Recently there has been lots of discussion, questions and interest about social selling and how effective it can be for business. However it seems not as many business are yet using it or aware of how to use it effectively. Instead of writing one of my regular articles I have decided to produce this study. With the help of experts, research and curated content to give a better perspective. This report will provide a deep dive, insights and actionable tips on social selling. The core social platform for this we will be using is Linkedin.
So what exactly is social selling?
First and foremost what is social selling? Social selling is a process and method for creating, nurturing and developing relationships as part of a sales process. Frequently today this system takes place globally through a number of social networks like Linkedin, Twitter Facebook Pinterest and G+. Social selling can take be done online or offline, in B2B social selling, often frequently the buildup of the relationship can be done online and the close can be conducted through a physical meeting or follow-up meetings.
Some examples of social selling techniques include sharing relevant content. Basically creating an article about a particular industry or issue and then interacting directly with potential buyers and customers who respond to that piece of content.
You can do some research on your industry or issue that your service or product solves, write an article, post on your selected target network. For example if you’re using Linkedin, you can post to groups, through pulse or directly with your existing network and then interact with your target prospects for social selling.
Other areas are personal branding, and social listening, but overall social selling is gaining huge popularity in a variety of industries, though it has been used more frequently for B2B selling or highly considered consumer purchases.
Some industries that it’s more prevalent in are; financial advisory services, I.T. real estate, automotive, and C2C companies who are often referred to as direct sales companies. Many of these have been using social selling techniques and relationship building long before the internet was around.
B2B and B2C companies are now adopting many of those techniques as they are translated to social media platforms.
While social selling is sometimes confused with social marketing, there are two key differences. First, social selling is focused on sales professionals, rather than marketing professionals. Second, social selling aims to cultivate one-on-one relationships, rather than broadcast one-to-many messages.
One of the largest platforms best geared towards B2B social selling is Linkedin , most B2B marketers are very familiar with its basic features, but few know it well enough to leverage the network for lead generation effectively. In this report we will focus on social selling with linkedIn.
Unfortunatley despite the hype in the sales space about social selling, adoption numbers still remain fairly low. A survey from PeopleLinx revealed that a scant 31% of reps incorporate social media into their sales process.
However, the lack of social selling adoption isn’t due to a lack of interest or perceived value. It’s just that reps don’t know how to do it. Only 26% of respondents felt as if they knew how to use social media to sell.
Surprising? Not to Gorka Amian, business intelligence manager at PeopleLinx.
“This makes sense — at least to me. A lot of the salespeople I meet tell me (usually in hushed, guilty tones) that they don’t understand Twitter, LinkedIn, and sometimes even Facebook,” he wrote in a blog post. “They know social technologies are valuable. They feel they should be doing more to cultivate relationships with buyers. But … they’re clueless.”
The survey tried to uncover a solution to this problem by examining what impact (if any) training had on social selling adoption rate. I think it’s safe to say that the silver bullet has been revealed. Adoption increased to 74% among reps that had been trained on social selling. However, only 11% of respondents indicated that their companies provided social selling training.
Another notable finding is the gap in perceived selling value between LinkedIn and Twitter — the top channels social selling experts recommend salespeople get active on. While 76% of respondents saw the value in using LinkedIn to sell, only 16% saw value in Twitter. Is a lack of education to blame? Or is it that Twitter is truly not a worthwhile channel for social selling? Maybe time (and more research) will tell.
In any case, the takeaway for sales leaders who want to foster social selling initiatives in their teams is clear.
“Companies need to help their employees,” Amian wrote. “This is a problem of skill, not of will. When salespeople get encouraged, trained, and measured, their social selling activity shoots up.”
Only now business are now waking up to the benefits of B2B social selling and trying to leverage the creation of social relationships to drive business through social media network channels.
Social media should be a top priority for anyone in B2B marketing and business sales.
