According to data recently released in the 2017 State of Inbound, social selling is rapidly gaining traction as a critical component of any B2B inbound marketing strategy. With interest on the rise, salespeople and the inbound marketers who support them want to learn more about the potential benefits of social selling, as well as how to implement it effectively. In this post, we’ll offer tips on how to effectively manage your social selling efforts, as well as provide insight on how to quickly recognize potential quality leads during the social selling process—ensuring you’ll always be taking the right path toward building beneficial relationships with prospects and customers.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is the process of building meaningful relationships with potential buyers, often through the use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Typically, this is a one-on-one process where a salesperson (as opposed to a corporate brand account) connects and engages with an individual. In many respects, effective social selling is a lot like a concierge service—a salesperson makes themselves available to a potential buyer, but not to explicitly encourage a purchase. Instead, they offer answers to questions, make suggestions, and provide prospects with valuable information and solutions until they are ready to take the next step toward becoming a lead and, eventually, a customer.
Why Should Social Selling Be Part of Your Inbound Marketing Strategy?
It helps your sales team build real relationships – There’s no way to beat around the bush on this—cold calling is dead. Only 1% of cold calls result in real meetings, and 90% of B2B decision makers don’t even bother responding to cold calls. If you’re using this method to build relationships, you’re probably starting to feel pretty lonely. Social selling offers an opportunity to move away from cold calling, instead encouraging you to use social tools to identify prospects who are already engaging in ongoing conversations about your industry and related topics. Once identified, you can begin to reach out and provide them with valuable, relevant content. Organically building real relationships using social selling has proven to be successful. In fact, when asked in a recent survey about the primary benefits of using social selling, 31% of B2B salespeople indicated they were building deeper relationships with their clients, while one in three noted that social selling resulted in increasing their lead numbers.
It helps you retain customers – Not only is social selling a useful tool for building new relationships, it also helps you retain customers and relationships after a sale is complete. Social selling allows you to stay in touch with customers in an unobtrusive way (translation: say goodbye to follow-up phone calls), simply by continuing to curate useful content and making yourself available should they reach out with questions or concerns. It may not seem like much, but continuing to provide value through social selling after a sale is complete can have a significant impact. In fact, Aberdeen Research Group recently conducted a study on social selling and found that sales reps who took full advantage of social selling saw a 55% customer renewal rate. Further to that number, 79% indicated that social selling helped them attain their sales quota.
It offers new opportunities to generate leads and customers – According to the 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, nearly 70% of B2B professionals are using social selling to develop leads. By taking the time to embrace and understand social selling, you’ll be opening up an additional stream of potential customers and, more importantly, revenue for your organization.
It can help establish you as a thought leader in your industry – Consistently providing carefully considered, useful resources and content to prospects can help establish your organization as a thought leader in your industry. Consider this statistic: 92% of B2B buyers indicate that they are likely to engage with organizations and sales professionals that are known as industry thought leaders.
So, what makes for compelling thought leadership material? Typically, it’s material that offers your own distinctive perspective on a topic (as opposed to content for content’s sake, which can come across as unoriginal and provide little added value to a reader). Thought leadership material could be anything from taking a controversial standpoint on a long-held belief or industry standard, to offering opinions and perspective backed by experience, to simply approaching a topic with complete candor and transparency. Taking the time to build your reputation in the social sphere by offering insightful, high-quality content is most likely to pay dividends in the long run.
Potential customers are already using social media to inform their decisions – Potential customers frequently turn to social media to gather information before making a purchase. Statistics suggest that, on average, potential customers are nearly 60% of the way through their purchase process before making contact with a sales professionals. So, if potential customers aren’t reaching out to salespeople immediately, what are they doing? They’re researching businesses online, reading customer reviews, asking questions on social media, and determining which vendors are the best option for them. Engaging with these potential customers as they ask questions during their decision-making process not only helps build a relationship, it also keeps you top of mind when the time comes for them to take the next step toward a purchase.
6 Tips For Successfully Managing Your Social Selling Activities
Social selling can have a positive impact on your organization if you take the time to do it right. To ensure your social selling journey gets started on the right foot, here are six tips to keep in mind.
1. Take Time to Listen
When it comes to social selling, the most important thing anyone can do is listen to what their audience is saying. By taking the time to listen, you can stay informed about what is most important to your prospects. With this information, you can start developing relevant content to offer these prospects.
HubSpot provides great tools for social listening, including the ability to build dedicated streams of contacts, keywords, and topics to easily keep track of who’s saying what. Once created, you can monitor these streams to see who is saying what about your organization and industry. Best of all, building these streams allows you to discover potential customers who aren’t connected to you in the social sphere, but may be interested in a topic you’re knowledgeable about. When the opportunity arises, you can reach out to these prospects, providing them with valuable content and insight—laying the groundwork for an authentic relationship in the process.
