What is social selling and how it works? A step-by-step guide
Table of Contents
Lead generation is one of the most elusive aspects of sales and the most critical one. This becomes even more important when it is a business based on inbound sales.
Cold calls do not work anymore. Period. It takes multiple phone calls to simply get in touch with any executive or decision maker.
And once you get in touch with them, chances are – they are going to hang up! They can be rude or polite, but they’re going to hang up.
This is probably why the social media has become an important channel for businesses.
The opinions of the social network and other consumers play an important role in driving buying decisions. User generated content like photos, reviews, or testimonials weigh heavily on a millennial’s decision to buy anything from stationery items to home appliances, or even availing the services.
Hence, social selling emerges as a smart strategy to generate and nurture meaningful leads.
What is social selling?
Social selling is the process of using social media to interact directly with prospects and generate and nurture quality leads. Social selling however, is not just selling on social media.
It involves providing great value to your customers by replying to open-ended questions, replying to comments, and by sharing content and engaging with them all through the buying process, right from awareness to consideration, till they are ready to make a purchase.
The idea here is to stop doling out sales pitches, instead encourage and nurture conversations about your offerings which would organically lead prospects on to a sales conversation.
Let’s take a look at some social selling examples.
John is a salesperson in a carpet cleaning company. He sees Ann posts a picture on Instagram about the struggles of cleaning her carpet since she has brought home her dogs and is desperate for a solution. John identifies the opportunity and recommends a few names he has been associated with earlier. Ann now visits John’s profile to discover that he works for a carpet cleaning company and adds this company to her short list. John now sends out a gentle follow up message in the following week and voila! He has an appointment with a pretty solid lead.
Emily is a sales executive in a firm that helps people move. She comes across a life event added by Richard on Facebook where he is announcing his new job and imminent move to a new city. Emily recommends a read about the challenges of moving to a new city that talks about the movers and packers she works with. Richard relates to the piece and registers the movers and packers and gets in touch with Emily when he needs the services.
What is your LinkedIn social selling index?
Your LinkedIn social selling index (SSI) is a metric that measures your effectiveness at establishing your professional brand, at finding the right people, at engaging with the available insights and in building meaningful relationships.
How is your LinkedIn SSI measured?
There are four elements that go into measuring your LinkedIn SSI.
- Establish your personal brand
- Find the right people
- Engage with insights
- Build relationships
When it comes to social selling, your profile needs to be optimized according to the prospects you are targeting.
This can be done by posting meaningful content regularly that is connected to your industry and the kind of executives you want to approach.
Though posting original content is a great idea, however, you can also put up carefully curated content from reputable sources you trust.
Your social selling index on LinkedIn stands to benefit greatly as you build up your personal brand.
You can’t make everyone happy! Nor do you want to. The idea is to create content for and engage with just the right people. The numbers are much less important than the quality of the leads you are pursuing.
Explore and discover insights and share updates that are worth a conversation and can help build and grow conversations.
Whether it is your deep insight into an industry relevant topic, or an insight you discovered from an authentic resource, you can post it on your feed or in a group where you can have an engaging conversation which doesn’t look like a sales pitch.
Generating quality leads through social sales depends quite heavily on the relationships you build with prospects. Naturally the bigger goal is to develop a relationship with the high ranking officials, maybe even owners, however, you must not underestimate the value of building relationships with other people within the organization.
How to develop an effective social selling strategy?
The underlying idea behind social selling is in building relationships, but before you take the first step, make sure that you are reaching out to the right people. It is only by reaching out to the right people that you would be able to offer any value to the prospects and nurture any leads you may have generated.
Top tips to start social selling
- Do some research
- Work on building relationships instead of selling
- Go beyond just the one channel
- Focus on serving before you think of selling
- Offer more than you plan to receive
- Take your time in laying the groundwork
- Interact regularly
- Make a content schedule
- Remember your old customers
- Update all your profiles
- Zero in on what works
Like every other project, this one too must start with solid research. Whenever you are planning to reach out to any business or an individual through social media, you cannot just send a generic templated message to everyone. It is a good idea to do some research before sending out any communication or recommendations to the prospect.
Even a 5-10 minutes of research may put you ahead of multiple competitors as you would be interacting in a manner that is unique and insightful.
People respond better to people than companies. Most people do not enjoy the concept of things or services being ‘sold’ to them. It is quite common for customers to feel like they are being taken advantage of.
This means no matter how good your product or service may be, it is the relationship that is of real importance to the buyer.
Prospects you are targeting are being targeted by all your competitors and then some more. This means that you can only gain an edge by investing some time in building relationships before you make an effort to sell.
