You’ve heard it all before, your friends and family use social media to keep in touch, post funny pictures of the family pet and videos of your baby’s first steps, but being social online should be strictly kept to after business hours for recreation…. right? I mean come on, prospecting for new business is all about picking up the phone or sending an email, not playing on the computer…. isn’t it?
Here’s a fun fact for you: Did you know that by not actively prospecting, lead generating and selling across social channels that your sales are suffering…. fact! Mark Fidelman (a Forbes contributor) conducted an in-depth study into social selling and found that sales agents using social media to sell, bring in up to 78% more business than those who disregard it as a legitimate business tool.
It’s simple really, social selling has fundamentally changed the way business is conducted and working relationships are forged. A lack of social selling will kill your business if your competitors have moved with the times and you still cling to the hope that it’s all just hype and will simply disappear one day.
What Is Social Selling?
Social media allows us to go places we have never been, interact with people we never had access to and demonstrate the knowledge we possess in our respective field of business to those that want to listen. Not only that, it allows us to market ourselves as thought/opinion leaders in the eyes of those who care about what we have to say. A lot of the time the people who care what we have to say are our prospective clients, we just need to know how to use social media in the right way.
How Do I know What Social Media Platform Is Right For Me Or For My Business?
Firstly, it’s important to know that social media can’t be something that is taken lightly. You genuinely get out of it what you put in and it takes time to become a valued part of any social network. You won’t sell anything in your first five minutes on Twitter you won’t gain 10,000 followers on Facebook overnight and people won’t turn to you for advice on Linkedin unless you contribute.
There are two key points to understanding which social platform is right for your business:
Know Where Your Customers 'Hang Out’ And Why They Are There
This may seem fairly simplistic but it’s not necessarily easy as you first need to find out which social platforms your customers use and more importantly, why they are there.
What do we mean by 'why’ they are there?
Well, people use social networks for different reasons although some of your customers may use Facebook, they are not necessarily there to engage with your brand in the same way they might be inclined to on, say LinkedIn.
Think of it like this:
You need a new mobile phone and one night after you’ve just sat down for dinner you are interrupted by a phone call from a company looking to sell you a new mobile phone. You’re not inclined to react favourably as you are not in the right place, i.e. a phone shop. Instead, you’re relaxing at home after a hard days work and the interruption by that phone company may have a negative result even though you are ready to buy. Fast-forward then to the next day when you’re walking through the mall and you notice a company demonstrating a new mobile phone that’s just hit the market. If you’re like most of us, you will be more likely to pay attention and possibly more likely to buy when you’re in a place that is aligned with your reason for being there, i.e. to shop.
According to a survey conducted by WebMarketing123, businesses which target the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) market will have better success generating new connections (prospecting) on a platform like Facebook. The 2012 State of Digital Marketing survey showed that approximately 39% of leads from Social Selling come from Facebook. Meanwhile, if your business is more focused on Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing/sales then you’d more likely see results using LinkedIn instead, which generated about 23% of new leads via social media for B2B firms.
That’s not to say that B2B companies shouldn’t have a Facebook presence, it just means that you need to realise that Facebook is not predominantly a place of business. It’s more social and informal – people are there to socialise with friends so your content needs to reflect this fact. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is where professionals come to network with their business heads on and should be used to promote yourself as an expert in your field, one who could help other businesses achieve their goals.
If you have limited resources we recommend you dedicate your efforts to one or two channels to begin with. Although there are a many social networks, the big players tend to break into the following two categories:
B2C: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram.
B2B: Linked In, Twitter, Google+ and Business Forums.
The Three V’s: Value, Value & Value
The only way for any sales rep to become truly great at social selling is to sell your ideas and knowledge, NOT your products. If you jump into a social platform shouting about how great your products are, I promise you that no one will listen. Not only will they not listen, but they won’t take you seriously and you will be sidelined along with all of the others that shout about how great they are. These people are usually referred to as 'spammers’ and worse. As a general rule of thumb for those dipping their toes for the first time in social media waters, it’s always good to remember that those who have to tell others how great they are and how wonderful their products are, generally aren’t so hot.
