Social Selling Strategy
Having a Social selling strategy as part of a digitally focused sales strategy is a no brainer for many forward-thinking sales organizations. What they have come to realize is that Social selling is about utilizing the data available via the social channels to aid in their overall sales strategies and selling pursuits.
The growth of digital and how it has changed the buyers journey has created a new set of challenges for sales leaders and their teams. As buyers switch to online to educate, research and purchase, e-commerce facilitated sales are set to reach nearly $4.5 trillion by 2021 (Source: Statista). Despite this, many organizations still struggle to maximize the potential of the digital sales channels.
The impact of digital and social networks on both the sales and buyers journey is significant. Social channels are now influencing 92% of B2B buying decisions. Also, nearly 50% of B2B customers prefer to gather information relating to purchasing decisions without sales intervention.
Buyers embracing digital and self-education places a responsibility on leaders to ensure their sales teams are trained to be active where their prospects are – online.
Bye now most sales leaders have accepted that the buyer-seller relationship has changed more in the past 5 years than the past 50 years due to the influence of social media on the buying process. Buyers have become digitally driven, socially influenced and internet savvy. Many of the old sales tactics are becoming redundant, meaning companies have to redraw the way they reach and sell to their customers which includes a social selling strategy.
Social selling is now the major sales tactic to engage potential buyers and customers online, but it must be strategic. A glance at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc, will show you endless amounts of half-hearted articles, content, conversations and attempts at engaging buyers by companies who just do not get it, because social selling has a science to it and it requires training.
True 1 to 1 engagement is the activity that separates social selling from other communication and sales strategies.
A successful social selling strategy involves the sales teams to learn social selling as to skillfully engage with people who are discussing business issues that relate to the company’s products or services. It will never be about a one-way sales pitch – 30 minutes after connecting with someone!!
Instead, sales leaders need to take the lessons from the offline world and approach social selling in a similar manner while acknowledging the nuances social media demands. The age-old sales skills of listening, building rapport, showing real interest, sharing insights and providing value must be adapted to the online world before getting to the sales element with a prospect.
A social selling strategy must be built around the value a salesperson and company can provide to build relationships online.
Social selling strategy in focus
A good focus for a social selling strategy would be to build “interest links” between social media activity by the sales teams and targeted buyers, prior to the sales event in order to maximize buyer interactions and minimize wasted sales time.
Then at a tactical level social selling is about sharing relevant and informative content while engaging in one-to-one communication. A path of communication that flows backwards and forwards between the salespeople and the buyers.
The goal for any company when it comes to social selling is to form relationships with a clearly defined set of buyer profiles via individual salespeople. A social selling strategy should be embedded into every aspect of the sales process.
Why Companies Implement a Social Selling Strategy
1. Older type sales tactics are not delivering:
Over 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).
- Customer, Buyers and most of US are now influenced by social media:
Close to 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors (IDC).
- Increased Sales Achievement:
The fact that social sellers realize 66% greater sales achievement than those using traditional prospecting techniques (Sales Benchmark Index).
A social selling strategy like any great sales strategy, is most successful when it becomes part of the sales team daily sales habits. To highlight this point, in the software company SAP, over 70% of salespeople who gained sales leads using social selling and social media were active on a daily basis. So, this leads to the fact that social selling requires training and a planned approach so it becomes a customer engagement channel leading to revenue growth. Sales organizations who have put a formal social selling strategy in place are now seeing sales growth in double digits from their digitally skilled sales professionals.
A Social Selling Strategy is a Mindset Change.
For salespeople to thrive at social selling they have to be trained to become content experts, storytellers and net-workers. This may start with a mindset change that requires sales leaders to shift focus away from the constant demand for salespeople to be pitching, towards a focus on getting the entire sales team to be able to share great content and building relationships online. The end goal is for the Company and their salespeople to be seen as “Thought Leaders” with their target audience.
The 5 main steps in Social Selling:
- Salespeople establish a coordinated presence on the social networks (Goals and objectives)
- Selecting the audience to focus on (Research into Buyer Personas or Ideal Customer Profiles)
- Salespeople start the engagement process with buyers (Content, rules of engagement)
- Company and individual salesperson builds trust over time (Credibility and Connecting)
- Company measures the impact (Conversions, Mentions, References and Leads)
There is no doubting that the relationship between seller and buyer has changed. The buyer is self-educating, conducting their own research and heavily influenced by what they read and see on the social networks. The change to “Digital Selling” can either be viewed as a risk or else a fantastic opportunity.
The future of selling lies in sales enablement using digital tools and social networks to engage customers. Most of us are now online, digitally connected and use the internet to research, plan, and make purchases. B2B buyers now travel a similar buying journey as their B2C counterparts.
Staying ahead of the curve and to remain competitive will require all sales organizations to position their sales teams for the digital selling transformation and having a social selling strategy.