This point was driven home in a recent webinar from the B2B LinkedIn Launchpad Training Series, hosted by Viveka von Rosen, CEO of Linked Into Business. During the webinar, “Social Selling on LinkedIn in 2015,”Viveka was quick to address the pain point that many B2B marketing professionals feel today: the increasing difficulty of finding new customers.
Despite the long work hours, substantial investment in marketing, and efforts to connect with influencers, many businesses still don’t have enough clients.
Why? According to Viveka, it’s because they’re unaware of how to generate leads via social, particularly on LinkedIn. Before drilling down into how social selling works, here is a definition of the concept, for those who are less familiar with it.
Koka Sexton, Global Senior Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, said it best: “Social selling is the process of using your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships.”
How LinkedIn Can Help You Find Prospects
First, disregard anyone who tells you that selling on LinkedIn is only for spammers. There’s no denying that a fair share of spam exists on the network. All of us have encountered promotional InMails, fake connection requests, and group posts with zero relation to the discussion at hand.
However, don’t let this discourage you! LinkedIn is an excellent place for relationship building, and marketers who use authentic and helpful strategies, way will be recognized (and hopefully rewarded) for their efforts. Social selling is all about engagement, and if a prospect is willing to engage with you on social, you never know if it will result in a one-time purchase, or even a life-long corporate client.
In B2B marketing, social media is about so much more than counting likes, shares, and retweets. More specifically, social selling is about getting results, including converting prospects into clients, generating increased brand awareness, and positioning your brands an industry thought leader.
Looking for Leads? Use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search
Engaging on social media is all about making prospects feel like you’ve taken the time to read about them, and familiarize yourself with their interests, company background, and pain points. Even taking a few minutes to read through a user’s LinkedIn timeline or Twitter feed can reveal a lot, and give you a great starting point for discussion.
Before you begin your research, the first step is to find actual prospects to connect with, and LinkedIn’s Advanced Search is the ultimate weapon for this. Whether you’re searching with a free or a paid account, you can look up prospects by name, company, title, geographic location and more.
Actionable tips you can use for Linkedin B2B Social Selling
Secret LinkedIn Research Tip #1: Use Boolean Search Operators
To really find the perfect prospect, this secret tip is to incorporate Boolean search operators, primarily AND, OR, AND NOT. LinkedIn’s Boolean searches look at a user’s entire profile, including the summary and headline, and deliver incredibly refined results for finding B2B marketing prospects.
The experts at How to Really Use LinkedIn offer a great example of this in one of their blog posts. For instance, if you’re searching for decision-makers in sales or in marketing, use OR: “(marketing OR sales)”, which would bring back results for anyone with a marketing or sales background. However, if you combine this with “(manager OR director OR VP)”, you’ll find a combination of people at these different levels.
When you’re unsure of someone’s exact title or company name, or if you’d like to exclude a certain person or industry from your search, this can come in quit handy. Here’s a very helpful tip sheet from LinkedIn that details exactly how to use these operators.
Secret LinkedIn Research Tip #2: Save Your Searches
Did you know that LinkedIn searches can be saved? Even with a free account, the network lets you save up to 3 searches!
Once you save a search, LinkedIn will email you weekly (free account) or daily (premium account), with new prospects who meet your search criteria.
Once you start receiving a list of prospects, reach out on LinkedIn by:
- Inviting them to connect (tip: personalize the message!)
- Asking a mutual connection for an introduction
- Joining a Discussion Group they’re a member of
- Sending them a direct message (if you’re both part of the same Group)
- Sending them an InMail (Premium account only)
- Commenting on one of their LinkedIn Publishing posts
Before contacting your prospects, make sure you check these:
i) Your LinkedIn Profile Is Complete
All of the fields in your LinkedIn profile should be complete and up-to-date, you have a professional-looking head shot, you’ve grown your network of connections. Bonus tip: it’s great to have at least a few LinkedIn Endorsements and Recommendations.
