Social selling and sales articles

Why Social Selling Training Pays

Whether you like it or not, when buyers are so influenced by social media, social selling training should be part of any sales development plan.

Progressive companies now ensure that social selling is now an integral part of their sales process, tapping into the sales intelligence that the social networks provide to both buyer and seller. Never since John H Patterson created his sales training methodology for NCR, have sales people needed to adjust their sales skills, due to the fact that the more traditional forms of selling such as cold calling have diminishing results. Training to release the power of social selling can have to engage buyers is now a core activity, not a gap filler.

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Selling and buying has changed. The profile of a typical business buyer along with their needs, values and how they purchase goods and services has altered completely from 10, even 5 years ago. A business should use social selling as a genuine touch point to share insights, research, information and content before engaging in any sales conversations. Social selling is a learned skill (how long does it take to master other sales tactics – months, even years?), it is not a fall back method for sales people to spam sales messages on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn groups. Nor is it a means to plaster vanilla flavored sales messages across groups and connections.  The tactic of connecting and building a network of connections just to send sales messages is NOT social selling.

The biggest tip I can convey is that for social selling to work you need to build value over time with your social network by sharing relevant, quality content that people find useful and helpful. So, in time when a sales person reaches out with a personalized social touch point to a prospect to engage in a sales discussion, the chances of progressing a relationship will be greatly enhanced.

Part of the training should be about learning the social selling habit loop, a daily routine to connect with your social network community with news, articles, research, videos and snippets of information. They also need to learn, Givers Gain, starting with ways to connect your network together (as this provides value) and offering to help others connect. A good example of this is that a sales person sees a message posted on LinkedIn that says, “Where could I find some inspiration for a key note speech I have to deliver?”  Instead of posting of reply such as, I would be interested in this myself or have you tried PowerPoint? (True reply!).  Now, the sales person finds someone in their social network that is a presentation expert and offers to put the person in touch with them. Nothing in it for the sales person, other than to build their credibility as someone who is a conduit, a connector who brings value by taking the time to listen and connect their social network. To quote “Covey”, these are  a lodgements that pay off in the longer term.

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Never forget that selling at its most basic is simply the act of communicating and gaining commitments. Now, more than ever, to be successful in sales, we need to understand that (a) selling is all about building relationships and (b) providing value. With a well-planned out social selling program, a business will gradually drive more sales then cold calling or cold email will ever achieve.

Always remember that all selling is inherently social, so social selling is really nothing new, but rather a new communication channel. So, look at social selling as an additive process, a sales tactic to help you sell more effectively that will evolve over time.

A process worth following is to separate ‘social selling’ into two main areas:

(1) Direct Social Selling and (2) Indirect Social Selling.

The direct side of social selling is utilising the various social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram to look for conversations where one would share content/articles. A pathway to connect with people a business wants to target or nurture a relationship with. Taking the example of a CIO who tweets about their focus on reducing IT costs in the coming year. The sales person in return now shares some articles or research on reducing IT. As the interaction builds (assuming the sales persons product or service can help with reducing IT costs), they can at an appropriate time, reach out with their first social touch point – by sending a highly personalized connection request. After a series of planned touch points, the sales person can now reach out to explain the value they might be able to bring to the buyer’s goals. Please note: this is a shortened version of the process but the point is to look for information about what prospects or companies are doing or saying so person or business can be highly relevant to them when they reach out via the social channels.

The indirect side of social selling has to do with a sales person building their own personal brand so over time their social audience (connections and weak ties) eventually value their insights, comes to view them as a valuable industry expert, not just another weak sales person. However, it’s important to note that this does take time and does not provide some instant results that some sales leaders think should happen these days. The reality is social selling is all about adding value to a target market, share not sell, help not hinder, be useful not useless.

We write these articles on sales to try to add some value by not just talking about the theory of selling or business but actually giving you some useful tips on sales, marketing and business (hopefully). On our social channels, we share suggestions on what to do and how to do it. We also regularly post or re-tweet articles from other sources not just about sales but about business topics that we think are important to sales people and business leaders.

