Social Selling Definition

Social Selling Definition

Social selling definition is important in sales training as many salespeople and sales leaders are still asking “What is Social Selling and how can I do social selling so it gives me results?

Despite all the news and chatter about social selling, many companies and salespeople struggle with a social selling definition that makes sense for them to incorporate into their sales habits. When I am conducting sales training on social selling, people will approach me ask “Is this social selling thing really worth it? Or is social selling really relevant to me as an experienced sales professional?

social-selling-definition

Social selling definition

My answer on Social Selling remain the same:

If a salesperson or a business has all the sales leads and pipeline of revenue they can handle for the next year or so, and don’t believe that social media is playing a bigger part in the buyer decision process, then no, you don’t need social selling.

If on the other hand, you see the more traditional forms of selling declining and you plan on being in business for the foreseeable future then using social media as a sales channel and social selling will not be optional tools. Digital selling and social selling will become increasingly vital to a salespersons and business success. So, let’s look at what “social selling” mean.

 Social selling definition!

I believe that every salesperson should view social selling as a sales touch point embedded into every aspect of your sales habit loop. If you review your sales funnel, it can be connected back to every sales step and to every lead. Successful salespeople have learnt how to use the social networks to build credibility, be visible and relevant in every step of the buyer’s journey.

My social selling definition is as follows:

“It is about building a communication bridge between social media activity (opportunity insights, sharing ideas and perspectives) and the phone call (sales outreach) to maximise buyer interactions and minimise wasted time.”

So, Social selling concentrates on sharing focused content and providing one-to-one communication that flows backwards and forwards between the salesperson and the buyer.

The goal is for the you to form a relationship with each prospect, providing suggestions and answering questions.

What Social Selling is Not:

Firstly, Social Selling is NOT Social marketing

Social marketing is focused on generating mass awareness and is more aligned to inbound marketing (to generate sales leads) while social selling is an organised sales activity aligned to sales (to generate leads for sales). Social selling is focused on individual buyer engagement while social marketing focuses on brand engagement. Sales people involved with pumping out marketing material on social media are doing social marketing not social selling.

Social media is no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. It’s not about pushing mass messaging. It’s about personalised conversations. It’s about connecting and engaging. Social selling needs to be integrated into the very DNA of your business.

A social definition is not one that uses 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. Trying to outshout your competitors, interrupting people and blasting their inboxes or profiles with generic sales pitches are not strategies that will create trust and credibility. Also, social selling is not about having a uniformed approach to every customer interaction.

One to one connections and interactions

Successful social selling that delivers real results comes from meaningful, relevant and personalised one-to-one social conversations and interactions. It is not all about content, while content plays a vital role it is a sales tool to engage the prospect towards a useful and valuable interaction. Forward thinking sales leads and salespeople understand the power and importance of developing one-to-one connections and interactions on social media.

As part of a sales training program or sales transformation process, a social selling strategy should be focused on creating opportunities for interaction in a very personalised manner. As we enter the era of the digital native buyer (2 billion plus people on social media globally), the ability to focus on and tap into your core market(s) online will be vital to sales success.

Why Companies Embrace Social Selling

 Traditional 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 realise 66% greater sales achievement than those using traditional prospecting techniques (Sales Benchmark Index).

 Research and studies from lead sales organisations show that social selling like any great sales strategy is best applied as part of a daily sales habit. In one study from SAP, 71% of salespeople who gained sales leads using social selling and social media were active on a daily basis.

Social Selling Tip: Social selling requires sales training and a planned approach. It is advisable to learn how to leverage all the social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Split out the social selling activity into engaging a new profile of customer, accessing new markets and increasing engagement with existing customers. Learn more about social selling training.

I hope the above statistics prove that social media and social selling are not a fad or empty time filling activity. It is a channel and valuable activity for selling and growing revenue. Companies who have put formal social selling strategies in place are seeing growth in double digits for the socially skilled sales professionals. Not a bad return!

 Where how do we start social selling?

Social Selling consists of five main steps:

  1. Establishing a presence on social networks (Goals and objectives)
  2. Finding the right people (Research into Buyer Personas or Ideal Customer Profiles)
  3. Engaging with those people (Content assets, rules of engagement)
  4. Building trust (Credibility and Connecting)
  5. Measuring the impact (Conversions, Mentions, References and Leads)

Benefits of Social Selling from The Digital Sales Institute on Vimeo.

To build a team of great social salespeople, they have to be trained to become personal marketers, content experts and storytellers. Also, a change in mindset that requires sales leadership to move away from constant pitching to focusing on sharing great content and building relationships and a community online. Salespeople and the brand should strive to be a “Thought Leader” in the eyes of their target audience and market.