2. Consider Your Demographics
Before you start selling socially, you need to gather information to better understand your target demographic. The best way to do this is by creating buyer personas. These fictionalized versions of your ideal customers are created using a mix of market data and customer research. With this information, you can develop a clear picture of the needs, motivations, objections, and marketing triggers of your prospects, as well as which social networks they (and subsequently, you) spend time on.
If you’re looking for more on buyer personas, we’ve put together a helpful template along with the information you need to start developing yours today.
3. Set Your SMART Goals
After researching your demographics, you need to set actionable SMART goals for your social selling efforts. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely—giving you clear targets to strive for, while also allowing you to track and measure the success of your social selling.
So, if you’re setting a SMART goal for social selling, an example to get you started might be to strive to generate five new leads every month through engaging with prospects on Twitter. Your specific SMART goals will depend on your situation, but should always be driving you toward your desired result.
4. Show Up
When it comes to social selling, the adage “half the battle is showing up” rings very true. You need to be present and ready to engage and build rapport with your audience. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth stating: no one has ever built rapport with an automated tweet or direct message. In fact, tactics such as these can come off as disingenuous and, at worst, have disastrous consequences that can seriously impact your brand (just ask the New England Patriots or Walker’s Crisps).
5. Always Provide Value
You’re a well of expertise, insight, and solutions, right? So don’t be afraid to share what you know with your audience! You should strive to make every interaction you have with a prospect valuable for them. The content you provide doesn’t even always have to be your own. In fact, if you’ve found an interesting article you think is relevant for your audience to hear, by all means, share it (and possibly provide additional commentary of your own). Remember, social selling is not about pitching your latest product or service; it’s about providing insight that benefits your audience and establishes your brand as an expert they can trust.
6. When the Time is Right, Suggest Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level
If you’re doing social selling correctly, you should always be building toward eventually presenting your prospects with a clear call-to-action that moves them away from social channels and onto your website where they convert into a lead (and be further nurtured toward becoming a customer). A call-to-action can be as simple as encouraging a prospect to check out an eBook, whitepaper, how-to guide, or another piece of content you have gated on your website and providing them with a link. Once they click through, they’ll be required to provide you with contact information in exchange for access to the content.
Our first tip revolved around listening to your audience. This tip comes into play again when encouraging your prospects to convert on an offer. When you’re listening to your audience, you can determine what’s important to them and begin creating content designed to address their needs. With a wealth of relevant, valuable content on hand, you’ll be well prepared when the time comes to encourage a prospect to convert.
How to Recognize Potential Quality Leads in the Social Selling Process
With social selling, the cream of the crop does not always rise to the top. Prospects may be interacting with and engaged by your social posts, and you could never know unless you keep your eyes peeled for potential quality leads. The best way to start recognizing these leads is by monitoring and taking advantage of the interaction and performance metrics available through the HubSpot Social tool.
When you create a social media post using the HubSpot social tool, it will track the number of clicks and interactions the post receives. This feature is useful because it provides details on who is spending time with your posts: you can see how many times your post has been clicked, as well as exactly who is sharing and liking them.
With this information, you can identify specific users who are excited about and engaging with your content. If a user is consistently interacting with your posts, they may be a quality lead, and you should vet them further.
To research potential leads, take a look at their social presence. A quick glance at their profiles across multiple social networks can help you determine their industry, job title, and employer—all of which can be valuable information for further qualifying them. For example, if your prospect works in an industry your organization serves and has decision-making capacity, you’ll almost certainly want to reach out to them. On the other hand, if your prospect works for a direct competitor to your organization, they may not be worth pursuing.
Once you’ve researched your prospect and determined they are potentially a quality lead, it’s time to reach out! Keep our tips in mind (listen, set goals, engage, provide value, and offer clear opportunities to convert when the time is right) and you’ll have the groundwork laid to begin building a beneficial relationship through social selling.
Social Selling is Not an Overnight Solution, But it is a Valuable Tool
Social selling is becoming a growing priority among B2B sales professionals around the world— changing the way they generate customers for their businesses in the process. That said, it’s important to remember that social selling requires dedication and continuous work to employ successfully. Building any relationship takes time and consideration, and you’ll only get as much out of it as you’re willing to put in.
Luckily, with our tips for managing your social selling efforts and identifying potential quality leads, you’ll be well on your way to providing value to your potential prospects and generating new streams of revenue for your organization.
For more information on social selling and how it fits within the context of your inbound marketing strategy, get your copy of our Executive’s Guide to Inbound Marketing, which includes newly released data for 2017!