Let me get to the point: this term has been hyped up and over-stated. It has been latched onto in a crude attempt to convince sales folks that “social media is good”. And the term itself is misleading…it’s NOT a case of explicitly selling via social media.
You need to be a lot smarter than that. And if you’re not, then your business will struggle.
What organisations really need to do is step back and not jump into this shiny new “let’s make more sales” promise! It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the public – the target audiences – across social media channels are either immune to the proliferation of ads, boosted posts and blatant sales messages, or are entirely fed up with them.
At Comms Axis, we are passionate about putting your customer at the heart of everything. Not your USPs or sales pitch. Being able to nudge the prospect along the customer journey and close the deal is what matters to your business.
Explicitly selling on social media will not convert your target audience into genuine prospects; it will not turn those prospects into customers; it certainly will not encourage your customers to become advocates or ambassadors for your brand.
Social selling is about intelligent digital engagements and nurturing prospects.
Consider the age-old business tenet of “know your customer”. If you know your customer, then you can empathise with them. You can understand their needs and wants and complaints. And why they’re complaining. You can then engage with them and build trust and loyalty. Think of your prospects in exactly the same way.
In doing so, this will help push your customers down the sales funnel. From being simply “the target audience”, you will be able to influence their purchasing decisions and turn them into customers, and then on to the ultimate goal of being a satisfied customer that becomes your brand advocate.
So what is social selling?
The aim of social selling is to use social media to generate sales revenue through new customer acquisitions.
The science of social selling is that you have a huge opportunity to learn all about your prospects and therefore profile their needs, wants and pain points, before devising your approach.
The art of social selling is that you can join in the social conversations of any target prospect at anytime, about any topic, with complete context and understanding of what that prospect really needs. It’s an implicit sell.
The beauty of social selling is that you do not need to “sell”.
Putting it into practice
The first thing to note is that there are plenty of businesses getting it right. This post is not designed to pigeonhole every sales team in every organisation as pariahs. It is intended to stop people from jumping blindly onto a social selling bandwagon in the mistaken belief that they can use classic sales tactics.
As with all aspects of business, you need to plan. You wouldn’t walk into a new business meeting without having researched who you were seeing or what company they worked for. Nor would you blindly talk about generic challenges that your service or product can overcome. I doubt you would conduct zero due diligence either.
You would have an agenda, you would have the outcomes you want to achieve, and you would have your strategy for how to get there. Social selling is exactly the same…but a lot easier and far less time-consuming.
The aim of social selling is clear, so let’s now take a look at how you apply the science, the art, and the beauty of this powerful weapon in a sales organisation’s armoury.
Listen to what your prospect is saying online. Seems obvious, right? As Lilach Bullock highlighted in our last post: “101 Tweet-Tastic Tools for 2014”, there is a plethora of social media listening and monitoring tools out there that make the profiling of your target audience or individual prospects easy and super quick.
You can fairly instantly build a 360-degree profile of an individual’s digital footprint; segment your online target audience in terms of demographics and geographies; build online communities to encourage debate and discussion about topical issues; learn what topics appeal to them; understand their challenges and what they want to achieve…there really is so much that can be done to qualify and then push those leads down the sales funnel.
Use the various tools at your disposal and your own good old fashioned human intelligence to gain a clear picture of your prospects.
Taking this analytical approach further, social engagement should become a staple part of any social strategy diet. It’s about two-way communication. And for social selling, this means converting conversations into customers.
By knowing the business issues that your prospects are talking about, it will be far easier to join the conversation and provide advice or opinions. A lot of value can therefore be added to the relationship, which will start building trust in you and your opinion.
Using this implicit approach, you can help your prospects understand why they have these particular issues and what they can do about them. By reading the content shared by them – whether this is via third parties or their own content – you can identify key issues to focus on…opportunities to share your company’s blog posts on similar subjects or provide your opinion on, while all the time being consistent with your product’s or service’s USPs. Yet not actually directly plugging them if you can help it.
You can even get back to basics and simply retweet or Like or even share specific content of individual prospects. By doing this in a selective and sequenced fashion, you will get on their radar in a way that won’t be intrusive or blatant.
And you don’t even need to be this direct with your engagements. You can share similar blog posts and articles that they typically share, or use hashtags that they use for relevant content. This is much more subtle and indirect, yet keeps your name popping up on their feeds and timelines.
Above all, be patient. Very patient. You’re nurturing these contacts. You’re not herding them into a sales cauldron for you to bulldoze them into a quick sale or close a deal in 24 hours!! Over time, you will build trust and empathy. This will influence their buying behaviour and give you a far greater chance of repeat custom and brand advocacy.
As mentioned, the beautiful part of social selling is that you don’t need to sell! No cold-calls that get short shrift. No unsolicited emails littered with obvious calls to actions that get junked immediately. No tactics required at all that would otherwise diminish your returns and turn your prospects off.
It’s about connecting with the prospects and showing the human side to you – people buy from people after all.
Once you’ve built a relationship, or at least had a couple of interactions with your prospect, then you can try connecting with the person on LinkedIn. Not to dive straight in there with a sales pitch, but to continue nurturing.
At this point, you should be able to take the leap of explaining your role (if it’s not obvious enough from your profile or biography!) to ensure transparency and that you’d love to have a quick call or to meet over a coffee.
Taking the conversation offline is the final piece of the jigsaw to allow you to then work your magic!
This is how we operate at Comms Axis. We build relationships. We build trust. We do this for our clients and for our own brand. We hope you like this post and found aspects of it useful. Perhaps you have had some experience – positive or negative – in the world of social selling? We’d be delighted if you shared them with us – leave a comment and, of course, why not Like or +1 this article or tweet it out there?!
Previously, he was Director at Comms Axis, a full service marketing agency specialising in content, social media & website services for businesses of all sizes.
Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, MarketingProfs, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and more.
Dan was also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
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