Social Selling for B2B sellers
When I told B2B salespeople a few years ago how to use social selling their work I was mostly met with disbelief. Most salespeople said that social networks were good for promoting trendy consumer products for young people but in B2B, personal contact still worked best.
And this is the paradox. Social Selling is used to support personal contact. Proper use of social selling tools and techniques will make making sales contacts much more effective and when it finally comes to a phone call or a face-to-face meeting, both parties will feel that they know each other very well.
From this article, you will learn how to apply social selling methods and tools in gaining valuable sales contacts. I will also reveal to you my ways to build an expert image, which is very useful in B2B sales. You will also learn about the composition of the Social Selling Index and methods to increase its value.
Why do sellers need social selling?
Social Selling in B2B is not intended to replace salespeople and, on the contrary, to make their work more efficient and effective. How is this possible? In short, it is about getting rid of cold calling, i.e. calling "in the dark" to people we do not know and who do not know us.
Getting rid of cold calling does not mean getting rid of the phone as a work tool, but getting rid of the "cold" element. So Social Selling will be a tool for us to "warm up" sales calls by establishing valuable relationships on social media platforms and building an expert image.
That's for starters, the next stage will be the so-called Inbound Sales, i.e. the appearance of inquiries for an offer from people we don't know and who came to us after reading an interesting article or advice given on the social network. Does it seem too good to be true? Personally, I get about 80% of leads this way (more data on how I use LinkedIn for sales in the article "Is social selling necessary in B2B?".
Of course, this requires some preparation and a number of activities that you have not previously associated with sales. However, if you get through this article and implement the advice I provide you with it will certainly have a positive impact on your sales performance. Please remember that it doesn't matter what size company you represent. I worked for large corporations for more than a dozen years and now run a small consulting firm - in both cases the tactics described below work on a similar level.
LinkedIn regularly surveys feedback from sellers and buyers who use social selling to boast about the effectiveness of these practices. It turns out that buyers appreciate contact with sellers via social networks, provided it is knowledge sharing.
From a seller effectiveness perspective, Linkedin reports that an active presence in Linkedin topic groups increases the acquisition of unplanned sales opportunities by 70%.
Social Selling Index - check your potential in social selling
Sometimes during a training session, when I hear from a salesperson that social selling is not working in his case, I look at his profile on LinkedIn and reply (usually in my mind) - I am not surprised.
If your profile has been set up mainly for job search purposes and acts as a resume - it is unlikely to help you sell.
The good news - a good profile on LinkedIn will come in handy both in your search for clients and in your job search. I'll just add for the record that the better you are at getting clients through Linkedin, the more job offers you get :).
With help in assessing and developing our social selling skills comes LinkedIn creating the Social Selling Index - a free tool with which you can assess your potential to sell on a social network - in this case, of course, Linkedin.
Check out how your Social Selling Index is shaping up at: https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi?
The Social Selling Index shows how our activities on Linkedin can translate into sales contacts on a scale of 1 to 100, and is divided into four types of activities: Building a professional image, gaining valuable contacts, sharing knowledge and developing relationships.
Each is equally important but since they require slightly different activities, let's look at them in turn.
1. Build a Professional Image
A professional image according to LinkedIn (and mine) is another way of saying an expert image. So it's worthwhile to make sure you become visible as a person who shares knowledge, provides useful answers, publishes valuable material related not only to your company's products but also to issues of interest to your customers.
A tool that can come in handy for such publications is SlideShare, a service acquired by Linkedin several years ago for publishing presentations. Linkedin promotes materials published in this form, which also increases your visibility as an author.
You can easily embed SlideShare presentations into your blog as you can see in the image attached below :)
Pro tip: Slideshare copies the text from the presentation and pastes it below the slides, so it is further indexed by Google and easier to find in a search engine. Therefore, don't turn your slides into images before you upload them to Slideshare, as it won't be able to pull up the text of such an image presentation. You can, on the other hand, turn your slides into PDFs (but turn off the "flatten" option)
If you happen to write articles, try the "publish" option, which is a longer form than posts. This is a kind of mini-blog that you can run without worrying about maintaining your own domain. You can promote such publications with posts. LinkedIn appreciates the fact that you publish on their platform and additionally promotes these articles.
On the other hand, if you regularly publish articles, a better option would be to set up a blog and promote its posts on LinkedIn. I publish most of my posts on the blog but I also put a few articles as Linkedin publications.
An expert is a person whose skills are confirmed by many people. This is what the "skills" section of your profile is for. Describe the areas you are well versed in and then help your contacts validate those skills.
How do you do this? I figured out that most often my skills are confirmed after I have confirmed the skills of someone else. Again, the rule of thumb works: give and then ask. Here it works even faster: Give and you will get without asking . So don't begrudge the time to confirm the skills of your contacts, most of them will return the favor.
Recommendations work similarly. Give them often and don't be ashamed to ask if you have helped someone or know that this person values you as a professional.
2. Acquire the right business contacts
LinkedIn for a tool not only for sharing knowledge and bragging about achievements, but also a very effective support in the phase of market analysis and search for the right contacts. Look at your profile, what data you provide, what information you share by posting, liking or commenting on posts and statements. All this data is collected by LinkedIn and much of it is made available for analysis and preparation of social selling activities.
The most extensive set of tools is available to those who use Sales Navigator - a special paid add-on that allows unlimited browsing of profiles across the LinkedIn database and searching them by criteria such as location, job title, experience, industry, size of employment and many others. You save interesting contacts to your lead list
How does getting the right contacts translate into your sales results?