Social selling cannot be unidimensional. Though you may have started the conversation with a prospect on LinkedIn, that should not stop you from continuing that relationship on other social media platforms like Facebook or maybe even Instagram.
Even though the prospect may be all business-like on LinkedIn, their Instagram profile may have a little fun element.
Engage with them on various dimensions and nurture your relationship with your prospects.
After you have managed to establish contact with a prospect, don’t just start selling to them. First, make sure that you provide some value or help them take care of a concern or issue they may have.
The idea is to give them information of great value with no strings attached. Give them solutions to their problems without sending a bill for it. Think how you can help them, before thinking about the things you can sell to them.
The idea here is to give back, probably even before you have received anything. This means you would be creating posts of great value for your target audience. This content can be your own or you could be sharing someone else’s insightful work. Give them due credit and share their work so that they also benefit from you.
Apart from that, make sure you leave meaningful comments on posts written by others.
When you do this, you invite others to do the same and help you in the same manner.
You cannot be great at anything if you do not have a strong foundation underneath. Social selling is not just about creating accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The idea is to know what to do with these social media accounts.
The idea is to understand clearly that social selling is different from social media selling.
Each of your social media profile must be treated as an independent channel and you must create the bios and profiles after understanding the audience and the way they use that particular platform.
This groundwork is important because it prepares you to reach the target audience with ease.
“Out of sight, out of mind” this holds true even in the world of social media. For social selling to work well, it is important that you interact regularly with followers and your connections regularly.
Additionally, these interactions must not seem forced, but natural. The conversations should flow organically and reach a natural end, instead of being forced into an attempt to sell.
By offering consistent value through these interactions, you can establish yourself as a reputable resource in your industry.
Use these interactions to offer solutions, give information, discuss topics of mutual interest, post success stories, offer advice and more.
A content schedule helps you post valuable content in a consistent manner. A clear schedule also helps you post a variety of content by making sure that you are not becoming typed and boring.
This content schedule will only be of any value if you stick to a particular timing and brand all your content consistently.
In this manner, the prospects or your target audience get to know you better and feel more comfortable with what you are promoting or selling eventually.
It is six times more expensive to gain a new customer as compared to retaining an old customer. This is one of the most important reasons why you should make sure that you do not forget about your old, loyal customers.
It is true that if a customer bought something from you, chances of them buying again are high. However, you can’t just assume that it would happen.
With existing customers, the idea is to keep working on the relationship and strengthen it further, so that when it is time for them to make a purchase again, it is you they think of, first.
Creating a profile on social media for social selling is never a one and done thing. In order to succeed in social selling, you must ensure that all your profiles are updated and relevant according to the changing requirements of the audience you are targeting.
Your profile must be a place which can serve as a rich resource of relevant information so that they would want to build or continue a relationship with you and the organization you represent.
The offers you are putting up should be updated and should have relevance and value to the visitors on your profile.
One of the more important details is to use a profile picture wisely. If it is a company account, you can use the company logo and if you are using your own picture, you must make sure that it meets the brand image of the business and that the image inspires confidence among prospects.
As you are trying out various social selling strategies, it is a good idea to keep a track of them. Even the ones that didn’t work. There is no bigger teacher than a failure.
Collect information from all your social selling efforts and draw insights. This will tell you what not to do and which things you must replicate in order to replicate success.
Interview with Ian Moyse – a prominent speaker on Social Selling
Appy Pie has started a series called The Influence Makers where we connect you to industry leaders so you can discover the tools and secrets to world-class success. Topics such as leadership, communication, marketing, tech, sales, customer success & experience will be our focus for the series. We are ready to dig into areas where many small businesses struggle to get it right and hope to offer potential ideas to help you achieve success.
Recently, we had Mr. Ian Moyse as a special guest on our show. He is an experienced Keynote speaker on Cloud & Social Selling. In addition, he has an experience in providing sales & marketing consultancy to add key marginal gains in performance. He has been rated as #1 Social Influencer Cloud 2015-2017. Here is the conversation that occurred:
Here is the transcript of the entire interview so that you can read the whole conversation at leisure.
Scot: Today, we have a special guest on our show, Mr. Ian Moyse. I am so excited to have you here on the first edition of The Influence Masters Ian and thank you so much for taking the time to be with me today.
Scot: Before we jump into the interview – I would love to learn a little more about your story. You were a tech guy (a leader in that industry) who moved over to the sales side of things. Can you tell us how that transformation and journey took place because we don’t see that very often in the industry?
