Social Selling – what lies behind the name plus 5 steps to start

Social Selling LinkedIn Twitter Facebook YoutubeSocial Selling, or Social Sales, are new phrases emerging from the sequence that includes Social Media and Social Business.

So, what do you think Social Selling is?

a) a fancy new phrase that means ‘reputation’?
b) an online equivalent of ‘word of mouth’ – ‘word of mouse’?
c) having a profile page and posting comments on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest etc.?
d) adding social network channels to the current ways you communicate with prospects and customers?
e) reaching your target audience in social media through advertising, direct contact and other techniques?

(Hopefully you are able to think beyond the Social Spam that inevitably creeps in.)

For me, in a broad sense all of these are included, and more, if you allow the ‘sales’ term to cover the extended spectrum including marketing.

On a narrow definition then d) – an additional communication channel – is probably closest to the typical B2B sales activity, at least for larger businesses with dedicated sales people.

Channels we rely on today; the telephone, mobile phones, email, and more were all new at some stage, and Social will become the same, an integral tool in daily use.

Should I pay any attention to Social Selling?

The starting point I suggest is to ask yourself ‘Is what I’m doing at the moment working?’

You may well be doing a mix of networking, exhibitions, cold-calling, advertising, customer loyalty and introducer programs, and lots of face to face meetings and proposals. Are these, and other market awareness, lead generation, relationship building and sales activities achieving your targets and goals?

If it’s genuinely working, congratulations. If you feel it could be better then look around for a source of new ideas, and maybe get an independent review of what you’re currently doing.

Secondly, consider ‘Can I detect changes in buyer behaviour and competitor activity that might indicate underlying changes?’

Are buyers taking longer to reach a decision, or maybe the sales cycle has become shorter? Are you getting more or fewer opportunities and invitations to bid? Is average order value and customer lifetime value increasing, or decreasing?

Are you still able to reach the decision-makers and project initiators? Have you lost a major customer to a competitor recently? Is the market need starting to drift away from what you’ve provided for years, and morphing into something slightly, or significantly, different?

When did you last take the pulse of your market? What are the underlying trends? When did you check on the public activities of your top 10 customers and top 3 competitors? Again, an independent review could be very revealing.

What are the potential benefits of Social Selling?

Cutting to the chase, and focusing on the three main drivers and pay-backs for businesses:

Make money – while this can be difficult to quantify up-front, some businesses recognise they need to update their sales approach to stay competitive. There are new ways to attract new customers through social channels, and also techniques to target and reach out to potential customers through social media. Being able to win a customer outside your local geography or market could be a benefit from raising your profile in social networks. Landing one or more new customers this way may be enough to justify the investment, and to re-inforce this as a direction to go.

Save money – traditional advertising and direct mail can be expensive, and the cost of social media is much lower, or nothing at all. However there is a trade-off between money and time, or a direct cost if you outsource aspects of social sales to an outside organisation. The cost of face-to-face meetings can be significant if there is a distance to travel. Meeting the wrong person or at the wrong time in the buying cycle also incurs more cost. Educating and qualifying prospects through social selling can be a way to reduce these costs. Being able to reduce the number of meetings per sale, by shifting some prospecting and pre-sale activity online could add up to a big financial benefit.

Save time – the most precious resource in business is your time. The ways you leverage time and expertise to achieve more, and deliver more value in less time, are the keys to your success. Moving some activities into social sales channels and innovative new techniques can increase productivity significantly. Underlying this is repetition and economies of scale. Saying the same thing 100 times to different people takes time. Say it once for 100 people to hear takes less time. Creating key resources and value messages once, and then making them findable, promoting them, or specifically directing a prospect to them and tracking to see if they actually read, listened or watched, can save significant time. It also creates an opportunuity to contact a prospect or customer for a more focused conversation. Some buyers may prefer this too, so they can do their research and initial sift of potential suppliers more quickly. This frees up time to have those all-important meetings with the right people at the right time.

For many, the bottom line of social selling is about relationship building. It’s about leveraging the inherent capabilities of social business networks to add another channel through which to communicate your expertise and also your personality. Conversations in social media are inherently public and therefore others can listen in, which could be an advantage to you, if you use if wisely.

Can you put a monetary value on relationships? It’s about what outcomes can be achieved as a result of them. A bit like knowledge is most valuable when applied to solving a problem that results in an improvement in something.

Five steps to get started with Social Selling

If you’re running or working in an established business I suggest the starting approach is ‘inside out’.

1. What social networks do you and your team use, what is your experience, and who are you and they connected to? A quick audit will give you a starting point and basic information.

2. Who is already connected to your customers and business partners? What are your customers and business partners doing in Social Media? Where are the gaps? Which customers and partners are you not connected to yet? Which social network or networks are they using predominantly?

3. Are you, or is someone in your team, a ‘Power-user?‘. Are you a ‘super-connector’ (say 500+ LinkedIn connections, or 2000+ Twitter Followers or 1000 Facebook fans?). Are you a prolific status update poster (at least once a day)? Do they have a high Klout score to indicate influence (say 50+)? If not, don’t worry, it just helps identify a starting point.

4. What’s working so far? Setting aside the personal social media activities, from a business perspective, what have you gained from ‘Listening’, from ‘Connecting’, from being ‘Connected to’ (people find you and connect), and from Interacting or Communicating. Are you monitoring to see how many visitors to your website arrive through Social Media (via Google Analytics)? How many contacts have resulted in a phone call or a meeting request. Have you been asked to quote or bid for some work largely as a result of social media contact?

5. The next stage is to consider what your goals and objectives are for Social Selling or Business Social Networking. Do you want to be passively present, so you can be found, if so for what keywords and geography? Do you want to connect and build contact with current customers, prospects and partners, if so how many and how would you add value? Do you want to generate visitors to your website, if so who and how many? Do you want to find and reach out to specific people, directly or through your network, again if so who and how many? Many options are available, and selection depends on many factors, such as your value proposition, market sector, other marketing and sales activities, resources and so on.

The Wurlwind Social Selling Roadmap

I’ve written before on changes taking place in B2B marketing and sales, about attraction, about Sales 2.0, Social Selling and more. I’ve also written about the shift from List to Community.

The Wurlwind Social Sales Roadmap puts a structure to this and maps out a journey that companies can take, to move progressively towards better use and leverage of the new social business channels.

Social Selling may not be right and appropriate for everyone and every business.

But if you are interested in exploring the options and seeing how your business can benefit, contact me, Mark Stonham, via email here.

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