Chances are, if you’re reading this, you sell (or market) some kind of digital product. Likely, that digital project is some kind of cloud technology – whether it’s a cybersecurity tool, advertising solution, software as a service (SaaS) or other cloud product.
We’d be willing to bet that, more often than not, you’re selling your digital product to consumers who are also marketing digital products of their own, or at the very least, selling these products online. Think Nike, Netflix or Nordstrom.
Regardless of what your product is and who it’s designed to serve, the fact is that you’ve got to sell it.
One of those sales methods is called social selling. Maybe you’ve heard about it, but don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe you’ve never encountered the phrase in your life.
In any case, we’re here to bring you up to speed on one of today’s most relevant sales strategies to help you supercharge your digital product sales.
Social selling: What is it and why should I care?
Have you ever had a problem to which a trusted friend or colleague recommended a handy solution? Maybe that friend connected you to an expert or service that sorted your problem out for you – and you took that expert’s word for it because your relationship with the friend in question had given you confidence in their good judgment, character and genuine interest in helping you out.
Social selling is essentially the same thing – but conducted over social media. It’s a way for sales and marketing teams to connect with their current and prospective customers via their personal social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Twitter.
Quality social selling relies on the development of strong personal relationships built on trust and the addition of value. If you’re selling digital products, this tactic can be incredibly powerful and has in fact been deployed by some of the best SaaS, advertising and cloud computing companies in the world, such as Sales Hacker, Drift, Uberflip and dozens of other digital-first companies.
Why is social selling so important?
When we say social selling is a game-changing marketing and sales strategy, that’s not an exaggeration. In fact, in 2018, The Aberdeen Group reported that the “3% of salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.”
What could account for that difference in performance?
Chief among the reasons social selling matters is this: social media is ubiquitous. It’s an essential part of many people’s everyday lives – so much so that a Nielsen Total Audience Report revealed that “the average American adult [spends] more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media” – the majority of which either originates from or finds its way to social sites.
That means, more often than not, your prospects and customers are active on the social web. Naturally, marketers and sales reps who are meeting their prospects and customers where they’re spending the most time are bound to outperform their competitors who don’t.
But it’s not simply being on social media that helps social sellers to stand above the rest.
It’s their approach to engaging people on social media that really sets top-performing social sellers apart. The best social sellers understand that social selling means developing a genuine interest in customers and prospects, enriching their personal relationships and strategically pushing their brand – by forging a connection based on trust, reliability and empathy.
Such an approach allows you to scalably build your credibility and is beneficial beyond your current role. In fact, many social sellers find that doors to publication features, codeveloped content, and other opportunities start opening for them at an exponential rate when they crush it at social selling.
The benefits of social selling are pretty clear – but you don’t have to take us at our word alone.
Why social selling matters: Social selling statistics
Statistically speaking, the benefits of social selling couldn’t be clearer.
While, as mentioned previously, marketers and sales team members who use social selling as a tactic are enjoying an improved lead-to-closure rate (and spending less time researching potential leads, according to 39 percent of B2B professionals), their peers who forgo social selling in favor of traditional methods like cold calling and cold emailing are not faring as well.
In fact, over 90 percent of decision-makers say that when it comes to cold outreach strategies, they’ll never respond.
If you think about it, that makes sense. A cold call or email is taking that decision-maker away from his or her routine. It’s asking them to take time out of their day – to disrupt their flow – so that you can sell them something that, as far as they know, their business might not even need.
Plus...why should they do business with someone they’ve never met and have little reason to trust?
Just how often do you reply to cold calls or cold emails yourself?
From there, the statistics on social selling get even rosier. Take, for example, the fact that nearly half of all revenue is said to be influenced by social selling across four common industries: computer software, healthcare technology, marketing and advertising.
You’re in one of those, right?
Moreover, social sellers are said to attract 45 percent more opportunities than their peers and outsell their non-social counterparts 78 percent of the time. On a broader scale, according to Sales for Life’s 2017 Social Selling Trends Report, companies with consistent social selling practices were 40 percent more likely to hit revenue goals than their non-social counterparts.
Given all this information, the benefits of social selling are pretty clear. Compared to other methods, social selling is one of the most effective tactics for B2B marketers and salespeople to build their personal brands while connecting with current and prospective clients to build relationships on a foundation of empathy and trust.
