Social selling is a process whereby salespeople use social media networks to find, connect with, understand, and nurture new prospects. It allows salespeople to laser-target potential customers and establishes a relationship by sharing useful content and answering their questions throughout the buying process until they are ready to buy. It is an excellent way to bring in customers to the business and mitigates the need for cold calling.
In January 2021, there were 4.20 billion social media users globally, increasing by 13% (+490 million new users) in just 12 months. That is 53% of the global population.1 Social media has become as crucial for business as it has for social interaction, reflecting the changing way in which people communicate and build relationships in the digital age. The growing popularity of social media has given rise to an evolved sales process known as social selling.
Social selling has been the talk of many sales and marketing teams for the last decade as an alternative tool for reaching new prospects. It is a technique whereby sales representatives use social media networks to find, nurture and build relationships with potential customers before converting them to a sale. It gives the sales reps a platform where they can position themselves as thought leaders and expert problem solvers, delivering valuable, relevant content to prospects at just the right time when they are making a purchasing decision. It is about listening for the right moment to join the conversation and presenting the individual as a solution to a problem. The aim is to address a pressing need to make the prospect’s life easier.2 See how you can integrate Social Selling into your sales process here.
What it’s not!
Social selling is not social media marketing, where the aim is to increase brand awareness and promote a specific product or service by producing content that users will share. Social media marketing is a different strategy. Social selling is about building 1-2-1 relationships with potential customers on social media and eventually taking that relationship offline and converting new prospects into customers. A one-way conversation between the buyer and seller is now a much more mutual two-way conversation.
This evolution of the sales process has arisen from how consumers interact with businesses to purchase products and services. We know that 97% of consumers now go online to find and research products and services before buying, and 47% of buyers view at least 3-5 pieces of content before they contact a sales rep.3 This behaviour change has nudged sales teams to think more creatively about how they can get in front of the customer at an earlier stage, to be front of mind.
Technology at it’s heart
Technology is also helping businesses reach prospects more efficiently than ever before, engaging them across multiple channels, including website, email marketing, events and social media, before moving them through the sales funnel to purchase. Research shows that 89% of top-performing salespeople say social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn, are essential in closing deals and are part of their sales strategy – with 70% of sales professionals active on LinkedIn for business purposes, compared to 64% on Facebook and 43% on Twitter.3
Using social media channels to reach prospects is ever-growing, and traditional sales methods are losing impact. A recent survey found that connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls, callback rates are below 1%, and only 24% of outbound emails are opened.4 Buyers are now starting the purchasing process with either a referral or peer recommendation, and they need at least eight touch points (a point of interaction or contact with the brand) before making a purchasing decision.5
Benefits of Social Selling
All evidence points towards enormous benefits for businesses that choose to integrate social selling as part of their sales strategy. In a survey conducted by CSO Insights and Seismic, they found that one in three B2B professionals said that social selling tools increased the number of leads they could find. 39% also said that social tools reduced the amount of time they spent researching accounts and contacts.6 A Forbes study found that reps using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers.7 This gives the sales teams more opportunity to nurture relationships with potential clients to increase the lead conversion rate compared to selling directly to a cold lead.
Another excellent reason for adopting social selling practices is that the customers are already engaged in social buying. They are using social media to search for potential businesses, research them online and develop opinions about who might be the best fit before meeting a sales representative. If a business is not on social media, it is missing out on this part of the information gathering process, and if they are not showing up in new prospects research, that could be a missed sale. Read our Social Selling best practice guide.