There is a new sales trend that is hitting every industry--social selling. To help sales teams stay current, the following dives into this new trend, its importance, and its future in the industry.
What Is Social Selling and Why Is It Important?
Social selling is one of the most commonly misused buzzwords. Some confuse it with advertising on social platforms. Others believe it is social media marketing. It's not. Instead, it is a new tactic that sales teams are using to more effectively target prospects. When used correctly, it enables sales people to build trust and rapport by harnessing their existing networks and connections. For many sales teams, it has allowed them to abandoned the least effective sales practice of cold calling.
More specifically, social selling is a way for sales teams to communicate with prospects directly. They regularly post insightful content that is helpful to the customers and answer questions that prospects pose. It is in this way that they provide value and they continue to do this until prospects show clear signs that they are ready to make a purchase. In a way, social selling is very similar to lead nurturing. In both of these practises, the priority is to engage with consumers on a continuous, long-term basis.
The reason that this works so well is that is that there is an immediacy existing in social media that just doesn't occur in other forms of communication. Additionally, through social media activity, sales teams are more capable of monitoring a specific consumer's activity, allowing them to know exactly when and how they should connect.
There are a number of benefits that come with this sales method, which are causing sales teams to rethink their traditional approaches and see how vital this new practice could be in the social world that we live in today.
- Relationship Building
We live in a social media world. Relationships are not formed the same way that they were decades ago. Because of this, cold calling has grown less effective. Individuals and businesses alike find it intrusive. When sales professionals use their existing mutual connections to introduce themselves to new prospects, they are able to step into this relationship with a higher level of trust and credibility. This can be seen by the fact that when a brand message is sent out on social media, only a third of consumers trust it. However, when that same message is shared by someone a consumer knows, two-thirds of consumers begin to trust the information. Additionally, social listening tools allow sales teams to approach new prospects in a more personalised way—they already know their specific painpoints, wants, and needs.
- Social Selling And Buying
Social tools are becoming a staple in the sales profession. One of the biggest reasons for this is the influx of millennials into the sales profession. These younger sales representatives prefer to utilise social platforms and they expect their employers to encourage this. The second reason for the increase in social selling is that the top sellers in every industry are using it and seeing success. This is forcing any company that wants to compete to follow suit.
From the consumer's perspective, social buying is also becoming popular. Social buying is social selling from the other direction. Consumers are using similar tools as sales professionals to identify the products and brands they want to purchase on social media. These social tools then provide them with the research they need before they contact a sales professional. However, in order to show up in this research, sales teams have to be utilising social selling.
Social Selling: Networking On Social Platforms Versus Sharing Content
While many sales professionals assume that social selling revolves around networking on social platforms, this isn't an absolute rule of thumb. There is no doubt that networking on social media can be powerful, especially when 15 million Australians are currently active Facebook users--that is 60% of the country's population. In other words, yes, social media networking does play a big role, but so does the content sales teams utilise.
At the core of social selling, there needs to be a balance between networking and content. The only way to strengthen a network is to consistently share high-quality content. The only way to effectively share this content, though, is to pursue strong networking. And both of these activities should be done mindfully. Sales teams should make networking connections with strong leads and aim to connect with individuals or businesses who they share a mutual connection with. When it comes to content, sales teams should aim to share internal content that is industry-related—or at least content that potential leads would find relevant and helpful.
How Can Social Selling Impact B2B Sales?
Many sales teams associate social selling with B2C sales. This association is likely due to the misconception that businesses are only on social media to build a brand and market their services or products. However, many companies are now using social media for much more than reaching consumers. They are there to network with potential partners and vendors. This can be seen in the fact that over two-thirds of B2B purchasers use social media to help guide their buying decisions. And this is where B2B social selling comes in.