Ian: Sure, although I’ll try and keep the story as short as possible. I got involved and interested in computing when I was young. I had a neighbor who moved in with one of the old 1k computers and I was hooked. Ever since then, I have been passionate about computing and I eventually ended up as a programmer at IBM. Some salespeople who were there at the time had big old phones and all the work perks and benefits. I wanted to do well and succeed. Sales seemed like a shorter way of doing that. Everyone advised me against it, saying it has many challenges and differences in it. But I felt like I knew what I was talking about, I was and am passionate about technology, computing and I knew my subject. I asked myself, how hard could this be? Sales is about talking to people and using your knowledge to help solve problems. Shortly after, I fell into sales. I started in Inside Sales and worked for about 11 months with pure hard graft. The hint I’d give to anyone moving into sales from another field is that hard work is an essential part of sales. I made up for my lack of selling experience purely by heart. I worked so hard because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What I did was that I put extra effort into it to make up for the deficit of knowledge and experience until it became easier. Unfortunately, I was never able to shake off the hard working habit and now I have it ingrained in me. I think sales is often presented as overcomplicated field. Honestly, it’s about helping someone to make the decision to spend money and that’s the crux of it. If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about the thing you’re selling, be it a service or products, you will have more success in this field.
Scot: That’s interesting, you know. I love the idea of keeping it simple. I agree with you that we tend to overcomplicate things, especially in the technology sector. Due to this overcomplication, we often tend to confuse ourselves as well as the customer. So, I love the idea of keeping it simple and finding a need and filling it. When you go to events, how do you ensure what you say has the most impact on people?
Ian: When I go to events, I always aspire to deliver knowledge that they can use in their relative industries. I always start with, ‘you’re not going to get some big magical idea but if I give you a few small ones, things I have done during my journey. It might not be fantastically clever but it might be something you haven’t come across yet. Out of all the ideas I mention, even if a few of them help you do something with and you can keep doing that, then you’re constantly getting better. We’ve always got room to improve and getting better is a part of it.
Scot: I agree. When I go to events, I always tell people to write one thing that they will immediately act upon. What excited me about talking to you Ian, is your expertise on both the tech & the sales fields, and the ability to communicate effectively. What tips or advice can you give us on how to navigate these two seemingly opposite skills sets and the benefits of becoming proficient in both, so that one can become a more effective tech professional or sales professional?
Ian: I often say to my team that if you had another month or year over your competition, would it make a difference, obviously yes. So if you work an extra hour a day, add it up, and it gives you an extra month a year for work. So start with the small things and make them big. Marginal gains are very important. If you want to transition from tech to sales, you will need to face your fears. When I came from a technical field, I wasn’t used to being in front of people, meeting people, presenting or any of that. It’s not something you get trained to, so what I do is, I just put myself out there, face up that fear, challenge myself, and put myself in positions where I am uncomfortable. Each time you do it, it gets a little bit better. If you’re from a technical side and want to move on to sales side, my advice is to do it. You can attend a training of course, you might get some tips but that’s not going to change your natural behavior and you need to face those challenges. If you want to get in this field, the transition is going to cause some pain and discomfort. Preparation ahead of time is another key aspect of it. You should anticipate what you think could go wrong and prepare for it. Once you overcome your fears, it gets a lot easier. Share your opinions and you will be able to do what I have ended up doing. If you know the technical side of what you’re selling, you will be able to answer any questions and the sale will be smoother. If you have the knowledge, you are halfway there.
Scot: Talking about marginal gains, I always ask my team what is our 1% growth this week because as you said a culmination of small gains can ultimately lead to greater results. I also remember when I first did a presentation, I was extremely nervous and presentation went poorly. But as you said, I kept doing it and doing it, and eventually I got better. Some people get better fast, some people get better slow, but you do get better. If you are willing, would you please share with us a few of your failures and what you learned from them. What you were thinking and feeling as you were going through it?
Ian: I believe that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. Everyone’s going to have something that goes wrong at some point in their professional career, especially in the world of sales. If you ask salespeople, when haven’t you hit your target, many people say they never had a failure. But that is simply not true and it can leave a bad impression on the customers too. One thing I have seen in myself and other people in sales is, when they lose a big deal, salespeople often think about what they did wrong. It’s not always about what went wrong, many a times, the deal doesn’t go to the opposition either, the business just defers. I think it’s always good to review what you could have done and the other things you missed, making it a great learning experience. The key for salespeople and sales leaders is not to attribute blame because the knock-on effect of losing one of these big deals can be losing the next or the ones after that. This can be mainly because, if negativity professes from the salesperson, potential customers are going to hear that and might turn away. The last thing you want in your salespeople is for them to lose confidence or be distracted. When you lose a big deal, ask the customer for the debrief as to why the customer backed out of the deal and to know what you could have done differently. It will give you a comfort of reality and you will learn something from it. Otherwise a debriefing based on your assumption as to why the deal failed could have a negative impact on the sales team. Customer debrief can also help you improve what you do in the next deal. There is always value in losing a deal. A reason for failure might be that during communication, you sent something that was interpreted not in the way you intended to be. Sometimes it’s better to talk on the phone rather than on email when it comes to sales. It’s not necessary that you reply to a message through the same medium that it came through.