According to LinkedIn, salespeople who exceed their targets are 39% more likely to engage with prospects than colleagues who don't "deliver a score." Interestingly, it turns out to be effective to track the activity of more people in an organization. Salespeople who have followed up with at least 10 people from a prospect's organization increase the likelihood of exceeding the target by as much as 69%.
An interesting tactic is to obtain contacts through performance. On LinkedIn, the most effective way is to contact your mutual friend with a request for an introduction.
This formula means that the person to whom you are introduced usually responds better to such a proposal, because it is based on the trust of the person who introduces you. I assume, of course, that these people have something more in common than a desire to break records in the number of contacts.
I encourage you to review potential contacts in the second circle (it could be even more than a few thousand people) - this means that you have at least one contact in common who can introduce you.
Another tactic is to look for contacts based on common interests. Find interesting topic groups, not just on Linkedin. A sizable selection is also offered by Facebook or classic discussion forums.
On LinkedIn you have added value because you always know where the person is currently working, in other places this is not so obvious. Knowing what interests your potential contact, you can start a conversation by sharing interesting material on the topic.
Additional benefits come from expert activity in discussion groups. If your contributions are valuable and well-regarded, you are very likely to find people who want to use your services.
You will notice that some people, from groups that have been active are visiting your profile. This doesn't necessarily mean that they immediately want to become your customer, but for some reason they have taken the time to learn about you. Sometimes it's a good idea to get back to these people and subtly let them know you're available or offer to join a contact group. I use this tactic quite selectively, trying to invite only people who might really be interested in contacting me, but I have to boast of almost 100% conversion of such invitations to contacts. Here a little advice: always, but ALWAYS personalize your invitations. You'll be surprised what a difference it makes.
3. Acquire information and share knowledge
The third pillar of the Social Selling index is about acquiring and sharing knowledge. LinkedIn rewards people who are active in educating others and acquiring information with extra points in this index because their research shows that it strongly influences sales effectiveness.
I have mentioned several times that I often use LinkedIn as a research tool. If I'm anxious to reach out to an organization I use Sales Navigator to identify a few people from that company who can give me a picture of its goals, challenges, new projects and changes that are happening in that organization. Reviewing hiring history, publications, comments or likes helps me determine whether my services or proposal will be of value to the company and the individuals who may be decision makers.
This is part of the Account Based Marketing methodology, which involves preparing a whole series of marketing and sales activities targeted at a single organization (Account). In this case, the target audience is selected employees of one organization or a group of related companies. Of course, this works well for the largest organizations where the value of the lead is counted in hundreds of thousands if not millions.
4. Get decision makers to network with you
The fourth pillar of the index will tell you if there are enough decision makers in your network - this is probably the most important parameter from a salesperson's point of view.
Start by recognizing
Linkedin Sales Navigator is a great tool not only for contact but also for analyzing who is worth making that contact with and when is the best time. By analyzing changes in employment, statements or comments of leads, you can specify exactly who is worth reaching out to and how to prepare the message to interest the recipient and get them to talk.
Share knowledge and information relevant to the customer
This is exactly the way to get in front of the network of people you want to reach. Most customers readily accept invitations from people who publish interesting and useful information, because it is in their interest to do so. The effectiveness of such tactics is confirmed by LinkedIn research, according to which salespeople who exceed their sales plans share 23% more content than their less productive counterparts.
Salespeople are more likely to risk using this strategy when they have content that has been appropriately selected by the marketing department.
As you can see, content marketing as a communications strategy is not just about pure marketing activities. The right selection of content that you share with customers on social media will increase your chances of gaining their trust at a very early stage of their purchasing decisions - you may even initiate such a process if you refer skillfully to the customer needs observed in social listening.
Show that you are and are not a perennial expert
One-off spurts and flooding social networks with lots of content do not yield optimal results. People value experts who regularly provide them with relevant and valuable information. Become one of them.
Impose on yourself the discipline of sharing at least one piece of information per week , which is not an advertisement, but can be helpful to your customers. It doesn't have to be information directly about your company. Better to focus on issues of interest to your customers.
Marketing can effectively support sellers by providing them with a pool of messages in advance that they can use on their profiles. It is good practice to create social media content as part of your core content work. If you are creating a white paper or webinar, think right away about how to encapsulate it with a set of social media communications and include it in the pool shared with salespeople.
Remember that one "big" piece of content can be promoted by multiple posts, each highlighting a different message.
Watch for experts and people who share valuable information themselves. It doesn't take much time to pass them on to your customers with your own commentary, and it will win you their gratitude.
Be helpful and active
Create a list of topical newsgroups where your customers may appear, and try to respond regularly to those seeking help or information. Remember to be one hundred percent transparent, let customers know what you do for a living, but don't pushily promote your products. You are here to learn and help. Time will come for sales.
Talk about things that matter
According to IDC research, in the early stages of purchasing decisions, customers prefer to read the content of potential suppliers instead of sales meetings. The research indicates that they are more likely to return to suppliers who have been rated as providing information that is relevant to them in the form of a webinar or white paper, for example.
Also read the article on Social Selling in B2B Marketing.
- Brudner, „Why It’s Time to Kill the Cold Call Once and For All”.
- Hisaka, „How B2B Buyers Perceive Sales Professionals”.
- Schaub, „Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience”.
- „2012 Buyer Experience Study” – study IDC 2012.