The question should be: ‘why wouldn’t you?’
Consider the top 6 ways to harness social selling in your organisation
Social media was developed as a form of communication in real time. We all know when we communicate it should be a two way process. Yet inevitably, when business, en masse, discovered it was possible to exploit social media platforms for digital marketing purposes, things changed.
Buy this, love me, look at me!
If you were to take a snapshot of Twitter, even 18 months ago, timelines would be zinging with ‘broadcasting’ messages. There was nothing particularly creative, nothing exciting, just brands exhorting tweeters to buy this, read that and like the other. As quickly as you followed you would most likely click ‘unfollow’ to shelter from the sales bombardment that so often ensued.
Actually, selling on social needs far more subtlety and insight than many give it credit for.
Of course the irony is that social platforms have wrested back some of the moral high ground from aggressive tacticians. Users have behaved in such a way businesses have finally realised empathy and understanding, regarding the target audience, now means the appropriate tone is essential.
A follow is a privilege not a right
In fact they would do well to remember that a ‘follow’ is actually a privilege, not a right. It’s a subtle distinction with profound consequences. Guess what? This empathic approach and respect is as important as the product, brand or service itself. Yes, really.
Vivienne Neale of Factory Social spoke to Jack Kosakowski from Act-On Software Inc, Arizona, and discussed social selling. He kindly took a lot of time from a very busy schedule to chat about his considerable experience and passionate opinions regarding social selling.
We started by considering what’s the best tip for anyone embarking on social selling as a tactic (should it even be considered a ‘tactic’ we wondered?)
Social selling should be a process that you add to your existing sales and marketing processes to maximize success. Sales do need to have proper training in order to really gain results. Also, you need to have the executive team on board or it’s not going to be either fun nor effective.
Remember, your executive team drives adoption through social leadership. Also, you have to have a strong connection between sales and marketing to maximize results. Social selling is a huge piece when bridging the gap between the two then working together to generate real revenue. You can’t half ass a social selling program either. You have to make a commitment as an organization… Just like anything else.
The conversation then turned to whether one might say social selling is more lead nurturing than selling per se. Jack’s answer was interesting:
It depends… I think there are different levels of social selling. Some leverage for research, others prospecting, some engaging; visibility, and some thought leadership.
It really seems to be the preference of who is leveraging social media and how much time they want to put into it. Also, you need to know what the end result is that a business is trying to achieve. Everyone is aiming for different results and that will affect how they use social and where they are prepared to put the time.
Personally, as head of a digital agency I am completely turned off when ‘a follow’ trails a direct message in its wake saying ‘Thx for the follow, now like us on Facebook.’ Personally my response is ‘f*ck off!’ (sorry) ‘You are not content with what I offered you just want more. If you are selfish I can be the same.’ Every one is forced to ask: ‘what’s in it for me?’ if we are committing time, effort and timeline space. Organisations would do well to remember that. Good manners, subtlety, compassion and the desire to communicate meaningfully would change things for many businesses.
So if you are considering developing this type of strategy in your company then what’s the most effective way to engage with social selling in mind and avoiding my previous point? What are the potential pitfalls to this technique I asked Jack?
Leveraging content is the easiest way to understand what is important to your buyers. I leverage content and data from their profile for engagement. I make it all about them and leave myself out of it. Engagement has to be genuine, close to real time, and personalized to the person on the other side of the message. This is where most people mess up. They don’t know how to think about someone other than themselves. You will have 0% chance of getting engagement if that’s the case.
We then decided it was worth also considering what’s the best way to optimise social media profiles to aid social selling? Jack felt that it is taking advantage of optimization on an individual social profile. Visibility is KING in social selling. You can’t buy something if you don’t know it exists. It’s the way that you get found over your competitors and how you stand out from the noise. A bad social profile can actually hurt you more then not being visible. Also, you need to have a clear call to action so that people know how to get a hold of you and be clear on what you actually do. Nothing is worse than having to “guess” what someone does after you look at their social profile.
If you went for interview or to meet up with a potential client wouldn’t you at least do your homework? Wouldn’t you examine their pain points, what makes them tick and anything they may feel passionate about? Try walking in the door and saying: ‘ Hi you showed interest in buying this but we’d actually like you to buy this as well.’ We’re guessing you’d probably receive a variation of the aforementioned four-letter response.
