In social selling, online interactions with prospects mirror connections with friends or friends-to-be on social media.
When you embark on a new sales strategy, it can feel a bit foreign at first. But, maybe you’ve heard about the effectiveness of social selling — and its equally impressive results?
Seventy-eight percent of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media.” | LinkedIn Social Selling Index
But, let’s back up — if you haven’t heard about social selling before, consider our previous articles on the practice. We’ve defined what social selling is, how and why you should add it to your sales arsenal, and what type of content to share (and where to source it).
Now you’re up to speed, how does one engage online so you’re in a position to offer value-add opportunities? Approach conversations on social media with prospects in a similar way to how you would connect with friends or friends-to-be on social media. In all communications, strive for an experience that uses empathy to keep the needs of the prospect central and remember that any offers should always be value-add (not solution-add). Use empathy and center connecting with and understanding prospects in your interactions.
TL;DR tread lightly and don’t rush to direct message a sales pitch.
Before leaping into a social selling strategy, keep these truths in mind
Fifty-nine percent of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business.” | State of the Connected Customer, Third Edition
LinkedIn research has found an even stronger link with personalized communications or appropriate contact and interactions. They found that “decision-makers are more likely to consider a brand’s products or services when the experience is personalized, for instance, if a sales professional … provides personalized communications (93%) or targets the appropriate people at their company for initial discussions (92%).”
These stats underscore how social selling might be the preferred way for modern business customers to buy, even if they don’t name the tactic. Today’s customers want brands to offer personalization and individual attention that addresses their particular problems. And, they want brands to understand them before they begin down any sales path.
Which is to write, the time to start social selling is now. Even if this tactic relies on the long tail.
Now let’s get started with prospect interactions. Like most how-tos, let’s begin with some assumptions:
- You’ve done due diligence and identified a shortlist of 20 prospects on LinkedIn
- You’ve identified prospects who embody persona traits that fit the business profile of customers who may benefit from your product or service
- You’ve researched and joined the relevant industry groups for these prospects
- You’ve followed specific topic hashtags for your industry and vertical
- You’ve followed your industry’s appropriate influencers/thought leaders
Now you’re ready!
Start by participating in industry group conversations about topics where you have some interest. These groups can be an opportunity for you to listen and learn or express professional and respectful opinions about aspects of your industry. The key is to identify low-risk environments to go into while you look for trends. Be open and interact with the more active members of the community. Attempt to stay balanced in your responses and not revert to sales-y language. In an ideal scenario, you will begin to understand the types of discussions your shortlist prospects find engaging. Try to join in the same discussions, and if appropriate, even directly reply to comments that your prospect has volunteered.
After participating in a few discussion threads or commenting on posts from influencers, consider an intro email to ask if it would be okay to connect on LinkedIn. Continue participating in discussions and even post brand or other appropriate industry content with insights. If your new contact/prospect shares articles they’ve written or are industry-relevant, make sure you reply with original and relevant commentary. And, if they write and share content that resonates, consider sharing it on your timeline and tagging them.
Eighty-four percent of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business.” | State of the Connected Customer, Third Edition
Regularly visit this social platform and interact with each of your prospects in this fashion for a few months. And, of course, continue to share content to your timeline.
Depending on your comfort level and how the channel conversations progress between you and individual prospects, you can either continue this type of interaction until prospects either direct message you or publicly present questions that you might be able to help with. In a real sense, social selling uses social media to cultivate one-to-one relationships to create opportunities for further conversation.
Thirty-seven percent of customers feel less connected to companies than they did two years ago.” | State of the Connected Customer, Third Edition
If your intel is spot-on, focus on the one-to-one relationship will eventually yield a sale, or — at the very least — help to expand your network.
As you embark on social selling, make sure you have the right tool to listen to the conversations that matter.
One last thing. Remember, every social interaction informs the customer experience with your brand, keep this top of mind when interacting on social media.