Social selling: What it is and 10 expert-level tips for success
Social media has given brands and businesses a platform to engage with their customers. But rather than just nurturing your relationships with existing customers, you can also use it to find and convert valuable leads.
We spoke to several social selling experts to understand what it means and its value to salespeople. Along with David Sullivan, a Strategic Business Development Representative for Sprout Social, we reached out to our friends at Chili Piper to help us break down the art of social selling from the brand account.
Meryoli Arias, Senior Social Media and Community Manager, and Daniel Cmejla, Senior Director of Community, Customer Marketing, Events, PR, and Social, of Chili Piper gave us an inside look into how they approach social selling.
We’ll also explore 10 tips and tactics you can use to execute social selling like an expert.
What is social selling?
Social selling is a lead generation strategy designed to help salespeople interact with prospects through social networks. With this strategy, salespeople use social listening to learn what their target audience is talking about online. They use the insights gained from social listening to authentically connect and build relationships through social conversations that matter most to their audience.
Social selling challenges the transactional experience customers and companies traditionally experience, leading to more natural relationships with leads.
The immediacy of social makes it easier for salespeople to connect with, engage and nurture top prospects. It has created a 1:1 experience where salespeople are able to leverage their relationships beyond the internet. A well-managed online connection can lead to in-person interactions and eventually closed deals.
What are the benefits of social selling?
If you have a social business page on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, you may already be engaged in the basics of social selling without realizing it. Let’s dive into some of the benefits of social selling so you can take advantage of your own brand.
Generate leads and drive revenue
One of the biggest benefits of social selling is lead generation. To generate revenue for your business, you’ll need to find your audience and connect with them on a deeper level.
Finding an audience and discovering opportunities for connections was once difficult, unrefined and limited. Now, social media makes it easy to specifically target the kind of people most likely to buy from you. Salespeople can use social media data for their sales strategy, which is the top use case for social data according to the Sprout Social Index™.
“Social networks are one of the main places where information is exchanged. It’s one of the preferred places for potential customers to discuss their concerns and needs. Social media can be a huge ally for lead generation if you have a comprehensive strategy with social listening and personalized messaging in place,” Arias says.
“Creating personalized messages and listening to what people are saying about your brand on social media are great ways to understand your potential customers. Once you understand them better, you can speak directly to them about their concerns and the problems you can help them solve,” she adds.
Along with lead generation, social selling allows you to drive additional revenue without expanding your sales team or ad budget. Many social media tactics are free and they can increase your sales if executed properly.
Create authentic relationships with prospects
Social media is a powerful networking tool, so salespeople can use it to thoughtfully engage with potential customers and form genuine relationships.
You can get a sense of a prospect’s personality, interests and pain points by following them on social and paying attention to the content they post, share, like and comment on. You can also find people already in your network that can help introduce and connect you to them.
This process may sound like you’re on the verge of stalking, but it’s actually just research and it serves as a foundation for forming the relationship you want. When you react to your prospect’s posts with your own observations, suggestions and useful links, you’re growing a connection.
Just don’t be that person who Likes everything (we all know that person). Focus on thoughtful, authentic engagement that will help build rapport over time. It could even lead to interacting with the prospect beyond the screen.
Personalize sales pitches and provide added value
As you learn more about your customers, you can create customized sales pitches designed to improve your chances of a sale. Showing you took the time to tailor your pitch according to a prospect’s interests and needs could impress them and seal the deal.
However, nurturing prospects goes beyond giving a sales pitch and answering questions about your brand’s products and services. You’ll need to provide value in other ways to develop your rapport.
According to Cmejla, being helpful is how you maintain authentic relationships within online communities.
“When you approach something by offering help, everything else falls into place,” he says.
For example, if a prospect posts on social about upcoming vacation recommendations, and you honestly have some, 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 the same lines, you may notice a prospect is looking for a professional recommendation—an SEO expert for example. If you’ve worked with an SEO super-star, share. If your prospect and your vendor enjoy working together and you were the hero matchmaker, you’ve opened a door for yourself.
Expand your network
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.
Remember the more you interact with prospects using authentic and useful content, the closer you are to winning a deal. It won’t happen overnight, but it will get you there faster than sitting on the sidelines.
Social selling examples: The art of the sale from the brand account
Social selling is an art form. Let’s take a look into how Chili Piper and Sprout Social approach social sales across several platforms.
Your favorite social selling platform will vary depending on your company and industry, but since Chili Piper is a B2B Saas company, LinkedIn is a huge platform for them.
“We leverage LinkedIn, specifically our company page, to educate and talk about the topics relevant to our niche and personas. Also, our sales team creates more direct relationships with people on LinkedIn,” Arias says.
