the company. As part of the program, new content was created by the marketing team which the sales team were encouraged to share on their social channels. Initially, training six people in social selling the company implemented broader marketing activity to support the salespeople through relevant content that could be shared.

As a result of the program, first deals were closed in just 4 months and the sales cycle was reduced by 20%. Now digital selling is one of the strongest sources for generating opportunities and over 200 sales professionals in Pitney Bowes are trained to employ social selling as part of their selling strategy.

Another example of digital selling success is electronic product distribution company RS Components by creating a specific social hub in four different languages. This expert development was built with the purpose of being a collaboration and engagement hub for Electronic Design Engineering. In addition to this, the company launched a free design tool that’s been downloaded more than 60,000 times, earning more than 45,000 members within its first 12-month period. An excellent example of the power of digital selling.

Final thoughts...

While social selling is a critical part of digital selling, particularly in the modern world, social selling techniques alone won't get you the success you deserve. Digital selling is evolving all the time. Essentially, it's the process of engaging with business and social networks online, as well as utilizing all the digital sales tools at your disposal to drive more sales opportunities. 

Now a critical part of any sales process, digital selling involves creating an organizational structure around your content, as well as a whole ecosystem to measure the content consumption of your audience. It includes more than just using social assets to build brand awareness and make sales. By leveraging all of the digital assets available and using them in an intelligent way, your organization stands a real chance of making a mark with potential partners and customers alike.

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Clodagh O'Brien
Content Marketing Executive