Also, is your contact info filled in? In your profile, click on Contact Info in the right-hand corner of your profile photo box, and fill out your email, website, blog, Twitter handle, and any other details.
ii) You’ve Already Researched the Prospect
Before you reach out, do your research first. LinkedIn and Twitter offer a wealth of insight into the person’s interests, social media activity, and expertise. Even doing a simple Google search on the prospect’s name, and reading through his or her company’s website, can be helpful.
For example, read through the person’s entire LinkedIn profile. Then, to see recent activity, click on the prospect’s profile, click on the drop-down under the “Send a Message” button, and select View Recent activity. Check how active your prospects are on the network, read any publishing posts they’ve written and any status updates they’ve shared.
In addition, use the LinkedIn Contact Details section to see if a Twitter handle is listed, and read through their most recent tweets to learn more. Once you’ve done your homework, it will be much easier to craft a personalized, relevant message which more likely to receive attention – and a reply.
Time to Engage with Your LinkedIn Prospects
As any B2B marketing expert knows, LinkedIn isn’t just for generating new leads, it’s also an excellent tool for engaging with them. The platform offers a few different options, both public (status updates, Discussion Groups) and private (Inmails, direct messages) in nature.
Public Engagement on LinkedIn: Status Updates
Some people feel that no one reads the LinkedIn News Feed, but it turns out, they actually do. Viveka strongly recommends posting to your news feed 1-2 times a day to generate engagement. During the webinar, she suggested using a social media marketing tool such as Oktopost, which lets you create and schedule LinkedIn posts in advance.
Once you start posting regularly, people will begin to like, share, and comment on your content. Remember that every comment left on a post is chance to engage. Click on the prospect’s profile, determine whether or not he or she is a relevant, and reach out.
Below are 3 quick actionable tips you can use to create great LinkedIn status updates:
- Tag people and companies in personal posts using “@”
- Upload files to your posts (JPEGs, PDFs, Word documents)
- Customize the image in your link attachment preview
Public Engagement on LinkedIn: Publishing Platform
If you have more time to invest, start writing long-form posts using LinkedIn’s Publishing platform, to express your interests and expertise. Once only open to elite influencers, the platform is now available to all users. Any post published will be shared with your connections and followers, will be searchable on and off LinkedIn, and may even be published as content in Pulse.
In terms of B2B marketing, posts are an excellent way to repurpose content, showcase your knowledge, and grow your followers and visibility. It can also help cement your thought leadership, which is key to building the trust and credibility you need for social selling.
The easiest way to ensure success is creating an editorial calendar for posts, developing an excellent distribution strategy, and reading up on how to optimize your posts.
What makes a great LinkedIn publishing post?
- Catchy title (optimal length: up to 50 characters)
- Attractive visuals (especially the top featured image)
- Sub-headers throughout the content for easy reading
- Intelligent use of keywords to make the content “searchable”
- Providing valuable insights – not a promotional pitch
- Including a call-to-action at the end of the post
If you publish or read a LinkedIn post that’s especially relevant for a prospect, you can share the link as a status update, and tag that person. In this respect, one of the best tips for this is to take notes for each LinkedIn contact under the Relationship tab. Cite which content you’ve shared with them, and remember schedule follow-up reminders. This will ensure that your content stays top-of-mind with the prospect, making it easier to eventually push them down the funnel.
Private Engagement on LinkedIn: Direct Messages
If you prefer to adopt a more personal, 1:1 approach, LinkedIn offers a few options for private engagement, primarily InMail and direct messages. If you only remember one thing after reading is, it should be to do your research before reaching out, especially if it’s through a private message.
Regardless of whether you do a Google search, review recent activity on LinkedIn or Twitter, or read up about a company website, when corresponding with a prospect, mention something you’ve come across in your research to show that you’ve done your homework.
