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Buyer journeys grow more complex and less linear every day. As the number of channels through which brands can connect with prospects grows, companies and individual salespeople must adopt an omnichannel approach that meets them where they are.
The need to engage on multiple fronts extends to the world of social media, where it’s increasingly important to maintain an active and engaging presence. That’s because, according to Accenture’s recent On the Verge report, “61% of all B2B transactions start online, and 51% of customers turn to social media to do initial research.”
But the benefits of social media engagement go beyond the early research stage. While phone calls and conversations will likely always be the best sales tools in your arsenal, research suggests that you can improve the close rates of your sales calls even further by investing in social selling.
According to Hubspot, “Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects.” Wielding the power of social selling effectively requires that you:
Put some energy into your profile setup. Shane Barker, writing for the Sprout Social blog, suggests giving your online presence as much energy as you do your real-world appearance. “Online, your profile image is the first thing prospective clients will see,” he writes. “Make a good impression with a professional image that isn’t too stuffy, but still makes you look trustworthy and friendly.”Once you’ve built your profiles, don’t expect results immediately. Social selling isn’t something that happens automatically. It takes time and investment to produce results since opportunities to engage can be inconsistent (and it can still take several touches with a prospect to make an impact). But, since one study shared on Forbes by contributor Mark Fidelman, found that 78% of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers,” it’s clearly worth the effort. Here are six ways social selling can help set up your sales call for success.
Social selling is all about building a connection with your audience before they buy your product or service. When you take the time to answer questions or engage in conversation, you’re building your brand reputation and demonstrating the depth of your knowledge to clients – well before you get them on the phone.
Given these powerful benefits, it should come as no surprise that social media is playing a bigger role than ever before in the buying process. Your prospects aren’t just using it to connect with friends and share memes. They’re using it to shape and guide their decision-making process. In fact, 84% of c-level executives look to social media before making a purchase choice.
Because people are increasingly using social media for research, being active on these platforms through social selling provides an opportunity to connect with prospects earlier in the customer journey. This gives you a huge leg up if your competitors are attracting prospects through organic search, PPC and other marketing strategies that reach consumers later in the process.
The average person is exposed to thousands of ads a day. And because we’re inundated with so many promotions, most of us respond by tuning out anything even remotely sales-oriented (whether we do so consciously or not).
Authentic stories make it past these filters, which is part of what makes social selling so valuable for modern salespeople. And the importance of connecting and being perceived as authentic is only going to increase as Millennials, who are already resistant to traditional advertising, represent a larger and larger share of the U.S. workforce.
Millennials are some of the most valuable targets for social selling, as they’ve basically grown up on these platforms. Caroline Robertson, Vice President, B2B Marketing Research Director at Forrester, shares that, “Today, 85% of Millennials are members of a social networking site, and 73% of them say they already participate in product or service purchase decisions for their firm. So there is limited resistance to or suspicion of connecting socially.”
But generational differences aside, the shared personal experiences created through social selling build authentic relationships that encourage prospects to move more quickly through the buyer journey – no matter the age of your prospects. It also helps warm them up. Closing on future sales calls is simply easier when you’ve already built rapport through social selling.
Who would you rather buy from? Someone you see out and about in your industry, speaking at conferences, publishing articles and sharing valuable information on social sites? Or someone you’ve never heard of, who’s contacted you out of the blue to make a sales pitch? There’s a reason savvy salespeople are putting more energy than ever before into building their perceived authority. Buyers in all industries want to do business with knowledgeable people and companies. Social selling can bridge that gap, making sure you’re the thought leader they turn to when they need your products or services.
Investing in building thought leadership through social selling is also a huge opportunity, as few brands are using this strategy effectively. The 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study proves that “B2B marketers and salespeople significantly underestimate the impact of thought leadership on demand generation and sales efforts compared to actual feedback from B2B buyers.”
Activities, like writing a book or speaking at conferences, can help you establish yourself as an authority. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. You can achieve a similar effect by:
You don’t need to do all of these things to be successful with social selling. Take your cues from your prospects. Where are they most active? How do they appear to prefer to engage and receive information? If nothing else, look to other influencers in your industry. Follow their lead, but put your own spin on social selling by tailoring their approaches to your particular skill set.
When engaging, make sure you are advancing the conversation and providing valuable insight. Unsolicited and “salesy” comments will annoy prospects just as a cold call or email would. Keep that brand authenticity top of mind.
Connecting via social media before an initial sales call can turn a cold call into a warm one. In part because social sites make it possible to learn about a prospect and their interests before you ever get on the phone.
It also helps to establish the perception of an existing relationship – even if you haven’t actively connected before. You are more likely to get an appointment with someone if your online lives overlap, such as in a common LinkedIn group. To take full advantage of this effect, do your homework before getting on a sales call. Check your prospect’s public social profiles looking for:
Do this before starting a cold call, and you’ll immediately turn a cold prospect into a warm lead. Do it before getting on a sales conference call, and you’ll also increase your chances of closing the deal by further building rapport and increasing the positive sentiment around your relationship.
Although this tip doesn’t directly relate to improving sales call closing rates, it’s worth noting that buyers who use social media typically have budgets 84% higher than those who don’t. Though this isn’t universally true, what’s happening is that when businesses are making big-ticket purchases, they’re more likely to do more extensive pre-purchase research. Increasingly this research process involves looking at a company’s social profiles.
As a result, social engagement is especially important if you sell high dollar products or services, or if your company has a particularly long sales cycle. Social selling may not make as big of a difference if you’re in a transactional business where buyers make quick purchase decisions. But when they take their time to purchase – or when they’re planning to spend big money – it’s in your best interest to be active on the social media sites where they’re conducting their research.
Finally, keep in mind that social selling creates an opportunity to stay in touch outside of sales calls. This helps to further build your relationships and keeps you top-of-mind when it’s time for your customers to renew or when they need additional products or services. For example, imagine that you kept your social profiles full of helpful information and free resources. The more you invest in this kind of social selling, the more customers will know they can come to you not just for information about your offering, but also for general education and insight into industry trends.
Sales consultant Kim Garst calls this being the “full meal deal.” In an article on her blog, she shares, “Let’s say you sell cameras and accessories. Rather than using your blog and social media accounts to constantly talk about and sell your products, ask yourself how you can be a one-stop resource for your customers. This might mean providing information about how to clean or repair cameras, how to take portraits or how to start a photography business.”
Not only does engaging in this way deepen the relationships you have with your prospects, leads, and customers, it can also help increase your referral business. This is especially important since we know that the majority of B2B buyers start their buying process with a referral which converts better and closes faster than other types of leads.
Bottom line: Sales reps sell more and close more calls when they use social media as part of their sales process.
If you aren’t yet investing in social selling, it’s time to get started. Don’t overcomplicate the process. Use the tips above to pick the channel that’s right for you, and start actively engaging your prospects. Watch how different tactics perform for you. You can always iterate your approach based on what’s working and what isn’t. But unless you get started, you’ll fall behind other salespeople taking advantage of this powerful technique to build relationships and close more sales calls.
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