We’ve all heard the social media naysayers before: “It’s a waste of time,” “It doesn’t deliver results,” and, “It’s only a fad.”
Of course, we all know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The role of social media in business is expanding, and more and more businesses are tracing new customers back to their social channels. In fact, according to iMedia Connection, 57 percent of businesses have generated customers through LinkedIn, 48 percent have generated customers through Twitter, and 42 percent have generated customers through Facebook.
What Is Social Selling?
This concept of converting leads and gaining new business through social media is known as “social selling.” The Aberdeen Group offers a particularly in-depth explanation of what social selling is, and points to three specific practices salespeople can leverage. According to Aberdeen, social selling is the use of social media by sales organizations for…
Social collaboration: The use of social media platforms to communicate with internal or channel partner team members, in order to benefit from shared ‘tribal knowledge’ in acquiring / servicing customers.
An Evolutionary Step Forward
Notice that in the above definition, there’s no mention of making sales pitches via social. That’s because successful social selling relies on finding potential customers, relating to their needs, and engaging with them, and not simply broadcasting the benefits of your business’s products or services.
External listening: Traditional sales intelligence, i.e. demographic data about people and companies, has become little more than a commodity. Instead, the more relevant information about prospects / customers is behavioral, i.e. what are they thinking or doing, and is best collected via user-generated content regarding the individuals, organizations and trends that impact the selling / buying relationship.
Here’s an example: Imagine you’re in the market for a new toaster. You want to make an informed purchase decision, so you turn to Twitter and send out a tweet asking “What features should I look for in a new toaster?” Company A responds to your tweet with a link to a product page and says, “THIS toaster has everything you need!” Company B, on the other hand, responds to your tweet with a link to a helpful article from their blog (perhaps “The Ultimate Toaster Buyer’s Guide”) and lets you know that they’d be happy to help you with any questions you might have.
Which company has employed the principles of social selling more effectively? Or, to get to the heart of the matter, which company would you be more likely to buy a toaster from? We’re guessing you’d choose Company B, and here’s why: Whereas Company A immediately went for the hard sell, Company B acted as a resource and made a legitimate effort to help you.
External participation: While the first instinct of most salespeople is naturally to sell, a more cautious approach focused on providing subject matter expertise can be a more effective way to build credibility with a prospective customer. Buyers who have become unresponsive to traditional sales / marketing messages are more likely to engage with someone who has added value to their business; social communications are a natural fit for this approach.
Adding Social Selling to Your Sales Strategy
It’s important to note that social selling doesn’t have to conflict with your traditional sales practices. Instead of abandoning phones calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings and replacing them with social collaboration, external listening, and external participation, you can weave these new social practices into your existing sales strategy. For example, after growing and nurturing a relationship via social media, there will likely come a time when it’s appropriate to move the sales process forward to an email or phone call.
The great thing about social selling is that it can help you qualify leads without being too intrusive: Engaging with folks via social is asynchronous (you can do it at any time, no need to crowd someone’s calendar) and it’s considerably less interruptive than cold calling or cold emailing.
Still not convinced that social selling is worth pursuing? Just check out these stats below from a recent survey:
What’s your take on social selling? Have you ever generated new business via social media? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!