The Value of Social Selling

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When I was younger, I loved my cassette tapes. I refused to move over to CDs for the longest time. For a while, I missed out on some good music because record companies eventually starting distributing only the biggest sellers via cassette, and I loved my alternative music. I finally broke down, bought a CD player, and caught up with the rest of the world.

This is how the world of sales is now. A lot of individuals and companies are holding on to their cold calling and blast emailing to reach potential clients because they have worked historically – even though success rates for these methods decline each year. They are missing out on a lot of opportunities as a result.

When was the last time you answered a phone call from a number you didn’t know? I know when my phone starts ringing, the first thing I do is look at the number. If I don’t recognize it, then it goes straight to voice mail. For emails, 90% of the time, it gets deleted.

So, how you get in front of those potential clients nowadays? What is the CD that you need to start using? The answer is social selling – using social media to get closer to your clients, strengthen relationships, build trust and drive sales.

First Steps

Although social selling is a relatively new concept, some brands are already successfully leveraging it to drive business. Personally, I mostly use and recommend LinkedIn because it’s the most used social network for business purposes.

On LinkedIn, it’s important to have a profile that is complete (picture, summary, experience, more). It’s also important to connect with the right people and engage with content.

If you do nothing else, those steps are a good start because as a result, you can be found on search engines (LinkedIn has great SEO), you can stay top-of-mind, and you can establish yourself as a thought leader. How do these things help you? If your current and potential clients see enough content – which originates from you – that is important and relevant to them, then you are no longer a sales rep. At that point, you are a trusted partner with your connections, which is the ideal relationship – both of you helping each other. I have seen this approach generate leads and sales.

The Next Level

To get even more out of LinkedIn, you need to go a step further down the customer journey. This step involves the Sales Navigator product and more customized content.

With Sales Navigator, you can send InMails (sending messages to people you don’t know), do advanced searches, save accounts and leads, and get a steady stream of news and information about your connections and potential clients sent to you.

The content at this level, is as 1:1 as you can make it, and is through LinkedIn messaging. At this point, you’ve got a good idea of your key clients’ needs because you’ve been reading what they post, you know which content they engage with of yours, and you have a ton of information on their profile. So, hopefully, you have your clients segmented into groups, so now can you write messages for each of these segments, and then customize for the individual. Is this hard to do at scale? It’s not easy, but the success rate is so much higher vs. cold calling and blast emailing, that it’s absolutely worth it. (And don’t forget, it’s much higher value to your client!)

Why Does Social Selling Work?

In addition to not knowing who is calling or emailing, think about just the sheer VOLUME of phone calls and emails you get at work during a day. In my last corporate role, for example, I received about 30 calls and 300 emails per day.

How can you cut through all that noise with an introductory call or email? Your product and messaging don’t matter because they have little chance of ever being seen/heard!

Now, think about how many LinkedIn messages you receive in a day – is it one? Maybe one per week? I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, and I don’t think I’ve ever received more than 10 in a day. My average is one. So, 30 phone calls or 300 emails vs. one LinkedIn message – which one do you think will actually get read by your intended audience? Personally, I read 100% of the LinkedIn messages and InMails I receive. Compare that to your current email open rates.

Now, I’m not suggesting you spam the heck out of all your potential and current clients on LinkedIn. Quite the contrary. As I mentioned above, content on LinkedIn needs to be targeted and relevant to your audience. Do your research first.

Stop! I don’t have time for this!

The push back I always get about social selling is that is takes too much time. My response is: would you rather spend 8 hours calling 100 people with a non-targeted, generic message, or 4 hours doing research and sending out customized, relevant LinkedIn messages that are targeted to your audience? With which group will you be able to have more informed, personalized conversations? Which one do you think will generate leads with a higher propensity to transact?

Finally, think about the opportunity lost if you are not social selling. Let’s use the financial services vertical as an example. According to multiple surveys, a strong majority of financial advisors are using LinkedIn for business purposes. So, if you are a financial advisor, and you are NOT using LinkedIn as part of your sales process, you are in the minority now. You are still listening to cassettes while your competitors are listening to CDs.

Key takeaways

  • Cold calling and blast emailing are becoming less and less effective
  • Social selling is a win-win for both the client and the sales representative
  • There are multiple levels of social selling, but the key is to start now – every little bit helps