How to Use Social Selling to Sell the Way Buyers Want to Buy
Closing a sale in 2014 is fundamentally different than closing a sale in 2004, or even 2009. Shorter attention spans, shrinking budgets, and stiffer competition are forcing companies to rethink how they market and sell products. Buyers are approaching sales reps far later in the sale cycle – leads reach out when they’re 80% of the way to a deal, rather than 20%, like in the “old days.” Today’s sales cycle is also longer than ever. During the last five years, the average sales cycle has become 22 percent longer. Relationships with multiple decision makers matter, too. Typically, three or more decision makers participate in the buying process.
Social media has completely disrupted the way people buy and sell goods. Social selling accelerates the sales process by increasing the lead generation pipeline and decreasing the time it takes to close a sale. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead, thanks in part to social selling, according to Forrester Research. If your sales team is not adapting to this disruption, then your business is missing out on sales.
Follow these steps to integrate social selling into your sales force.
1. Start slow
Going from nothing to managing LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms at the same time overnight can be overwhelming. Roll out social selling tactics slowly to ensure they complement your existing sales strategy. Don’t rush to be active on every social platform at once. Start with the platform that is already home to the majority of your prospects and customers and build from their. For most B2B sellers, that platform is LinkedIn.
2. Build relationships
It’s selling 101: people buy from people they know, like and trust – and authentic, genuine interactions on social media are key to accomplishing this. To achieve this goal, you need to build relationships with key influencers in the social space. Don’t just talk at your potential customers; use social platforms to start a dialogue with your connections. Stronger relationships are key to raising your social influence on platforms like Klout.
3. Share great content
In the rush to amass more Twitter followers, it’s easy to forget that social selling is as much about sharing great content as it is about making great connections. Don’t. The average buyer engages with 11.4 pieces of content before engaging a vendor. Curate great free content to establish yourself as a thought leader and drive sales. Yes, some of this may be your own thought leadership work, but it’s equally important to comment on industry news and share relevant industry trends. Avoid turning your social media feed into an overly promotional content marketing echo chamber by curating a dirversity of content.
4. A win doesn’t have to be a sale
Broaden your definition of what makes a ‘win’ – it’s more than just a sale. A win is anything that helps to strengthen your business pipeline and improve conversion rates. Focus on the value behind your social interactions. Failing to provide valuable content or actually build real relationships with potential clients will only hurt your business in the long run by harming your long-term lead nurturing.
5. Make technology work for you
Don’t be afraid to integrate your current sales technology with marketing automation software that also monitors social media. A social media monitoring platform can track interactions and brand name mentions across various social media channels, streamlining the sales process so your teams can be ready to respond as opportunities arise.
Social selling is about more than just starting the sales process using tools like LinkedIn or Facebook to mine your next client. Social selling is about building strong relationships with potential clients through content marketing and using these relationships to ultimately close the deal. When your sales team leverages the power of social media to build relationships and establish themselves as industry leaders, you’ll naturally see an uptick in sales.
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