New day, new theory for hacking some part of the traditional sales cycle. I’m all for evaluating new ideas and testing their validity, but one new idea has stuck more profoundly than any other in recent history.
I’ve seen it first hand in leading my Enterprise sales team: Social media has transformed the sales journey. With 84% of C-level/Vice President executives reporting that they use social media to support purchase decisions, we’re long past the days of social being viewed as a “fluffy, unquantifiable” platform for driving sales.
The immediacy of social has paved a fresh avenue to actively engage and nurture top prospects, as well as for those prospects to investigate the credibility of those who reach out to them.
LinkedIn found that social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than those with less social selling prowess. Yet many sales executives are still not leveraging social selling, and few have received formal training in the approach.
Much of the disconnect lies in the misconception that anything having to do with social falls under the purview of the marketing department. Often, sales teams don’t realize that social selling is different than social media marketing—that it is actually a sales strategy, of which only one part involves clicking the Share button on corporate content.
Dan Swift, CEO of Empire Social Media and an early champion of social selling at LinkedIn, described the difference on a recent Inside Intercom podcast.
“Social media marketing is one-to-many—the company trying to hit up a ton of consumers to pass on a message. Social selling is one-to-one—identifying an executive … and leveraging social media to find a warm path to that individual … to get a meeting.”
Empowering your team to up their social selling game will likely require you to up yours. Here are some key points about social selling to share with your team, and to keep in mind as you identify and nurture relationships with prospects.
It’s a long game, but it’s better than a cold call
Identifying a prospect is the easy part; finding your way in is always the challenge. Social selling is a winding path, but it will get you there eventually. Follow your prospect on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Get familiar with the content he/she posts, watch where he/she speaks, read what he/she reads and be aware of who else is part of the inner circle (if you are lucky, you may know someone who can connect you).
It may sound like stalking, but it’s research. React to your prospect’s posts with your own observations, suggestions and useful links. Don’t be that person who Likes everything (we all know that person). With thoughtful engagement, you will build a rapport.
After communicating via social for a few months, you may very well be grabbing a drink with said prospect at an upcoming conference (which you noticed they are speaking at or attending because you were diligent about your social selling strategy).
Your content makes you more human
We’re past the phase of coaching your teams to share corporate content with robotic enthusiasm and calling it social selling. While white papers and videos about your company are critical for building awareness of your brand, they’re doing little by way of establishing your reps’ credibility.
Empire’s Swift has a 50-25-25 rule for posting: 50% of your content should be corporate; 25% industry-specific; 25% personal (i.e. advice that can make someone more successful in their professional life). He also warns against having an off-putting, salesy LinkedIn profile.
Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy advisor and your prospect starts poking around to learn more about you, make sure the “resume you” is the same likeable, trustworthy you that got you noticed in the first place.
You might help someone–which leads to a halo effect
When you follow a prospect on social, you can learn about everything from their spring break plans to their brand’s pain points—and you can help them. If they need a hotel recommendation and you’ve honestly got one, jump on it. You never know – they may have the time of their life and return wanting to do business with you because of your great tip.
Along these lines, and even better, you may notice a prospect is looking for a professional recommendation—a SEO expert for example (in other words, it doesn’t have to be your offering). If you’ve worked with a SEO super-star, share. If your prospect and your vendor enjoy working together and you were the hero matchmaker, you’ve opened a door.
Your engagement will make someone feel good
This one is easy because we’ve all been there—counting comments and likes. Prospects are posting and they want to feel like their posts matter. They want a reaction. If a member of your team is reluctant to put themselves out there, this may remind them of the good will they will gain by simply engaging.
You’ll be able to measure the results
Coming back full circle to that notion that social is not quantifiable. Not true. The number of warm introductions your teams acquire across platforms can be measured on a weekly basis. Shared and liked content can be tracked, as well as how much of that interaction led to offline meetings.
All opportunities and sales can be linked back to that initial social interaction. Swift suggests tracking by type of prospect as well—economic buyer, user buyer, champion etc. Social selling actually leaves behind a useful trail of tactics.
You’ll expand your network & you might even enjoy it
Social selling is the fastest, most organic way to get your name and your company’s name out there. Your comments will appear on hundreds of people’s feeds. Even if your original prospect doesn’t engage, a new prospect may surface in the comment box.
The more you interact with prospects using content that is authentic and useful, the closer you will get to the gold: closing a deal. It won’t happen overnight, but it will get you there faster than sitting on the sidelines.
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