We practise what we preach, on a daily basis we review discussions in our groups in LinkedIn or Facebook, we strive to provide honest answers to questions people ask without promoting our business or telling them how wonderful we are.

To finish up, please take the time to think through the goals, expectations and vision for any social selling program you plan to put in place. Apart from training, spend time looking for articles, news and research you can use to connect with people without interrupting them while at the same time position yourself as a thought leader by sharing quality information that is relevant. This will help you or any sales person in the digitally influenced buying/selling process, regardless of what you sell.

Learn Social Selling Online

Learn social selling online. If you are stuck for time or prefer to learn at your own pace, then The Digital Sales Institute will help train you to become an expert in social selling.  No doubting that a digital element touches some part of the sales process and sales is constantly trying to keep up with this changing buyer interaction.  We all need more prospects to engage with, and research shows we can spend up to 40% of our time trying to find them. The old reliable – cold calling has limited or even zero success. Inbound leads will only get so far in delivering a steady stream of prospects. The result is a large portion of time searching on the social networks to find leads to fill your pipeline. It could be that you are frustrated with the results of your social activity or maybe your efforts are not getting results you had expected or you are paying too much for a sales lead using Google Adwords etc.

In the digitally connected era, The buyers journey has changed. Even B2B BUYERS have adopted consumer-like behaviour. They now conduct their own product research online, they self discover, seek out information via the social channels, and often make purchasing decisions without any or limited sales persons involvement. Those customers who engage with sales people are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. The reality is that the influence of social media on buyers has fundamentally changed the way sales people engage with customers. The way we sell has changed dramatically and will continue to change as digital natives become the major buying force.

 

The use of social media to generate sales is no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. It’s not about pushing out generic sales messages. It’s about engaging in social conversations. It’s about looking for signals and triggers, connecting and engaging with people.
With over 2.4 billion social media users covering business and consumer, you need to be where the fish are swimming. Did you know that 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors. While a Harvard study showed that 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold calling.

Social selling could be the closest you can get to being a fly on the office wall of your prospects. Learn to find out Where they hang out digitally. What language do they use. How socially active are your prospects. What external content do they share or engage with. There is a glittering treasure trove of social data ready to be used if you know how to tap into it. Let the Digital Sales Institute show you the skills to successfully social sell. Now is the time to transform your sales skills for the digital age.

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Social selling is now the fastest growing sales tactic in the sales process, used successfully by thousands of sales people globally. Our course clients for “Social Selling Training” are seeing increased sales performance, and increased buyer engagement.  Working at your own pace, The Digital Sales Institute will guide you to becoming a social selling expert with deep insights into the key aspects of social and digital selling. From social profiles and social purpose, to buyer engagement, through to digital sales expertise, you will acquire the skills to become a social selling expert.

The 7P’s to Social Selling

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What is Social Credibility

Building social credibility via our social media networks allows us to nurture relationships, stay top-of-mind with the purpose of creating “sales time” with buyers at the right time. It is about positioning ourselves to have influence and high levels of perceived value with prospects or potential customers. It is not just about building up our own personal brand but also support the company’s brand online.

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At a practical level it is about participating in online discussions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Forums etc as well as writing and sharing content relevant to your customers. It also extends to being aware of industry trends, seeking referrals from clients and co-workers, and working every day towards being viewed as a subject matter expert in a given field. Social credibility is also constructed by connecting with industry experts, clients and potential prospects by engaging in social conversations. Most importantly, it invloves developing influence in your market so you contribute valuable and relevant insights to your social sphere.

What does this mean in reality?

I have my profile photos updated across all social media platforms

I have a tag line(s) on my social profiles that resonates with my ideal customer

My profile speaks to the pain points of my ideal customer

I have articles, multimedia, videos on public display across my social accounts

I have genuine recommendations from clients and connections on my social media profiles

My activity reflects my personal brand and my social purpose

I have a bank of connections that I constantly add to and engage with

I follow influencers and companies within my industry

My company page is visible to all and is active

I am socially active consistently and not just because I need leads

I can be seen and found on multiple platforms with uniform messaging

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How can your social credibility be measured?