Best practices in social selling
Now that you know what social selling is and understand its potential impact on your sales outcomes in theory, it’s important to learn how you can get the most out of social selling in practice.
One of the first things you’ll need to grasp before embarking on any social selling venture is this: relationships are just as much about context as they are about content.
Speaking more specifically, it’s important that marketers and salespeople tailor their social selling strategies to be adaptive across a variety of channels.
Best Practices for LinkedIn Social Selling
Widely seen as the premier social media site for business-to-business networking, LinkedIn provides users with a wide array of options for communicating their messages. From long-form blog posts to shorter status updates, messages, video marketing and so much more, this social network can be the B2B social seller’s secret weapon of mass conversion.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind for social selling on LinkedIn.
Optimize your profile for networking: The number one rule of social selling on LinkedIn is to always consider your target audience when setting up your LinkedIn profile.
Ask yourself what your audience would want to know about a person like you and focus on articulating that throughout your profile.
For example, take advantage of your LinkedIn headline by describing the kind of solutions you offer prospects in your niche.
Join LinkedIn groups in your niche(s): Social sellers should want to be a part of an active, in-depth conversation about their business vertical – and while that can certainly be accomplished by communicating across individual status updates and other such posts, LinkedIn’s groups allow you to participate in such conversations in a setting that’s more like a forum.
This can be a great way to collaborate in real time with other people in your space – including your prospects – and establish credibility even as you gradually introduce your solutions to a fairly captive audience.Plus, I’ve heard that LinkedIn is going to start pushing group updates in the news feed this year, so there’s a real chance to get a lot of high-quality views and engagement by adding value within LinkedIn Groups.
Take advantage of Pulse: Thought leadership can be a powerful asset in any marketing ecology, and in the context of social selling, it can serve as a centerpiece for public conversation. On LinkedIn, marketers don’t have to wait for media inquiries or permission from editors to share their thought leadership. Instead, they can publish directly to Pulse, LinkedIn’s on-site blogging platform.
While status updates are generally appropriate for a number of LinkedIn posts, content that requires longer-form publication is perfect for Pulse. Do you have a topical advisory you need to share with your clientele? Has your company pioneered an industry-shifting solution that your prospects could benefit from? Pulse is the place to share case studies and make a persuasive argument for your brand in the form of blogged advice that people can share, comment on and engage with.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to publishing on LinkedIn Pulse by Hubspot.
Engage on other people’s updates: While we don’t recommend cartwheeling onto somebody’s status update to showboat – particularly if your remarks aren’t deeply relevant to the topic at hand (the time to mention your SaaS platform is probably not somebody’s promotion announcement) – there are certainly times when it’s appropriate to contribute your thoughts to someone else’s status update.
Frequently, LinkedIn users take to the feed to pose questions about problems they are having in business, to announce recruitment drives, or to talk about their breakthroughs.
These represent fantastic opportunities to offer solutions or to simply demonstrate an interest in the work and lives of the people you’re connected to. Take a moment to consider the conversation unfolding in your prospect’s status updates, then venture some thoughtful insights of your own...that add value.
Show that you’re paying attention while elevating your credibility in your community’s eyes by offering real, valuable insights within a comment. If your comment is good enough, you might even gain some random upvotes and a new follower or two.
Rope in relevant parties: While you’re sharing your insights with other LinkedIn users on status updates, consider serving as a people-connector by reaching out to your industry peers.
For example, when venturing a suggestion, you might call out (via the “@” function) to someone with more specialized knowledge to request their input. This not only creates value for your prospect by putting them in touch with someone who can answer their questions with greater specificity, but also demonstrates your commitment to helping them.
Another option is to re-engage conversation and relationships that may be a little cold. If you’ve written a recent blog post you think one of your accounts might like, don’t be afraid to tag them and ask for their feedback – but only if it’s relevant and...you guessed it: adds value.
Don’t be afraid to direct message: While it’s a fact that many users on LinkedIn can’t stand messages from users looking to connect that don’t particularly help them fulfill a need or demonstrate any genuine knowledge of their pain paints, the same can’t be said for people who’ve developed an affinity for you and your social selling brand.