When writing a personal message, try these steps:
- Introduce yourself, and quickly get to the point of why you’re writing
- Reference the research you’ve done by personalizing the message
- Avoid being promotional, and don’t beg or plead
- Ask for advice, or mention a certain pain point
Private Engagement on LinkedIn: InMails
On LinkedIn, with a free account, you can only send messages to anyone who is a connection in your network. InMails are paid-for messages that you use when someone is outside of your network (3rd level or beyond), not a friend of a friend, and with whom you have no shared groups.
If you have a free account, you’ll need to upgrade to LinkedIn Premium to send an InMail to someone outside of your network. With Premium, you receive a certain number of InMail credits depending on your subscription, and each additional one costs $10.
As of 2015, LinkedIn will change the rules for InMails. In the past, you would get your InMail “back” if your message didn’t receive a response within a certain number of days. However, this policy will soon be reversed, and users will only get back InMails if a reply is received.
Don’t want to pay for InMails? there’s a way to reach prospects outside of your network, for free. Scroll down to the bottom of the prospect’s profile, look at which Groups he or she is a member of, and join the most relevant one. Then, in the Group itself, click on the Members hyperlink in the top, search for the name of the prospect, and underneath it, click on “Send Message”.
Bonus LinkedIn Tip: Data Export Tool
A final secret LinkedIn to boost your B2B marketing, that lets you export all of your valuable data. Under your profile photo in the top right corner, click on “Manage” to the right of Privacy & Settings. Then, click on the Account tab, and under the Helpful Links category, click on “Request an archive of your data.”
On you receive the archive, the prospecting opportunities are endless! The data includes everything from ad interactions, endorsements, and previous successful search queries. Review the information, and start thinking of new strategies for reaching your B2B marketing prospects more successfully!
More tips to optimize your Linkedin profile for social selling
“You can create a business, choose a name,” Sir Richard Branson told Inc. magazine, “but unless people know about it, you’re not going to sell any products.” …Or, professional services, for that matter.
And it’s not just advertising, promotion, direct mail and website content that helps you sell. In professional services, it’s all about the quality of the people working on the front lines—their areas of expertise, their insights, and their ability to solve client problems. Your employees are your advantage.
Highlight Your Visible Experts on LinkedIn
As your employees’ expertise gains greater visibility in professional circles, becoming what we call Visible Experts℠, your professional services firm benefits tremendously. Here’s how:
- Increases visibility
- Attracts new clients
- Builds and strengthens the brand
- Commands higher fees
You can help employees have greater visibility on your website by creating individual bio pages. Showcasing their thought leadership in blog posts, white papers, etc., will help them get better results in Google searches. And obviously using Linkedin.
According to research, conducted by Hinge Marketing, when prospective clients turn to social media for a professional services firm and specific expertise, 70% tune in on LinkedIn.
Your challenge is to get found on LinkedIn. You can set up your profile, your company page, and even get involved in several LinkedIn Groups. The next step is to get every professional in the firm—executives, account managers, business development specialists, consultants, and more—using LinkedIn to its best advantage.
Action points to optimize your LinkedIn profile
Your presence on LinkedIn begins with each employee’s personal profile. When writing or editing the profile, remember to use action words that convey a sense of what you do, how you bring value to clients, and the kinds of people you serve.
Optimize the profile for LinkedIn search by using relevant keywords in all fields, especially in the headline, summary, and interests sections.
With more people using LinkedIn like a digital business card, add LinkedIn Badges for employees on your website. And have employees add their LinkedIn Profile URL to their email signatures.
Below are the key areas of a LinkedIn profile that should be thoroughly vetted:
1) Before You Edit
Turn off the Activity Broadcast (go to Settings/Privacy Controls) while you edit and update. This way, you won’t fill up everyone’s feed with notices of all your edits and adjustments. Remember to turn Activity Broadcast back on when you are finished.
The headline is not simply a job title. It may be the most important 120 characters in the perfect profile. Clearly state your role, the value you bring, and the types of clients you serve.