Social Selling Index

Number of Social Connections

Number of Connection requests you receive weekly/monthly

Number of followers – you and your company

Number of profile views you receive

Number of conversations you engage with or start

Number of shares and comments (on your content)

Number of leads you generate as a result of building your social credibility

Number of “sales time” events you manage to secure with potential customers

Check out more social selling and social media marketing tips by signing up to our newsletter

 

Brian.

Is Digital Selling The Ultimate Sales Channel?

In a world where generating sales leads is now the biggest challenge facing companies, could digital selling including social selling be the ultimate sales channel for the foreseeable future. In the digitally connected world, to attract buyers attention, a business has to develop trust, this means starting with authentic interactions and engaging on social media.

Digital-Selling

There are lots of definitions as to what “Digital Selling” actually entails, but the main point to get across is that digital selling is about creating cohesion between sales and marketing in the areas of content marketing, inbound marketing, social selling, data, social listening and insights which are mapped to the buyer’s journey. All these “online” elements when structured together can be used to create a Digital Selling strategy. It is not just about the sales team trying their luck with social selling or the marketing department producing a stream of content. To make it work, leaders must create an organisational structure around the social media channels and KPI’s to measure buyer engagement.

Many companies feel that in-house created content reach (views, likes, downloads)  is the ultimate measure for buyer interest, however other measures like social reach, buyer connections, sales person profile/company page views, questions posed, questions answered and conversation engagement are other key measures worth considering. A key part of any Digital Selling strategy is everyone in sales and marketing should be involved in the creation, organising and sharing of content.  To succeed with the socially influenced buyer, remember companies with the best stories shared will win. In a way, a business needs to have a publishing department, one that concentrates on creating volumes of content or research which is mapped to a buyer’s journey

Let’s take a deeper look at Digital Selling

Digital selling is the use of social selling (1:1 buyer engagement on social channels undertaken by sales people) combined with the use of digital assets (videos, articles, whitepapers, case studies, infographics, webinars, online presentations) and supported by sales intelligence (data, ideal customer profiles, insights, triggers, CRM, social listening) to generated leads and revenue.

In a way, digital selling could be termed “closed loop selling” as it about matching your sales strategy to buyer behaviour which we now know is increasingly influenced by social media.  So in a way, it takes a holistic view of the buyers journey to bring together the assets and actions in order to be valuable to buyers on their journey, one that ultimately leads to better engagement and ultimately more sales.

There are many compelling reasons around this strategy, mainly driven by the fact that buyer behaviour has changed and there is no old way of doing things as most sales tactics such as cold calling have diminishing returns. Today’s connected buyer is more informed than ever before plus they have become expert at tuning out to all those interrupter sales strategies and tactics that worked so well in the past. They seek not to be sold to. They seek advice, knowledge, insights and someone to guide them to the right purchase decision.

The whole digital sales transformation is in full swing around us, whether it is inbound marketing, freemium models, social selling or consultative sales models, it is digital selling to step forward and take centre stage.

Digital selling is fast becoming main stream as forward thinking SaaS companies lead the way whilst many smaller or medium sized businesses must watch and learn fast.

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So where does social selling fit in?

As I stated previously, Social Selling is the key sales person’s activity within Digital Selling. Again, there are many definitions but my own one is “Social selling is the sum of connected actions shared online when experienced by customers/potential customers will influence their awareness and consideration for your business.

It boils down to the influence an individual sales person can have on customers and prospects’, by sharing content on social networks which is consumed, shared, commented on and visible across multiple networks.

Sales teams deploy social selling as an activity that is proven to be valuable (sharing insights, articles, expert advice) to buyers as they move through the awareness, consideration and selection stages on the new buying journey via social media.

Social Selling uses three key elements: namely Insights, Triggers and Referrals to map the buyer’s journey, then supports these elements with articles, curated content, videos, whitepapers etc to engage a potential customer.

Summary:

A digital selling strategy acknowledges that the connected buyer needs education but they educate themselves. They have become blind to advertising and ignore slick marketing material. They value peer recommendations over sales jargon and they complete a large part of the buying process without sales interactions or taking calls. They want to be guided and expect insights from experts with an understanding of their business not yours.

