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Social selling: The follow through to social media marketing

The social media marketing bandwagon has been around for a few years. Marketers these days are now savvy about their audience experience on social platforms. Clients are no longer asking platform specific questions along the lines of “what platform do we use?” but now it’s more “what’s our content strategy?”

It’s also helped that the main platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – have more or less clearly designated boundaries on their user experiences.

With the maturing of the practice, also comes the improvement in content quality. Upworthy has come and gone, and so have the (temporal) trend for click bait headlines. Brands have also stopped creating numerous inane posts and are focusing more on quality instead of quantity. And what I love about social media now is that it’s more visual – micrographics, gifs and videos are taking over platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

And we know that this shift to focus on quality content is working. The content marketing institute recently surveyed 3,714 marketers from around the world, and found that the majority of them were proponents of the effectiveness of social media promotion.

The chart below (taken from eMarketer) shows that promoted content and social ads are generally found to be increasingly effective, with up to 61% of respondents coming out in agreement.

eMarketer

However, the point that I would like to make here is this – what is the follow through to social media marketing? Just like a sales call (or email) would be sent as a follow-up to a customer who downloads an asset, surely there has to be an equivalent in the realm of social media?

The answer is an activity called social selling, which has started to gain traction starting around two years ago. This activity as in an infant stage, or at the very best confined to sectors where senior sales executives are more forward thinking and comfortable with the use of social media tools.

So at this point, perhaps it’s a good idea to take a step back and ask the question – what is social selling?

Taking the definition from LinkedIn’s playbook, social selling is about leveraging one’s social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve sales goals. It’s a sales technique which is more efficient, because it eliminates the need for cold calling through harnessing the power of one’s network.

Here’s a scenario of how social selling could work. Imagine that you’re following a prospect of mine via Twitter (which gives you instant insights to what he or she is thinking) and you spot the said prospect tweeting about a problem in the workplace which you know you have the expertise to solve. You could quickly reply to offer help, and from there, strike up a conversation which could in the future lead to an opportunity to do business together.

So what are the key pillars for social selling success? In my mind, there are three things which can form a simple blueprint for social selling:

Build your orofessional (online) brand

 Today’s customer is smart. Don’t think he or she isn’t. You’ll need to be able to show substance in order for them to trust you. Building a professional brand shows you are an active participant in your industry and a thought leader in the space you claim to be an expert in.

Write blogs, polish your online social profiles and share your thoughts regularly on social media, so that when you start reaching out to prospects, you’ll already have established that veneer of credibility for yourself. On the flipside, having a strong professional brand also leads to more inbound inquiries from prospects if they have perceived that you are someone who can help them solve their problems.

Know Your Prospects

Sales success is a combination of knowing when to buy and going in at the right time to engage your prospect. With social media you can get a better understanding of the state of readiness of your prospect to engage in a sales conversation, so use that to your advantage. Listening and monitoring tools can help you keep up-to-date on your key prospects.

Build Relationships, Don’t Sell

Build trust with prospects by sharing your perspectives and helping provide relevant information to common pain points. Have genuine conversations and focus on the needs of the prospect first, selling second.

Establish credibility and expertise in conversations but try not to explicitly ask if they want to buy something. That’s still best left to face-to-face discussions. Ask to meet-up in person to continue the discussion further, if you feel that a prospect is ready to be pitched.

According to Hootsuite, social selling generates 40% more qualified leads than cold calling and allows one to build genuine connections that last regardless of whether the sale went through or not.

So what are you waiting for – get started today!

Julian Chow is senior account manager & digital consultant at Text100 Singapore.

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