Marketing and sales have changed a lot in the past few years. The way people do research before making a purchase decision has greatly changed due to the rise of social media. According to a recent study, a staggering 79% of the US population has a social media account, which results in lots of sales opportunities.
No matter who your prospects are, they’re probably on social media. And that’s what social selling is all about. Nowadays, the question isn’t if social selling is worth it or not. This is something that’s beyond debate at this point. The days where cold calls were the only option are gone, and the time of social sellers is here.
The real question isn't if the social selling strategy works or not, it's HOW it works. What tools should you use, and how can you make the most out of it. And that’s why we’ve created this guide.
Being experienced sales professionals ourselves, we realize how important it is to reach prospects on social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. This guide is a timeless resource for any sales team that wants to up their numbers with social selling tools.
Creating a professional brand presence on social networks allows you to get your sales pitch in front of both B2C and B2B buyers when they're making their purchasing decisions. It also allows you to position yourself as an industry expert, which isn't easy to do with traditional sales and marketing techniques.
Before we get into the strategies and tools you need for social selling success, let’s start by understanding what social selling is all about.
Even though many people believe that social selling is all about social media ads, that’s not true. Of course, social media ads do work, however, this is not social selling. This is social media marketing, which is a completely different thing. It’s not even selling, to begin with, it’s marketing.
Social selling is the art of using social media to find, connect with, understand and nurture sales leads with content. You can think of social selling as a warmer version of cold calling. Whether its Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other social network, there is a wealth of information there, as well as lead generation opportunities.
The information on your potential clients' social profiles will help you to better understand them and improve your entire sales process. And that's true for both B2B and B2C businesses.
If used correctly, this information will allow your sales reps to better understand your leads' pain points and above all, close more sales. When done properly, social selling will make your brand the first thing your prospects think of when they’re ready to buy.
Due to the interactive nature of social networks, you can use relevant content to get the right message to the right people, at the right time, and get feedback from them as well.
If we were to divide social selling into steps, they’d be as follows:
That’s where you create a profile and an online identity with your brand. You need to make this as professional as possible because it’s important for that critical first impression that people get when they interact with your brand online. First impressions last, remember that.
Now that your online profile is ready, it’s time to find the right prospects to approach on social. There are many ways that you can find the right prospects on any social networks, even if you’re new to that network. We’ll cover that in more detail later in this guide.
This is the initial contact that you make with your prospects. You can think of this as your digital handshake. And even online, a handshake can tell a lot about a person. This step is very important because if you lose them there, you’ll probably lose them for good.
After that initial contact is successful, it’s time to start nurturing those prospects. This step is all about moving prospects down the sales funnel slowly, with engaging content and well-timed messages.
Building strong relationships with prospects is something that differentiates social selling from other, cold —and creepy!— sales methods. It’s an approach that makes your brand more likable and ensures success in the long term.
And for that to happen, you need great content. Something that’s both interesting and adds value to your audience. Great content is the difference between building strong relationships with your leads and being repulsive and spammy.
To better understand the importance of social selling for your sales success, you need to understand where it fits in the sales funnel. Knowing this will help you see the big picture and utilize social selling more effectively.
Let’s start with the sales funnel.
Anything that’s being sold is a part of a sales funnel. No matter what you’re selling, you do have a sales funnel, whether you’re aware of that or not.
A sales funnel is a term that’s used to describe a customer’s journey from being a lead to making a purchase. Just like in a real funnel, a sales funnel starts wide and narrows down the more you move towards the bottom. Not everyone who starts at the top of the sales funnel will reach the end.
To make the sales funnel concept easier to grasp, here is a simple, real-life example.
Let’s assume that you’re the owner of a store that sells coats. You have nice coats and on display and lots of people pass by your shop and see those coats. We’ll say that 1,000 people pass by your store every day.
Those people are unqualified leads, and they are at the top of your store’s sales funnel. Out of those 4,000 people, 300 stop and take a look at the coats on display. They are interested in your coats, and they might actually make a purchase.
Out of those interested people, 200 people will come into the store, and start talking to the salesperson. They want to know more about the design of the coats, the materials, and the prices. The salesperson engages those people, and 70 of them end up making a purchase.
That’s the sales process of your hypothetical store, with people passing by at the top of that funnel, and people who make a purchase are at the bottom.
Now, what if the store is a website, and the coats are a subscription or a SaaS product?
Surprisingly, the process would be very similar. Instead of people passing by the store though, you have website visitors, and people won’t be talking to your salesperson face-to-face. Aside from that, it’s pretty much the same thing. The tools might be different, but the process is the same.
Any sales funnel can be divided into three main phases. All your leads will go through those different stages and if you understand, you’ll be able to create better sales funnels.
The awareness stage is at the top of the funnel —also known as ToFu, and it’s where you make the first contact with your leads. In this stage, your leads become aware of the solution you present and start having some basic interaction with your brand on social media.
This includes things like interacting with your social posts and even sharing them. Those are the people who stopped at your shop’s window from the earlier example. They’re interested in what you offer and are ready to proceed to the next step.
At this stage of the funnel, you can use big-picture-content like infographics and short videos to get the attention of those leads and get them to notice your brand.
