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Social selling, which can best be defined as the use of social media to boost sales performance, is taking off in popularity amongst sales professionals, especially in the B2B world, where getting in front of the right prospects and developing the right industry relationships is critical. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn – as the most business-focused of all the most popular social networks – is typically the starting point for any social selling initiative.
Social selling in practice
So what does a “social selling” initiative look like in practice, and not just theory? Well, it starts with creating the right kind of presence of LinkedIn. Your overall focus should be on creating a professional brand that resonates with prospects and customers. Think about ways that you can add value to industry conversations taking place across LinkedIn, or ways that you can demonstrate your expertise and skill. This is about more than just adding a brief comment here or there – it’s about focusing deeply on the needs of people and providing relevant commentary and resources.
One easy way to get started is simply posting commentary about different news impacting your industry. Say, for example, there is a new change to the tax code that impacts companies in your industry – that would be a perfect time to offer your opinions and analysis on “what it all means.” Or, for example, say that a foreign competitor has just announced plans to enter the marketplace – what does it mean for the overall industry?
LinkedIn puts its muscle behind social selling
LinkedIn believes so strongly in the concept of social selling (and why wouldn’t it?) that it has even developed a Social Selling Index (SSI), which is a numerical score denoting how well someone is leveraging social selling techniques. The higher your score, the better you are at social selling. Those who score highly according to the SSI, says LinkedIn, generate 45 percent more sales opportunities than those that do not. And better yet, they are also 51 percent more likely to hit quota. Just imagine going to your boss on Monday and saying something like, “I’ve just figured out a way to boost my number of sales opportunities by 45 percent…”
Say goodbye to the cold call
The one unstated assumption of social selling is that cold calling is antiquated and out of date. Does anyone really “cold call” anymore in the era of social media, where all it takes is a few minutes to find out the most personal, intimate details of someone’s life? So social selling puts the focus on getting to know people BEFORE you make your next sales call. Go beyond just the title of the person to figure out a little about his or her role, function and approach to business. Better yet, engage in conversations on social media before ever picking up that phone so that you know which business problems are top of mind.
Taking a big picture view, social selling is all about changing the shape and size of the traditional sales funnel. Fewer leads are needed to generate more sales, because it is much easier to convert a prospect into a customer. Who can argue with logic like that? That’s one big reason why social selling has become an important way to help your business grow.