Social selling works well for B2Bs because much of the buyer's journey is now mainly digital. B2B buyers are doing more research about potential solutions than ever before. They are open to alternative solutions and rely heavily on recommendations from their network and expert opinions. Before B2B buyers make their final decision, though, they need answers to all of their questions and most of them want convenient and quick access to these answers. In short, when the B2B buying journey is broken down, it becomes apparent that social selling is the ideal method for dramatically enhancing any B2B sales team's sales. It is important to keep in mind, though, that throughout the social selling journey, creating trust is paramount. Nearly half of Australians do not trust social media, compared to only 4% who distrust magazines. So while there is significant potential with social selling, sales teams need to prioritize trust creation.
How To Measure Social Selling's ROI?
While there is plenty of research to show that social selling efficaciously increases sales, companies still need to measure their efforts in order to ensure that they are approaching the method in the most advantageous way. Here are a few techniques that businesses can use to measure their social selling ROI:
- Individual Engagement
Sales managers should oversee every sales representative's engagement rate. This can be measured by adding up how many pieces of content are shared and comparing this to how many likes, comments, and shares the content receives. The potential for engagement is considerable, bearing in mind that the average Australian over the age of 14 spends nearly six hours on social media each week.
- Second Degree Connections
Second degree connections are the individuals or businesses that a sales representative's current connections know (i.e. friends of friends). A sales team's primary connections are the strongest leads. Many of them will be current customers or at least in the final stages of the sales journey. These secondary connections, though, are the next move and when sales teams are good at fostering these connections, they will be able to avoid cold calls and other weaker forms of connecting with new leads. The strength of these connections can be seen by the fact that mutual connection referrals are five times more likely to enter discussions with a sales professional.
- Content Conversions
While making connections is essential, sales teams need to see whether these connections are leading anywhere. This can be accomplished by measuring which content is guiding customers to the company website (CTR), how many social media leads are being converted into customers, and calculating the time spent converting each lead.
The Biggest Mistakes In Social Selling
The best way to see a positive ROI with social selling is to avoid social selling mistakes. Here are a few to watch out for:
- Sending generic, salesy, or spam-looking messages.
- Sending connection requests to cold prospects without a strong reason for connecting.
- Failing to update the company's online presence or having a profile that doesn't look professional.
- Talking with the wrong connections due to an unclear prospect persona.
- Using the wrong social platform.
- Using the wrong social selling tools.
- Not setting a social selling goal.
- Neglecting past or present clients—these clients can provide valuable referrals.
Social selling tip: Paying attention to the social media statistics in Australia will often provide sales teams with the best results. For example, in Australia, women aged 14-24 spend the most on social media--an average of roughly 2 hours every day. Therefore, this demographic is a promising one for high engagement.
The Future Of Social Selling
When approaching social selling, sales teams should not only create a strong roadmap based on current social selling standards, but also look at the future of this sales method. How will it change and evolve over the next few years. The following dives into a few trends that social selling will see:
- Seller Augmentation:There are already a number of strong tools and technologies that sales teams can use for social selling. This number is only going to increase substantially and these tools will become much more powerful. Yet, they will not replace the salesperson. Instead, as data, AI, and automation become more powerful, sales teams and their efforts will be augmented by technology. And this use of robust technology in combination with data from social media is already proving to be powerful. A recent studyfound that when data mined from social media is fed into advanced algorithms, it considerably improves sales forecasting.
- Marketing And Sales Collaboration:Over the next year, the smartest marketing and sales teams will begin to work more closely together to create team revenue. Marketing will begin to develop stronger digital content that is built for the sales team to share via social selling. Marketing will also pick up the responsibility of measuring the success of social selling content so that they can continually improve.
- Executive Buy-In:As social selling grows in popularity with sales teams, the c-suite in every organisation will begin to take notice. When executives see the impact that this new form of sales can have on a company's bottom line, there will be increased support and advocacy for it across business processes. Social selling will be embedded into the various systems, operations, and methodologies of every department with the goal of encouraging cross-functional collaboration.
Social selling is becoming the new normal for sales teams everywhere. The benefits are clear and the future is bright.