Social media is one of the most disruptive influences of our time. We are living in age where social media has over 2.6 billion users collectively. In the context of sales, social media has changed the way you can connect with customers and other companies. There are no intermediaries and no middlemen. You can simply create a social media account and connect straight to the end buyer without using an institution.
Alongside the rise of social media there has been a tremendous change in the way the entire sales process is conducted. Around 10 years ago, telemarketing was the go-to method for engaging with cold prospects and closing the deal. Yet today, it’s become much less effective.
Telemarketing isn’t delivering the returns it once was because people aren’t at their desks as often. Of the people are, a gatekeeper is often acting as a barrier to reaching the prospect. This has made it much more difficult to connect with prospects over the phone. That being said, telemarketing is far from dead. It’s still a great way to close deals with a personal touch, but it’s not as effective as it used to be.
Telemarketing is not alone in falling into decline. For some time, email marketing has been in an uncertain situation. As a marketing channel, email marketing is delivering low response rates, as spam folders are cracking down on sales pitches. Of the content that gets through, much of it is unread because modern email inboxes are saturated promotional content.
Unfortunately the implementation of the GDPR is likely to make email marketing more difficult as companies will be forced to limit the data they can hold on EU citizens. The traditional online sales channels have been steadily eroded, and it is in this environment that social selling has emerged as a dominant force for driving revenue.
Today, social selling has become one of the best ways to reach your target audience and make sales. Once you’re connected with a follower you’re free to engage with them directly via posts and messages. There is no spam folder or gatekeeper looking to restrict your access to new prospects. Likewise, if you’re producing content that generates lots of engagement, your post will jump straight to the top of the pile.
As soon as you open a social media profile, you have an opportunity to find and build rapport with a network of customers and business decision makers.
At a basic level, the sales role has changed from hard selling to nurturing. Social media is not the platform for hard selling. In fact, there is next to no hard selling on social media.
The reason is that people come on social media for content. They don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches, they want to read and see entertaining and informative content. In this environment, you need to deploy content to nurture your content and play the long game. Your providing value added content that gets your target audience ready to progress down the sales funnel.
The role of your social selling team is to provide value by getting people excited about your product. On social media that translates into short snappy punchy content that gets people’s attention. Users on social media have a low attention span and don’t want to be sifting through tons of information before they get to the point.
Social media users expect value instantaneously. On platforms like LinkedIn, you want to use marketing posts that highlight strategy rather than product features. The reason is posts that cut straight to selling products are dull and robotic (particularly on a competitive channel like social media). On a business social network like LinkedIn, users seek insight.
For example if you belonged to a marketing firm that sold office supplies, you would discuss strategy rather than your products, and market how office supplies can influence productivity. Pitching your products isn’t interesting, but commenting on how certain equipment can boost productivity in the form of value added content is.
As a bonus, networking on social media bolsters your presence on other channels and makes them more effective. Your social presence and traditional advertising come together to create 360-degree sales funnel. When a member of your sales team picks up the phone to a warm prospect who’s seen your social media profile, they will already know you’re a respected part of your industry.
In this new sales role, social media is effective because it helps to develop your network and build rapport. Rapport is key to establishing your company as an authority in your industry. Your reaching out to customers and key contacts in your industry, and providing knowledge that actively benefits them.
| Content as Currency
As outlined above, one of the biggest changes brought about by social media is that content has become a currency. Everyday online users are bombarded with masses of disruptive influences to the point where there has become a clear monetary value attached to attention. Social selling is all about harnessing this attention.
When it comes to selling, modern buyers are so inundated with sales pitches, that they are actually starting to become evasive. Whether it’s sending sales pitches straight to the spam folder, or ignoring cold calls, people are going out of their way to avoid salesmen. In this environment, content is the new way to interact with buyers and slip under the radar.
There’s nothing more attractive to a potential client then a brand that’s established a name for itself. An effective online presence is demonstrative of your organizational capabilities as a company, and is directly illustrative of your value proposition. The number of followers you have and your engagement rates stand as evidence of your ability to network and provide value.
At a basic level, content provides value in the form of information. In the early stages of the buying process, customers want information. They don’t want to be sold to. Before reaching the stage of the actual pitch, the salesman has to demonstrate that they have substantial information, insights and expertise in order for the interaction to continue.
On social media, most businesses don’t attempt to qualify themselves. This oversight results in alienating their target audience. The time for typical sales content is long gone. Now social media is about providing 80% value with 20% promotion. The reason is that people no longer Content is now the predominant online medium through which information is exchanged between an organization and its clients. Your social media content is used to testify to your knowledge of the industry and lets your target audience know you have the insight that they’re looking for. Providing value before seeking to extract it is a core principle of social selling.
trust insights and information delivered in the hard sales style. Promotional content acts as a repellent to even the most open-minded social media user.
If you want to use content as a currency, you need to make empathy a fundamental part of your approach. You can’t hope to provide value to your audience if you don’t understand what’s important to them. Social selling is all about using your content to nurture your leads and preparing them for your sales pitch, before you make it. Put simply, you don’t come out with a sales pitch until the time is right.