I want to provide some clarity about what it is, how to do it, who it applies to, and what you can start doing right now. Historically, sales leadership has been late to the party to push their teams to start utilizing information in the public domain, especially on social networks. In fact, some of those sites are blocked
The question for many is still "What exactly IS Social Selling?" and "Does it even apply to me?" Let's dive in...
Many sales professionals think it's not for them but for social media power users, or some new sales method. Or they may even see doing anything that employs the use of "social media" as a waste of time (which it absolutely can be if it's used wrong.) But saying it isn't for everyone in B2B sales isn't accurate, and I'll tell you why.
The principles behind it have been around a long before we even had "social" anything online (2006 for Twitter, 2004 for Facebook, 2003 for LinkedIn, or Google+....still just a baby created in 2011.)
The concept of Social Selling is what sales professionals have always done, preparing ahead of time for calls, meetings, sending communication, etc. The difference before anything was online was that you had to buy directories, lead sheets, read annual reports, subscribe to industry periodicals, and do a lot of homework. Then when they were in their office, the smart reps were hyper-aware of everything around their office and integrated that real-time into the discussion.
Here's an example, 15 years ago reps would meet with a prospect in their office and what did they see around their office? Awards, Degrees, pictures of their family, vacations, accomplishments, books on a shelf....maybe they collect artefacts, or something really unique like a rock from Mt. Everest, and an abundance of other things that told a story about them as a professional and as a person. Did they gain some insight into their interests based on what they surround themselves with? Absolutely. Did they then make connections with things and people they knew to connect the dots for a better understanding of how to work with them? If you were actively engaged with your prospect, you did just that.
And the people that only cared about closing the deal and couldn't care less about their prospects went into a meeting, ignored the 25 items in the room around them they could mention and missed out on connecting on a whole new level (the equivalent today of calling a prospect without a clue of who they are.)
So what does this have to do with "Social Selling?" Social Selling fast-tracks that whole process of discovering synergy. It puts you in front of your prospect with an enormous amount of insight into who they are. And today, there is exists something that has never existed in era's past....prospect generated content. Unless your prospect was an author back then, you had very little prospect generated content. Today, people have gobs of content about themselves online. There are reports/studies that state 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. That includes prospect generated content (aka, content they create about themselves.)
As LinkedIn became the hub of professional networking, it really forced people to have a decent representation of themselves online. Even some executives that were by nature private and didn't do a lot online, were pressed via peer or industry pressure to have a presence. It actually would hurt their career if they weren't. So the people that were more inclined to not self-promote, or avoid being available...were forced to in order to keep up with their peers, their teams, their industry. If they were looking for new opportunities, if they weren't on LinkedIn or have a poorly constructed presence it would cost them visibility for new roles. This peer pressure to get online professionally is a HUGE source of insight. The more peer and industry pressure to have a strong presence, the more prospect generated content exists.
Today meetings and calls are remote, we often aren't in their offices. But that "virtual personal space" is all around us. Did you look your prospect up on LinkedIn before the call? Did you look at other social networks to see what you could learn about them? Did you put some thought into what you discovered to paint a bigger picture of who they are and what their vantage point may be? Have they done reviews, belong to industry groups, interact with peers online?
Just like the rep that was in the same room with a prospect and picked up on the rich source of information all around them, reps today have even MORE access to higher-value information about their prospects and don't want to miss out on that.
10 Things You Should Know About Social Selling:
- You don't need to be a power user of social networks to be effective with social selling, you just need to know how to find the right information.
- Social Selling prep doesn't need to be more than 15 minutes before a call. Check LinkedIn, Twitter, press releases, Groups, etc.
- You can automate information in the public domain to be served to you, tools like Squirro, Google Alerts, InsideView all have features to send updates to you.
- What your prospects disclose is valuable, what they don't also has meaning. Are they conservative? Late adopters? Is risk mitigation more important than being the first one on the block to have something? (NOTE: The awesome thing if you were in sales BEFORE the social era...you can see from their background who they are, the culture of the companies they came from, learn to read between the lines.)
- Connect with your prospects on LinkedIn after you talk with them, even if there isn't anything immediate--Make the connection and share valuable content with them...you'll cross paths down the road. The conversation you had will then stick, and it'll keep the dialog going in a low-touch manner.
- Do mention industry accolades your prospects have received, they worked hard for those, let them know you took the time to discover them...it means a lot to them that you took the time to discover those.
- Don't wait for your company to put a process in place, learn this...it's YOUR income that is impacted.
- Social Selling is not the job of Marketing to use with marketing automation in the nurturing process, it improves front line communication with prospects at the rep level. It is for One-on-One engagement, not for One-to-Many emails.
- Social Selling starts BEFORE the first call, and extends into the Account Management stage of the relationship. A lot of reps have the mind-set of "I'll talk to them first to see if I want to invest in researching them." Huge mistake, you have that first call to make the impression, missing out on things your prospect expects you to know ahead of time will sink you. Personally, when reps call me and don't know what my firm does or anything about me, I send them away to do their homework. One time a rep called me, after networking through another CEO to get to me...then we are on a call and he asks me "what exactly is your role in the company?" Ugh.
- Social Selling isn't just for sales, ANYONE at a company dealing with prospects and clients (Marketing, Exec Management, etc.) should take a pulse on what is happening with them if they are meeting with them. It makes for stronger relationships at every stage.
Really, Social Selling is just leveraging what is in the public domain, created by prospects and other industry sources to fast-track establishing synergy, cooperation, and get to where you are working together faster.
I'll look forward to your comments below on how you've adopted "social selling" best practices!