Today’s CMOs are facing additional pressure to demonstrate a return on investment, showing how they are driving pipeline and revenue growth. One way of achieving this goal is by helping their Sales Directors enable social selling and drive more revenue for the business. Modern buyers are more informed, and an increasingly millennial workplace is socially active and responds less to traditional cold-calling. This is partly why 90% of decision makers say that cold calling and unsolicited emailing will absolutely not lead to a sale, demonstrating the growing importance of social selling. But is your sales team able to do social selling, or just social yelling? If you feel like their social media presence is a bit like this, it may be time to rethink…
Didn’t catch what you did there Mike.
So why should you look to include a social selling plan in your business? Well for a start, 82% of prospects can be reached on social media, if you’re not going to connect with them, engage with them, and offer them advice then someone else will gladly do it instead. Moreover, 72.6% of salespeople using social media outperforming their colleagues who don’t. But social media rarely lends itself to a hard sell, it suits building trusting business relationships that create loyal customers. So…
What is social selling?
Social selling is:
Social selling isn’t:
“‘Social selling’ is a bit of misnomer, because it’s about understanding our customers better, and connecting with them in a meaningful way in a place they’re already spending time as well as prospecting and closing deals. For the sales reps we’ve been training, it’s not about aggressive selling—it’s listening to customers’ needs, sharing some meaningful content, maybe sharing some humor. We want to make sure we connect with buyers early in the buying journey, and social selling lets us do that.”
Melissa Rothchild, Vice-President of Marketing, Thomson Reuters
If you’re unsure where to start, or feel a need to top up on your knowledge, we’re here to help. We’ve looked at tactics that will help your salesforce have an engaging social presence, bringing more interest to your brand as well as extra leads and sales:
Advice for CMOs & sales directors:
1. Scale your way up the Social Selling Maturity Model
First of all, establish which phase of the Social Selling Maturity Model (below) that your company is in. Advancing up the ladder won’t happen immediately, but it’s worth keeping in mind when thinking about the long-term goals of rolling out a social selling strategy. It also won’t happen accidentally, it requires behavioural changes and officially implemented practices. Marketing departments can help their sales team progress up the social maturity model by providing guidance on social media etiquette, training on how to use specific networks, and help with social media marketing tools to help find the best prospects.
In brief, the different steps within the Social Selling Maturity Model include the following:
Step 1: Random acts of social - A sales rep makes occasional posts, generally with no official support from higher up. This practice is better than nothing, but only generates a 1-2% lift in sales.
Step 2: Policy - Official guidance is introduced to give sales teams a structure of how to conduct themselves on social networks. This won’t have a giant effect on lifting your sales, but it’s an important step in building the groundwork for your social selling plan.
Step 3: Training - Formalized training sessions are introduced on specific areas of social selling such as correct etiquette and professional social branding. Only 10% of companies are currently offering this, and it can contribute to a 7-8% boost in sales.
Step 4: Integration - This goes past training as companies begin to tie social media into all stages of the sales process. Customer relationship management (CRM) on social media is assigned to individual sales reps based on their leads, pipelines, and accounts. This can bring top line contribution of social selling up to 15%.
Step 5: Optimization - Structured feedback processes within the sales team have been refined enough to help answer social selling questions, such as what type of content is producing the most social selling opportunities, which social networks are driving the most ROI in specific markets, and which industry targets are/aren’t being reached by social. It’s estimated that companies who achieve this level of synchronization will see an improvement of up to 20% on the overall sales performance.
2. Refine your targeting
Before your salesforce starts Tweeting anyone and everyone, you need to develop a classification process and refine exactly who it is they need to be targeting. Fine-tuning your buyer personas and establishing a defined territory plan will ensure your team are targeting and connecting with the right people (and avoiding overlap with each other). The questions you need to be asking are; what sort of companies should they be aiming for, define the job titles they should be targeting, what size should the companies be?
As a CMO, you can help your sales team to accurately define important, searchable parameters and team this info with a social media management platform such as SocialBro to streamline the process of discovering and targeting people. Ensure your team are using their time online productively and only going after the most relevant connections, who are most likely to be interested in your product or services.