Because social media is what it says on the tin we give so much away about ourselves every time we post. Look at a timeline. You wouldn’t have to be a forensic scientist to work out who Factory Social were for example. A tweet this morning mentioned working with clients in Australia. What could you do with that information as an introduction or even as a buying signal? Now, if Qantas tweeted and asked if we travel to Sydney much we’d respond. ‘Not as much as we’d like; flight prices are prohibitive.’ If they responded with some great deal or even offered a free upgrade or some such incentive then we probably would book a flight. We would feel our business mattered and the company showed this not just paid lip service. With a basic hashtag search you can discover what is being said. Without being creepy you can offer services where there is a need. It really isn’t rocket science.
That is my opinion and I put the next question to Jack: How are social listening alerts important for social selling success?
Social listening should be the bread and butter for most social selling sales reps. Buyers are giving signals real time so it’s important to know what those signals are and where to look for them. It’s important to be quick to the draw to start the engagement before they forget about the message or disappear back to their day. You can lose people real fast on social media and you might not be able to get them back.
However, what we feel is that what we don’t want is just surface level information – you know the kind of basic stuff that’s on a website – what I’d call ‘trump card info’: height, weight, best features, engine size, top speed etc. What you are looking for is something you can leverage. What is the killer ‘whine’, moan, complaint, observation; exhortation that says to your sales team: ‘Gotcha!’? When you have access to specific needs you can act in the appropriate manner. Social media makes selling so much easier. However, some might ask: Do you think social selling is downright creepy? Jack was adamant in his response:
I think it is creepy NOT to practice social selling. The days of picking up the phone without doing any research on your buyer and expecting them to drop everything to buy your product… That is ridiculous. Have respect for your buyer’s in this digital age. That is not to say that you shouldn’t pick up the phone… Just makes sure you have spent some time understanding your buyer before you get them on the phone.
The major objective of social selling is to move offline and get a conversation. It should be used as a way to engage and start conversation with the right people, at the right time, and with the right message. Building credibility on social will make the engagement process a lot easier for those that put the time into social media. This is not magic… It takes a lot of hard work and tons of passion to really take social selling to the next level. I can promise you it is worth the time if you have a burning fire for social, relationships, and your product.
Therefore we both agreed that social selling offers business the opportunity to mine much more deeply. Networking becomes very meaningful. It’s so easy to find the key players in any organisation and what’s happening in their lives in real time. As a social media marketer I know there’s a possibility when I see: ‘following 1500; followers 245; last tweet 3 months ago.’ If I can’t get some meaningful conversation out of that stat alone then I shouldn’t be working in social media. Certainly it has had a huge impact on my practice and I wondered how social selling impacted on Jack personally?
It has worked wonders for me. I’ve had the chance to find something that I’m passionate about and educate others on how I do it to generate revenue. I’m a sales guy at heart and a marketer by hobby. My bills get paid through the relationships I make on social and the value I add solving problems. I sell myself first through the genuine love I have to build relationships, solve business problems, and a passion for my product, sales, and marketing. I’m over begging people to buy anything that I am selling. If I can fix a problem… Awesome… If not, there are millions of other people I can talk to that want what I have to offer. With that being said, lots of relationships I have from social media have nothing to do with selling. I’m a believer in building your network for multiple purposes. I’d say the major one is education. I love reaching out to top thought leaders and learning from their years of experience in certain areas. That is just as valuable as any sale that I could make.
I just went to president’s club in Hawaii as one of the top 5 reps in revenue for Act-On Software. I can tell you that it has been social media’s big impact on my revenue that got me there.
So if you are thinking about taking the very first steps in social selling here are a few basic tips to get you started.
6 ways to harness social selling in your business
- Monitor competitors with social media by setting up Google alerts
- Join groups on LinkedIn and monitor what’s being said. Comment generously and business will come to you. At the very least you have a direct link and a hook for further interaction.
- Keep an eye on Scrib.d, Slideshare (+) and see what they are publishing. This is a great opener in any exchange..saw your slideshare and…… This is a fab resource as you can monitor what they are doing, where they are going and what they are saying.
- Grab the thought leaders and influencers in your niche to keep ahead of the curve. Quora works well for this. Join the debate, make notes, prepare the next encounter, basically keep up.
- Develop loyalty, conversation, community. Social platforms are public. You can see the recommendations, the curated lists, the testimonials and peer recommendations. There’s a loyalty there that comes through meaningful communication. The next step can quickly become collaboration.
- Keep an eye on sentiment. How are people reacting, or not reacting. What’s the prevailing mood? What’s the context? Consider whether sentiment is neutral, positive or negative.
About the authors
Vivienne Neale is a social media specialist with specific interests in Pinterest; social selling; big data and being a plotter and planner.
Jack Kosakowski is a passionate e-brandgelist in SaaS, marketing automation, social selling and disruptive marketing from Act-On Software Inc, Arizona,