FAQ Friday: Social Selling with an Inbound Approach

Posted by Sunday Ely Apr 14, 2017

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Social Selling—what is all the hype about and do I need it for my business to convert sales?

Well, here are the facts:

  • There is validity to the hype
  • Yes, your sales can benefit

Check out the answers to your social selling questions in this week's FAQ Friday.

Frequently asked questions that arise when social selling with an inbound approach:

What is social selling? And why is it so important?

Social selling is the industry term for sales teams using social media to interact directly with their prospects.

Why it’s important?

In short, customer purchasing habits have shifted. Customers still want to research a product, ask questions and take the product or service for a test drive before purchasing. Even after the purchase customers want to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of quality performance once the transaction is made. So if these areas have not shifted what has?

The way a potential buyer goes about researching a product/service, the questions they are asking, where they are asking and how they preview a product or service has changed drastically with the digital age. There is no longer a need to call a customer services representative or visit a physical location to gather information before a purchase. Due to the access of information technology (i.e. the Internet and devices such as smartphones, and tablets), research, review, compare, purchase and ask questions via social media at leisure and beyond the restraints of the 9-5pm work day—without ever speaking to a sales rep. Now that’s a major change!

Social selling is about getting social and going where your audience members are—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to name a few. Your sales team should be building genuine relationships with buyers throughout their buyer’s journey.

Traditional sales took the ABC approach “always be closing”, this method follows this ABC breakdown  “always be connecting”.

Social selling provides the sales team with an avenue to foster authentic connections before getting on the phone, setting a meeting or sending an email. Sales teams can build connections in a personalized and authentic way. Once a ‘warm-up’ connection has been made on social media, it is more likely to experience smooth sailing through the buyer’s journey.

It’s not about overselling  or flooding timelines with your product(s), service(s), or over saturated ‘flash sale’ notifications. No one enjoys unsolicited messages or direct messages (DM’s). Anything unsolicited via email, text, or social media just comes across as spam.

Take your time to build relationships and leverage social listening techniques to better understand when to make contact and what to share.

How can my sales team get started with social selling?

A social selling strategy all starts with knowing where your audience is online.

You and your team should be able to answer:

  • What percentage of our audience is online?
  • What social platforms do they use? (age breakdown, gender, career title)
  • What type of engagement takes place on those platforms? (networking, sharing content, etc.)
  • What behavior patterns can we trace amongst our audience? (any similarities in the content they share? Or similarities in the people/companies they follow?)

For example, if your prospects mainly use Facebook—you want to know, what kind of interactions they have on that platform, or how they are using the social platform. Are they connected with family and friends? Do they conduct business research on Facebook? Do they follow any businesses? You will want to identify any behavioral traits that will aid you in servicing the buyer. Armed with the appropriate research, a sales team can easily develop a strategy and identify the tools needed to build a reputable sales community online.

Now that you understand the basics of social selling let’s explore how to get the ball rolling.

  1. Know your audience and their behavior (yes, there is software for this).

    If you don’t have the bandwidth to gather information or invest in analytical software, hiring a marketing agency can alleviate you having to worry about any of this research or implementation.

  2. Identify a select number of prospects your sales team can interact with via social media.

    You want to understand your buyer personas and have a clear picture of what information would be helpful to them in their buyer's journey. Review their social profiles—what does it teach you? What can you learn about the potential lead? Remember not to spam your prospect, no one wants unsolicited information. An interacting can be as simple as re-posting a relevant message, liking a post or following the prospect.

Pro Tip: Be mindful of how you would like a brand to interact with you. Don’t be overly salesy. Be relevant, be helpful, be non-intrusive.

It’s the modern way to develop meaningful relationships with potential customers that keep you and your brand front of mind, so you’re the natural first point of contact when a prospect is ready to buy.

Are there concepts, or techniques my sales team should master prior to getting started with social selling?

Absolutely! You want to make sure your team appropriately stretches before the warm-up to ensure best the performance. Mastering these techniques will help you delight your prospects every step of the way.