So, pause, listen & engage to nurture relationships via social networks. Modern sales leadership know that the key to sustained success is to include digital selling alongside social selling and social media marketing so all departments and all employees can play their part in the online customer engagement process. When sales and marketing work together to engage someone from prospect to customer, the whole business from top to bottom can stay on the same page with critical contacts, conversations, conversions while measuring the resulting ROI. That is Digital Selling.

A Social Selling Guide for Sales Leaders

A social selling strategy starts at the top. If sales management and senior executives are suspicious about social media – if they only see risk, their people wasting time clicking “Like” buttons and employees posting funny pictures, then they would be right to draw down the shutters and, in the process, cut off the opportunity social media presents.

If, on the other hand, they want to become a social business and prepared to invest in training to optimise its potential and reduce risk, to reconfigure operations so that departments work together digitally, not in silos. Then social selling could be the key to unlocking the data insights into customers and prospects. Where do they engage, digitally? What language do they use? How active are they? What external content do they share? There is a mountain of social data out there if a business knows how to mine it.

Some 62 per cent of Irish companies said they used social media platforms as their primary method for connecting with customers, up from 58 per cent and 46 per cent in 2014 and 2013 respectively.   (Compiled by CSO December 2015)

So how many of our companies have formal social selling programs, policies and KPI’s in place?

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The social networks allow us to interact with other human beings in meaningful ways online. Social Selling is an evolutionary step forward making the sales process more productive and meaningful. It is not about using social media to shout at, stalk, or spam people digitally. It is not about employing the social channels to replace cold calling/sales outreach or replacing the telephone with Twitter and LinkedIn.

The reality is that integrating social media into your team’s selling process is a must if you expect your salespeople to break through the competitive clutter and reach buyers who are better informed and more digitally connected than ever before.

A well planned social selling program will see sellers will use the online channels at the front end of the sales cycle to be useful, to network, build their online brand, and be found, demonstrate credibility, generate leads and conduct presales customer engagement. Social channels can and should also be used to nurture existing customer relationships and as part of account based management

To turn your sales organisation into a social selling machine, you need to do these things:

Accept that buyer behaviour and the buyers journey has changed. Sales management must shift their mindsets. The selling world is different than it was five or ten years ago. Some if not most of the sales tactics that worked when a business was building its customer base, are not working for sales teams today. Saturated with sales approaches, buyers ignore phone calls and emails from people they have never heard off. It takes so much more effort to break through the noise these days. Sales people must alter their sales approach.  The role of sales leadership is to help them learn how to do it.

Develop a social selling strategy. Engage both the marketing and sales teams as part of the planning process.  Be careful not to head straight for social selling training without having thought through items like culture, change, KPI’s, content and making social selling a consistent activity. Heading straight to tactics without executive sponsorship and a well developed plan is a recipe for failure.

Establish social etiquette and social media guidelines. Sales people need to know what is expected of them from their actions online. Sales people present themselves PLUS the company brand. Remember what is posted online stays there is forever, while mistakes are bound to happen a business can reduce any risk by ensuring that all the sales teams understand the art of communicating online. As important is to teach them what is and is not appropriate to say and do on behalf of your company when they are using social networks as part of their selling activities. Less than 26% of sales people know how to use social media correctly as part of their sales activities.

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Include social selling training into the bigger sales training plan. The digitally connected buyer means that sales behaviours have to change and sales people need to understand how to strategically use the social networks in the right way. If a company or sales people just view social channels as a vehicle to spam prospects with vanilla sales pitches, a huge opportunity will be wasted, and the company brand is put at serious risk. Social training should be ongoing and not just a one-time event at the end of induction training.

Implement and focus on the metrics. Social activity is not about doing more – make more connections, send more invitations, or do more demos. Without the right metrics and KPI’s, sales teams can waste a lot of time hitting like buttons. Without clear goals and objective sales people do not link their social behaviour to social etiquette, policies or structure. They commit “random acts of social” where at times self-promotion takes precedent over company promotion. The quality of sales activities as a result of social selling is what counts. Using the social networks to attain measurable sales results is more important than checking off the box that says sales person A sent 50 connection requests.