For example, Chili Piper uses an optional prompt after people fill out their demo requests that asks, “How did you hear about us?” For a recently closed-won deal, 25% percent said they heard of the brand via social media.
“And we even had some respondents saying they heard of us through ‘Sarah Brazier’s comment on LinkedIn’,” Cmejla says.
Sarah Brazier is an Account Executive at Gong and a Chili Piper customer. Her positive commentary illustrates how an online authentic relationship can inspire prospects to learn more about your brand’s product or service.
“How does a comment lead to a demo request? More crucially, how does one encourage this type of interaction? We believe that investing in your customers is the highest ROI of any investment. By building relationships with customers and ensuring they have visibility into threads that mention your solution, you can create an organic process where evangelists represent you because they trust you. And you, in turn, can help them build their own brand,” he adds.
Sullivan says his favorite social sellers on LinkedIn create a content mix.
This includes informative, emotional and personal content. Informative content illuminates how your company can help solve a problem your ideal customer has while emotional content makes your audience feel something. Tears from laughter or crying are equally powerful.
And personal content reveals your personality.
“What’s a hobby you picked up recently? Where did you go for your last vacation? Do you believe PB&J sandwiches are meant to be cut into triangles or squares? You get the idea,” he explains.
Instagram and TikTok
Arias says the B2B brand uses Instagram and TikTok to create a window into the company and those who are behind Chili Piper.
“We use Instagram and TikTok to show the things that matter to us. And let people get to know what Chili Piper, and the Pipers who work there, believe in,” she says.
“For example, we might write a post about why it’s important to have a diverse team. But we’ll also post videos and pictures from team members located all over the world. We don’t just talk about things — we show them, too,” she adds.
Consider each platform’s nuances
Sullivan says that every platform has its nuances. Instagram is highly visual while TikTok is very trend based.
“Regardless of medium, I believe every great social seller does two things: They create content that adds value to their audience. And, they have authentic interactions with other creators in their niche,” he explains.
He points to this TikTok from Zoom as an example of great content:
hybrid work life #hybrid #corporatelife #zoom #meetings
The TikTok adds value because it’s timely and funny. When the video was posted many businesses had started implementing hybrid work models, so the subject matter was top of mind. The clip points out the difference in how we behave when working remotely versus in the office, and does so in a hilarious way.
“You know a brand is incredible at social selling when their name becomes a verb–and that’s exactly what Zoom has accomplished. During the pandemic, their service kept millions of personal relationships intact and helped hundreds of thousands of businesses continue to grow during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Every piece of Zoom social content is human, and adds value,” he continues.
As you develop your sales skills, stay on top of content and timely trends, especially on the social selling platform of your choice. Doing so will illuminate how to better reach your audience.
Social selling: Tips to share with your internal teams
As you can see, social selling has a lot of benefits for the brand account and individuals. Here are 10 tips to help your sales team get started:
1. Look your best
Your image is just as important in the digital world as it is in the real world. Your profile image is the first thing prospective clients will see. Make a good impression with a professional photo that strikes the right balance between authenticity, trustworthiness and friendliness.
The copy in your social network bio has to accomplish everything a greeting, handshake and elevator pitch would do in person. Write every word with your prospect in mind and write in the first person. Be clear about sharing your contact info, sharing multiple avenues if there’s room.
On LinkedIn, you have more real estate in your summary section to tell a story about who you are, why you do what you do and how you can help. Remember, LinkedIn is different from a resume. Use your headline not just for your title but for a short phrase explaining how you help your clients.
According to Sullivan, when you’re crafting your online profile, keep in mind that the person viewing it may have zero prior knowledge of your company.
“On LinkedIn, describe your role and subject matter expertise using simple language, and avoid using industry jargon and buzzwords. Bonus points if you can do it in a way that reveals your unique personality and background. My colleague Chris Long does a fantastic job at this,” he says.
As you expand his bio, notice how he explains his job description in a digestible way. He also includes fun facts and personality traits. Also note how he has a professional headshot and banner image that shows the company he works for.
Make sure you also highlight your abilities and expertise by getting your colleagues, clients and employees to endorse you for all the skills you have. These skills will be featured prominently in your LinkedIn profile.
2. Build your credibility
Social networks can help you build your personal brand. With every Tweet, LinkedIn comment or Facebook post, you can grow your reputation and establish a solid foundation. It’s a record of your authenticity and a great place to demonstrate your understanding of your industry and potential clients.
