The definition of social selling is the process of engaging a defined audience, nurturing relationships and extending social reach via the social networks as part of the sales strategy.
In essence, social selling is training salespeople to leverage the benefits of social media for one-to-one personalized communication with customers, influencers and prospects. It can be a powerful sales tactic in finding new customers, connecting with existing customers, uncovering insights and triggers plus to gather background information in understanding a customer’s business.
Social selling is not really selling at all, instead it places its emphasis on building up connections, on influencing, on sharing information and content, to create a network effect, so more and more people get to know your company or brand plus to be seen as a thought leader in your industry.
The Definition of Social Selling!
In the sales 3.0 era, every salesperson should view social selling as a channel to reach and engage customers, much the same as email, the phone or in person. So, it has to have rules, guidelines, etiquette, purpose and measures of success in how it has impacted leads or revenue.
A definition of social selling I use in presentations is:
Social selling is about building a direct communication bridge between a customer (or clearly identified prospect) and the salesperson to share insights, information, ideas and perspectives as a non-interruption channel in the pursuit of improving the consideration levels for a company/brand. Its purpose as part of the sales process is to use social media for research, to listen, to identify and then engage a set of defined profiles in the quest to grow a customer base.
So, in a nutshell, the definition of social selling is the process of using the social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to
Engage defined audiences
Extend the companies social reach
Listen for triggers and opportunities
Be seen to be useful by sharing valuable insights
Grow the businesses influence
Create conversion opportunities from connection to qualified lead
Social selling is NOT about sending Spam messages or pushing out mass marketing messages. It is a sales skill, the ability to connect, engage and build credibility in the digital era.
The definition of social selling should not include the use of social media to spam or chase people digitally. It is an additive sales activity, one that works differently to the traditional sales activities of cold calling or prospecting. It is not as simplistic as replacing the telephone with LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Research shows buyers now control the sales cycle, they seek out information and select vendors who they value, so any sales strategy that pivots on interrupting them or blasting them with generic sales messaging is not a strategy that will create trust and credibility.
From a sales management perspective social selling should be expected to deliver real tangible results from the time invested in pursuing highly relevant and personalized conversations via the social channels. When planning out a social selling plan make sure it is a consistent and real presence on the social media channels of choice. To train salespeople to find, select and curate content for sharing every day. For them to add value to social conversations and engage people in meaningful dialog. Remember, social selling needs training and time commitment. It is not about filling empty time and cannot be automated.
A successful social selling plan will be ones that focuses on salespeople creating opportunities with customers or prospects in a very personalized manner. Most buyers will be digital natives in the next decade, so any business planning to grow their revenue will need to learn how to use social media to tap into their core market and audiences.
Beyond the definition of social selling, like any successful sales process, it needs to be a consistent activity and works best when applied to every salespersons daily sales habit loop. However, for social selling to be a consistent sales activity requires training and a programmatic approach. The sales team must learn the skills in how to leverage each social media network like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Salespeople need to view social selling as a valuable activity for engaging customers and growing revenue. It should be noted that companies who have implemented a formal social selling strategy are seeing sales growth in double digits.
Social Selling Plan Overview:
A quick outline of a social selling plan would include:
Creation of a social purpose with goals and objectives
Implementing social selling guidelines and etiquette
Establish a uniformed social presence for all concerned
Map social selling into the overall sales process
Identify Customers, Prospects or Ideal Customer Profiles
Assign and engage with the people identified to extend social reach
Build credibility via content, thought leadership, research etc
Grow the total number of purposeful connections
Monitor metrics/KPI’s – Mentions, References and Sales Leads
Measure the conversion rate from connection to customer
Take into account that a social selling plan or strategy may require a change in mindset from sales management. One that requires them to combine the constant focus on sales goals with the social goals of extending social reach and building a network of online relationships. No one can argue how we sell and interact with customers or buyers has changed. We know they self-educate, conducts their own research and is increasingly influenced by what they read online. The adaption of social selling and social conversations to reach more and more customers is a fantastic opportunity. But for it to work, companies will need to train and coach their salespeople on the social selling plan. Plus ensure they are working towards the goals and objectives that have been set.
We hope this article on the definition of social selling has helped you understand the role it can play in the modern sales process. How social selling is transforming the traditional sales activities and how it can increase the sales performance of everyone selling (social selling is also less stressful!). When properly planned and executed, a social selling plan will allow a business and its salespeople to engage customers via the online social channels, and then to walk with them through the buyer’s journey by being credible, useful and valuable.