Over the past few months there’s been a lot of hype over social selling so I’m going to explain exactly what it is (and means) in a series of posts. The first starts here – obviously!
Meet Jessica. She’s a a buyer and she’s looking for a supplier. She doesn’t do a Google search and then call to make her inquiry. Instead, she searches Google, reviews the supplier’s website, considers their services, checks their reviews and reaches out to her connections for verification or recommendations. If she thinks they’re OK, after having done all that and having compared them to other suppliers, she then makes contact via email or the phone.
Chances are, you’re no different to her. When you’re looking for a new supplier you do the same thing.
Well it’s because buying has changed.
And, it doesn’t matter who you are or what industry you’re in, that’s a fact.
Today’s buyers are better informed and better connected thanks to technology. Social media had lead the way and revolutionized everything.
And, as a result we need to sell in a different manner – that is if we’re going to outperform our peers and the competition (of course).
More Leads, Better Opportunities
Before diving into this, let’s examine the buying process, as it exists today. First comes awareness, followed by consideration and then transaction.
Buyers stay aware of their needs through online connections with industry groups or communities of practice. For example, they follow thought leaders and experts on Twitter who keep them informed with industry news and trends. On LinkedIn, they participate in open, discussions with people who work in the same positions at other companies, share information and often help to solve each other’s challenges. Further content flows in from other social networks, informing their workplace discussions and framing their understanding of business issues.
When they want to solve their problems, the modern day buyer doesn’t contact a supplier. Instead they’re more comfortable reaching out to their network. They trust the source much more. There, they ‘ll ask their colleagues and peers on social media for recommendations or they’ll research companies through the search engines. For example, a Google search opens up a digital universe of reviews, testimonials and complaints. According to an IBM sales study, 75% of B2B buyers were likely to use social media to influence their purchasing decisions.
By the time a buyer engages with a salesperson, most of the buying process is already complete. At this point, they’ve formed their own opinion and are ready to start negotiating on price. There’s very little value a salesperson can add at this point.
So what’s the answer? How can a salesperson influence the sale earlier in the buying process? How can they add more value and help the modern day buyer?
These days if you’re going to perform in B2B sales or manage a performing team, you need a strategic approach. Success now depends on responding earlier in the buying cycle. It means reaching out to buyers at the right times, while knowing more about them and their needs than they know about you and your product.
It requires you to be savvy, astute and forward thinking.
And that’s where social selling comes in.
Organisations that train their sales teams to use social selling as a layer in the sales process see them hitting their quotas, achieving shorter sales cycles, and retaining more customers. In fact, according to a LinkedIn study of sales reps in 2013, 45% saw more opportunities and 51% were more likely to hit their quota.
Clearly these stats indicate that when sales teams are better informed and more engaged with their buyers at the critical moments of the decision-making process, or at the zero moment of truth (ZMOT) as Google calls it, they perform to higher levels.
However, to do this they have to take a holistic approach.
It’s not enough for sales reps to set up profiles on LinkedIn. Effective social sellers monitor and participate on multiple social networks. They take advantage of the unique strengths of each platform and they communicate in the language each one demands.
Whenever I’m explaining this to my students or clients I often use the analogy of a puppeteer. Just as a puppeteer would pull the strings of the puppet to make it come to life, so does the skilled social seller with their social media platforms. They work each one with skill and they make it look easy too. Yet, all they’re really doing is just following a process.
The process has been taught and it is being managed. Both are vital, for success comes when social selling is integrated into the workflow and that means changing habits.
So let me clarify exactly what I mean here. Social media has not replaced phones or email. Sales teams who use social selling are actively using both and are actually far more productive using these tools when they start to use social media platforms to monitor their prospects and gain warm introductions.
So that’s it for Part 1. In the next post (Part 2) I’ll be looking at leads and buying signals.
Now I want to hear your view on social selling…
Tell me in the comments below or in a private email:
- How are you dealing with social media or social selling?
- What aspect of social media or social selling do you find the most challenging?
Please share your stories and experience here, and if you’ve got a question, just pop it down here. If you want to contact me for a strategy call click here.
Thanks for being a sport and participating!
Finally, if you know someone who’d LOVE the insight from this social selling post, please send them a link. You’ll find solo entrepreneurs, consultants and yes, even sales and marketing managers who manage people who’ll be interested to hear about this.
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