Adopting a proactive social media approach makes a real difference to your customers and to your bottom line.
The modern sales professional faces a tricky conundrum in the digital economy.
On one hand, there are more tools than ever before that allow you to reach, understand, and interact with prospective customers. Yet, at the same time, consumers are overwhelmed with choice and have become slightly cynical and defensive about the sales process.
According to Forrester Research, “A recent survey found that connecting with a prospect now takes eighteen or more phone calls, callback rates are below 1%, and only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened.”
The key is for salespeople to get back to the basics. This means working to solve a particular problem that a customer is facing, rather than working towards a pre-planned sales agenda.
Social selling is a method that can contribute to the timeless agenda of trying to solve problems for consumers. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review offered this definition: “With social selling, salespeople use social media platforms to research, prospect, and network by sharing educational content and answering questions. As a result, they’re able to build relationships until prospects are ready to buy.” The goal in social selling should be to form a relationship which is useful to the customer, that ultimately clears a path towards making a sale.
Maybe you can start tracking interesting questions that your consumers ask, and start blogging with solutions. Perhaps you go social and ask questions that start the kind of sales conversations you want to be having? Or do you create a video channel that offers handy advice and uses the comments section of YouTube to drive enquiries? These are all practical ways to weave social and selling together into a powerful flexible tool.
Social selling shouldn’t be confused with general social media marketing that seeks to create a favorable impression of a brand. This is far more specific. You need to work with individuals using social media to solve their problems and showcase the power of your product or service.
Account-based sales is another idea that is gaining traction within many organizations. It’s a way of working that tries to expand the sales process beyond ‘one seller - one buyer’, and to rather create connections and multiple touch points between departments at each company, in order to grow the overall value of the deal.
So how can you start to make this all happen for your organization?
Make the Time
Start by carving out a small percentage of your time to build relationships slowly and steadily. Do this on a daily or weekly basis. Visitors almost never buy anything the first time they come to your website; they become aware, then they become familiar, then they ask a few questions and make sure the tool will fit their needs. Only then will they make the decision to buy and enter an ongoing relationship with you.
It’s a long process that requires integrity and patience on the side of the seller. By dedicating a recurring block of time, and reaching out via the platforms that they are using, you are showing the customer your consistency and your willingness to engage with them over the long haul.
Collaborate with the Marketing Department
Your marketing and social media people should be an invaluable asset to the sales department. They can train reps in effective use of social media, how to use corporate tools and track conversations and interactions, and how to integrate seamlessly with digital marketing campaigns.
Furthermore, social selling should be aligned with your marketing department’s branding and messaging goals, so that the departments are reinforcing each other’s messaging all the time.
Social selling is a very welcome addition to the suite of sales tools available in the digital economy. It requires thought, practice, and a slow and steady approach. Improved communication and understanding is key to unlocking value and building relationships with prospects.