Social selling utilizes social networks to build relationships with customers. The term has gathered quite the intention in the B2B sales world.
How should B2B sales reps use social selling?
The Definition of Social Selling
In short, social selling refers to the use of online media to identify and engage with potential customers. The goal of social selling is not just to push your selling pitch online, but rather to create meaningful conversations with your prospects.
What’s the difference between traditional and social selling? Lots of traditional sales efforts involve buying a list and cold-calling this list with a generic message. However, in the case of social selling, the sales rep will utilize social and professional networks to create insights into the target audience.
Based on these insights, they can deliver a much more personalized and warm engagement with potential customers in different channels.
Social selling is also different from social media marketing. While social media marketing focuses on delivering the right content at the right time; social selling focuses on forming relevant and warm introductions. There’s a bit of overlap, and social selling should connect with your digital marketing strategy.
Long gone is the time where the sales and marketing teams worked in silos. In the digital age, both departments, as well as everyone in your company, will have to work closely together to engage the customers as they move through the sales funnel.
Why social selling is important for a B2B sales rep
1. A response to changing customer behavior
Speaking of the sales funnel, B2B customers nowadays no longer move in a linear fashion from top to bottom of the funnel.
In the digital age, customers are actively identifying their problems and forming their own opinions about solutions. They have much better access to information thanks to the Internet and engage with the company through many digital touchpoints during their research.
They may jump between studying and choosing a solution, going up and down the sales funnel many times. B2B purchases can now use social media to find, evaluate, and contact salesperson in their own time, at their own pace.
CEB’s research estimated that about 60% of the purchase process is already completed before a B2B buyer approach a salesman. Potential customers now go to the negotiation table with a much better understanding of their problem and how it can be solved, backed up by statistics for better leverage.
This is especially true for B2B buyers, as they have the financial and human resources to dig deep and analyze all possible solutions that work for their company’s interest.
2. A way to address new challenges for B2B customers
On the other hand, the sheet volume of online data is creating a new challenge for B2B purchasers. While it’s getting easier to get information, it’s also taking more time to process the needed information and consult relevant stakeholders.
Nowadays, B2B customers are looking for ways to shorten the purchase cycles. They are much more willing to engage with social sellers if they can provide immediate access to information and deliver values.
In addition, B2B customers make decisions based on recommendation and referral. A network of trusted peers are highly influential in purchasing choices. 84% of B2B buyers begin the buying process with a referral, and peer recommendations influence over 90% of decisions.
This opens another opportunity for sales rep online, as social networks such as Linkedin makes it easier for thought leaders to promote and recommend solutions.
3. An improvement on traditional selling
In addition to helping B2B companies respond to customers demands and needs, social selling has many benefits compared to traditional selling.
i. Social selling reduces the need for inefficient processes such as cold-calling.
While cold-calling has the abysmal response rate of one per cent, social selling can bring more leads in a shorter period. Instead of calling 50 customers a day with the generalized message, your sales rep can spend a couple hours on social networks and bring in much better results.
ii. Social selling also makes it easier to expand globally.
Instead of worrying about calling and mailing costs to different corners of the world, you can now deliver personalized messages to customers worldwide. For example, you can use Linked ads for customers in Canada, Twitter posts for Australian customers, and arrange an online demo for customers in the United States. All of these can be scheduled in advance, with opportunities for follow up calls and email marketing.
iii. Social selling also makes it easier to engage early in B2B customers’ buying process.
You can deliver content to your customers in a timely manner, or even in the early stages when they are still conceptualizing their problems. By engaging early, you can build trust and remain valuable throughout their purchase journey, making it more likely for them to pick you over competitors.
Not sure how to start a sales team or feel that your current team could be managed more effectively? Check out Retalo’s guide on How to build a sales team.
How B2B Sales Reps Should be Using Social Selling
Wondering how to get started? Here are five ways B2B sales rep should be using social selling:
1. Pick and Join the Right Network
First things first: Pick the right social network. YouTube and Facebook are very popular among young adults, but Linkedin are Twitter are still the champions of B2B leads generation. Find the platform your potential customers are most active on so you can reach them easily.
Joining the network will require more efforts than just creating a simple profile though: you will need to engage with the site regularly. It’s important to keep your profile up to date and engage in conversations to understand the norms and culture of the platform. Don’t manage your Linkedin profile the same way you manage your Facebook page.