The relationship between seller and buyer has changed. Today the buyer self-educates, does their own research and is influenced by what they read and see online. This change to “online conversations” can either be seen as a risk or as a fantastic opportunity. But only if you’re willing to have a formal social selling program with goals and objectives. Then you can jump in, interact on a personal level, start social conversations that eventually lead to warm sales meetings.

Social Selling using Data

Business loves the concept of social selling, tapping into the social networks combined with big data to lower the cost per lead and to speed up the sales and marketing process like never before is appealing. The good news for sales and marketing leaders who want to use social selling as a sales tactic is that “Big Data” is now a commodity. The sheer volume of data available to marketers today is staggering including social media insights, CRM data, sales records and web traffic alongside a multitude of other online sources. The adoption of social media by consumers and business buyers alike to buy and build our lives means the quantity of data is growing on a massive scale. To put it into perspective, social media currently accounts for over fifty two Trillion words shared every single day.

social-selling-information

But big data is as valuable to a buyer as it is to a seller. Data is no longer the secret art of the marketing department as access to social data is there for everyone (buyers and sellers) with a few clicks of a mouse. Every minute of everyday companies share content and buyers share purchasing intent. The result in the past few years has seen a major disruption to the whole buyer-supplier relationship. Today potential customers can educate themselves on your products, your company, and people’s perception of you and even compare what the competition is offering without ever having to engage with you. They are doing this on social media forums and many other online sources without speaking to a sales person. Armed with the knowledge that data and social media has changed the way things are bought and sold, marketing and sales management have to utilise two very effective tools, “Big Data” and “Social Selling” to capture more revenue in an ever changing landscape.

Social Selling: Learn to Listen

A wider social selling strategy involves using big data to listen to what the markets are talking about and then share content that will grab their attention. Even basic social selling activity needs to tap into social conversations and content to understand buyer’s motivations. It may seem like a huge task to begin a data listening program but it is easier than you think. A few Google searches will throw up lots of free and paid marketing analytic tools to help you identify potential customers via social media.

Larger companies now use a whole raft of analytical software for data crunching, to get insights into customer behaviour analysis and buyer profiles so that marketing departments can discover answers to questions about the type of buyer who might consider buying from them. Smaller companies can use tools like Hootsuite Free, Socialmention, Twazzup or Addict-O-Matic amongst others to gain deep insights into keyword driven conversations.

Even without software tools, sales and marketing can gleam valuable information via social media conversations, online reviews and forums and then use this to help build connections with potential customers. Tools such as Socialbro, Rivaliq, ripjar and Connectors Marketplace allows sales people or marketing teams to trawl through blogs, social networks,, forums, news and reviews for brand, product or company mentions right down to  specific keywords.

 social-selling-tips

Big Data Insights for Improved Social Selling

Regardless of whether you are using software or digging around manually, there is no limit to the amount of information that can be gleaned using Big Data as part of your analytic tasks into identifying buyer sets that narrow down your prospect target list. Sales and marketing teams should be looking to gain the following insights from listening to social conversations and the social chatter.

Who is your Buyer: Prospective customers may be spread wide and deep but it is vital a business tries to condense them into “buyer persona’s”. Creating a typical customer with characteristics helps sales and marketing teams to identify, understand, and target. A point to note is buying behaviours varies by category on social media. For example 25% of Facebook and 34% of Twitter users reported buying tech tools or electronic devices after seeing recommendations or shares posted on these social network sites while 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to be more informed on vendors.

 Target Specific Networks: Monitor what your prospects or buyer persona’s are talking about including mentions on your competitors. When it comes to social media, not all platforms are created equal or suit both B2C and B2B. Some social network sites produce higher leads and conversion rates than others. Even if you produce great content and follow all the best guidelines depending on your product or business, some will not perform. Focus in on where you can get higher sales conversions from specific networks as opposed to trying to cover off every one.

Identify Buyer’s Pain Points or Needs: To be successful at social selling you need to use data to discover what needs or product features are trending plus what questions/interests buyers are engaging with online. Part of your content strategy has to mirror these needs, plus when reaching out to potential customers using social selling, remember 90% of buyers never respond to cold calling (because no need has been identified)

What Type of Content do Buyers Engage with: Analyse the networks and data to see what type of content and from what sources do buyers like/read/interact with. It’s all figuring out what content and which information will influence their engagement with vendors

Map the Buyer’s Journey: The buyer’s journey is not changing, it HAS changed. More than any of the other insights that marketing leaders can provide to sales is mapping out the steps a buyer takes from awareness to consideration to purchase. Having the insight into how buyers gather information, what type of content, how they consider vendors, how they like to establish connections and take decisions is the critical data that makes social selling successful.

Using the insights from Big Data and Social Conversations, marketing team can now provide sales with the information, behaviours and likely interest triggers for the buyer persona. Then make social selling work by providing highly relevant content that matches these insights. Also a social selling training should be developed so that sales agents learn how, where, and when to connect with buyers and prospects on the various platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other relevant social media channels.