Have employees use professional photographs. Don’t omit a photo either. People like to see the person they are considering hiring. Headshots are best. If some employees lack good photos, schedule a companywide photo session.
4) Contact Information
Make it easy for prospective clients who find your employees and want to know more to get in touch. Contact information should include an email address, phone number, Twitter handle, and company URL.
5) Profile URL
LinkedIn creates a default URL for each profile, but you can do better by customizing it. Maybe you’ll want to create a companywide format, such as https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathydam, which uses both the employee’s name and company name. You can use up to 30 alphanumeric characters, and you can change your URL.
While it’s logical to invite clients—both past and present—to connect on LinkedIn, there are other categories to consider: prospects, professional peers, and press. Remember, when you reach out to people you have not met, send a personalized invitation that explains why you wish to connect instead of using the LinkedIn template.
Your summary is prime real estate. So, don’t repeat content. Use those 2,000 characters wisely. Flesh out your background or showcase a more personal side of yourself. Show that you are an interesting and approachable individual. Most importantly, talk about the value you provide.
If you’ve worked in the same firm for years, you will want to go beyond listing career experience and jobs. LinkedIn now makes this easier. You can showcase Projects, which is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and range of skills.
9) Additional Information
Don’t overlook any categories that enable you to demonstrate your skills and expertise, and that includes Interests, Publications, and Honors & Awards (include certifications). You should even list the causes you care about and your volunteer work.
10) Skills and Endorsements
LinkedIn lets you list up to 50 skills. If you want prospective clients to find you based on skills, use only the skills that LinkedIn recognizes. As you begin typing, LinkedIn uses a drop-down menu to show you the skills it knows. If you want to move certain skills to the top of your list, just drag and drop. The Skills list becomes even more robust with the addition of Endorsements, which enables others to add their support.
Our research shows that 46.4% of people rely on reputation-based referrals, so encourage your colleagues and clients to recommend you. It’s a great way to build credibility and trust.
As you join other professionals on LinkedIn Groups, you’ll want to make sure you have the Groups section turned on, so they appear on your profile. In addition to using Groups as a forum for starting discussions and commenting, they’re also great places to connect and introduce yourself to someone you want to invite into your Connections.
There is power in numbers. And when you and your employees all build strong LinkedIn profiles, you’ll have the foundation for an effective companywide social selling strategy.
23 Shocking Social Selling Stats
- On average decision makers consume 5 pieces of content before being ready to speak to a sales rep.(Source)
- 10.8% of social sellers have closed 5 or more deals attributed to social media. (Source)
- 54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least 1 closed deal. (Source)
- 72.6% of salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often. (Source)
- 46% of social sellers hit quota compared to 38% of sales reps who don’t. (Source)
- 64% of teams that use social selling hit quota compared to 49% that don’t. (Source)
- 80% believe their sales force would be more productive with a greater social media presence. (Source)
- B2B buyers complete 57% of the buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep. (Source)
- 92% of buyers say they delete emails or voicemail messages when comes from someone that they do not know.(Source)
- The average cold calling appointment rate is 2.5% (Source)
- 2/3 of companies have no social media strategy for their sales organizations. (Source)
- 93% of sales executives have not received any formal training on social selling. (Source)
- 53% of salespeople want help in understanding social selling better. (Source)
- 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn at least once a week and spend an average of six hours per week on the professional networking site.
- 82% of prospects can be reached via social media. (Source)
- 50.1% of social salespeople spend between 5% to 10% of their time on social media. (Source)
- 21.7% of the sales people are not using social media, 18.9% cited not using it because they didn’t see the value and 45% cited because they did not understand social selling. (Source)
- 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research(Source)
- 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.(Source)
- 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral. (Source)
- A warm referral increases the odds of a sales success 2x-4x. (Source)
- 71% of salespeople believe that their role will be radically different in 5 years. (Source)
- 69% of sales executives believe that the buyer process is changing faster than organizations are responding to it.(Source)
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