Connecting with new prospects is no longer a matter of cold calling, and social media is no longer limited to personal connections. Instead, the two have merged into a new tactic called “social selling,” which is being hailed as the future of acquiring new business by publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes.
The recent popularity of social selling is borne out of a number of trends that have been growing quickly over the past several years — chief among them is the declining trust of buyers in traditional advertising. Buyers have also increased their trust of other buyers and their peers, as noted by Nielsen’s Global Trust in Adverting study.
Social selling tactics are also noted to work better than cold calling and traditional advertising, and they are often available at a fraction of the cost of those conventional ways of acquiring new business.
Formal social selling programs on the rise
No wonder companies have begun implementing “social” into their official sales processes. According to a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Hootsuite, 49 per cent of B2B enterprises have developed a formal social selling program, while another 28 per cent are in the process of doing so as well.
The idea is that there are likely customers out there amongst first and second-degree connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — and that it just takes a little bit of brand building, engagement and authority in your area of expertise to ensure they bring their business to you.
Studies have found that 78 per cent of those who leverage their social network to find prospects, build trust, nurture relationships and make sales to outsell their colleagues who don’t use those tactics. In fact, 71 per cent of sales professionals are already using social selling in one way or another to their advantage.
Here’s how to do it right.
1. Make a real connection
If social selling is supposed to be anti-cold calling, then why use the same impersonal tactics?
Social selling’s main advantage is that you already have some form of connection with the person you’re selling to, so it’s important to use the opportunity to build that relationship.
Instead of giving the standard sales pitch, actually talk to them about their needs and concerns and explain why you can provide value. Engage with them online even when it has nothing to do with your business, and don’t post about your brand or products exclusively.
Remember, social selling is all about building relationships that can potentially provide sales leads, and the key is in the strength of the connection, not the size of the Rolodex.
2. Become your network’s go-to expert
While not all of your social connections will be potential customers, they may know someone who is looking for your services.
Ensure that you always get the referral of your connections by becoming their go-to expert in your area of expertise.
For example, a real estate agent can improve her social selling by chiming in about the latest developments in the real estate market, or answering relevant questions posted by friends. Even though those friends may not need a real estate agent right now, they may have a friend who does.
Make sure you’re the go-to expert in your field to increase recommendations and qualified leads.
3. Social selling on LinkedIn
As the social network established exclusively for professional relationship building, LinkedIn’s social selling tools and resources are naturally more advanced than those of Facebook and Twitter.
One of these tools is their Social Selling Index, which the social giant made available and free for everyone in 2015. The Social Selling Index, which tries to quantify and optimize social selling efforts, provides a dashboard that lays out how one’s account measures up overall, based on the following four categories they believe are key to successful social selling:
- Establish your professional brand
- Find the right people
- Engage with insights
- Build relationships
The dashboard will tell users how they’re stacking up on the platform, and areas where they can improve.
If you haven’t already, this is one tool worth exploring, along with the advice that LinkedIn provides on how to conquer social selling on the platform.