We are all in sales. Whether you are the CEO or the receptionist. Successful sales depend on building relationships. But social selling is a more targeted strategy. It’s all about leaning on your social networks to find, qualify and close prospects. It’s “social” because you build those necessary relationships online with answers to customer questions and content that engages the consumer until they’re ready to buy.
We aren’t talking social marketing. While social marketing may help in branding and reaching distant markets, social selling targets one-on-one relationships. That focus may even take social selling outside the sales and marketing department walls. It puts the power in the hands of anyone who has such relationships with consumers and customers, including shipping/handling and customer service reps.
Social selling becomes a shared event, and that teamwork strengthens the relationship and effectively reframes the organization’s culture and infrastructure.
When we’re talking B2B sales, your LinkedIn network should be your platform-of-choice.
LinkedIn has developed from a directory of business professionals into a network of first-choice, absent the chatter and politics of other social sites. And, LinkedIn has developed a Social Selling Index (SSI) as a performance metric.
According to LinkedIn, social selling
• creates 45% more sales opportunities
• makes you 51% more likely to hit your quota
• allows you to outsell peers who don’t use social media by 78%
Four elements that make social selling work:
- Creating a professional brand: Where your brand is not a household word, you need to create the image of a strong professional and trustworthy brand. LinkedIn is the social network where you can solicit and answer consumer questions one-on-one.
- Focusing on the right prospects: LinkedIn member profiles identify their industry sector, their functional role in the organization and their contact info. The profiles also contain icebreakers like colleges attended, community affiliations and work history.
- Engaging with insights: Sixty-two percent of B2B buyers appreciate the insights available from subject matter experts. You can build that personal reputation as you build a brand with engaging content, visuals, videos, and interviews. It needs attention, but keeping your brand news current and focused builds relationships 24/7.
- Building trusted relationships: Building trust depends on your ability to tap all your organization’s resources to respond, deliver and support. If you keep the relationship primary and the sale secondary, you form lasting social connections.
The Recipe To Social Selling On LinkedIn
To make social selling effective on LinkedIn you need to follow a recipe and, like all recipes, they need to be done in the right order.
1. Fully optimize your profile.
It’s time for you to scrap your CV-style profile on LinkedIn. No one cares that you were responsible for opening a new client door seven years ago in the Midwest. Effective social selling requires your profile to instantly let viewers know you are an expert in your field — not a salesperson, but an expert. You don’t want to come off as too “promotional,” as it’s a huge turn-off.
2. Identify active potential clients.
The 80/20 Pareto principle seems to be alive and well on LinkedIn. If you find your connection requests and messages are largely ignored, it is highly likely you aren’t targeting active users. LinkedIn has filters that allow you to only focus on active users. Use them! Stop talking to those who simply aren’t listening.
3. Model real-life communication.
People sometimes forget that humans are behind those profiles on LinkedIn. When’s the last time you met someone in real life and threw your business card at them, dumped a heap of brochures on them, and asked them for a call without giving them a chance to say a word? Don’t do this to your connections’ inbox when you have just “met” them.
4. Take your connections off of LinkedIn.
Don’t try to sell on LinkedIn. Engage with your connections and get them into your sales funnel off LinkedIn. Leaving them on LinkedIn puts you at the future mercy of any change LinkedIn decides to make regarding data ownership.
There are so many extensions and tools available now that allow you to automate many processes on LinkedIn, including connecting with people, messaging, endorsing and managing your content. It can be like having a full-time assistant dedicated solely to LinkedIn! Use these tools, but remember they must reflect real-life communication as close as possible. The rise of the bots will start to be spotted by savvy users, and the result will be less and less engagement.
LinkedIn and similar social media platforms enable salespeople to spot, develop and sell to prospective consumers in a non-sales manner. They get to become the “advocate” for the consumer and can even place themselves on the same side of the table. What may seem time-intensive will prove profitable now and well into your future. For the next generation coming through — the digital natives — social selling is going to be a natural and expected path on their buying journey. Make sure you have your social selling roadmap ready!
Tracey is the Founder of Thrive Ad Agency and the creator of the LinkedAutomation™ Method. She and her team are social selling masters, working with leaders and organizations to build a systematic method for generating business, developing qualified relationships and growing revenue.