Be realistic in your expectations. Using the social channels is not a quick fix to increasing sales pipeline and revenue. No one who implemented a social selling plan saw results overnight. No surprise here as this is no different from any other sales tactics a business may have invested in for the sales teams. When it comes to the social channels learning how to do things differently does take time. This is why the planning that goes into providing the sales training and coaching that sales people need is vital so these new approaches bear fruit overtime.

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Social selling is an additive process. This is not a replacement for phone calls and prospecting emails. It is an additive approach, a prescriptive process like another arrow in the quiver that you should think about, “How do I apply social to every prospect, every deal, every account, every single day for no more than 30 to 60 minutes a day.

Forward thinking sales leaders know that social selling is not some snake oil, nor is it a gimmicky approach to selling. These leaders know social selling is another set of sales tools and an evolution in how we reach buyers in the digital era. Social selling is a complement to traditional sales methods—not a revolutionary approach that replaces them. Social selling, due to its ability to enhance the customer journey, is an incredibly powerful sales tool. But, like any tool, its value and utility are ultimately tied to the skills of the individual employing it.

The What and How of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is linchpin that a business uses to bridge the gap between their sales strategy and how they execute this on social media, the phone or face to face. In a fast moving digital world, common sales challenges (buyer interactions, longer sales cycles, declining win rates, slowing customer acquisition and shrinking deal sizes ) can be mapped back to the same source — the conversations between sales people and buyers.

The challenge for sales leadership is to equip the entire sales team(s) with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation either online or offline with the right set of customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey to optimise the results of the selling system.

The goal of sales enablement is to ensure that every sales person has the knowledge, sales skills and behaviours to maximise every interaction with buyers.” In other words, how can sales leaders create the environment to “get all your ducks in a row to give the salespeople the best chance of closing a deal?”

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A sales enablement framework for the digitally connected buyers should include:

Targeting the Right Prospects

Reports show that only 3% of buyers are in a purchasing cycle when contacted by sales. This blunt sales effort can be extremely for all stakeholders when lead nurturing is directed at the wrong buyers, who are not ready to buy, or worse just are not interested in what you have to offer.

Sales productivity is impacted due to sales people’s efforts not being focused on buyers who are middle of the funnel or already in the “I may have a problem” mindset. A better use of social selling and social data combined with sales intelligence as part of a sales enablement program will go a long way to helping this challenge.

Aligning the Sales and Marketing Teams

Sales enablement cannot be correctly implemented without aligning marketing and sales. Both departments need to work together to arm the sales teams with the right assets to have the right conversations with the right buyer profiles at the right time and in the right channels.

The reality today is that sales people need to be engaging and holding conversations with buyers throughout the whole journey, even while the buyer is in status quo mode (not yet aware that they may have a business issue that needs solving). It is about bringing a level of consistency to the whole sales process as both marketing and sales work together to interact with customers across the entire buying journey.

A consistent approach from sales and marketing will help assess the sales cycle, identify problem areas, fix them, and achieve the sales goals.

Understand where content fits In

This involves developing relevant content to specific buyers during a specific stage of the buying process. Content is a “must-have” asset in successful sales enablement roll-outs. This includes blog posts, white papers, infographics, eBooks, videos and reports which are deployed to engage customers and potential buyers. During the sales process, the sales team need to understand when to use each type of content and how to position it with their buyers and prospects

Ask and answer questions like:

What are the online personas each prospect will display?

How do we create content that aligns with that persona?

How do we deliver content to the sales people?

Who will produce and supply this content to the sales team?

How will all sales people be trained to use content effectively?

Which is the right combination of company-created, curated and shared content?

How to match the content to the stage the buyer is in?

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The role of social selling

For a whole host of reasons (which you can read in other articles on this blog), social selling is crucial for a sales enablement initiative in the sales 2.0 world. Once the content strategy has been mapped into the sales process, sales people can use these assets as 2nd click content to qualify prospects through the funnel. They can leverage the content to share with and engage buyers, showing that your company is already aware of their concerns and is ready to answer their questions.