2. Listen and Find Your Prospects
Social selling is one way to implement a more customer-centric process. Instead of pushing your product to people aggressively on these networks, begin with listening.
The right social media platforms can provide you with useful insights into your prospects. For example, you can learn about their roles in the company, their pain points, buying signals or triggers, if they are the decision makers, who they follow, and the groups they are in. They will post about what they need, and you then leverage this information in all buying stages and provide your prospects with the right content that can help them.
B2B customers appreciate social sellers that acknowledge their issues and work alongside them to find a solution. Understanding your prospects can go a long way in building long-term relationships.
3. Network and Connect with Your Prospects
Social networks make it easy to find and connect with profiles that match your prospects. From the educational background, career goals, to current interests, find something you have in common with the prospects. Ask questions, commenting, or sharing their posts is a good way to get their attention.
In addition, follow the thoughts leaders of the industry and contribute in groups. Find out who is talking about your industry and keywords. Chances are your prospects are following these profiles as well, so interacting with them will create better awareness and opportunities for future discussions.
On the other hands, there are over 100,000 groups on Linkedin, and sharing content and knowledge in this group will lead to more people viewing your profile and connect with you.
4. Educate and Nurture Your Prospects
As mentioned above, the B2B customers will actively identify problems, work out solutions, and choose providers with the information available on the Internet. Therefore, it is very important for B2B sales reps to be present in all stages of the journey and be a reliable advisor. This is where content and social selling come together.
According to Linked’s research, prospects feel the most motivation to return a reach out when the sales rep has provided them with some type of value in return for their interaction. Be willing away content that helps your prospects even though this might not bring in immediate revenue.
94% of B2B consumers do a bit of online research before coming to a decision. A white paper that articulates their issues and explains how your product can help might be more valuable to your prospects than your sales pitch. Give your prospects relevant content, insights, and discussion first, and they are much more likely to remember you in their purchase journey.
5. Retain your prospects and customers
Instead of focusing on generating numbers when it comes to lead, more and more sales teams are working on developing better relationships online. Good relationships will lead to more sales and more referral.
Social media is another channel for customer support and feedback that is under-utilized by many companies. It’s where your B2B customers will post about customer experience with you first, so pay close attention.
For example, a customer might go to your Facebook page to ask why their emails were not answered, giving you the opportunity to check with your support team to see if there’s a communication problem.
Some sales reps are reluctant to use social media for communication as it might not be as formal and easy to track an email, but social selling has certain advantages. Regular engagement with your prospects and customers on social media can give you instant insights into your customers, build a relationship, and encourage them to use your products.
Tools To Help With Social Selling
Sales reps who use social networks are 72% more likely to exceed quotas than those who don’t. Here are some of the tools to help you organize and utilize your social channels:
- Social Media Management System: With SMMS such as Hootsuite, you can manage your social accounts in one place and schedule post with ease. These systems also make it convenient to follow and listen to conversations on different platforms such as Twitter.
- Customer Relationship Management: CRM tools such as Salesforce help you keep track of all customers information and communications with them. Keep your sales, marketing, and support teams on the same page when it comes to a customer, regardless of where they are in the purchase journey.
- Marketing Automation: Marketing Automation solutions such as Marketo automate repetitive tasks for you with complex logic. Your sales and marketing team can work together to provide content and nurture prospect with segments, personalized messages, and campaigns.
- Content Discovery: Find and share content on the Internet that can be helpful for your prospects. For example, BuzzSumo lets you search keywords and contents that are trending on social media.
- Enterprise Social Network: ESNs such as Yammer lets your team share information and collaborate. Share interesting content, discuss prospects, and ask questions within your organization with ease.
Social selling has lots of potentials and it’s a trend that’s not going away soon. It’s time to bring knowledge of this method to your sales team and get them the training necessary. Social selling, when done right, and in sync with other sales methods, can bring in many customers and long-term relationships.
Mike has a postgraduate degree in Business Administration and more than 10 years of experience in marketing. He has been involved in creating content for Retalo website and blog and developing marketing strategy for the company. Mike is also a Certified Scrum Specialist, a training he undertook to bring more agility to content processes as part of his work as digital marketing specialist.