There are many sales strategies, and each of them have various strengths and weaknesses. One of the most popular modern sales strategies is social selling, but what exactly is it, and how can you use it for your campaign?
Table of Contents
- What Is Social Selling?
- Benefits of Social Selling
- Social Media Platforms for Social Selling
- The 3-Step Social Selling Process
- 1. Set up social listening automation.
- 2. Follow strategic people.
- 3. Start (actually) participating on social media.
- The Single Most Important Secret of Social Selling
- 7 Tips to Boost Your Social Selling Success
- Other Sales Strategies that Complement Social Selling
What Is Social Selling?
Social selling is the art of using personal relationships as the primary mechanism for landing sales; you meet people, get to know them, and only then move to close the deal. Some modern definitions define social selling as the art of using social media as part of your sales process.
However you define it, social selling is all about fostering positive relationships with people as part of your sales process.
Benefits of Social Selling
Why is social selling advantageous?
There are several benefits:
Warm intros > cold intros.
Strategies like cold emailing and cold calling can be very useful, but they also come with drawbacks. Namely, when you reach out to a total stranger, they tend to be skeptical and less receptive to what you have to say.
Social selling circumvents this by giving you an opportunity for a warm introduction; rather than relying on a cold intro with a stranger, you’ll be building a relationship first and then moving closer to a sale. This allows you to have a more meaningful dialogue, and ultimately increase your chances of closing.
Social selling helps you increase your close rate. Rather than mass marketing or pitching to thousands of people who may or may not be interested in your product, you’ll be targeting your efforts specifically to the people most likely to respond to them.
Building social relationships is also a good use of human hours, which can’t be said of every sales strategy.
It opens new opportunities.
These days, social selling happens mostly on social media. Using it means you’ll have access to prospects and leads you might otherwise never have reached. Additionally, even if you’re not using social media as part of your social selling strategy, building relationships and developing sales from there will help you win the business of people who would never respond to cold emails or cold calls. In other words, you’ll be opening more opportunities.
It increases customer retention.
Customer retention is more important than customer acquisition by most measures; not only is it cheaper in the long run, it will also help you preserve your reputation and earn business through word of mouth. Social selling allows you to work on both areas simultaneously; you’ll be able to earn new business from the prospects you build relationships with, and those prospects will be much more likely to stick with your business long-term. Having an existing relationship increases their likelihood of staying around.
It inherently improves relationships.
When you add new customers to your business through social selling, you’ll start your relationships on the right foot, which also ties in with another sales methodology: relationship selling. Depending on the nature of your business, this could be conducive to better collaborations, better negotiation, and other productive benefits.
Of course, social selling isn’t a perfect strategy. There are some weaknesses to consider as well; for example, social selling tends to take more time and effort than other sales strategies, since you’ll need to spend time getting to know your prospects and customers.
Social Media Platforms for Social Selling
It’s possible to practice social selling in person, but these days, most social selling strategies rely on social media. Much of your success depends on your ability to use the right platforms for your social selling.
Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world, and people from almost every demographic use it regularly. It can be hard to make connections with new people, since many set their profiles to private and/or reject Friend invites from people they don’t recognize.
However, it’s easy to reach people with targeted ads or through Facebook Groups.
LinkedIn is the go-to platform for professionals, and its conversations and Groups tend to be more focused on professional topics; accordingly, this is often the primary platform for B2B sales.
LinkedIn limits the direct messages you can send to prospects and the search features you can access, but with a paid plan, you can gain access to more beneficial features. See our overview of LinkedIn Premium and whether it’s worth it.
Twitter is great because of its fast and public nature; you can reach out to new people easily, and engage in new discussion threads and conversations without ever wasting too much time. However, it’s sometimes harder to find people who meet your demographic criteria, and the lightning-quick nature of Twitter interactions makes it hard to get lost in the shuffle.
What are your sales goals? Who are your target demographics? The answers to these questions should guide you in choosing the right platform.
The 3-Step Social Selling Process
There are different philosophies and approaches to social selling, and all of them are worth considering. However, for the most part, social selling follows the same general process:
Before you get started, and throughout the social selling process, set up social listening so that you can use social media to simply listen to what people have to say about your brand or keywords related to your industry. What types of people do you want to target, and what are their interests? Which types of platforms do they use?
For example, here at EmailAnalytics we listen to mentions:
- Our brand name
- Our competitors’ brand names
- keywords that people type when they are looking for a solution like what we offer, like “email productivity” and “email response time”
With social listening, you’ll start to learn where conversations about your brand, competitors, or industry are taking place online. What social media channels are people using? What would be the best way to contact them and build a relationship?
