Social selling is really nothing new, we are just using new tools. Like any form of customer engagement (formerly known as sales), we have to approach potential customers with the view of adding value and insight each at each step and every time.
Last year I heard David Watson from LinkedIn speak on Social Selling – you know the idea of selling through social media. This post is drawn from some of the ideas presented.
Social Selling and Facebook
Facebook advertising and selling is massive, particularly in the B2C context. Business Insider reported last year that Facebook had 5 million business advertising each month which was up from 3 million the previous year. This generated US$27B advertising dollars for them. But this is still the classic advertising model of ‘intrude’ into your prospect customer’s space and (hopefully) engage more than you annoy. The only change is the channel. This is not social selling. It is still the age of product flogging switched from TV to online.
Social Selling and LinkedIn
LinkedIn is about professional members and mainly about B2B, not so much about advertising (but this is changing too). LinkedIn is more about connecting with other professionals with the view to form relationships on the basis of conversations about the mutual exchange of value. In this way LinkedIn can be a huge source of new business for organisations with a relevant offering. (more tips on using LinkedIn below.)
Misalignment in Sales
As we know, in many organisations there is still a huge misalignment between marketing and sales teams. Some good sales methods, like Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing, go to great lengths to ensure that the sales and marketing teams agree on the definitions of marketing and sales qualified leads. Yet, the generation of marketing-qualified leads to sales teams that go nowhere in the US alone is said to cost the US economy US$1trillion.
This misalignment is then fuelled by the idea that sales is a numbers game, make more calls, send more emails. In fact, Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Lead Generation (2014), describes this as “the marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing a sales pipeline”.
So it is about developing a sales pipeline. Additionally, they say that if you can generate leads, then this will make your job easier and leads will be made revenue faster. Sounds great, but let’s make sure all this lead generation does not damage brand and disengage potential customers. (By the way the Funnel doesn’t really work anymore).
Customer Engagement: deliver value at each interaction
Surely in this experience economy we must be about the exchange of value.
It is all about opening relationships for mutual value exchange.
The customer’s experience is precious, and it begins at first contact. We need to start relationships, the way we want them to be, forever.
The customer’s experience is precious, not only driving decision-making, but also for determining the level of positive or negative word of mouth they provide.
We know that customers have more information available to them now than ever before. Even in a B2B context around two-thirds of the buying journey is completed doing independent research (see CEB’s research around “The Challenger Sale”). Which is why around 95% of B2B buyers are expecting fresh and different insights to be provided by the sales people contacting them. Insights need to be above information that can be ‘Googled’.
Key Social Selling Tips
With this in mind, there are four values based elements of Social Selling (with a B2B, LinkedIn focus):
- Establish a professional brand – demonstrating who you are, what you stand for and why you do what you do. And importantly, articulate who it is that you can value for.
- Find the right people. Know about the people you are meeting with in that so that you can better add value. Find the people that are optimal for you and your offerings. The people that are likely to value what you do.
- Engage with true, valuable insights. Engage, like, comment, share and create content that shares insights and articulates who you are.
- Building strong relationships – get offline when building relationships. LinkedIn can provide connections, but better still introductions through people we know through to others we would like to know. LinkedIn research claims that a connection is more likely to meet with you when an introduction is made through a shared connection.
Like any form of customer engagement, we have to approach social selling with the view of adding value and insight, each and every time.
For more on the LinkedIn approach to Social Selling there is a good keynote by Mike Derezin (of LinkedIn) on YouTube if you have a spare 50 minutes.
For more on customer engagement and sales, I recommend the new manifesto for sales.
There is more on leading sales teams here, as well as a self-assessment tool.