What is social selling and what part does it play in the social media influenced sales process are fundamental questions now being asked by sales leaders across the globe. They want to know if social selling can help to build relationships, extend a business’s social reach and connect to a network of contacts, influencers and customers.
Engagement has never mattered more to B2B buyers, but the old sales models to engage buyers is becoming obsolete. A hard pill to swallow by many in sales management is that today’s informed and connected buyer is usually in control. When we talk about “buyer engagement,” using social media and social selling it can be hard to nail down. Research shows that buyers do want to interact with us in new ways, but on their own terms. This means that when engaging buyers, we need to be credible, be useful, be valuable and be relevant to get their attention in a content fuelled sales world.
In the traditional sales and marketing model it ran along the lines of building awareness, driving interest, try to create some desire which eventually leads to action. This has been the traditional approach to buyer engagement (marketing, cold calling, events, prospecting etc) for a long, long time, since the 1920’s to be precise.
The wakeup call and the reality that we have to acknowledge is that’s not what is going on over at the buyer’s journey. How could it be? Look at our own buyer’s journey and how the availability of information via social media, the web and online has changed our own purchasing decisions. What we see today is a buying and decision-making process that has become much more fluid plus there is a degree of complexity in the buying journey. Modern B2B buyers don’t compartmentalize nearly as much as their predecessors. While they are becoming aware or exploring, they could also be evaluating and considering options. They are looking for help, insights and support way earlier in the buying process without the sales pitch. They will engage with influencers, peer groups and vendors with the primary objective of learning new ways to do things without entering a formal sales process. They see this engagement as streams that ebb and flow throughout their buyer’s journey.
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
What is social selling
Social selling revolves around three simple words: transformation, acceleration and collaboration.
It works on the premise that a whole new generation of B2B buyers will purchase software, technology, products and solutions in pretty much the same way as they purchase music, clothes and gadgets.
So, social selling is the sum of connected actions (content, information, news, articles, research, insights) shared online (think social reach/social business). When these connected actions are experienced by customers/potential customers, they will influence the awareness and consideration of your business. Social selling is also about building a bridge between social media marketing activity, buyer connectivity and sales outreach to maximize buyer engagement and minimize wasted resources.
Why Social Selling is Important in Sales 3.0
So, let’s start with some background information on Sales 3.0 and the buyers journey. Around 67% of the B2B buyers journey is now digitally influenced. They read at a minimum of 5 pieces of content regarding solutions available. Today’s buyers are self-educating, informed and hyper-connected. Social selling unlocks the opportunity for a business or salesperson to get involved in the purchasing journey by being useful and valuable to a buyer as they ebb and flow throughout their buyer’s journey.
Buyers aren’t always in the market, but they are always in the market to learn. At any time, only 5-10% of your target market is actively looking to buy and another 20-30% open to considering a change. This means a business must constantly work to build credibility and trust with the potential 90% of buyers in the consideration/status quo cycle.
However, buyers are always learning throughout these cycles, continuously self-educating, making connections with peers and influencers, and consuming relevant content. This has two implications for the sales organization:
When buyers are ready to leave the status quo, the 1st vendors they turn to are the ones who have built trust. They can even collaborate with a trusted adviser (salesperson) on solution prior to conducting their own research. Leaving it to inbound marketing or a Google search is not enough anyone. Businesses need to use connected actions and social reach to influence buyers so they can get on their short list of potential suppliers. A buyer may ask an influencer or thought leader to suggest a short list to them. Social selling works to bridge these connections so they have come to understand, trust and have a positive impression of your business capabilities. The use of planned “connected actions” on the social networks and constantly reviewed social reach can positively impact the ability to gather more interest, from more buyers, more often.
It means all salespeople (and maybe your entire organization) needs to become proficient in a different sales skill. As part of sales transformation and to accelerate buyer engagement on the social networks, social selling training will be required to allow the sales team to be able to share content, to connect, to engage and to nurture relationships. It also places an onus on sales management to ensure they have time to do the activity and help them become “thought leaders” who can communicate value without the sales pitch.
What is social selling in relation to Customer Acquisition
If you acknowledge that buyers not just use but are heavily influenced by social media on their purchasing decisions, then you should be thinking more about how can the sales organization engage your “buyer’s community” or “buyer’s network” using social selling.
- How do you engage and reach buyers online? (It can’t be limited to just inbound marketing or your web site)
- How does your business (social reach) become part of these networks or communities, where your connection actions will be judged by the relevancy of what is shared, your insights, your ideas and your expertize and not your branded sales pitches?
- How will your business create content for your social sellers to share that is highly relevant to these networks, knowing that branded sales orientated content is ignored?
- How will you set goals that track buyer engagement, not just to help determine the right ways to reach out and connect, but also to measure leads and revenue from your social selling strategy.
The Value of Social Selling to your Business
To answer what is social selling, you must remember that without a clear social selling strategy is just random acts of social marketing. To deliver results it must be comprised of many different social activities that work in unison to extend social reach and engage more buyers.
What is social selling going to mean in your business?, it should focus on crossing the chasm between the use of old sales techniques to social tactics that implies competitive advantage for your business. In the digital era,the shift in value has moved from the product or service you’re selling to the value YOU provide to buyers.
Sales Transformation. Leading companies use social selling as a different way to link customers, content, conversations, products, and solutions.
Sales Acceleration. How faster growing companies do a better job of differentiating, showing return, and handling the customer’s perceived risks to change using the Social Channels.
Customer collaboration. Forward thinking companies educate buyers via Social Networks, sharing ideas and perspectives, investing in customer success, and create a customer perception of working as partners.
We hope this article has gone some way to answering, what is social selling and what it means for your business.