Imagine for a second how social selling tactics would translate into real-life situations. Picture the LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers) that reach out on In-Mail, stalking you as you enter the office in the morning, hounding you to have coffee with them and hear about how they can transform the way you do business.
Terrified yet? I am.
Social selling has created a buzz on social media for the last few years and revolutionised lead generation for B2B marketers. Creating a strong personal brand on LinkedIn allows sales people to reach a huge audience and furthermore nurture their professional network with ease. However it is a fine art, which many are still learning, especially in Australasia.
Social selling requires the perfect balance of outreach, storytelling, personal touches, thought content and leadership, and the same tenacity as cold calling – think of it as lead generation, lead nurture, and lead conversion all rolled into one.
However the “cold-calling” phase of social selling, where sellers message new connections for invitations to meet, with no prior interaction, has resulted in a jaded, unresponsive audience. I suspect the majority of you have a LinkedIn mailbox full of such messages (most of which have never been opened).
In order for it to work, social sellers need to make their approach as genuine and authentic as it would be face-to-face. To start, interaction and engagement with potential leads on various social platforms is King. Liking posts, commenting on blogs and updates, and tagging people in resources you think they may find interesting can help build your virtual relationship in the first instance.
In the second instance, direct messaging is the key to nurturing the relationship, and unfortunately, where many social sellers fall short of the mark. Keeping messages short and sweet is crucial in an age where many corporates are time-poor. Relating these messages to common connections, or similar interests on their profile will mean you are creating a meaningful reason for reaching out – instead of just jumping straight into your generic sales pitch.
Finally, social selling requires the creation and online distribution of meaningful, relevant content that will engage your audience and demonstrate the seller’s credibility in their industry. Without this aspect, positioning social sellers as thought leaders on LinkedIn is not possible. It is this use of effective content marketing in conjunction with authentic online interaction that allows social sellers to build genuine relationships with potential customers.
Just as consumers now reach purchase decisions predominantly online, corporate influencers and decision makers hardly ever talk to sales executives without online research. In fact, HubSpot now reports that over 70% of B2B purchase decision makers will use social media to help them complete a purchase. With this in mind, it is clear to see that a good chunk of corporate decisions could already have been made by the time a purchaser reaches out. Social selling gives businesses the opportunity to be waiting in the wings until these purchasers are ready.
Millennials have the secret advantage to nailing social selling – they possess the “first-nature” ability to be present and engaged on social platforms without a second thought. We have matured and developed alongside the Internet and have instinctive knowledge of how to engage online. Being a millennial myself, as well as being fortunate enough to lead a professional life in Social Demand Generation, I see an ever-evolving art to social selling that I’ll be damned if I let move on without me.
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