Enterprises are now asking their employees to research solutions to their business challenges using B2B social media. Employees are engaging with experts to ask questions and seek advice in order to make a decision on a chosen solution and supplier. CEB research shows on average companies are 57% through a buying journey before engaging a supplier. As a result, suppliers and you, the sales person, are being pushed out of the conversation until a much later stage, often after a decision has already been made.
So the question is - how can you be part of the conversation earlier and have a voice?
The answer is simple: social selling.
Social selling uses online B2B tools to connect and engage with prospects and customers to uncover new opportunities.
Social selling is not sending a sales pitch or spamming your target audience by social media! It’s all about building credibility as an expert and developing a long-term relationship with your target audience.
There are many B2B social tools to choose from, including LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter – some are free and some are paid subscription accounts. I highly recommend LinkedIn (free or paid) as the best overall B2B tool to achieve your social selling objectives.
So how do you become a social seller? I’ve listed below some steps to help on your social selling journey using LinkedIn. But remember, even if you don’t use LinkedIn, these steps will be relevant to your choice of B2B social media tool.
1. Establish your personal brand
- Your online reputation must be professional and your B2B social media profile must reflect this
- It must speak directly to your target audience, so don’t start typing until you’ve asked yourself a number of questions first. For example: what are my social selling objectives, who are my customers, what are their unique pain points, how is this affecting their business, how can I resolve their challenges? Once you’re happy with the answers, you are ready to write your profile
- Ensure you complete all the relevant sections in full and update your profile on a regular basis to take advantage of all the new features LinkedIn has introduced
- Speak in the first person: “I”
- You only have a few seconds to impress, so make your profile count
2. Research and connect with the right prospects
- LinkedIn is very easy to use to search for your target audience (individuals or companies)
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator (paid subscription) enables a deeper search and lets you save and follow your target audience
- It’s important to personalize your connection request to an individual with whom you want to engage. Read their profile or their company news first. Find commonalities or points of interest to reference in your request. You will look researched and interested, which is likely to result in your request being accepted
3. Building credibility with your target audience
- Once your connection request is accepted, reply and say thank you. But don’t leave it there; it’s time to start a conversation
- You’re now looking to build credibility. Look for online signals, e.g., a new job title or company acquisition. Start engaging by liking, commenting and sharing relevant topic posts. Your connection will see your activity and will hopefully start to engage with you
- It’s important to post and share content that is relevant to your target audience. Ensure a good mix of company and third-party content on your profile. At Orange Business, we have a great online social tool from Sociabble that provides our employees with a variety of content that is easily shared from an app or browser
4. Develop relationships
- When you’ve got engagement on the public social media platform, you will want to take that conversation to a one-to-one discussion. It’s important to again look for signals and make the right approach without coming over as too “salesy”
- Remember, don’t stop your social media interaction because you have a one-on-one conversation. You must continue to build credibility with your other targets and add new, quality connections. They may not be prospects now but could be in the future
Let’s be honest, this new approach will take time. It’s a culture change from the past and will take a consistent effort. It’s important to schedule time every day. I take 15 minutes at the start of my working day to catch up on social media feeds, send and accept connection requests, like, share and engage with posts.
Companies embracing social selling are already seeing the benefits. Research from Superoffice shows that 90% of top-performing sales people use social media as part of their sales strategy. LinkedIn also states that 78% of Social Sellers outsell peers who don't use social media. You can measure your success with social selling using the LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI). Have a look to see how you are performing.
Good luck with your social selling journey, and please do get in contact if you want to chat further.
I am European PR and Social Media Manager and also UK&I Marketing Manager supporting my local account team. In my spare time I love to travel and live on a replica Dutch barge on The River Thames.