You customers are spending more and more of their time on social media. With the Internet, they’re also much more informed and autonomous than ever before. Social selling can help you take advantage of these trends to build your brand, find potential leads and build solid relations with your clients.
But to start with—what exactly is “social selling”? It’s the process of building a network of prospective clients and cultivating one-on-one relationships with them through social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Whenever you answer a question directly or send a contact a piece of content over social media—doing things that establish trust and rapport—you’re “social selling”. The one-on-one aspect makes it different from social media marketing, which broadcasts a single message to many people.
BDC Business Consultant Chris O’Shea says that, above all, social selling is about putting your best foot forward online.
“Social selling is a hybrid of networking and social media marketing,” he explains. “It’s about making connections and presenting yourself as an expert in your field to prove you can deliver what you say you can.”
So how do you start? Here are five tips.
1. Do your homework
First things first: Find out where your customers live digitally and educate yourself about how those platforms work. Start by using Google, YouTube and the like to research how to start a conversation and how interactions typically take place on your customers’ chosen platforms. You won’t become an expert overnight and you’ll make mistakes along the way (just like you would in real-life networking), but there’s no excuse for coming unprepared to deal with your target customers on their home turf.
2. Know who you want to connect with
You know that CEO you’ve been anxious to meet? Or the decision maker behind the request for proposal you’re responding to? Social media is your chance to connect with them—and all kinds of people you might never have access to in a face-to-face setting.
O’Shea suggests researching a company you are interested in doing business with and taking a closer look at who might be the best person to reach out to. Remember that it’s easier to connect with people with whom you share an acquaintance or common interest.
3. Prove that you are an expert
Potential clients want proof that you’re an expert in your field. This means you need to back up what you say by demonstrating that you’ve got real, comprehensive knowledge of your products and your industry.
One of the best ways to do this is to share articles and generate content that will interest your target audience. To make sure you’re taken seriously, speak the language of your customers and position yourself as a thought leader in everything you share and write—an appealing trait to those looking to make a purchase.
4. Be professional
Your digital brand is pivotal to your business success, so it’s critical for everything you do online to show you’re diligent and professional. Optimize your company profile, create a corporate Facebook page instead of using your personal account and, most importantly, make sure there are no technical, spelling or grammatical errors in anything you generate.
5. Don’t expect immediate results
More often than not, social selling is about slowly building and nurturing a relationship, so avoid going for the hard sales pitch right off the bat. Patience is key.
“The long play is not a bad play,” says O’Shea. “This sales technique isn’t about making big wins quickly; it’s about establishing virtual relationships. So even if the person you connect with never ends up needing your services, they might still think of you when someone they know does.”
He notes that you can help foster relationships by reaching out and offering something that benefits the other person but gets you nothing in return (other than a new connection to a potential future customer), like free services, guidance or information.
O’Shea says that while the work you do for social selling is solely digital, it’s important to remember that you’re creating real relationships. “You need to take the relationship as seriously as if you were talking in person.”