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Before social media, your options for researching prospects were pretty limited. For example, sales reps could check out a company website, scan a few industry reports and maybe, track down a press release announcing a merger or expansion.

While selling has always been social, buyers and technologies have evolved.

A recent Forrester report called B2B buyers impatient and independent. They do their own research and when they do choose to engage, they expect a consumer-grade, personalized experience.

Done right, social selling allows salespeople to target prospects with precision, build relationships and load up that pipeline with qualified, high-intent leads.

What is social selling?

Social selling is the process of finding and connecting with potential clients through social media platforms.

While the concept may sound a lot like social media marketing or influencer marketing, the key difference is, the scale and the way that you connect and build relationships.

In social selling, the focus is on making one-to-one connections with the end goal being to drive sales. By contrast, social media marketing and influencer marketing use a one-to-many communication style. In marketing, the goal is to grow an engaged audience and generate brand awareness.

According to LinkedIn, there are four main pillars of social selling.

  • Build a professional brand
  • Focus on the right prospects
  • Engage with valuable insights
  • Forge meaningful relationships

Social selling is not about spamming strangers with unsolicited DMs nor is it a shortcut for gaining access to target contacts. And, if it isn’t yet clear, traditional sales tactics don’t translate to social selling.

Reps need to approach this strategy in a much different way than they might approach a cold call or product demo–focusing on conversations above all else.

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Social selling tips: what sales reps need to know before going digital

Social selling is a long-term relationship-building strategy that involves a lot of information gathering and active listening.

Ultimately, your goal is to establish credibility and develop relationships that eventually lead to a sale.

With that in mind, let’s quickly go over some expert-level tactics for building a social selling strategy from the ground up.

1. Choose your channel mix

Social selling can happen on any platforms but it tends to happen most often on Twitter and LinkedIn. Part of the reason is, these platforms are more public-facing, and people tend to use them for professional interactions.

For companies trying to connect, reaching out on Twitter or LinkedIn is far less likely to feel like a personal violation, whereas, reaching out cold on Facebook or Instagram might come off as creepy or over-reaching.

That said, part of your social selling strategy might take place on other channels, depending on where your audience “hangs out” online.

According to Forrester Research, decision-makers mainly use Twitter and LinkedIn but YouTube and Facebook have the largest share of users across all demographics, so naturally, decision-makers are on those platforms, too.

My recommendation is to do some digging to find out which channels your audience uses and create “thought leadership” or informational content for those platforms to reach a broader share of potential buyers.

YouTube is great for sharing video tutorials and explaining complex ideas, making it a great supplement to your LinkedIn and Twitter efforts. Facebook Groups, as well as the platform’s advanced targeting and multiple ad formats make it a useful tool for reaching new audiences.

Ads are ideal for passive scrollers, while you can invite contacts from other channels to join your Facebook Group.

In both cases, you’ll want to avoid cold outreach and focus exclusively on growing a community.

2. Prospecting on social media

According to a survey by CSO Insights and Seismic, one in three B2B sellers said that social selling helped them generate more leads, while nearly 40% reported that social selling reduced the amount of time spent on prospecting.

You can use LinkedIn’s search tools to find people with a particular job title and connect with individuals and companies with a need for your products or services.

Learn more about prospects by looking at the following:

  • How do prospects describe themselves? What kind of language do they use?
  • How do others describe them? What do their endorsements say?
  • Look at “articles & activity” to see which posts prospects published, liked or commented on.

To find the right people on Twitter, the process is a bit different.

You want to be monitoring mentions of your business as well as terms relevant to your industry. For example, Revenue Grid might track “Revenue Grid” to see if users mention the tool in conversation.

We might also monitor terms like “sales engagement,” “sales software,” etc. to learn more about what kinds of questions and pain points our target customers mention, without our brand name.

It’s also important to note that LinkedIn and Twitter each serve a different purpose when it comes to prospecting and nurturing leads.

Twitter is a better bet for making new connections, as there’s a relatively low barrier to entry.
Here, you can follow anyone you want and they don’t need to accept your request like they do on LinkedIn.

What this means is, sellers can share their content on this channel and get in front of the CEOs and big fish clients that may seem out of reach by sharing relevant content and building a brand people trust.

On the other hand, LinkedIn is more effective for engaging with prospects directly, though you’ll need a good reason to reach out before you send a request.

For a deeper dive into LinkedIn prospecting tactics, here’s a list of nine techniques you can use to grow your community.

3. Share content to build trust & loyalty

According to the Harvard Business Review, sellers benefit from taking a more prescriptive approach to sales, as opposed to satisfying every request and providing a wide range of options.

While buyers might be armed with more insights than ever before, they might not always see that as a positive. 86% of customers reported that a proactive, prescriptive approach to sales increases likelihood a customer will buy and decreases instances of buyer remorse.

Social selling allows you to present prescriptive solutions to buyers early in the process, helping guide decision-making before they engage.