“Quality social selling isn’t about slipping into someone’s DMs in a ‘classy’ way. It’s about being recognized in a public way as the leaders within a certain space. People at companies like Chili Piper have built massive inbound interests in their products by humanizing their brands and developing affinity with relevant audiences on the individual level through employee accounts,” Arias explains.
Sullivan says the easiest way to build trust online is by having public conversations that showcase your unique perspective on topics you care about.
He advises social sellers to try interacting with the following groups:
- Respected influencers within both your role, and the niche your company serves
- Prospects at companies that would directly benefit from having access to your product
- Your co-workers! Show them love by engaging and commenting on their posts
You can become a thought leader by sharing relevant articles about your industry, adding thoughtful insights to conversations and solving problems your prospects may have. It’s all in the name of establishing trust. When you share interesting thoughts, others will re-share them, tag you or start a conversation with you.
You can even use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to write original articles relevant to your industry. In fact, this is one of the tactics Neil Patel uses to share his marketing expertise.
Another way to build credibility and social proof on LinkedIn is to ask for recommendations or endorse others in hopes that they’ll endorse you back. Lastly, encourage your network to share and comment to get the conversation started around you.
3. Find your prospects
Pay attention: where do your potential clients seek more information about problems they may have? Is it a LinkedIn group? A weekly Twitter chat or Twitter Space? A private Facebook Group? Plant yourself there, listen to their conversations and get involved.
While LinkedIn is the place to turn for business connections, Twitter has a stronger search function and a lower barrier to entry. You can follow anyone you want, from a CEO to a celebrity, and they don’t have to accept your request as they do on LinkedIn or Facebook. They might even follow you back.
You can also use the Twitter Chat Schedule on Tweet Reports to discover upcoming and/or trending Twitter Chats. Look through conversations relevant to your industry, join in on the chat and start following the best prospects.
On Twitter, search certain industry-specific hashtags to see what your potential clients are talking about and what’s important to them. Once you’ve found some prospects, they may be able to lead you to others. For example, see who they are following and start following those people as well.
After identifying potential clients, stay organized. You can use Twitter Lists to create personalized public or private feeds, which maximize your time. Create a private Twitter List with your top 25 prospects, or create additional lists for competitors, influencers and current customers. Each time you visit the network, visit the list and you’ll get a quick snapshot into the minds of those who matter most, and you can more easily start conversations.
4. Monitor relevant conversations to find prospects
Using social listening for sales and social monitoring are the most effective tactics to understand what your prospects want and need.
Monitor relevant conversations about your brand to see what issues existing customers are experiencing. Maybe they’re venting their frustrations about your service on social media. Or they could be raving about you but mentioning some possible areas that need improvement.
Social media monitoring also enables you to keep track of other relevant conversations you can use to enhance your social selling strategy. Find out what your target audience is saying about your competitors or the industry in general to discover their pain points. Maybe they shared a blog post that’s relevant to you and you found it really enjoyable. Or maybe you have a shared interest.
You can use Sprout’s social media monitoring tools to track relevant conversations about your brand, your competitors and your industry. You can even use Sprout’s engagement features to respond to the conversations you’re interested in.
Use all this information to create personalized messages, which will set you apart from other brands.
You should also leverage mutual connections you might have with your prospects. Instead of reaching out to them on your own, ask your shared contact to introduce you to the prospect.
5. Participate and engage in relevant online communities
There are so many social media networks out there for social selling, but you don’t need to be active on all of them.
“Picking the right online community to accelerate your professional development starts from understanding what questions your prospects are asking. Not only about your product, but about the problems they face in their roles,” Cmejla says.
Cmejla advises sales professionals to focus on leveraging the appropriate online community.
“Once you understand the information modern buyers need to digest to be more efficient, you can map that to communities that occupy that intellectual space,” he says. “For us, this means communities around marketing and revenue operations excellence like WizOps, the M2 Community, Sales Assembly and the active following of influencers on LinkedIn.”
LinkedIn Groups are an excellent source of prospects—especially for B2B companies—because some of the best conversations happen in industry-specific groups. All you need to do is find relevant groups, submit a request to join and start conversing with members. You can easily search for relevant LinkedIn Groups using the right keywords. Make a list of keywords relevant to your industry, service or product. Enter these keywords in the search window and filter the results to only show groups.
For example, if you offer services or products that would be helpful to startup businesses, you can use keywords like “startups” to find relevant LinkedIn Groups to participate in.
You can also check your prospects’ profiles to see which groups they’re a part of, then join them. Share your valuable expertise and content, ask relevant questions or engage with group members to build a relationship.
The relationships you form can be crucial for nurturing them as leads. You can inform them of new product launches or recommend relevant services they might need based on their conversations.