Scot: Thinking about SMB’s what would be your top priorities for those owners at both the startup phase and the growth phase in both Cloud and Sales – and why?
Ian: I have worked in both small and big corporations and biggest tip I can give you, you need peole that can multitask, especially in smaller organizations. While a larger firm, will have people for everything, people in small firms can’t be niche. For startup, it’s all about hiring people who are multi-disciplinarian. You should hire people that fit the limits of where you are in the business. You shouldn’t hire people just because they’re experts but have no periphery. In startups, you need people that can get their hands dirty and will do anything, even if they know nothing about it. Owners should be hands-on and assist their staff wherever possible even if the task is menial. That’s what you should start from and as you start to scale, you need to look at the technological side. You need to make the process as frictionless as possible because when you start, you can make up the process and do what you like as you go, but, you need to make the process as standard as possible. When you have one customer, you can custom-cut the services or products you provide, but you have hundreds or thousands of customers, you shouldn’t do that. You need to figure out a way to make your solution work for each customer. You need to put up a platform that works for everyone. So at the start, it all needs to be about people, but when scaling, it needs to be about the process. It’s all about how you adjust as you go along and you need to be aware of that too. When you’re growing, you need to build repeatability and consistency in the solutions you provide. You should also build a fun place to work that births goodness and, not lose that goodness when the business grows. And when you grow, you need to bring, more people in that are used to working in a company that size.
Scot: What kind of trends do you see in the sales world of how we connect digitally to customers? How to best use that technology and what are you seeing out there?
Ian: I have actually done many webinars on this. The buyer has changed over the last few years. When I am talking to a sales audience, I always tell them to think of themselves as the buyer, and think how they have changed over the last 10 years. They should also think about the tools and technology they use on a buyer. Buyers have abandoned old way of doing things for new better ways. For ex, Netflix has completely taken over previous video shops such as Blockbuster. Buyers today are expecting on-demand, instantaneous services. It is important for a business to understand how the buyer is changing and how they want to deal with you. When it comes to communicating with the buyer, you need to keep a few things in mind such as what the problem is, what’s the value of the transaction and how urgent it is. Different channels and different forms of interactions with the customers are appropriate at different points of time. Social selling should really be called, using social media to better engage with customers and prospects. If you can get a phone conversation or a face to face conversation with prospects, you should take it instead of using social media. Social selling is about initially listening and looking up customers’ social activity to gain an insight into their behavior. In social selling, you should always look for an engagement that you can start a conversation with. The number one rule in social selling is that you have to listen and research. if you haven’t done that, you can’t be good at it. I’d also recommend reading ‘Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers’ by my friend Tim Hughes.
Scot: Personal Brand – how important is this in today’s world? What would be the number one action you would recommend to a professional running or working in an SMB’s?
Ian: Building a personal brand isn’t necessary in my opinion, it depends on your industry and your sector. Personal brand is more of you as an individual, it should be a reflection of what do you want to be known for. You should make sure that you accurately represent what it is that you do is. Even the smallest things can make a much bigger difference to social selling. Read a book called “Known” by Mark W. Schaefer, it is a handbook on how to build your own personal brand. Because I have built a great brand, I get invited to interviews, seminars, podcasts, etc.
Scot: I want to thank you for spending the time with us and I’ve enjoyed the conversation that I’ve had with you. I have got one or two things that I am going to apply too so I appreciate that. If people want to follow you or look you up or reach you, what are some channels they can resort to?
Ian: Thanks for that. If you want to reach me you can go to ianmoyse.co.uk, it will take you to my LinkedIn profile and ianmoyse.cloud will take you to my twitter profile.
Scot: Very well, Ian. Thank you and I appreciate it.
Switching from a technical field to sales field can be a daunting task. Marginal gains and multitasking are essential for success in sales. If you want to switch to the sales side, you need to face your fears, especially when it comes to public speaking. Social selling is the core to success of any SMB, but you shouldn’t bombard potential customers with a sales pitch. Instead you should follow the customers, learn about their behavior and then make a personalized speech that adheres to the needs of the customers.
There is a big difference between selling on social media and social selling. Social selling is about developing relationships before going on to make a sale. No matter what we plan to buy, it is natural to go looking for some recommendation. Today most of the B2B buyer research online before making a purchase. In fact, social media is a popular choice when it comes to places to scout opinions.
Social selling is a great way to understand customers, address their problems, establish trust, before making a sale. It is these buyers that will not only convert, but also come back to make recurrent purchases.