The A to Z guide to social selling

Social selling is the next evolution of content marketing and social media.

To help you understand this hot topic, it is important to know (and master) the fundamentals. Social selling is a term that is being used more often, just like the term digital marketing. But what does social selling mean?

At its core, social selling is half social media and half content marketing.

Social selling is an evolution of marketing and a revolution for sales.

The old sales model used to be about cold calls, qualifying leads, and sales demos. The new sales model is about education, social networks, and engagement.

Your sales team is looking for a partner in marketing to help with this transition toward being a digital and social business, and marketing is looking for more insight from sales on what works and what doesn’t, especially with the content a company produces. Finds out how to launch a successful social selling program and why value and insights help companies win with social selling.

Here is your A to Z guide to social selling:

Attitude

Having a positive attitude with social media is a great place to start. If you think you will succeed in leading a social media program at your company or using social selling to find and engage clients and prospects, you will.

It is simple: you can do anything you think you can do. If you think you can master social selling, you can. It all starts with your attitude toward social.

Business Case

To build the business case for social selling, it is important to document your social selling program through a charter that explains the scope of the initiative, identifying an executive sponsor or sponsors and a timeline to show what is or what is not working. You may want to interview people at your company who are doing social selling well.

For example: How are they taking advantage of social selling and what appointments/business has it gotten them? This helps you baseline where you are currently now with the initiative and then you can talk about where you need to go. You may want to create a social selling maturity model that outlines your strategy for social selling and/or you may want to create a one-page document that outlines your strategy.

It is also critical to have internal social selling champions, case studies from other companies and what your competitors are doing with social selling. All these ideas can help you build your business case for social selling.

Content

“Content is the new currency for the modern sales professional,” says Jill Rowley, a social selling evangelist. According to Sirius Decisions, up to 70 percent content at a company goes unused. Social selling can help your company better understand what content your sales team is sharing online.

As marketing understands what content the sales team is using with clients/customers, they can create more content that helps sales. With buyers consuming more content before they buy and with consumers digest more than 10 pieces of online information before making a purchase decision, it is important that your company provides content that informs, educates, persuades and retains your customers or clients.

As Marcus Sheridan, a digital marketing expert, says: “Great content is the greatest sales tool in the world … period.”

Differentiation

As Theodore Levitt, author and professor at Harvard Business School, says: “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.” One of the ways is to demonstrate your company’s strong unique selling proposition online with your ideal group of customers.

As Seth Godin says: “Instead of working hard to prove skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers… they are going to spread the word for you.” By demonstrating you and your company’s insights via social media, you can have a competitive differentiation about your topic(s).

Companies that provide value and insights are winning their customers or clients over. According to Corporate Visions, 74 percent of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to bring value and insight and according to Forrester, 82 percent of buyers viewed at least five pieces of content from the winning vendor.

Evolution

Luckily for marketers, social selling is only an evolution of their successful social media and content marketing strategy. Social media and content marketing have become critical to successful sales in today’s modern world.

In essence, social selling is a hybrid of social media and content marketing. Social selling is not just a tool for marketing as shown by high-performing companies such as IBM, SAP, and Salesforce.com reaping the benefits of marketing empowering sales with training and tools.

Follow Up

To make your social selling program successful, it needs to stick. Reinforcement and follow-up are critical to keeping the program on track.

According to Aberdeen Group research, companies that reinforce post-training activities achieve better business results. Ongoing education and reinforcement are vital to the health of your program.

Goals

It is critical to have milestones and timelines in place. This could be included in your charter or strategy on a page we discussed earlier. They help with ongoing goal tracking and reinforcement so your program doesn’t lose its momentum.

Homework

Social selling helps salespeople do their homework on their clients and buyers. According to CSO Insights, 39 percent say the primary benefit of social selling is to reduce account and contact research time. Social selling is a great way to prove to clients and prospects that the sales and/or pre-sales teams have done their homework.

Integration  

Too many companies keep their marketing and sales separated into two teams. They don’t connect with each other nor do they have access to each other’s data. This silo mentality results in a huge lost opportunity for these businesses — upwards of 10 percent or more revenue annually, according to IDC as compiled by HubSpot.

With the growth of digital marketing and marketing taking on more of the sales or buying journey, the term SMarketing — the process of integrating the sales and marketing processes of a business — is rising in importance.

