If you’ve got a product or service to sell, social media can be a brilliant place to do it. But, as many business owners will know, it’s a bit more complex that posting to your feed and waiting for the sales to flood in. Selling through social is a much more subtle beast …

At this year’s Social Media Week Bristol, we went along to Social Selling 101 to find out how businesses can be more savvy about social selling.

Hosted by Luan Wise, a chartered marketer and author who specialises in social media for business, Luan revealed her game plan for businesses and brands looking to make more of the selling opportunities on social.

What is social selling?

Social selling is “the art of using social networks to find, connect with, understand and nurture sales prospects,” says Luan. It’s the modern way to develop meaningful relationships with potential customers to keep you – and your brand – front of mind so you’re the natural first point of contact when a prospect is ready to buy.

Luan explains that it’s all about a one-to-one, rather than one-to-many approach. “It’s a long game – there are no quick wins,” she warns. “It’s about nurturing and having conversations and taking the pitching bit out of sales. This can be a challenge with monthly sales targets.”

But the good news is that when salespeople adopt social selling, the win rate and deal size rises by 5% and 35% respectively.

What are the best social selling techniques we should be using?

  1. Personal branding

This is when you use social media personally to establish reputation and credibility for your career or company.

Remember that what’s online stays online, so start by cleaning up your profile. Google yourself to see how you will appear to others, and then clean up your profile if necessary. Head to deseat.me which finds all your online profiles and allows you to unsubscribe to any that aren’t representing you in the best light.

Building the right brand for yourself on social media takes time, but if you do it properly it will bring many advantages. You’ll build credibility and trust and become the go-to-person on your subject. Do it authentically to set you apart from your competition and engage more meaningfully with your audience.

  1. Social listening

Luan believes that listening is just as important as posting when it comes to business development. And when she says listen, she means listen so that you understand, citing this quote by Stephen R Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”

Effective listening allows you to gather insight and listen for opportunities, and then respond in a helpful way. Which, Luan believes, is the key to online selling.

How to listen so that you can sell

First, be aware that there are two types of online listening:

  1. Monitoring – this can be done via keywords and hashtags
  2. Research – delving into what people are saying and thinking

On social media, people often give indications that they want to buy – for example, “I’m in Bristol and want to go out for cocktails” or “My car’s broken down again, think it’s time for a new one”. If you’re listening for these then you can respond – just make sure it’s relevant before stepping in to offer your product or service.

Consider using a tool such as:

  • Hootsuite – this has a free feature which allows you to set up search streams for certain keywords or hashtags and easily monitor it. These can run all the time or be set up to tie in with a certain topical event etc.
  • Twilert – for a monthly fee you can set up alerts to get tweets about certain topics.
  • Brandwatch – useful for monitoring keywords, density, sentiment etc, if you have a bigger budget to spend.
  1. Social prospecting

If you’re not using social channels as a way to search for new prospects for your business, then you’re missing a massive trick. Each social network comes with its own advantages and opportunities when it comes to prospecting – for example:

  • LinkedIn – a brilliant channel to find prospects, with a hugely powerful search tool – click on the magnifying glass to see the full list of search options. You can also save searches (up to three on a free account) and get email alerts when any new target prospects appear in your saved search. So, if you’re looking for bar managers in Birmingham, every time someone’s job title changes or a new person joins LinkedIn meeting that criteria, you will be emailed.
  • Twitter – again, the advanced search is worth exploring. You can also explore hashtags and keywords to find people and then create a prospect list. Event hashtags are a great way to do this – add everyone tweeting about a relevant industry event to a list you can easily access.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn groups – groups offer a huge opportunity to find people and have conversations where you can be helpful. It involves a certain amount of personal involvement, as this always works best when you’re an active group member.
  • Followerwonk – a useful tool with free and paid for versions that allow you to search Twitter bios to find influential prospects by job titles/interests etc.
  1. Employee advocacy

Luan is a big believer that “people do business with people” – so getting your employees to be social advocates is crucial to a successful strategy.

The stats back up this theory, too. LinkedIn says that there is a two times higher click-through rate when content on their platform is shared by employers. And, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, ‘39% of C-suite executives and decision makers said thought leadership content had influenced them to ask a vendor to participate in request for proposal process’.

How to run a successful employee advocacy programme

If you’re planning to run the programme on LinkedIn (and Luan advises that you should), first take a read of our article, LinkedIn Employee Advocacy – how to overcome the challenges.

No matter what platforms you choose, follow these best-practice tips:

  • Sell the benefits – your staff will want to know what’s in it for them. Give them examples and case studies to show how it can help them to build their professional reputation, grow their networks, make an impact and be more engaged with the company.
  • Get leadership buy-in – a programme like this has to start at the top. If the company leaders are doing it, the rest of the workforce will be inspired to do the same.
  • Provide guidelines – help overcome fears by creating a social media policy that includes dos and don’ts on what to post, dealing with negative comments and inappropriate content. Also include defamation, discrimination, IP rights, sensitive business info etc.
  • Do the work for them – make it easy for them to post! Use your company LinkedIn page as a hub for content that they can easily share with their own networks. Regularly provide new assets, such as images, videos and infographics that they can post, and send them regular news updates so they can pick up on topical issues.
  • Offer incentives – if staff are still reluctant, can you incentivise action by offering prizes and awards for them to get involved?
  • Give feedback – let them know their hard work is appreciated! Sometimes it’s better to be given a simple ‘thank you’ than anything else.

Now let’s take it off social …

Ultimately, and perhaps ironically, social selling is all about moving the conversation OFF social media!

“A cup of coffee is still the most popular device for selling! Social is the tool for the beginning and middle,” says Luan. So, when your connections are made and nurtured, it’s time to suggest you meet in person…

Read more about our experiences at Social Media Week Bristol – and if you went along, connect with us on Twitter to tell us what you thought of the events.

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