A successful social selling program takes time to listen, share, post, nurture, engage and convert. Sales and marketing should work together to form concise messaging and offers that targets issues that buyers may be addressing now.

Measure your Results with KPI’s

If you can’t manage it, you can’t measure it, still holds true even if large parts of the sales conversations has moved online. Rather than try to measure too much, it may be more beneficial to focus on a small set of key performance indicators.

A tip is to separate the sales enablement metrics into two parts:

Performance metrics: How did we do?
How many new connections did we make last month or how much content did the sales teams share last week? How much reach, interest or engagement did we ignite?

Diagnostic metrics: Which is working/not working?

Which activities are working? What needs to be improved? What types of content are the salespeople sharing and with who? What content is not performing or which set of prospects are not responding?

These metrics will help all stakeholders make the right decisions; decisions which help the buyers engage and drive revenue.

Always prioritise the prospects

Too many times, businesses are thinking about “Me” and not “Them”. The focus can be solely on the company, the product, the messaging, the key differentiators, etc. They hone in on themselves and relegate their target audience and the audience’s needs. This internal focus impacts on true sales enablement.  So rather than helping the sales teams understand the buyers, the focus can be entirely on helping the sales team understand the products. Helping buyers through the buyer’s journey should the core of all sales enablement programs, from awareness to decision.

A quick summary

Sales enablement is critical as the business world in which we function has fundamentally changed. Out with the explaining the companies’ products and why buy messaging.  In is assisting prospects evaluate alternatives, helping and educating buyers. The focus becomes truly enabling the sales team to engage throughout the whole buyer’s journey, on their grounds and in the channels they choose.

The modern buying process means that different criteria have to be introduced. Using sales enablement as the guiding principle, sales organisations everywhere can set themselves up for success. The end result will be empowered and productive sales people, skilled in helping prospects across the buyer’s journey and bringing in more revenue, faster than ever.

Social Selling Influencers

The Bitter Business is delighted to be named in the TOP 100 BRANDS and influencers for Social Selling. The report complied by Onalytica was to identify which Social Selling brands and individuals were leading the online discussion. They analysed 263K+ tweets from 16 November 2015 – 4 February 2016 mentioning the keywords “Social Selling” OR socialselling OR socialsales OR “social sales” and identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.

 

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In the top 100 brands there is organisations such as Salesforce and Hootsuite and some top industry resources such as SocialMedia Examiner and Social Media Today.While 38 on the global list is a great achievement, it should be noted that The Bitter Business is flying the flag for social selling from Ireland.

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Social Selling is an evolutionary step forward making the sales process more productive and meaningful

The Top 4 Reasons Why Companies Embrace Social Selling

 Old sales tactics have diminishing returns:

90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach

(Harvard Business Review).

Buyers use social media:

75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors (IDC).

Bigger deal sizes:

Buyers who use social media have larger budgets – typically 84% larger than the budgets of buyers who do not use social (IDC).

Better Sales Achievement:

Social sellers realize 66% greater sales achievement than those using traditional prospecting techniques (Sales Benchmark Index).

Social selling starts by being about the relationship between sales professionals and the connections they have nurtured in social media spaces. While there is a lot of social selling that takes place on LinkedIn (which is considered the businessperson’s social media space), there is also a tremendous amount of it going on in all social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Periscope, Blab, and others. (If you aren’t familiar with all the social media spaces  and how to use social selling that your sales team can be a part of, don’t worry! there are lots of articles in our Social Selling category to keep you going.)

Social Selling Training

As someone is involved with social selling training I am often asked about best practices including how to engage with a prospect for the first time. Let me start by introducing The 5 C’s of social selling. Credibility, Connecting, Content, Conversations and Conversions.

social-selling-training

Next it is important to understand that social selling is a process not an event. There are more networks than LinkedIn to target plus there are rarely short cuts to building value and trust with potential customers. True engagement via social media networks is like building the pieces of a jigsaw, the customer see’s the picture being built (with content sharing and participation) and then once they see the full picture (lead nurturing) you are now in a position to commence the sales phase, also known as customer consideration and decision.

