Long gone are the days of traditional sales tactics, of telemarketing and visits by door-to-door salespeople. Now, businesses are using modern processes and technologies to increase customer bases. It’s not that they’re taking a more hands-off approach; rather, they’re partaking in sales strategies that are proven to engage relevant audiences with less legwork. Today’s salespeople are taking on the well-known approach of “work smarter, not harder.”
B2B Sales professionals have increasingly used social selling as a major strategy to accelerate sales opportunities down the funnel, turning them from prospects to engaged customers. There are plenty of ways you can transform your salespeople into empowered social sellers to improve brand recognition and transition cold leads into warm prospects. Here are some of our best practices when it comes to social selling:
The art of social selling
Social selling is the process of using social media to find potential customers and engage in relationships with them. It’s been shown to be an effective way to develop and improve relationships with prospects and to improve visibility among the target demographic.
As social selling has grown as a practice, sales professionals have steered away from using cold-calling strategies on their own. Instead of just relying on prospects answering their phones (which still works, and we recommend seeing this guide on cold-calling strategies), salespeople are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms to engage with warm and cold leads. Instead of dedicating their days to the process of repetitive calling, sales professionals are leveraging other selling points — thought leadership, branding and the likes — to connect with audiences.
What constitutes as social selling — and what doesn’t
Now that you’ve gathered a working definition of the term, it’s important to lay out some best practices of the art of social selling. Many sales professionals use social selling primarily as a tool to gain leads. While this is often a direct result of implementing these strategies, it should not be the primary goal. Instead, sales professionals should focus on social selling as a way to build relationships with current and potential customers. Rather than gaining more leads, it’s about converting these leads into customers who are invested in your brand.
What are some examples of effective social selling? It depends on your industry, customer base and services, mostly. However, these are some tried-and-true approaches that resonate with today’s tech-empowered customer base:
- Industry publications and trends
- Thought leadership content
- Compelling how-to videos
- Tweets, statuses and other social media posts that ask questions, encouraging responses from customers
Now that you know what to do, you’ll need to learn what not to do. Since social selling is a form of branding for sales professionals, you need to make sure everything you do and say reflects positively on your business. If you bombard people with spam — in the form of direct messages — they won’t just be annoyed at the sales professional behind the unsolicited contact; they’ll ultimately be irritated with the business as a whole. It’s a fast way to undo many of the positive branding strategies you’ve invested in recently.
Converting salespeople into social sellers
Just because it’s in someone’s wheelhouse to sell doesn’t mean they’re a natural social seller. Having the skills to reach potential customers and improve brand recognition isn’t a skill one learns overnight. When companies want to transform their salespeople into impactful social sellers, they need to initiate this transformation. Here are some strategies business leaders can take to convert sales professionals into social sellers that add value to the organization:
Organize training sessions
Your salespeople won’t know how to become empowered social sellers without the proper tools for success. A comprehensive training session provides a great jumping-off point for employees to immerse themselves in social media for the benefits of growth and retention.
A training session that walks staff members through how to use different social media tools is probably a waste of time. Most of your employees know how to use the major platforms — like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — for personal use. (For employees who have never used one or all of these channels before, you might consider coordinating a small-scale training session to provide them with the fundamental insight they’ll need to become fluent in social media.) Instead, organize a large-scale training session that introduces to social selling techniques they can add to their daily duties.
Here are some topics you might consider approaching when encouraging workers to become exemplary social sellers:
- How to find relevant content worth sharing
- How to convey brand messages
- How to integrate social selling into their current practices
- Using social selling to build relationships
Empower thought leadership
According to Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, Inc., 35% of B2B buyers spend one to three hours viewing thought leadership content every week. Business leaders invest a lot of time and resources in professional development to improve their abilities — both to better perform their individual roles and leverage credible insight to add value to their organization.
You can encourage your own employees to become thought leaders in order to improve their online reach and grow the credibility of your brand. What makes an effective thought leader? A strong business professional becomes a thought leader when they produce original content that answers a question or unpacks a problem that many professionals need to solve. This material should be thought-provoking and polished. Perhaps it’s edited for content and grammar by an in-house marketing professional or a business leader. It may have a call to action at the end that promotes a certain behavior, initiates an action or does something else to encourage readers to immerse themselves in the thought leader’s brand.
Not all thought leadership is treated the same. Edelman’s research found that 49% of B2B buyers reported that poor quality content caused their opinion of the company behind it to suffer. Even more startling, one-third of buyers decided not to go forward with a B2B organization after viewing poor thought leadership content. Compelling or mediocre thought leadership can significantly impact the public perception of a business.
How employee advocacy promotes social selling
If you’d like to improve the quality of the work put forward by your sales professionals, you might consider using employee advocacy software. This effective technology provides one centralized portal in which employees and business leaders can share original branded and unbranded content. This means after an employee posts a piece of thought leadership content, they can share it on this platform. From there, other employees can share this content on their own social media platforms in order to reach more potential customers.
In addition, employee advocacy platforms can help workers find other content that is relevant to their business or their customer base in order to improve their capabilities within their roles. Through social selling, sales professionals can become efficient brand advocates — individuals who strengthen a business’s platform.