Companies with tight sales and marketing alignment achieve faster revenue and profit growth. B2B companies with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams see 24 percent faster revenue growth and 27 percent faster profit growth over a three-year period, according to a study by SiriusDecisions.

To make sure your social selling program is successful, it is important to partner with others internally, especially leadership from departments such as sales, sales enablement, solution/product/services, human resources, and training.

Job

Social selling will help salespeople keep their jobs. According to some predictions, B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.

Knowledge

Buyers are changing the landscape for sales and marketing. Buyers want advisors, not ready-made solutions. With the rise of the Internet and social media, buyers are including more people in decision-making process. Therefore, most buying cycles or sales cycles are getting longer.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

According to LinkedIn, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is designed and built for sales professionals to do social selling right. It helps sales focus on the right prospects to build relationships. You can purchase LinkedIn Sales Navigator on the enterprise level or on the individual level.

Marketing

Marketing can provide their digital marketing expertise to the sales team who needs help in this area. Marketing is looking for more insight from sales on what works and what doesn’t. And the sales team is looking for help with social media and their online presence.

According to the Sales Management Association, two in three companies don’t have a social media strategy for sales, but 80 percent of sales teams would be more productive with a greater social media presence.

News

Social selling is a great way to keep up-to-date with the news of your ecosystem. This would include your partners, your competitors, analysts in your industry, and clients/prospects. By following companies on LinkedIn, your ecosystem is now your LinkedIn home page.

Online

Buyers have more power in today’s world and their habits have changed because they can do more research online before interacting with someone. They can also ask more people about the products and services they are going to buy before interacting with sales.

According to LinkedIn, 5.4 people are now involved in the average B2B buying decision; 75 percent of B2B buyers now use social media to be more informed on vendors, and 90 percent of decision makers say they never respond to cold outreach.

Pilot

For example, to get C-suite buy-in and build the business case for social selling, it is critical that your initiative starts small with a pilot. The pilot should be long enough to collect information but short enough so that it doesn’t take up too many resources.

Quota

Research has shown the sales person who uses social selling performs better than the sales person who doesn’t.

According to LinkedIn, social sellers create 45 percent more opportunities; social sellers are 51 percent more likely to achieve quota and 78 percent of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media.

Revolution

Social selling is a revolution for sales. The old sales model used to be about cold calls, qualifying leads and sales demos. The new sales model is about education, social networks, and engagement.

According to the Corporate Executive Board and OgilyOne, 60 percent of B2B customer research is conducted before contacting sales and 71 percent of salespeople believe their role will be radically different in five years.

Score

LinkedIn has a social selling index (SSI) is a formula to show how well your team has embraced social selling on a scale from 1 to 100.

To improve your score, LinkedIn suggest you do four key things: 1) establish your professional brand or complete your LinkedIn profile, 2) find the right people to connect with and then connect with them, 3) engage with insights or share content and like/comment on other people’s posts, and 4) build relationships with your network, especially senior leaders and decision makers.

Find out how to increase your SSI score. In the LinkedIn Sales Navigator version, the SSI is on the home dashboard.

Tools

To help with reinforcement, explore some social selling tools like LinkedIn Sales NavigatorPeopleLinx, and TrapIt to name a few. Learn more about other social selling tools.

Use cases

It is important to see how other companies are taking advantage of social selling. LinkedIn and Sales for Life have good case studies for social selling.

Video

Not everyone learns well through written text. Here is a social selling video on traditional selling vs. social selling.

Word

Look at the growth of “social selling” in Google Trends. It is a hot topic marketers, salespeople, and teams that support sales should be addressing at their organizations.

Xenagogy

Xenagogy is a guidebook. If you are looking for a massive guidebook on social selling, I would read HubSpot’s sales professional’s go-to guide to social selling. Also, you should read LinkedIn’s how-to guide to social selling [pdf].

Yellow-Beal

This is an old English dialect word for someone who goes fishing and comes home empty-handed. In today’s modern world, social selling is ensuring that your sales team doesn’t fish and come up with nothing.

Zeal

Marketers should be approaching social selling with zeal or great energy in pursuit of an objective. With more of the buying process happening online first, marketers should embrace social selling with enthusiasm because social selling will help them become better digital marketers and help the sales team become better at their jobs.

What Would You Add?

What words did you like or not like in this A to Z guide? What would you add or replace? What other popular social selling terms would you add to this list?

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