One of the main reasons that social selling is a game-changer for B2B sales teams is, it provides a ton of context that can help them tailor every pitch, proposal and post to individual pain points. You can learn about:

  • Who to target within an organization
  • Major changes in the prospect’s organization
  • What prospects want and what they’re complaining about
  • Mutual connections
  • How prospects engage with their customers and networks

What to share:

  • Original research
  • Articles
  • Webinars
  • Whitepapers
  • E-books

You might also consider creating paid ads on relevant channels to target overwhelmed decision-makers and present them with information that can help move the buyer’s journey forward.

4. Engage authentically

Social selling is about participation. While lurking can provide plenty of intel, particularly in the prospecting stage, the real results come when you make yourself a part of the conversation.

Engaging with your community on Twitter is relatively straightforward.

Once you’ve identified prospects, you’ll want to follow them, and gradually build rapport by re-sharing their posts, commenting, and tagging other users when appropriate. Once you’ve established a connection, then you might slide into the DMs and ask to connect via email or over the phone.

On LinkedIn, it’s a different story. Over the past few years, LinkedIn has become a lot more social. You’ll now see a lot of content that focuses on thought leadership and personal branding.

You’ll want to follow prospects, companies, and industry groups and engage in conversation, gradually building rapport by responding to content and sharing your own “thought leadership” content.

Build goodwill by liking, commenting and answering questions related to your industry.
To connect with prospects, you’ll send them a request or use the InMail feature offered in the paid plan.

Join LinkedIn Groups that relate to your industry or your prospects. Look for engaged, active groups with regular discussions. Aim for groups with memberships in the thousands or ten thousands, so that you can reach the largest possible pool of relevant buyers.

As far as sharing goes, Groups aren’t the place for pitching or promotion. Here, your job is to prove your value by weighing in on discussions and adding your own insight when relevant.

Make an effort to post consistently so that Group members get to know you. Additionally, you can share Group discussions on other channels to share your insights with a broader audience.

On Twitter, Lists and Chats are useful tools for keeping prospects, clients, and competitor profiles organized.

Quick note: make sure that any competitor analysis lists are private. The default is “public,” so you’ll want to update the settings so you’re not “found out.”

5. Keep up with the competition

Social selling isn’t just for connecting with prospects, it’s a great way to gather competitive intelligence.

In sales, gathering the right intel allows you to identify how your competitors position themselves in the market and how they’re evolving their strategies over time.

  • Social listening can tip you off when a competitor changes the messaging on their website or expands their product catalog. This allows you to ensure that prospects don’t discredit your claims about how no one else does X or offers Y.
  • You can also use social media to monitor what your competitors are saying and what kinds of responses they’re receiving, allowing you to use lessons learned from someone else’s successes and failures to inform your strategy.
  • Social tools can also help you understand more about how prospects are using a competing solution. For example, you might monitor competitor mentions to find out if there are common complaints about a particular solution you can address or gaps you can fill.

A few things you can do to jump start your intelligence strategy:

  • Join industry groups on LinkedIn and begin monitoring what competitors are saying.
  • Create a (private) Twitter list of your competitors.
  • Track competitor brand mentions on Twitter to learn more about what users think about competing solutions.

6. Build a tech stack to support your social selling strategy

The goal of social selling is equipping your sales team with another platform to drive revenue and results.

Meaning, the end game here is converting social media followers to real-world connections.

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn has a great tool called LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Gives you a score based on the effectiveness of your LinkedIn selling activities. Social Index is specific to LinkedIn but the metrics it scores you on provide lessons that translate to your Twitter activities as well.
  • Social listening platforms. There’s no shortage of social listening tools available (Hootsuite, SproutSocial and BuzzSumo immediately come to mind) but you’ll want to make sure you look for solutions that are compatible with LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • CRM. Whether you’re using Salesforce or another CRM solution, you’ll want to make sure that you set it up so that all social selling activity syncs back to that central hub. For example, new leads from Twitter should be tagged in your CRM so you can track engagement on the platform, and as it expands into other channels.
  • Sales engagement tools. Sales engagement tools like Revenue Grid help sellers orchestrate communications across a complex network of touchpoints and channels, making it essential for multi-platform outreach. For example, if you send an email referencing a LinkedIn exchange, that existing familiarity increases the chances of the prospect opening your email.

Whatever tools you go with, you’ll want to make sure you define and track the right metrics.
To measure the impact of social selling on revenue, retention and lead gen efforts sales leaders should develop a system for training reps on social selling best practices.

This means laying out activities, content and tactics for approaching prospects and establishing a clear set of metrics that track progress toward your goals.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you maintain a sense of consistency on all channels. Your persona and tone should come through on the phone, over a live stream and in the comments you leave on the socials.

Conclusion

While sales has always been a social activity, social selling bucks tradition and shifts the focus away from the old “always be closing” mentality.

This strategy is about building a brand that prospects, customers and peers come to see as a go-to-source of information. Luckily, today’s sellers have new tools at their fingertips that make it easy to approach prospect interactions with empathy, insight and value.

Revenue Engage allows sellers to nurture customers across all channels with AI workflows and offers a 360 view of every prospect interaction from social media to email, phone and SMS. You can learn more here.