  1. Build Your Personal Brand

    Your sales team should have well-rounded social media profiles. They should have their information section fully filled out, a website link that directs people back to your company website or a @yourcompanytag in their bio. The goal here is for your sales member to appear as and eventually become an industry expert in your field.

    Here are two good examples from our partners at Hubspot:

    Picture1.png
    Picture2.png

    If you do not have the number of followers you desire at the moment or are lacking that coveted verified blue check, take a deep breath—it’s okay. The more you reach out to your ideal audience with valuable interaction over time you will see your numbers and influence grow and develop.

    Touch + valuable interaction x time = growth

  2. Pick Your Prospects

    Next, you want to identify the right prospects. Yup, that’s right you want to identify who you will be reaching out to for the week. Pick a numerical goal you can tackle, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals will be the best bet. Before reaching out to them be sure to consider where each one is at in their buyer's journey.

  3. Content and Context

    After identifying the people you will connect with you can begin to decided what content you have to share and what content you will need to develop to improve social selling.

    What content (articles, infographics, video content) would be helpful to those identified prospects? And how can you take that content and present it in a contextually mindful way making your marketing more personalized and relevant to the individual?

    Think of it this way—content pulls your prospect in and context pulls them through the buyer's journey.

  4. Thought Leadership

    Lastly, you want to identify industry thought leaders whom you sales team actively follow, retweet and engage with regularly. This will aid in the verification, credibility, and authenticity of your brand as an industry leader.

    Let’s recap the concepts and techniques you and your sales team can take to master the art of social selling.

Quick Recap:

  • Build personal brand
  • Pick Your Prospect research
  • Content and Context planning
  • Thought Leadership sharing

Pro Tip: Remember conversions take time, so exercise patience and take your time. Build those relationships and you’ll see results.

My company posts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Is that social selling?

Yes — sort of. You have certainly started the process, as you will need to have social profiles in order to engage social selling. Your online profiles are essentially a landing place where individuals, companies, brands can follow you, add you, comment and overarchingly engage with your brand in an interactive manner.

LinkedIn Tips

This has to be one of the most optimized sites for social selling. In the sense that it is a professional platform designed to build authentic connections. It is not like any other platform. Here you can share blog posts with followers, display number of endorsements from supporters and customers and display recommendations.

Build credibility:

  • Join Industry Groups
    • contribute, comment and respond
  • Garner Endorsements
    • add skills to your profile and let people endorse you
  • Recommendations
    • Ask partners/customers/co-workers to write a statement in favor of your work
  • Blog
    • contribute to the conversation through posting blog content

These areas can give your sales team members instant credibility amongst prospects. Just remember to use information on LinkedIn that is relevant to the potential client/customer rather than an employee. Something as simple as shifting from “what I have accomplished in my career” to “how I have accomplished goals for clients”.

Pro Tip: Highlight how you’ve helped previous customers achieve goals.

Twitter Tips

The key here is organization. Everything is bite size, which allows for simple information sharing. Live video recording, plus video uploading, image sharing and trending topics all create for a fun and exciting consumable community on Twitter.

One thing your sales team can do is establish lists on this platform to organize a strategy for optimal performance.

  • Existing Customers—public list

    Have a list of existing customers and keep a radar of their tweets. Lightly engage when appropriate to keep your brand on their radar. Make meaningful contact nothing too overdone. These are followers that are familiar with you so can engage with an appropriate lightheartedness. Be authentic in your approach and engage at the right moments.

  • Potential Customers—private list

    This private list is of potential customers. Perhaps these prospects have liked other industry thought leaders, have posed questions to industry leaders that your brand can also answer and support. Or they have engaged in webinars, visited your website or even downloaded an ebook from your site.

    These prospects have been browsing around and not ready to buy. Do not engage with the same sense of familiarity as your existing customers. Instead, think of ways you can share inbound content that would draw them to your brand. Be helpful and provide value.

  • Competitors—private list

    Knowledge is power. Be aware, not obsessive. Competitive intelligence can aid you in knowing what gaps your company provides your prospects in juxtaposition with the competition.

