Social selling is a hot topic for anyone trying to build their personal brand and trying to grow deeper yet more trusted relationships with clients and influencers, but it has to link to lead qualification and pipeline discipline.
I’ve recently started doing it myself and while it initially felt like I was stepping off a cliff edge, I leaned in. I have honestly gotten over the apprehensiveness and thoroughly enjoyed establishing and extending my viewpoints, finding the topics I’m passionate about, meeting new and interesting people and winning work off it too.
The thing I love about social selling is that anyone can utilise it.
Marketing, sales, product and delivery can all engage in their own conversations with different people who work for clients and prospects. This is about a collective understanding, brand building, relationship development opportunity.
The one major difference to networking and social selling is that everyone must add the info they gather into CRM (client relationship management software), discuss it in ABM (account based marketing) client planning sessions and consider how it contributes to the overall sales strategy for each client or prospect.
What I’m particularly interested in with social selling, is how it helps with the progression of leads through the buyer journey, and contributes towards achieving pipeline traction.
Client-centric thinking via debate
There are plenty of commonly shared stats on selling currently…
Stat: there are 6.4 stakeholders involved in buying decisions.
Stat: buyers are already 60%-70% through their purchase journey before they reach out to a supplier.
How many stakeholders for any prospect or key client are you connected to on social media, that you can have a decent conversation with? And how coordinated are you with the other experts in your organisation who can have complimentary stakeholder and influencer conversations with the people you cannot?
When using any medium by which you have a conversation with a client or prospect, consider what’s working for them as they progress from awareness to decision (in the buyer journey). The emotion of decision-making is just as important as the logic. But how do you get to really know people, deeply and from every angle? What makes them tick or frustrates them?
Obviously face 2 face will never be replaced, but it can be complimented with social selling. So what does social selling equate to? In its simplest form, if you have a physical conversation or see what a client or prospect is interested in online, then write a blog post that gives your unique and differentiated insight on the topic and connected topics.
If you’ve done your homework with marketing, you will have typical buyer personas built, so you can tailor writing to logical and emotional aspects. This can impact the tone of voice and writing style you adopt. It can also impact the stories you tell and the experts you link-in for perspective and insight.
Share your thoughts through the different content channels and see what they interact with. If there’s no interaction, consider sharing the post with them directly and invite debate from them. Your client team and ABM team can help advise on the best content strategy and leverage, even deploying IP address tracking to see what your client or prospect is searching on, which helps if they are on social media but not particularly active.
The beauty is that it doesn’t just have to be on topics that relate to what you sell. You can also share info on additional things you know they are passionate about, even better if you are too. The classic relationship building stuff, it’s just online to compliment your in-person activities.
If you have a number of people with whom you are debating the same topic, consider offering to connect them as interested parties. You could include some existing clients whom you’ve helped deal with the topic already (and are non competitive to whom you’re targeting) who might be willing to share their experiences.
Introductions and networking are hugely valued. I’m making a point of growing my social presence. It takes time and a bit of trial and error, but I’m starting to find people and I really value their insight. We share and debate topics, introduce one another to other like-minded people.
I’ve learnt that for anyone that connects with what I post, to engage in a brief conversation with them privately – what interested them about the topic? Do they have any different observations on it? Who have they learned interesting things from? Share who they find stimulating – podcasts, blogs, etc. Obviously bombarding people with a million questions won’t go down well, but a single question might.
By creating awareness and educating on the common misconceptions and alternative way of thinking, you can hopefully reach the core decision makers you’re targeting. But not all of online conversation opportunities will be with decision makers at the type of companies you’re targeting, so filter them for what’s most relevant or at the very least engage in a bit of learning and debate for context and insight.
Everybody can use social selling to personally get deeper into topics from a target prospect or key client perspective. Debate around the key emotional and logical aspects of any topic, in the eyes of all the different buyers you have. ‘Walking a mile in their shoes’ is helpful if you haven’t personally done their job before. Understanding the common topics of interest at the different stages of the buyer journey will allow you to prioritise across your pipeline.
While social selling can be a first point of touch, what works today in sales can last for 6 months, even in waves of success. For example podcasts and videos shared online are enjoying a reemergence, but they are nothing new – why is it good? Because clients can hear your voice and see how you think on the fly. You are truly visible and people can see if they would like working with you before they’ve even met you.
I’m just starting to become obsessed with podcasts, they are my own personal radio station. I’m not yet brave enough to record my own show, but who knows what the future will hold. Be aware however that a terrible podcast or video will certainly put people off too!
Taking leads and qualifying the @&%$ out of them
Obviously key growth clients take priority with social selling, but not everyone has the luxury to purely focus on this and needs a healthy mix of prospects as well.
There’s some key tips to understanding the purchase cycle of what you sell and filter the leads accordingly, when you know enough about them. Always follow up on what you start and that could mean 5-10 messages via different channels which get to where you want to be – obviously that much contact in one day would be pretty odd, but a nicely spaced and thoughtful approach might go down well.
There are usually many unqualified and incomplete leads in any pipeline that need serious attention. So try to challenge and inspire a prospect soon enough in the sales cycle, something constructive and insightful that makes them engage, rather than put them off. Any sales team needs to close a smaller percentage of higher quality leads faster, and lose the distraction of poorly qualified leads festering in the pipeline. Less is more.
Also, as you look to the pipeline and KPIs you aren’t just looking for historical triggers, like win rate, you’re looking for future indicators, like customer facing time. Is the trend line increasing? So you can also look at how much social selling, along with how many calls and meetings people do as an overall target. The trend line should be increasing if the previously unmet target is going to improve. You’re looking for leading indicators as to how the sales person is going to be performing a few months from now. This all links to the pipeline likelihood of conversion and is forward focused, not purely looking at the bottom end of the funnel.
Social selling can help develop any pipeline and has the potential to replace blanket demand generation (like bulk email campaigns), but only if we all take personal responsibility to invest the time in treating our most important clients and prospects as individuals.
So go for it, I really cannot express how rewarding and enjoyable social selling is. It should be a key component of everyone’s relationship and profile building strategy.
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