Social selling is one of the most overlooked strategies in B2B selling. Many sales reps consider social media to be a waste of time when it comes to reaching prospects, but platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram are actively used by the buyers you want to target. Social media can be an excellent source of insight and can help you learn more about your target buyers. Using social selling channels such as LinkedIn can provide a means to directly connect with prospects. It also provides a forum where you can influence potential buyers and build a rapport over time.
LinkedIn for example, is an excellent social selling resource. Statistics about LinkedIn show that 93 percent of B2B marketers use the platform for content marketing1, 89 percent use it for lead generation2, and 84 percent of salespeople are active on LinkedIn.3
Maintaining a social media presence does take time and requires a well-developed strategy. If you understand how to use social selling tools and maintain a cadence of ongoing social media activity, the rewards can be substantial.
The Steps to Successful Social Selling
Social selling doesn’t have to be complicated, but to be successful, you need to develop a strategy to reach your potential targets.
Start by researching your sales targets. Identify your target companies and follow them on all social media platforms. See what they are posting, get a sense of their brand message, and their products. Understand what they are promoting on social media so that you can augment their products with your solution.
Use LinkedIn to identify potential contacts within the company. See what individual executives are posting, and follow them to identify and understand their areas of interest. Also, look for topics that you can use to engage, then look for common connections. See if you can find someone who can introduce you via LinkedIn so you can connect directly.
Once you have connected with the right contacts, the next step is interaction. In social selling, you want to establish an online dialogue rather than delivering a sales pitch. How you choose to engage will depend on the situation.
Let’s consider two potential scenarios:
You have an active LinkedIn participant whose business and interests align with your specialization. This is the ideal scenario. As part of your research, identify areas of commonality. Like your targets' relevant posts and comment when you can. The goal is to add to the conversation and be as helpful as possible. You want to demonstrate your expertise and your value. Then you can reach out and make a connection.
Most professionals on LinkedIn aren’t very active. You may identify a prospect who has a LinkedIn profile but hasn’t posted anything you can leverage to establish a connection. You have three options:
- Reach out blindly to make a connection, which is the worst approach.
- Reach out and add them to your network. Send them a note giving them a reason to connect, such as: “Hi, I came across your profile, and it looks like we know some of the same people. I look forward to connecting with you!” Be specific about mutual connections if possible.
- Reach out to a mutual contact to make an introduction. This is always the best approach.
Once you have made the connection, you can start the social selling process by fostering the online relationship.
Building an Online Rapport
When engaging through LinkedIn, you need to give your prospects a reason to connect with you. Maintain a continuous online presence by sharing information that is useful and that adds to the conversation. You should spend time every day reviewing content from industry influencers and prospects. Commenting and liking posts will build your visibility with prospects. I recommend spending at least 30 minutes each day managing your social media activity.
Be sure to post articles and share content. Adding fresh content to the conversation gives you material you can share directly, and it provides an excuse to reach out to prospects. The more valuable the content, the better, since it illustrates your expertise and how you bring value. You don’t have to create your own content. Most marketing departments maintain a library of case studies, white papers, market research, and other material that you can use to drive online activity.
Consistency is important. You should post and share new content at least once a week. Try to pick a time to post when prospects are most likely to see it. If you post at the same time each week, then they can come to expect to see your regular contributions. Posting during your lunch hour, for example, can increase visibility.
Social Selling Pays Off
Some B2B sales reps are still skeptical about social selling, but we know it works. At MarketStar, we teach our reps how to make the most of social media for prospecting and lead qualification, so we can vouch for the results.
Social media can be a powerful sales tool. According to one survey, 82 percent of people trust social networks to guide purchasing decisions. When you use social selling appropriately, every step in social outreach can bring you that much closer to demonstrating ROI and landing your next contract.
The challenge with social selling is consistency. One of the biggest obstacles to successful social selling is the lack of time to maintain social media channels. If you can’t maintain a consistent social media presence, outsource it. MarketStar’s sales reps are trained in social media sales techniques and can provide consistency for you.
If you want to learn more about how to succeed with social selling, be sure to download our e-book, Is Outsourced Inside Sales Right for You?