Similarly, this is a good opportunity to start media monitoring. I use Tweetdeck to monitor Twitter conversations and find it really convenient.
2. Follow strategic people.
Next, it’s time to start following certain people. Here’s who to follow:
Influencers in your industry
This can include podcast hosts, book authors, event speakers, and other big names in your industry. Just go to Google and type “[your industry] influencers” and you’ll probably see a bunch of results of influencers to follow on various social media platforms.
For a list of podcasts in your industry, type “[your industry] podcasts” and then figure out who their hosts are. Check out their profiles and follow them if they seem like legit influencers. Be careful not to follow anyone who just posts self-promotional links all the time; you are looking only for people who actively engage with other people on social media.
Journalists at publications you want to get featured on
You want media coverage, right? Of course, we all do. Well, figure out who the journalists are that cover your industry, and what publications they’re at. You can use Sparktoro to help with that:
You can also use Buzzsumo to find journalists at those publications:
Decision makers in your target audience
This one’s a bit more tricky. You’ll need to manually identify people in your target audience, then see if they have social profiles to follow. You can follow this guide for identifying prospects in your target audience.
And you don’t want to bother following them if their profiles are inactive — only follow them if they are active and engaging with other people on social media (don’t bother with “broadcasters” or people who just post self-promotional posts all the time).
CEOs at other companies that serve the same target audience as you do (but not competitors)
Part of social selling is forging new alliances with potential partners in your industry. Figure out what other companies serve the same target audience as you do, and follow their CEOs and relevant stakeholders. For example, here at EmailAnalytics we serve a similar target audience as Apollo, one of our top-recommended sales engagement platforms.
So we should follow their CEO, and whoever’s in charge of partnerships.
Existing customers or prospects
Did someone start a free trial with your software? Follow them! Did someone download your eBook? Follow them! Did someone just convert and become a paying customer? Follow them!
It’s never a bad idea to connect with prospects or current customers to improve brand loyalty, customer service, and customer lifetime value.
Improve your team's email response time by 42.5% With EmailAnalytics
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- The average professional spends 50% of their workday on email.
Once you’re done following people, next comes the hard part — you have to put the “social” in social media. Yes, that means actually participating, commenting, and being a real human on social media.
It does not mean posting a ton of links to your articles to get people to go read them. I recently went through and culled all my Twitter followers, and I unfollowed everyone who just dirties up my timeline with their own self-promotional crap. I don’t want to be sold to on social media; I want to build real connections and relationships.
The only way to do that is to be real. Add value to conversations, lend insight, give opinions, compliment and congratulate other people on their achievements, and comment on other peoples’ work, thoughts, or ideas. Just don’t use social media to spam your own links.
Pretend that social media is one big conference room with thousands of people walking about, having various conversations. Are you the person standing all alone with a megaphone in the middle of the room yelling at passers-by to visit your website? Or are you schmoozing with influencers, gaining rapport in your community, and catching the eye of prospects who see you as a cool person to chat with?
Remember, people do business with other people they like; not with businesses.
I use Tweetdeck for monitoring Twitter throughout the day, and I keep it sorted into various columns that segment the different topics or groups of people I’m following:
For LinkedIn, there’s no Tweetdeck-like dashboard that I know of. But what I do is I use a custom search in LinkedIn every day to look for posts that contain keywords that would indicate relevance for someone looking for a solution like EmailAnalytics. Here’s what that looks like:
My search query looks for mentions of “email” where “response time” is also included somewhere in the post, as well as the term “how many emails” since that is usually indicative of someone talking about email quantity or productivity — which we can help with 😁
The Single Most Important Secret of Social Selling
You might be wondering right now, “Jayson, I don’t see any selling in any of those steps. That’s just interacting with people. Where’s the selling?”
And that’s just it: The secret of selling on social media is to not sell on social media. Yes, by not selling on social media, you will sell on social media.
Social media isn’t a place people go to get sold to. So, getting sold to annoys people on social media.
Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. all run plenty of ads already hard-hocking crap to sell you. People don’t need or want more of that. And adding to that noise will get you ignored on social media, and will actually only bring down your brand.
Stand out by putting in actual human-to-human communication and effort. A little effort will go a long way to separating yourself from the hoards of automated bots throwing out self-promotional links left and right in a never-ending gambit for attention.
In this day and age, with so much noise and spam, everything centers on your ability to form a relationship. Get to know people. Forge a genuine bond. Start building trust with them. If your product or solution looks interesting to them, they’ll check it out if and when they have the need. In the meantime, you’ll keep your brand top-of-mind just by continuing to interact on social media. It’s really that simple.