Here are a few tips I would like to share.

THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IN SOCIAL SELLING = VALUE.

To me, the most important thing is always provide VALUE to your potential customers and social network.

Social Selling is a game changer because it allows sales people to interact with buyers exactly where they are doing their research – online. Due to the change in the buyer’s journey and self-educational content being published online, sticking with old sales models and techniques is no longer an option. If buyers do not see the value a business or sales person can bring (credibility), they will simply move on to someone who will.

However, if a sales person goes our way to help the buyer through their journey from research, awareness to consideration with content and helpful conversations, they will have presented themselves and their company as a partner to potentially do business with. Therefore, always strive to provide to your social network and prospects.

SO HOW DO WE “PROVIDE VALUE”?

Well, providing value to people simply means being helpful.

At a detailed level, providing value on the social networks can be separated into a series of helpful actions (sharing content and information, engaging in conversations etc) so buyers come to acknowledge the sharer, which overtime gives sales people a deeper understanding of the buyer’s profile. Sharing is about giving freely really useful information on an area of interest, market trends, latest research or vendor whitepapers including the competition. It could be facilitating the introduction to someone the buyer might benefit knowing. Another share could be to notify them or a group to a webinar, event or briefing that would be beneficial for them to attend. These are just a few examples of how sales people can provide value to contacts and connections on an on-going basis (stay visible).

In my experience, the best social sellers are the ones who follow the 5C’s which is supported by doing research and being creative. Let’s say that during your research you see “snowboarding” in the interests section of one of your prospect’s profile, try sharing a cool snowboarding video with some text (could snowboarders be better business people) to a group or directly to the prospect. You could make a lasting impression, create awareness and establish credibility.

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HOW SHOULD I REQUEST A LINKEDIN CONNECTION TO A PROSPECT?

Connecting is the 2nd C in the 5C’s of social selling. Before we discuss how one should request a LinkedIn connection, let us state what you should not do.

1 Never send a generic connection request to a prospect

2. Never include a sales pitch or mention your product/services in a connection request

None of the above will start your business relationship off on the right footing. Why not try a conversational approach. Using a casual tone just let the prospect know that you understand they have in interest in “abc” and you are available if ever they need information in your area of expertise. The only goal here is to maximise the chance of the prospect becoming a first degree connection. Doing so makes conversations, content sharing and building credibility easier as you set out on a conversion journey with the buyer.

Provide content and value:

Providing Context – Why is this prospect getting sent a connection request? Did they look at your profile, like or comment on some content you shared? Do you both share mutual connections?

Providing Value – People buy from experts, so position yourself as a valuable source on information for some specific topics.

The request text might read like this:

“Dear [NAME],

Thanks for looking at my profile and commenting on the article I shared in [name of group]. If you ever require information on [area of expertise], feel free to use me as a resource for whitepapers and research.

Kind Regards,

[NAME]”

When it comes to connecting, if you do not have some real context, then do not send a connection request. It is better to nurture the prospect through Content and Conversations to build up your Credibility prior to requesting a connection.

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SHOULD I WRITE AN EMAIL TO A PROSPECT?

Surely Social Selling has nothing to do with emailing a prospect I hear you say. Believe it or not but social selling and email prospecting can go hand-in-hand. You see, we now know that social selling provides us with a new way to engage with buyers AND it also provides insights into their social media lives. Some buyers are socially aware and others are socially active. These insights can be used to decide if the prospect fits your ideal customer profile alongside how to engage with them. Thanks to B2B lead generation tools, a prospects email address can be easily acquired so combining social selling with a warm emails can increase your chances of receiving a positive reply. .

As the buyers journey has changed It is important to interact with the prospect where they are active online whether that is LinkedIn or elsewhere. If the prospect is not active on social media then no point trying to engage them there, so sometimes trying the more traditional methods of communications such as an email or phone call can work better.

There is so much more to social selling, feel free to contact me regarding training workshops or comment on your own training tips.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.