Imagine attending a networking event and instead of contributing to a meaningful conversation, you stand on the table and shout “Hey listen everyone! I’m the greatest salesperson ever, my products are the best, come speak to me!” What would your reaction be? Would you buy from this person or their company? Likely your answer to these questions would be a resounding “no” as it’s difficult to take seriously people who haven’t contributed anything of value to the conversation and have yet to gain any sort of credibility.
On the other hand imagine attending the same event and joining a discussion people are having that is relevant to your industry. You introduce yourself and join the discussion, making sure to add valuable insights but never mentioning your products directly. People already know the company you work with because you briefly mentioned it during your introduction, also think about this in terms of having your company name in an online profile. Now that the group is gaining great value from your participation and view you as an authority in your industry, it starts to become apparent that you may just be the person they need to turn to in order to resolve the problem they might be suffering from.
How To Use Social Media To Sell Effectively
So, just how do you sell using social media? When we talk about social selling we don’t always mean closing deals online, rather we mean the ability for a sales rep to sell themselves and demonstrate their expertise to prospective clients.
It is important to note that social selling is not a shouting match, it’s not about advertising or talking 'at’ people, but rather 'with’ people and forming trust and friendships in the right places.
As mentioned above, research is the key here. Know who you’re targeting and where they 'hang out’ online and do your best to court their attention by becoming a valued part of their network. The fluidity of social media makes inserting yourself into a potential customer’s social stream easier than ever before. Perhaps they’ve blogged an interesting article that you, in turn, want to share with your own followers on Google+, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Over time, they will see you and even start to get to “know” you which means that when you eventually choose to make direct contact, you aren’t dealing with that somewhat awkward cold call.
As we also discussed above, don’t try to use social media to just sell, sell, sell. To begin with, you’re unlikely to see any real return on the investment of time and resources you’ve made. Social selling is all about making yourself & your social media platform “THE” place to go when people want tips or information on your specific area of expertise. Become a pro at inbound marketing, where your business is found by those who need your products or services and watch as those visitors turn into clients as they come to know and trust your brand.
In all of this rush to provide content that highlights your skills and abilities, it can be hard to remember that social media is just that – SOCIAL. You have to make sure that the people who visit your Facebook page or LinkedIn profile realise that you value their time and are willing to engage with them when they have questions or comments. Building a connection with your visitors is crucial to successfully using the social selling approach correctly. When the prospect finds need of your services if you’ve done it right, they will approach you to help them due to the trust you’ve already established through prior interactions.
Keeping Track Of Conversation Is Critical
With that being said, make sure you don’t lose track of the various conversations you’re having. One of the best ways to turn people off your social media presence and lose followers is to just disappear mid-conversation. The best part of the social media world we are living in and trying to sell in is that it allows for real time communication with your followers so make sure you hold up your end of the conversation.
However, make sure you don’t spend so much time online that you ignore your other business concerns. Too much time spent on your social media presence can be just as damaging as too little time. Balance is the key here as in all things, and it can take time to get it right. Start by joining two or three meaningful and targeted conversations a day and build up from there.
It’s time to venture into the social selling space and take advantage of the possibilities it can bring you. It’s a tool like any other that when used correctly has been shown to help businesses and individual salespeople reach and often exceed their goals. Don’t just dip your toe in though, wade in! Do it smartly, learn and watch your presence online grow as you discover the many advantages that a wise foray into social selling can provide.
Tip: A Great Tool To Find Someones Social Media Profile Details
There are many tools out there that will make your exploration into social selling easier and more effective. If you use Gmail, there are various plugins you might want to explore and one of these that we love is the Rapportive plugin for Gmail.
What does it do?
Quite simply it lets you discover the various social media platforms that anyone who emails you (or who you email) uses. Doesn’t that sound useful? Rapport will let you see – and provide direct links to – your prospects social media accounts and where you can find them online whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
There’s more though!
If you don’t know the precise email of someone you’d like to contact then check out this great 'hack’: Contact any decision maker with this cool sales hack
We’d be interested to hear how sales agents and companies are using social media to connect and engage with prospects. Leave a comment and share your best tips below.