Over the past few years there has been a new trend in sales that is really taking off: Social Selling.

What is social selling?

Here’s a definition from HubSpot:

Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.

Social selling is a huge breakthrough for salespeople for a few reasons.

For instance, some buyers see salespeople as an adversary. Someone they need to fight tooth and nail to get the best deal or at the least, someone they will have to avoid at all costs or else they’ll be sold to.

And that is the beauty of social selling and why it’s quickly taking off as one of a salesperson’s top techniques for connecting with a prospective audience and building rapport with them before and during the sales process.

Social selling allows a salesperson to do what they are really meant to do: provide value and be a value-added-resource.

It also allows the buyer to be more relaxed in their buying process. In fact, 90% of B2B buyers start their buying research online and 74% conduct half of their buying research online before taking the conversation offline (or with a salesperson) (Forrester: https://go.forrester.com/b2b/).

When social selling is done right, it actually feels like a seamless part of the buyers buying process… not a part of your selling process.

Sounds pretty counterintuitive, yes, but that is the beauty of it. It’s allowing you and your brand to be seen as a resource and an educator and not as a someone “just trying to sell.”

Now, social selling isn’t permission for you to go out and cold-pitch your products online and directly to who you think are your buyers. What it is, however, is permission for you to put yourself and your expertise “out there” and answer the questions your buyers have, that your product solves.

A few practical ways that social selling can be applied in your business:

  • Answer questions in help forums online
  • Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups to start and engage in conversations on topics that you have expertise in
  • Search Twitter for keywords that are relevant to your product and engage in the conversation or answer questions there
  • Build a personal connection with your prospects by following their social posts, liking and commenting. This helps build a social connection and build rapport beyond the sale.
  • When a real opportunity presents itself, either invite the prospective customer to speak with you offline or to engage in a more traditional sales cycle.

Notice none of these methods involve “cold email” or promotional tweets, Facebook posts, or ads.

Now that you have the basics and the framework put together, here’s a social selling strategy that any B2B salesperson can put into practice immediately.

Step one: Ensure that your profiles are “on brand” and professional

This includes having a consistent profile image across the different social channels you plan to use, having a bio that is consistent (not necessarily the exact same, but on brand and consistent) and making it clear what you do and who you work with.

Step two: Develop your channel plan

A channel plan is understanding what channels (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc) that you plan to use for your social selling. You’ll want to know what your customers are using and have a good idea of the rules of engagement on that platform, so do your research and find the platforms that you’re most comfortable with and where your audience is.

Step three: Set up social listening tools

Social listening tools may sound more complicated than they are, but trust me, they are not complex at all. Social listening tools, like Hootsuite, really just allow for you to set up triggers and notifications when specific things are mentioned on social media channels.

For instance, as a marketer I may want to be alerted when the term #HubSpot is used on Twitter. This allows me to jump right into the conversation when the topic is relevant.

Step four: Engage and be yourself

Answer the questions that you can, and provide value in any way—even if that means answering questions that you’re able to but won’t necessarily result in a sale for you (e.g a referral to other products or companies that will be a good fit for the other person, etc).

When you begin to engage more and more online in groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll find that more and more people will begin viewing your profile. Use that to your advantage! Connect with them there and add a personal note about why you’re connecting with them:

“Hi Jim, I saw that we’re both in the marketing group and that you viewed my profile recently. Would you like to connect and network?”

Step five: Create and share content

Social selling also includes creating your own content (or repurposing your company’s content) and sharing on the networks you engage with. With more original content to share you’re creating a brand for yourself, answering questions for your prospects and building expertise.

Now you’re ready to get out there and start social selling. Just like any sales activity, the real value and success comes from consistency and from really knowing your target audience and how you can provide value.  

So get out there and start adding social selling to your sales efforts!