What is Social Selling?
Social Selling, or incorporating Social Media networks into the communication mix for developing relationships with prospects and customers, is a natural extension of other forms of sales related communications, such as email, phone and meetings.
Social Media is moving rapidly beyond personal chat and is becoming a significant and powerful environment for business and sales. Social Selling is one strand within Social Business, which has many facets including market research, marketing, ‘selling’ and customer service.
Social Media can become a medium for finding prospects as people express their issues or needs through social channels. Social Media is also be a channel into which you can sow messages about issues or problems your potential customers may face, as part of your lead generation.
Some people point out that selling has always been social, that people buy from people they know, like and trust, and close professional relationships lie at the heart of business. In one sense Social Media has merely added a new dimension to a pre-existing, relationship building business model. However, there are real issues and concerns, highlighted below.
Social Selling and Sales 2.0
A set of ‘2.0’ phrases has entered the business vocabulary over the past few years. The root was Web 2.0 and from that spawned phrases including Buyer 2.0, Customer 2.0, Marketing 2.0, Sales 2.0, and many other derivatives. Sales 2.0, which some use to mean inbound marketing and sales activities or attraction marketing, are on the rise, linked to publishing and content marketing. This has a significant cross-over with search marketing, and the importance of being indexed and ranked highly by search engines in order to be found by potential customers.
Social Selling and the new Customer 2.0
For some, social selling has been adopted pro-actively, as innovators see new opportunities through the adoption and use of social media and related online tools by sales organizations. For others, social selling is being considered in response to fundamental changes in the behaviour of prospects and buyers and their buying process.
Potential customers now have ready access to a vast amount of information and can take a self-service approach to many stages of their needs definition and supplier selection process. Customer 2.0 has the option to ignore marketing messages from vendors and turn instead to their peer network. Industry exhibitions and trade conferences are examples of traditional forums for peer exchange of news and ideas and supplier offerings, and now there are active online networks as well.
Social Selling reality check
While industry commentators and statistics present a very bullish view of Social Selling there are some significant considerations to take into account as well. Whether you are planning or reviewing Social Selling consider for a moment:
- Where are your potential buyers? Are they online or primarily offline? Do you know?
- How do they behave? Are they actively researching online? Are they expressing needs online?
- What are your current customers doing in this space, and might it be a threat to your relationship if they are active online and you are not?
- What are the smart ways to leverage Social Media, to maximise benefit and contain the time and cost.
- How can you integrate Social Media in your business with other systems and data, such as CRM and Email marketing?
Deciding on your goals and planning accordingly will help you maximise your Return on Investment, increasing the benefits you achieve for the time you need to put in as well as financial outlay.
The well-informed salesperson
Expectations have risen with the increasing availability of online information. Potential buyers may well have short-listed suppliers by the time contact is made. Expectations are rising that suppliers and their representatives are well informed and up-to-date not just about about their area of expertise and also about customers and prospects.
Social selling is in part a response to prospects and buyers being better informed, and able to gain great insight from their peers. In these ways they are able to control the buying process much more, and gain increased levels of power over vendors. Sales professionals have the opportunity to use the social web to listen to customers and prospects and also to pro-actively make contact and find new ways to add value to build relationships prior to a conversation.
Are you and your team looking pro-actively at Social Selling yet?