Facebook Tips

Facebook can be a slippery slope. Many businesses do well here but some can really struggle. This is due to the fact that Facebook is a very personal platform for most people. Many people don’t want to mix business and pleasure.

However, because Facebook as a platform is very “smart”. It is integrated with many online businesses from health apps, to your music streaming service. Due to this, there is a lot of data on users available to aid you in social selling. At the same time, because so much personal data is captured on Facebook users can be a bit particular about who they interact with and who they add. Now that you know the caution, here is the good news.

The good news is social selling is all about authentic relationship building.

Seeing Facebook is such a personal platform, once an authentic relationship is built it becomes really powerful connect and is more personal than LinkedIn or Twitter.

How to build on Facebook:

  • Interacting with other businesses
  • Share valuable content, content offers, and assets
  • Answer questions/address pain points
  • Ask questions to spark conversations

Pro Tip: Remember, static posts receive less engagement than posts that pose a question.

You can pose questions that are not industry related. For example, ask your followers/friends what their plans are for the 4th of July? Be authentic.

Build relationships that go beyond your business social media page—that’s the power of social selling.

How can I begin selling to the leads I have on social media?

  • Build trusted relationships
  • Share insights
  • Listen

We’ve touched on building relationships and sharing content via context. We have not yet mentioned social listening.

What are your prospects telling you they need? What are they posting/sharing?

Use the data to inform you on how to begin selling on social media. Revealing too much information too soon or at the wrong time will completely turn your prospect. This is why building a trusted relationship is foundational. Next, share insights that answer the prospect's questions and furthers then down the business funnel. As you nurture that lead they will let you know when they are ready for pricing information or your company resources—pay attention.

One technique is to send prospects (indirectly) to your website. Share blog posts or other inbound marketing materials that link them back to your website. Once on your website they can browse themselves to check out your services etc.

Your sales team will know a prime lead on social media as the activate social listening and build solid relationships with prospects.

Do I need to have a website to begin social selling?

Yes, your website should be clearly posted in your team members info section on their social profiles. Or at the very least have your team members @yourbusiness. Once prospects click on that link your business social profile should most certainly have your website clearly displayed.

You don’t want to make prospects work too hard to learn more about you, access your blog, explore your product/services or find your contact information.

Having a website is essentially the first landing page for your business. It is your hardest working employee as it promotes and sells your products or services 24/7. While your sales team is off work or sleeping your website will be there to greet potential clients at any time not limited to time, day or location.

What type of content do I need for social selling?

Essentially you should be personal when building authentic relationships with prospects. If someone adds you on Facebook one of your team members should engage. Add them back, send them a thank you note, write a comment or send a 😄 emoji. These are all non-interruptive ways to begin sharing content and interacting with potential new leads.

Your marketing department should have assets available for you to leverage prior to getting started with social selling, blog posts, infographics, whitepapers, ebooks, videos and other content for social distribution.

You can also refer to your identified industry thought leaders or partner brands. Check and see what content they are producing, sign-up for their newsletters or blogs and get content sent to your inbox. All of this is fair game to share on your social platforms. Just remember to @thebusiness or @theperson whose content you are sharing.

What is the difference between social selling and social media marketing?

SMM (Social Media Marketing) = uses social networks to create and promote brand awareness. It also broadcast your brand message within the desired platform.

SMS (Social Media Selling) = uses social networks to build relationships with key individuals for primed conversion.

Another way to think of it is like this:

SMM = Social Media MarketingSMS = Social Media Sales

How can I get the sales team to leverage the digital marketing collateral that the marketing team develops?

Does your sales team know this information is available? Are the marketing materials easily accessible? You want to make sure your company's finalized marketing materials are easily accessible in a shared location for all parties.

Perhaps the marketing team and sales team can identify select sections to organize developed content. For example have several centrally located folders themed social selling, inbound basics, video marketing etc. where you can organize articles and assets for social sharing.

If you have questions you would like to see featured in our weekly FAQ Friday, please submit them in the comments below, mention us @DirectImages on Twitter, or submit your questions HERE. Until next FAQ Friday, keep your communication lines open. Don’t know the answer—just ASK.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

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