3. Incorporate social advocacy into your plan
People will often research a company or service long before directly engaging with anyone from that company, so be aware that they may be looking at you long before you speak to them. Don’t go overboard with self-promotion, but encouraging employees to post about what your company and industry offers will help to answer questions that potential customers may be forming in their head. There are so many added benefits of social advocacy for a company, so many that we couldn’t possibly explain them in a simple sentence. If you’d like to know more about how to enhance your brand’s reputation and ultimately improve your bottom line, check out how to incorporate social advocacy into your company’s social structure.
4. Standardized social profiles
If multiple people at the company are using their profiles for social selling then standardized pages for their social media profiles can help you appear far more professional than a more scattered approach. It helps your brand to look organized, as well as making your individual sales representatives look more like members of a professional social team. Things to consider would be how the company is mentioned in their bio, what their Twitter handle is (such as @Name_Company), and what sort of photos are preferred. If you have people on your team who are relatively early in their sales careers and haven’t built up a substantial network of useful followers, it may be useful for them to set up professional accounts to conduct their social selling. Whereas, if you are hiring a more experienced salesperson with a lot of contacts then it may be worth them keeping their current profile and using that instead.
Advice for individual sales representatives
5. Listen to key contacts
You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion! People will leave buying signals all over their social profiles, if you’re watching/listening out for them then you could connect with them before your competitors. Use a social management tool such as Hootsuite to respond and reply to a defined set of keywords relevant to the audience you’re targeting. You can also see if they are talking to other companies on social media and vice versa.
Not only this, but taking the time to check out what a key contact has to say can help you understand more about them as an individual. Is there a sports team you are both interested in, a show you both watch, or another topic you have in common? Finding out three non-work pieces of information about a contact could improve your team’s chances of getting onto their radar by having a more natural conversation with them.
A Twitter list of 10-20 primary sales targets (people) that can be glanced at quickly every day can dramatically streamline the process of listening to leads. They’re simple to set up and can give you a daily view of what your prospects are doing, helping them to understand any challenges they may be facing. Don’t overdo it and annoy them, but this tactic opens the door for you to build a less formal relationship with a contact that will help to foster a greater understanding of each other.
6. Personalize communication
While you need to be consistent in your communications when talking about your company’s services, a copy and pasted LinkedIn pitch moments after a connection is obvious. It’s unlikely to lead to a sale, and will reflect badly on both you and the company. So research people before contacting them. This is where your social listening will come in handy as you can see what someone has done, what they’re working on, and formulate some questions about what they do that aren’t immediately related to your business. You can also see what level of language to use with them in order to build a rapport and make the correct impression. When you introduce yourselves, you can then use this knowledge to show you are genuinely interested in the person. Unlike a generic sales pitch, a warm start like this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
7. Timely responses
Part of social selling is establishing that you and your business are a safe pair of hands. If you are regularly taking days to get back to people, how can someone trust that your company will care about an issue they may have as a customer? Setting targets for response times will help to ensure you don't drop the ball. If you want a target, the current world record for ‘Most Responsive Brand On Twitter’ is held by Xbox’s customer support account, who answer 5,000 customer support Tweets in an average of 2 minutes and 42 seconds.
8. Give without expecting an immediate return
Look to help people with advice or content without expecting it to lead directly to a sale. On average, decision makers will consume five bits of content from someone before feeling ready to speak to a sales representative. That’s fine. You’re building trust, so earn it. By building a relationship and making connections with prospective leads, and establishing yourself as a trustworthy person who offers expert advice, your name will be in their head when they are ready to buy.
9. Be authentic
Whether you’re selling at a B2B or B2C company, you need to make H2H connections - human to human. While you should remain professional, it’s important to not appear overly robotic in your social conduct. If your tone is too formal then people may not feel comfortable communicating with you. So it’s important to be genuine and show that you care about your target audience’s problems.
Implementing these practices within your team will help to create meaningful relationships with leads that are exponentially more likely to become loyal customers. What have you found to be the most successful techniques for social selling?