In the ever-changing world of sales, you’ve probably seen the term ‘social selling’ floating around.
You may have ignored the trend because, as is the way with sales, it seems that as soon as one method starts to work, it stops working. The reason for this is because prospects are just as savvy as salespeople tend to think they are, and they’re very in tune with sales tactics. ‘But how did they know it was an automated message?’ well, because it’s probably not the first one they’ve received.
“Cold calling is dead” is a hot phrase in sales right now, and everyone is hanging up the humble telephone and taking to the internet. So if no one else is doing it, then is now the time to start dialing?
Maybe, but let’s instead talk about a more human alternative that never goes out of fashion: building rapport.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is harnessing the power of social media to listen to, engage with, and build rapport with prospective clients. It’s the most effective way to ensure that you are the first person/company that comes to mind when a prospect is ready to buy.
So, now you know what social selling is, why should you do it? Here are seven statistics that reveal why social selling is the future!
1. 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media (LinkedIn)
We all know at least one person, salesperson or not, who refuses to get involved with social media, even though 91% of B2B buyers are now active on there. It’s never been more essential to build your social media presence, especially if you work in sales or marketing.
Social media is also a great way to develop your personal brand, supporting your career aspirations. Find a medium that allows you to display your knowledge and expertise in the field, outside of your office. What better place to do that than on say, LinkedIn, or Twitter?
2. 45% more sales opportunities (LinkedIn)
This should come as no surprise as LinkedIn’s user base continues to grow. As of 2023, the professional networking site has over 950 million users, in over 200 countries.
A common set back facing salespeople today is that they are always running out of good/hot leads. No doubt, as a company, you have identified your ideal client profile, but there are only so many lead generation tools you can run to for email addresses before you start eating away at your budget.
Lead generation tools may well give you more than you need, and at times you might find just the person’s email that you were looking for. However, at the end of the day, without prior engagement, a first email will always be a cold email.
3. 90% of C-Suite executives said they never respond to cold calls or cold emails (Harvard Business Review)
The success rate of cold calls to meetings booked is 0.3%. Based on the average closing rate of 20%, it equates to a little under four sales from 6,264 cold calls.
Okay, so perhaps this says more about what you are doing, as opposed to what you could be doing. This is a worrying and likely disheartening statistic for most salespeople who spend the majority of their day sending emails and making calls.
It’s hard to deny that the practice of either can work, and perhaps your biggest ever deal came from a cold email pitch, but with the tools of social at your disposal, it makes sense to work smart and not hard.
4. 31% of B2B salespeople say that social selling tools helped them build deeper relationships with clients (eMarketer)
If you’re a company that offers more than one product or solution, this should be a real incentive to start social selling. Social media is a great way to continue to engage with existing clients long after they’ve bought from you.
By connecting with them on LinkedIn, you’re opening the door for further conversation. If you’re posting or sharing about another service that your company offers, your connections will see this and learn more about your products without you having to engage them directly.
5. 92% of B2B buyers are willing to engage with a sales professional who is a known industry thought leader (LinkedIn)
Advocating for your company helps build your brand online and increase your reputation as a thought leader. If people want to know something about a company, they’re likely going straight to the person that’s always talking about it.
Don’t stop with company content – social listening is a great way to learn more about your industry too. TweetDeck and searching hashtags and keywords on LinkedIn are two fantastic ways to find out what other people are saying about your area of expertise.
Stay up-to-date by using Google Alerts. Set up email alerts with few keywords relating to your industry, and get notified whenever this topic is mentioned in articles.
By sharing this content to your social media channels, you are showing that you’re proactive and knowledgeable in your field. Go the extra mile and add your insights when you share – let people know what your thoughts are.
6. 63.4% of Social sellers reported an increase in company sales revenue (SalesforLife)
This one’s for you, employers. A lot of companies still don’t allow employees to use social media while they’re at work, believing it results in a loss of time and a lack of productivity.
In doing so, employers are taking away what is quickly becoming the salesperson’s most valuable asset – access to a social network. The same study showed companies that encourage social selling reported a 41.2% increase in revenue, comparatively.
A similar report from CSO Insights found that companies with consistent social selling processes are 40% more likely to hit revenue goals than non-social sellers.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn reports that over half of the total revenue in 14 large industries (including computer software, healthcare, and marketing) is influenced by social selling.
7. 39% of salespeople said social selling reduced the amount of time they had to spend researching potential leads (eMarketer)
You’re not going to find out a great deal about a prospect from their email address, and lead generation tools typically only afford you their job titles and company.
LinkedIn allows you to gain more insight into their role, and potentially determine whether or not they’re the person you should be speaking with.
Typically lead research will fall within the remit of an SDR, but not every salesperson is afforded the luxury of having an extra body on the more time-consuming tasks.
Time is money, so it’s vital to be proactive on the tasks that matter. This means can spend more time meeting with prospects, and closing deals.
The same report from eMarketer showed that a third of salespeople said they earned more leads with the strategy, and 31% reported better relationships with clients because of it.
You’ve got the numbers, here’s how to (and how not to) do it!
- Don’t automate messages: Social selling is a sales tactic that requires an innate human touch, which is near impossible to achieve with automated messages. Custom fields within emails/LinkedIn messages are a nice way to personalize, but success in social selling comes from a real human perspective.
- Don’t rush interactions: Social selling is much more than just liking or “celebrating” posts. Put some thought into your engagement, ask questions, share your thoughts, appear knowledgeable.
- Don’t instantly pitch: There’s nothing more transparent than someone dropping you a message 5 minutes after connecting. It’s likely they still don’t know about you or what you do, so give them time to learn about you before you interact.
- Don’t be negative: It sounds obvious, but don’t take the above point too literally. If a prospect says something that you strongly disagree with, construct this into a comment that offers value and open up a conversation.
- Avoid sensitive matters: Bear in mind that certain topics can be poorly received by professional networks. Politics, for example, is forever divisive, and you’re likely going to ruffle some feathers, whatever your views are. Keep it professional and relevant to your role.
Focus on the Do's to own social selling!
- Do Advocate: Sharing industry knowledge is the first step. Get people to engage with your company content by sharing the latest company news. Perhaps you’ve just rolled out a campaign that you want to shout about, or maybe another department within the company is doing something exciting. Use these moments to advocate for your company and prove why you’re leading that industry.
- Do create: Creating content is a fantastic way to display thought leadership to your network. Be proactive by writing blogs, taking photos at events, and creating videos, among other things.
- Do Nurture: Give it time. One interaction isn’t going to do it, make sure you check-in with prospects and continuously offer value to them. Turning on Tweet notifications is an excellent way to do this on Twitter. Social selling can feel like a long-winded process, but the numbers say that the pay off is worth it.
- Do join groups: Groups on LinkedIn are a great way to both learn more about a topic and to exercise your knowledge. Use them as an opportunity to grow your network by engaging with people in your industry.
- Provide value: Thoughtful interactions aren’t just saying ‘happy birthday’ and congratulating people for promotions when prompted. You may be putting thought into posts, but make sure in doing so you are also providing a unique take on the topic in question.
It’s hard to show immediate pay off with social selling, and as with all things sales, there’s every chance that it won’t work.
However, we’re not about to argue with the statistics, and it seems that the human touch is what separates social selling from more traditional sales tactics.
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Senior Marketing Manager and Employee Advocacy Program Manager at DSMN8. Lewis specialises in content strategy, growing brand visibility and generating inbound leads. His background in Sales lends itself well to demand generation in the B2B niche.