Consider striking up a private conversation after getting to know a prospect and having positive, value-sharing interactions with them. From there, you can take a deeper dive into your prospect’s needs and, based on the relationship you’ve built and your understanding of the client and their goals, make recommendations that they can trust.
If you’re looking to laugh, you have to check out Gaetano DiNardi’s recent LinkedIn video, where he tested sliding into the DMs in real life.
Best Practices for Twitter Social Selling
Launched in 2006, Twitter made a splash on the social internet with its 140-character microblogging format that brought new meaning to the phrase “simple, but significant.”
Since then, the site has become a hub for a variety of niches – and the B2B marketing space is thriving, in part because Twitter allows smart marketers to target and jump in on specialized conversations, build smart lists and keep a finger on the pulse of the market.
This is what you’ll want to do to get the most out of social selling on Twitter.
Take advantage of social listening: When it comes to social selling, listening is just as important as targeting your message toward specific people. You need to learn as much about your prospects as possible, often in a fast-paced environment.
Twitter makes that easy, thanks to its list feature. You can take an account-based marketing approach in order to keep your social listening initiative organized, grouping prospects based on industry, job title and any number of other factors in alignment with your business goals.
Join Twitter chats: A somewhat more recent trend that has slowly but surely grown in popularity over the years, Twitter Chats are public, but organized, conversations that take place within a specific hashtag developed for a specific purpose. Usually managed by an individual host (a person or brand), these chats often give users a series of prompts to respond to that is paired with a given hashtag. Users respond to that hashtag, finding a network of peers who are as excited about a given topic as they are – building their credibility and database of connections at the same time.
Top Social Sellers You Should Know About
Are you looking for a little inspiration from the top social sellers? While there are hundreds of amazing social selling experts out there, here are some of our favorites.
Dave Gerhardt (Drift)
Gaetano Dinardi (Nextiva)
Max Altschuler (Outreach // Sales Hacker)
Randy Frisch (Uberflip)
Getting started with social selling
Now that you have an overview of social selling and some examples of best practices to work with, it’s time to get started. But where do you actually start?
The answer to that is simpler than you might think. Rely on these key principles of social selling to get started.
Always add value: Social selling isn’t simply a matter of interacting idly on Twitter or LinkedIn. Rather, you need to make sure you’re bringing something useful, novel or inspiring to your prospects each time you reach out. Your social connections should leave the conversation having learned something useful and new.
Tailor your content to each platform: Each social network has a series of features and “norms” that differentiate the platform from its competition. It’s important that you are mindful of these factors, and that you develop your content in a way that takes advantage of these differences rather than mindlessly replicating content that might be well-suited to one environment but a bad fit for another. Presentation goes a long way.
Always respond and engage: There’s more to social selling than simply pushing a message, and if that’s all you’re doing, then you’re doing it wrong. Successful social sellers understand that their key advantage comes from building meaningful relationships with their customers and establishing a reputation for reliability, trustworthiness and know-how. For that reason, you should be prepared to jump in on your prospect’s conversations to share insights where appropriate and to answer questions your peers might have.
Set goals and measure your results: No social selling strategy can be complete without measurement. How else are you supposed to know what’s working and what isn’t? To create a performance-focused social selling strategy, establish a review schedule and a series of key performance indicators (like leads-to-conversions, total monthly engagements, etc.), then connect them to your broader sales goals. When review time comes along, ask yourself: is my social selling strategy working? If so, how can I scale that momentum? If not, what can be fixed?
Bringing It All Together
Ultimately, every organization is going to be different when it comes to social selling execution.
That said, social selling is something that anyone can get started on – and any marketing or sales team can adopt as an organized, performance-driven outreach strategy. Whether you’re a lead decision-maker or a marketing team member, it’s a great idea to talk to your colleagues and leadership about social selling and how the organization can benefit from it.
If you’re not quite ready to broach that topic and want to train in social selling first, you should check out the experts listed above and see how inspiration can strike you.
Are you ready to become a social selling expert?
Social selling is about leveraging your connections and credibility – plus the power of storytelling – to add value to your target audience. There are plenty of ways to do this effectively, including a number of content formats like video, tweets or a simple conversation via chat or the comments section.
Regardless of how you choose to execute your social selling strategy, remember that the most important thing is to tell effective stories and build strong, lasting connections that anticipate the needs of your customers and deliver real value.