6. Stay active and provide value consistently
Social networks are a time commitment. Once you’ve started following the right people, you must continuously provide valuable contributions. So choose your network wisely and don’t spread yourself too thin.
Every Tweet, comment and post matters and you don’t want to disappear for weeks at a time. An abandoned network could call your reputation and trustworthiness into question.
There are plenty of ways to stay active on social media:
- Share your expertise
- Offer up solutions
- Always stay focused on the potential buyer
- Use relevant hashtags on Twitter to target your content more appropriately
- Follow industry influencers so you stay relevant and up to date
If you don’t offer consistent value or remain active, there are repercussions. People will unfollow you, block you or hide your notifications. You don’t want to be ignored, so maintain an active presence.
7. Nurture your prospects
You don’t necessarily have to create your own content or fill your feed with generalized tips that appeal to everyone. A crucial aspect of any social etiquette—and especially that of social selling—is to pay attention to and respond to what others share and say.
When starting a conversation or participating in a pre-existing one on a social network (like a Twitter Chat), remember it’s just that, a conversation. Be sure to listen. Every day you should leave comments or ‘Like’ posts from others.
More importantly, respond to people who are trying to reach out to you like Salesforce has done in the Tweet below. It’s an easy way to show that you’re listening or to offer up your expertise or insight. It’s also an easy way to find what you have in common.
We see gold in these photos! ✨👀 Thanks for the visit! Astro loved hosting you all! 💙😉🙌
— Salesforce (@salesforce) September 26, 2022
You can also repost content from someone else. When sharing content from another user, be sure to tag or thank them for their initial post.
8. Earn trust by sharing success stories
Your company may boast about providing exceptional service, or you might highlight impressive features of your product. But these are just claims in the eyes of potential customers and they may not trust what you’re saying. To earn the trust of prospects, use social media to showcase proof that will back up your claims.
Showcase success stories and reviews from your existing customers. Share links to the success stories published on your site. Or create custom images with a photo of the customer or the brand logo and a brief summary of the results they achieved with your help. You can even do a full-fledged interview with them and share their story on your social media.
Cisco does a great job of sharing success stories on social media. In the following Tweet, they’ve shared a video explaining how they’ve provided free technology-based education. This is a great example of content salespeople can reshare on their own social profiles.
.@Cisco knows education changes lives. Over the past 25 years they have provided free technology based education to over 17.5 million learners —with the hope of educating 3 million in the next year! #GlobalCitizenFestival pic.twitter.com/7MC4w2Md4r
— Global Citizen ⭕ (@GlblCtzn) September 25, 2022
Once your prospects see that you’ve delivered impressive results for real people, they’ll be more interested to work with you. You can even encourage your customers to leave reviews about your business on Facebook. Then, you can point other prospects to those reviews and share them on your own social profiles.
If your prospects are interested in reading reviews, they can click on the star rating section and gain access to all the reviews your existing customers have left about your business.
9. Track results of your existing social selling efforts
The best way to get better at social selling is by learning from your existing efforts. Research and pay attention to the social selling metrics that are the most relevant to you and your brand.
Collect insights from your current efforts and see what’s effective as well as what isn’t. Use native analytics like Twitter Analytics to determine the performance of your personal posts. What posts do your prospects respond to the best?
Based on this data, ask yourself what you should do differently and what you can do better. This can help you gain a clearer direction of how you should adapt your efforts to deliver even better results.
Although it can be challenging to understand how social media referrals are behaving on your site, Sprout Social’s Salesforce integration can help you. You can even keep track of social interactions beyond potential customers, such as company partners.
Along with Salesforce, Sprout offers other features that salespeople can use to help manage their social media presence.
“One of my favorite Sprout features that maximizes the effort you put into social selling is Optimal Send Times. It tells you the best time to post on each network, based on your personal audience’s historical engagement patterns,” Sullivan says.
Long story short, data can help you identify your warmest sales leads and which types of content interests them the most. With this information, you can enhance your messaging so that it appeals to them and delivers better results.
10. Get offline
If you can convert your social media followers to email conversations, that’s a great first step. But what you really want to do is convert these digital friends into real-life connections. Use social media to establish that warm connection.
Once you’ve established a back-and-forth conversation with someone on social, it’s easier to suggest a phone call or coffee date via a Tweet, direct message or email. Think about it: a prospect might be more likely to open an email with a subject line referencing your Twitter conversation. Now it’s up to you to ensure your real-life persona is just as great as your digital one.
Take your social selling strategy to the next level
These tips can help you promote your brand effectively through social media, resulting in loyal customers and increased conversions. Now you just have to develop a comprehensive social selling strategy that will help you make the most of these ideas.
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