Social selling is to a certain extent one of those hot new marketing buzzwords that really doesn’t add much without knowing what it means. It represents a very real thing, and is simply a keyword for a process you may or may not know exists. People who know about it and who implement it have definably out-performed people with older selling methods, so it’s certainly here to stay.
Data from a study performed by Forrester and commissioned by HootSuite earlier this year surveyed 265 sales and marketing leaders. They found that 49% of B2B companies have developed formalized social selling programs, and 28% are in the process of doing so. All but two respondents at least planned to do so, and I’d wager that those two will be feeling the burn within a year.
So What Even Is Social Selling?
Social selling is essentially leveraging all of the varied benefits of social media for your sales process. I don’t mean just marketing via Facebook, though. I mean using social media to find new customers, connect with existing customers, understand your customers on a deep level, and nurture possible sales prospects. It’s also a way of keeping your brand at the forefront of your followers’ minds, so that when they have need of your product, you’re the first brand thing think of.
If you have social media profiles in active use, then, you’re already using the basics of social selling. Actual “Social selling” then is simply a more codified, intentional process than haphazard social media usage.
It’s all about using social media properly. Brands that shoot off automated DMs on Twitter, who post a dozen times a day on Facebook, who automate follower churn or who abuse black hat techniques are not using social selling. They’re spamming, they’re breaking rules, and they’re wasting time.
Social selling is not just focused on building up a mailing list; it’s about building up relationships. You want your customers to know your brand as more than just a brand, but as a leader in your industry, as a resource for information and service, and as an avenue through which they can solve problems. More importantly, you want to get to know your audience on a detailed level. Who they are, where they are, what they want and what they don’t want, how you can reach them; it’s all elements of social selling.
Why Your Brand Needs Social Selling
Take a look at your cell phone call history. How many times in the last month have you received a spam call? I’ve had weeks go by without one, but more than likely I’ll get one or two every week. At this point, if a number isn’t in my contact list, there’s a pretty good chance I’m not going to answer it.
If your brand bought a list of contacts who might be interested in your product, and you set your sales team to cold-calling those prospects, what do you think the reaction would be? I would venture to guess you have a very low rate of getting anyone to even listen to your pitch, let alone convert. This holds true even if you’re a B2B company; 90% of decision-makers for businesses say they never respond to cold calls.
Social selling doesn’t just get you leads; it gets you warm leads, people who are welcome to the idea of getting your product, or even people who are ready to seek you out on their own. Not only is your foot already in the door, some of them are actively opening the door and inviting you in.
Another core benefit of social selling is the networking effect. When people have a strong relationship with your brand, they’ll recommend you to their friends, family, and business partners. It’s the difference between going up to a random house and asking to see the head of the house with your vacuum in tow, and being invited to the address by the head of the house because their friend told them your vacuums are great.