It is the ability for sales to reach buyers in a highly personalised way with the right content, with the right context and at the right moment is the key to social selling in the era of Big Data.

Social Selling Tips

The sales and marketing buzzword word at the moment is “Social Selling”; where the sales process is now tapping into social media conversations and the impact of social networks in driving brand awareness or buyer consideration.  Most sales and marketing leaders would concur that the sales process has completely changed. Sales people need to adjust their skill set as tactics like cold calling has a low return for allot of effort so learning how to harnessing the power of selling via social media is important.

social-selling

A social selling strategy should be about a genuine effort to share value and content prior to engaging in any sales conversations.  Social selling is not SPAM, too often the simplistic approach is for sales people to spam sales messages on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn groups, or to a new connection  with a vanilla flavoured sales message and a self serving web link.  If you do this stop, as the moment anyone gets these messages, the brand loyalty and any trust gets flushed away. Connecting and building your social network just to SPAM them is NOT social selling.

The biggest social selling tip is to truly build value over time with your social network by sharing content that people find useful and helpful. In time when you personally message to a social tie to engage in a sales discussion your chances of a positive response will be greatly improved.

So a great social selling tip that will benefit all social marketers, sales people and businesses is to take the time every single day to do the following.  Connect to your social network community with news, images, videos, snippets of information. Another tip is to find ways to connect your network together (as this provides value) and offering to help others connect.  Pause a minute and think about this scenario. You see a message posted on LinkedIn that says, “Where could I find some inspiration for a presentation?”  Instead of posting of reply such as, I would be interested in this myself or have you tried PowerPoint? (True reply!).  Why not see if anyone in your network is a presentation expert or does allot of presentations that you could offer to put in touch with your connection that is looking for some presentation inspiration.  Act as a conduit, a connector who brings value by taking the time to listen and connect your social ties

social-selling-tips

Social Selling Steps. 

Step 1. Listen to and monitor social media conversations across several social networks to get a comprehensive view of what’s being said about your specific focus

Step 2. Start to identify interests, most liked news, influencers and prospects through the listening process

Step 3. Track your prospects. Review their posts, timelines and understand what they are interested in or saying.

Step 4. Share quality content (not just your own). Seek out some information of mutual interest, and then share. The information must be professional and relevant to them. You can also like or even re-tweet their content.

Step 5. Position yourself as an expert by sharing real insights and proven research you have gained in the industry or with working with customers

Step 6. Gradually become a valuable connection, one worth listening to. Once you have established yourself as a valuable connection, you can nurture and build a buyer/supplier relationship far more quickly.

These steps are the foundations of social selling, and too many marketing and sales  people forget that selling is all about firstly building relationships and secondly providing value.  Start now to implement these social selling steps and you will have set yourself to gradually drive more sales then cold calling can ever do.

Another social selling tip is to remember that selling is inherently social so social selling is nothing new. Rather look at social selling as a sales tool to help you sell more effectively that will evolve over time.

social-selling-tip

Next up on the tip list is to break ‘social selling’ into two main areas:

(1) Direct and

(2) Indirect.

In social selling the direct aspect is utilising social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr to look for conversations where you share content to make connection to people you want to target and nurture relationships with. Take the example, the CIO of a prospect tweeted something about their focus on reducing IT costs in the coming year. (See step 1, 2 and 3 above)

So now share some articles or research on reducing IT, then if your product or service can help with reducing IT costs, at an appropriate time you can tweet them about it, message them or send a personalised e-mail explaining the value you might be able to add to their focus based on what they said (see step 4 above). This is a shortened version of events but the point is to look for information about what people or companies are doing or saying so you can be highly relevant to them when you reach out on social media.

The indirect aspect of social selling has to do with building your own personal brand so over time your social audience (connections and weak ties) eventually value your shares and see you as an industry expert, not just another sales person (see steps 5 and 6 above). However please do realise this does take time and does not provide the instant hit that sales leaders think should happen these days. Social selling is all about adding value to your target market.

I write articles on sales and marketing, I try to add some value by not just talking about the theory of selling or business but actually giving my readers some useful tips on sales, marketing and business. I share suggestions on what to do and how to do it. I also regularly post or re-tweet articles from other sources not just about sales but about business topics that I think are important to my audience.

On a daily basis I review discussions on my groups in LinkedIn and give honest answers to  questions people have without plugging my business or telling them I wonderful I am or how I can help solve their problems if they meet me. So, let me wrap up by saying, really take the time to think through your “Social Selling” goals, expectations and approach. 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 an industry expert by sharing quality information that is on the money. This will help you throughout your sales career no matter what product or service you are selling.

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.