Best way to sell something – don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, & trust of those who might buy.
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) February 4, 2015
Just be sure to put what you do in your social media bio or tagline. Here’s what my Twitter bio looks like:
See? If someone sees me comment on their post, they’ll check out my bio to see who I am and what my deal is. And there it is; my elevator pitch and link right there in my bio. If they need our services, they’ll check us out! And all without me ever even asking them to.
7 Tips to Boost Your Social Selling Success
These tips will help you get more value out of your social selling strategy:
Most social media platforms have intuitive, detailed search features you can use to find exactly the right people; use them to your advantage. Search for users based on their geographic location, their current occupation, their job title, their years of experience, their age, their interests, and dozens of other factors.
The better you get at finding the perfect prospects, the more relevant people you’ll connect with, and the higher your close rates will be.
2. Be warm, friendly, and personal.
This should go without saying, but make sure you’re consistently warm, friendly, and personal. Even if your goal is to look professional and land a big sale, it’s important to be as congenial and likable as possible.
Pay people genuine compliments and remain as positive as possible. For help, see these 51 customer service tips.
3. Follow individuals; not brands.
Don’t bother following or interacting with brand accounts. Find the real people who represent the job titles or relevant stakeholders that you want to connect with, and follow their actual accounts.
4. Reduce pressure.
Social selling isn’t a high-pressure sales strategy. Closing is an important objective for any sales rep, but it’s not the be-all, end-all objective with social selling; instead, your biggest priority is building relationships with your potential prospects and customers.
Don’t compromise the relationship by rushing into a high-pressure sales situation. Instead, take your time, learn more about your prospects, and move to a pitch when the time is right (don’t miss these perfect sales pitch examples).
5. Learn by listening.
Listening is the best tool for improving your social selling strategy. Pay attention to what social media users are saying about your brand online, gather feedback from prospects who didn’t buy from you, and get a feel for how your target customers interact online. The more you observe, and the more you listen, the better you’ll be at social selling overall.
6. keep an eye on your competitors.
Pay attention to what your competitors are doing on social media. How are they engaging with their followers? What is their outreach campaign like? There’s a lot you can learn here, whether you end up mimicking their tactics or trying an entirely novel approach.
You can easily study your competitors by setting up alerts for their brand names, the same way you setup alerts for your own brand name.
7. Keep learning.
There’s always more to learn about marketing, sales, and specifically social selling—especially as social media platforms keep coming out with new tools for salespeople. Commit to ongoing learning by subscribing to blogs focused on sales and social media, reading new books on the subject, and experimenting with new techniques to see how they work for your audience.
Other Sales Strategies that Complement Social Selling
Social selling functions perfectly fine as a standalone strategy, but it’s better suited as a single gear in a more robust sales machine. Utilizing multiple strategies for learning more about your target demographics, generating leads, and building relationships is the best approach; this way, you maximize the number of people you can reach, and you naturally make up for the unique weaknesses and quirks of each strategy.
Accordingly, these are some of the best marketing and sales strategies to complement your social selling efforts:
- Content marketing. Content marketing allows you to write, publish, and share content related to your field. It’s a great way to attract more people to your site, but it’s also good fodder to share on social media—and an excuse to reach out to people online. Consider using it to share with a social media group, or as a valuable contribution for a new connection.
- SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about making your website more visible in search engines, with the help of content, technical tweaks, and external links. Higher rankings mean more traffic and more brand visibility, which can help you boost your reputation and open the door to more social interactions.
- Advertising. Most social media platforms have their own built-in systems for social advertising. These pay per click (PPC) strategies are a great way to introduce your brand to new, specifically targeted audiences, and can be used to generate leads in a social setting in a hands-off way.
- Email marketing. A strong email marketing strategy can help you in a number of ways. It can be used to follow up with leads you’ve contacted on social media. You can use social media to attract more signups for your content distribution list. You can even generate new prospects with the help of email marketing, then use social selling to build a relationship with them.
The right combination of strategies for your brand will help you preserve an inbound list of new leads, while maximizing your close rates and minimizing your ongoing costs. Don’t miss our guide to how to close the sale, which includes 13 tricks guaranteed to boost your close rate.
Social selling is just one element of your sales strategy. To be successful, you’ll also need the help of other strategies, including email marketing and sales. To get more out of your sales strategy, consider using a tool like EmailAnalytics. You’ll get to see interactive data visuals about your email habits, including your total email volume and response times. Sign up for a free trial today, and start visualizing your email activity!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.