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 7-Step Social Selling Process
- 12 Tips to Boost Your Social Selling Success
- 1. Automate what you can.
- 2. Search effectively.
- 3. Use multiple marketing & sales strategies for brand visibility.
- 4. Be warm, friendly, and personal.
- 5. Talk to individuals specifically (when you can).
- 6. Follow up.
- 7. Motivate action.
- 8. Reduce pressure.
- 9. Learn by listening.
- 10. Study your competitors.
- 11. Measure and adapt.
- 12. Keep learning.
- 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. 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 7-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:
1. Research and listening.
Before you get started, and throughout the social selling process, you’ll want to use social media to research your target demographics and simply listen to what people have to say. What types of people do you want to target, and what are their interests? Which types of platforms do they use? What would be the best way to contact them and build a relationship? Similarly, this is a good opportunity to research brand mentions; what are people saying about your company on social media? You can use Google Alerts for free, or Buzzsumo Alerts.
2. Active prospecting.
Once you’ve gathered some preliminary information, you can begin active prospecting. Here, you’ll be searching for social media users who fit your target customer profile, and narrowing the list to the most promising candidates. Make sure you check out our guide on 50 sales prospecting tools and techniques, if you haven’t.
3. Inbound lead generation.
Active prospecting takes time and effort, but you can also use social media as a way to generate inbound leads naturally. The right combination of published content, group engagement, page updates, and advertisements can help you attract new people to your brand (or your individual profile). From there, it’s easy to start a conversation. Be sure to see our list of 75 B2B lead generation ideas and tips.
Every social sale begins with an introduction, whether you generated the lead with an inbound strategy or found the lead with an outbound prospecting approach. Usually, this means sending a direct message to the prospect’s inbox. It’s possible to automate this with a generic message applicable to all your recipients, but it’s much warmer and more impactful if you start with a personal message. This doesn’t have to be long; a few sentences about who you are and why you’re reaching out are plenty. Just make sure you’re not leading with a pitch or a sale, as social selling is all about building relationships first. Check out these sales email templates for ideas!
5. Engagement and relationship building.
You may need to follow up on your original attempt if you don’t receive an initial response; sometimes, you’ll follow up multiple times before getting a response. At this point, everything centers on your ability to form a relationship. Get to know this person. Forge a genuine bond. Understand their pain points and start building trust with them. Check out these 23 key tips for managing customer relationships!
6. Moving offline.
Once you’ve established a connection, it’s a good idea to move it offline—or at least off of social media. You can do this in a number of ways, depending on your goals and the nature of your business. For example, you might ask them to attend a webinar you’re hosting, or sign them up for an email list. Even better, you could set up a lunch meeting or talk to them on video chat. In any case, you’ll have clear next steps for building the relationship. Try these 21 open-ended sales questions to start a substantive conversation!
After you’ve built trust with this person and have a good relationship in place, you can move to the sale. Make the pitch, if you haven’t already, and start working toward a close.
12 Tips to Boost Your Social Selling Success
These tips will help you get more value out of your social selling strategy:
1. Automate what you can.
Automation is a mixed bag in the world of sales and marketing. It’s a great way to save time and money, but it can also come off as cold and predictable. Automate what you can in social selling to reduce costs and make things more convenient for yourself, but remember; social selling is about building human relationships, and you can’t exactly do that through automation. Steps 1-4 in the preceding section can be automate to at least some extent, but steps 5-7 probably can’t be automated.
2. Search effectively.
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 higher your close rates will be.
3. Use multiple marketing & sales strategies for brand visibility.
It’s much easier to make an effective introduction with a new prospect if this prospect is already familiar with your brand. Accordingly, you can support your social selling campaign by using different marketing & sales strategies to improve your brand visibility and reputation; SEO, content marketing, email marketing, and advertising are all great options here.
4. 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.
5. Talk to individuals specifically (when you can).
Some salespeople try to write messages that apply generically, with phrases like “do you want to generate more revenue? I can help!” While this might be effective in some types of marketing, it won’t work in social selling. Instead, speak directly to people, and be personal and human. You’ll be much more likely to get a positive response.
6. Follow up.
Most prospects won’t respond to your first outreach attempt, but they might respond to a second, third, or even fourth follow-up. Be persistent when following up with your social selling prospects, within reason; wait a few days between follow-ups, and if you don’t hear anything after several attempts, give up and move onto the next candidate. Check out our guide on writing a follow-up email for more detailed recommendations on follow-ups!
7. Motivate action.
After building the initial connection with your sales prospects, it’s important to motivate some kind of action. Do you want this person to buy a product? Visit your site? Attend a webinar? Meet you for coffee? The exact action will vary, depending on your sales goals and the type of prospect, but you should always be pushing to motivate this next step. Use calls-to-action (CTAs) to your advantage.
8. Reduce pressure.
Social selling isn’t a high-pressure sales strategy. Closing is an important objective, but it’s not the be-all, end-all objective; instead, your biggest priority is building relationships with your 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.
9. 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.
10. Study your competitors.
While you’re socially selling, 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.
11. Measure and adapt.
Like any sales strategy, social selling isn’t going to function perfectly from the outset. Instead, a successful sales strategy is often the byproduct of careful scrutiny, analysis, and adaptation. Consistently measure your efforts and results, and pinpoint the tactics most likely to bring you new sales; over time, you’ll be able to weed out tactics that don’t work, and you’ll get closer to a “perfect” approach.
12. 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.
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, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.