Skeptics have been known to argue against the effectiveness of social media for selling, with some going as far as calling all social signals vanity metrics. Research, however, has shown otherwise. In almost every way, the statistics show that the salesperson who has mastered social selling is always going to outperform the salesperson who doesn’t use social media.
According to a study by Social Centered Selling, 72.6 percent of salespeople who use social media as a core part of their sales process outperform those who don’t use social media. Salespeople who use social media are also 23 percent more likely to exceed their sales quotas by more than 10 percent. This makes sense considering the fact that 74 percent of buyers consult social media before making a purchase decision.
The major challenge among business-to-business brands, then, isn’t to be on social media—more than 90 percent of brands already are–but to turn their social media presence into sales engines. With almost 1.7 billion Facebook users and billions more on other social media platforms, there’s ample audience to tap into. How do you get them to buy, though? Here are some tips:
Control the narrative outside of your channels
Many B2B marketers believe that every lead that reaches out is necessarily ready to hear from a sales rep. The truth is that B2B buyers complete 57 percent of the purchase decision before they are willing to talk to a salesperson. What’s more, 77 percent of buyers did not talk with a salesperson until after performing independent research.
In essence, today’s self-service lead nurturing means that prospects are going to learn all about you and your products without ever directly connecting with you, so limiting your brand messaging to just your owned marketing channels is a big no-no. Use techniques like content marketing to position yourself as an industry leader in such a way that you’re noticed both inside and outside of your channels, making the decision to do business with you that much easier. Tools like Marin Software make cross-channel promotion easy, so you can amplify your content with ads on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook from one dashboard.
Make yourself known
92 percent of buyers delete messages from people they do not know. Besides being active on social media, it is more important to be known in your industry. Develop a presence on your niche’s biggest platforms and publications, post regularly with the goal of increasing awareness for your brand and make yourself known through partnerships with major brands and individuals in your industry.
You may do well to try using a content curation tool like Flipboard, which is great for social media distribution, as well, so you can establish yourself as an in-the-know industry thought leader. This won’t just help your social influence–it will also have a lasting impact on your sales.
Track results from your social selling efforts
Just as it is important to have a social selling strategy, it is equally important to know when something is working and when it is not. A major challenge B2B brands have with social selling is that they have no idea whether their social selling approach is effective. A recent study by Simply Measured found that a whopping 60 percent of companies do not know whether their social media marketing efforts are working or not.
It can be difficult correlating random Facebook referrals with their activity on your site, and that’s one area where tracking technology is still evolving. Apps like Leadfeeder are changing the game in this regard, though, making it easy to track which pages your anonymous site visitors load, and also providing data on the organizations that your visitors come from. When you’re able to see what content about you interests your sales leads most, you can increase the effectiveness of your messaging.
Develop a social selling strategy
Research by the Sales Management Association indicates that two-thirds of companies have no social media strategy for their sales organizations. This is further buttressed by an Accenture study that found that 93 percent of sales executives have no formal training about social selling.
Social selling is about more than just setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other networks and then posting links there on a regular basis. You need to have a clear idea of what you’re doing, and this starts with developing a strategy and ensuring that the people who will implement your strategy are qualified to do so.
Leverage the virality of social media
By its very nature, social media fuels virality, and this is one of the key principles you can use to boost sales from social media. An Edelman study revealed that 84 percent of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral. People keep up with a wide variety of contacts in their networks via social media, so using aspects of your product itself to trigger peer-to-peer sharing can make a whole lot of difference.
Perhaps the most notable beneficiary of the built-in virality of social media is Dropbox. By tapping into the power of peer recommendation referrals, Dropbox was able to get to 1 million users in seven months of launching publicly, and then to 10 million users one year later. Ensure that your brand enables and encourage referrals, and whenever possible, incentivize this process.
Always reply quickly
Social media is more alluring as a sales platform due to how instantaneous response over there can be. According to one study, 78 percent of people recognize that companies’ posts on social media impact their purchase decisions. Most important, though, a good portion of these people expect near-instant response when they reach out to you. Apparently, 53 percent of consumers expect to hear back from brands within one hour of reaching out on social media.
You only have one chance to make a good impression before your prospect moves on. There’s no doubt that social media influences consumers’ purchases, but your timeliness in responding to user queries will go a great length to make or break your success with social selling.
Tap into the power of many channels and touches
It has been observed that seven out of 10 sales are completed on the fourth to tenth interaction. Real social selling is a multiplatform discipline, and it involves multiple interactions.
Besides ensuring that you are active on every social platform that your target audience uses, it is also important to ensure that you’re constantly interacting there; HubSpot’s data shows that B2B companies that blogged more than 11 times per month had thrice the traffic and almost four times the leads compared with companies that blogged less than three times per month. The same has been observed for activity on social media, where more activity generally correlates with more engagement.
Obviously, social media influences B2B sales processes to a great extent. Actually closing deals, however, requires careful understanding of how social selling works. Hopefully, the above tips will help take your social selling skills to the next level.
Harald Merckel is a freelance writer whose primary focuses are business, e-gaming and marketing.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.