You’ve likely heard the term "social selling" tossed around quite a bit in recent years, and if you haven’t been paying it any attention, now is a good time to start.
In fact, a recent study shows that 78% of salespeople using social media perform better than their peers (Forbes). By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and tools that you need to become a social selling rockstar.
So, what is social selling and why is it important?
In a nutshell, social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact with their prospects. Salespeople provide value by answering prospect questions, and offering thoughtful insight and advice until the prospect is ready to buy.
You might be thinking to yourself: "Hey, I already get plenty of leads through list buying or business development, so do I really need to prospect for more?"
If you’re not proactively seeking out your prospects on social media, you’re missing out on opportunities; and those missed opportunities will be happening more frequently as more consumers look to their social networks for referrals.
Ask any salesperson what the most cost-effective method is for acquiring new, highly qualified leads is. I’d be shocked if the most common answer is something other than “word of mouth.” Unfortunately, word-of-mouth referrals don’t occur at the volume that most businesses would like. Social selling can change that. According to an IBM study, 55% of all buyers do their research by using social networks. All you need to do is be where your customers are.
A recent study from GlobalWebIndex shows that 28% of time online is spent on social media. That’s a lot of time—and a lot of opportunity—to reach prospective customers. And guess what? If you engage with that prospect on, say, Twitter, and that prospect becomes a happy customer and tweets about it, you’ve now reached an exponentially larger audience with a referral from their peer.
The best part of all of this is: If done properly, engaging prospects on social media at the right time with the right message is easy and time-efficient.
Now that you understand the value and importance of social selling, you’re probably excited to get started. The rest of this post will be your guide to stepping into the world of social selling. Here are my top four tactics:
1. Create streams to monitor Twitter for relevant content
Twitter is a great channel to use to develop your personal brand, share thought leadership, and engage with customers and prospects. There is a lot of noise on Twitter, though. Sifting through the noise to find relevant sales opportunities can seem overwhelming, but with all of the handy (and free) social listening tools out there, it doesn’t need to be. In fact, monitoring conversations that are timely and relevant to your sales efforts is extremely easy.
If you use a tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, you can create "streams" which are essentially real-time feeds of tweets based on your search criteria. For instance, if you create a stream for "accounting," you’ll see every tweet that mentions "accounting," as they come in. You’ll see a whole bunch of tweets talking about anything and everything related to accounting, including job opportunities, tips, etc. Well, if you sell accounting software, most of those tweets will probably be irrelevant. By using Boolean logic, you can create targeted streams that only show you relevant tweets.
If you’re unfamiliar with Boolean logic, now is a good time to learn. Most free social listening tools support basic Boolean search, including the Twitter web client. If you have access to a high-end social listening tool, you’ll be able to create advanced Boolean queries to really narrow down your searches to only show you the most relevant ones.
With that said, you may decide to refine your search to be: "accounting software" AND "recommendations" which will pull in all tweets that mention both "accounting software" and "recommendations." You may find quite a few people on Twitter asking the Twitterverse for suggestions on which accounting software to use. Maybe people are asking for accounting software suggestions, rather than recommendations. You can update your search to be: "accounting software" AND (recommendations OR suggestions) to pull in all of the tweets that include "accounting software" and either "recommendations" or "suggestions."
Play around with different search terms and find out how people tweet when they reference a product or service that you sell.
Another strategy to consider is searching for people who might be unsatisfied with one of your competitors, or even actively searching for an alternative. Again, simply create a search with the keywords you’d like to use (e.g. “QuickBooks” AND “alternatives”). If someone is out there inquiring about alternatives to one of your competitors, introduce yourself! Make a connection with that person and let them know why they should consider checking out your product or service.
2. Monitor Quora, Answers.com, and Reddit
People often look to sites like Quora, Answers, and Reddit for expert opinions on various topics, including product and service suggestions. You might be surprised at how many business-related questions there are on these sites (yes, even Reddit). It’s a good habit to make checking these sites part of your daily routine. You can even set up alerts to notify you when new questions are asked that pertain to your topics of interest.
Let’s look at another example. If you’re a Realtor, for instance, you might start off by searching for "Realtor" on Quora. You’ll quickly find a frequently asked question about what the purpose or added value of hiring a Realtor is. That’s a great opportunity for you to answer the question and position yourself as an important piece of the home buying process, as well as establishing yourself as a thought leader on the topic.
Even Reddit has a subreddit dedicated to real estate, where you might find people asking similar questions, or even looking for recommendations for Realtors in their local residence.
The key is to be helpful and provide the information that is being sought-after. If you’re able to include a subtle plug for yourself or your company, even better. On sites like these, it can be beneficial for you to let people know where they can find you if they have more questions on the topic. Consider including your Twitter handle or LinkedIn profile in your comment.
3. Utilize Google Alerts
Google Alerts is an incredible way to have a news digest sent directly to your email inbox. I first started using Google Alerts back when I was working at a PR agency, as a way to identify opportunities to respond quickly to reporters and bloggers that were writing about topics relevant to my clients.
I now use it as a way to stay up to speed on all of the happenings in the CRM industry, including updates from competitors, articles written about CRM, mentions of Nutshell, etc. If you find an article that is relevant to what you sell or have expertise in, leave a thoughtful and informative comment. People often look at the comments to gain added perspective and you may have an opportunity to sway a prospect in your direction. Again, consider leaving your Twitter handle or LinkedIn profile in the comment.
4. Leverage LinkedIn: groups and content publishing
LinkedIn groups present a great opportunity to engage with professionals, some of whom may be potential prospects, that have already expressed interest in specific topics by joining relevant groups.
There are two basic approaches you can take to engage with prospects on LinkedIn groups:
- Comment on existing discussions, especially if there is a question asked that you’re qualified to answer.
- Start engaging discussions that are subtle in the sense that you’re not pushing your product, but strategic so that you can speak to a problem and solution.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to search for groups that match your areas of expertise. Click on the drop-down menu next to the search bar (at the top of the LinkedIn page) and select Groups. Now you can search for the LinkedIn groups that you’d like to join. If you’re a Realtor, you can start your search with broad terms, like real estate. If you don’t see any results that you believe will offer opportunity for you, maybe try something a bit more specific, like home buying.
Once you’ve joined a few groups, hop in and begin building a reputation for yourself by leaving thoughtful responses to existing questions. Once you are comfortable doing this, and you’ve established yourself as a resource, you should begin starting your own discussions. A good way to do this is by posing a question, or an interesting fact/statement, and including a link to a relevant piece of content (ideally, one that links back to some type of owned property).
Another great tool that LinkedIn offers is its content publishing platform. This is a great way for you to put your content marketing skills to work. Publish your quality content on LinkedIn and engage with people who comment. Remember, try to end your posts with some type of call-to-action. Even if it’s something simple like “Have any questions? Leave a comment below.” It can also be helpful to include your Twitter handle so that people who find your content engaging can follow you on Twitter.
So what next?
Start ramping up your social media presence! Get out there and socialize, network, and share your knowledge.