Now, we’re in the middle of the funnel —also known as MoFu, and the interested leads are making their buying decision. They already know your brand and are trying to make up their minds on whether your solution is right for their problems or not. The leads are talking to the salesperson at that store right now, they want to know if this is right for them or not.
At this stage, you’re trying to build trust and make your target audience believe in your products. Content like case studies, whitepapers, a free ebook, and all types of educational material are super-useful at this point. Now, your leads are ready for the next stage of their customer journey.
The conversion is the last of the sales funnel. This stage is at the very bottom of the funnel — also known as BoFu, and it’s where your leads become customers. At this point in the sales funnel, your leads need a little push to become customers. They spoke to that salesperson we mentioned earlier, and they’re close to actually buying that coat.
Closing the deal and icreasing your conversion rate requires content like comparisons between your product and the competitors’ products, as well as any other similar information that help them make that final decision. This is where you address your leads’ doubts, and where your sales funnel ends.
So, where exactly does social selling fall in the sales funnel?
Now you know what is a sales funnel, and how it’s structured. You’re probably still wondering though, where does social selling belong in this process?
Actually, social selling isn’t about changing the process. The sales funnel concept is the same, with or without social selling. What’s different though, is the approach. Before we explain why the social selling approach is better for your sales funnel, let’s first understand how the traditional sales methods work.
Traditional sales funnels use cold sales methods. These methods include cold emails and cold calls, and they all have one thing in common, which is the fact that they suck! People hate cold sales methods and are less likely to engage with a brand this way.
In the traditional sales funnels, these methods are being used in the awareness stage. New leads don’t know your business, so the sales team uses those invasive marketing strategies to get their attention. Those “cold” methods are mainly the calls you get from people trying to sell you stuff, and the emails you usually mark as spam or delete without even opening them.
That’s what most people do, and that’s where social selling can transform the sales funnel.
Unlike traditional sales methods, social selling is a warm approach that most people are open to. While nobody likes getting phone calls from total strangers trying to sell all kinds of stuff, people are more open to being approached by complete strangers on social networks like LinkedIn.
People are there to meet other people and grow their network. If you’re approaching the right people with the right product/service, they’ll be more than willing to hear what you have to say. There are many differences between a sales funnel that’s based on the traditional methods and another one that’s based on social selling.
There are many reasons that make social selling superior to traditional selling. The following are the top differences that make sales funnels that are based on social selling that much better.
In a sales funnel that’s based on the traditional, cold approach, leads are usually approached via a different channel than the one that was used to acquire their contact information. For example, a lead might provide their email and phone number on a landing page. That’s how the contact information of that lead was acquired.
After that, they’ll get that cold call, and will regret giving their phone number in the first place. As a result, the information available about such leads in not reliable, to say the least. You basically know their name, phone/email, and that they might be interested in that product or service.
On the other hand, social selling uses tools that create a full profile for every lead. This includes social accounts, emails, as well as other useful information that help sales teams approach sales in a reasonable way.
This is another major difference between traditional sales funnels، and ones that are based on social selling.
In traditional sales funnels, leads are first engaged in an invasive way that’s usually perceived as spam. This includes both cold calls and cold emails, which results in a bad first impression, or being ignored completely, which is what happens in most cases.
Social selling, on the other hand, engages leads on social networks. Which is a much warmer approach, and people are more open to connect with strangers there.
In traditional selling, there is no time to waste. You need to make a pitch as soon as you contact your lead, which is mainly due to the nature of the communication channels, and the invasive nature of cold sales methods.
You can’t call someone you don’t know and try to befriend them before making a pitch. It doesn’t work this way and people are already defensive due to the fact that you’re already intruding into their lives.
On the contrary, social selling pitches tend to take their time. You’re engaging, your leads, providing value, and building a long-term relationship that’s good for conversions, as well as your brand image.
Traditional selling is just about selling. It’s a salesy approach, without any added value to your leads. As a result, people don’t appreciate this type of selling, because let’s face it, nobody likes being sold to.
Also, the communication channels that are used with traditional selling, as well as the overall approach, makes it difficult to add any value to your leads. You just jump into the point because there is no time for anything else.
In social selling, adding value to your leads is an essential part of the process. Great content helps your leads find you, instead of you doing all the effort to find them. And for that content to work, it needs to add value that attracts leads, and establish your brand authority, which is great for long-term success. That’s how you build great relationships with your customers.
There is a major downside that’s associated with the traditional, cold sales methods, which is the fact that you engage each lead individually. When you’re cold calling leads, it’s a case-by-case process that you can’t scale without hiring more people.
To make things even worse, you can’t create something that “goes viral” with traditional sales methods. The result is more effort and cost for exposure and once you stop cold calling your leads, the entire lead generation process will stop.
Since the social selling approach relies on high-quality content and creating value for leads, it’s much more efficient, thanks to what’s known as “the network effect”. When you create good content and leads find it, there is a chance they’ll share it with other people. This results in acquiring more leads, without doing any extra effort.
Even if your team stops creating more content, what you have already published will continue to generate leads for you, without dedicating additional resources to the process.
As we’ve already covered in the previous chapter, the top of the funnel is the awareness stage in the sales process. Whether you're a B2B or B2C business, that's when potential customers start noticing that you exist, and consider using whatever service or product that you’re offering.
At this point in the sales journey, there is lots of analysis going on. People want to know which solution is best suited for their needs, to be sure they’re making the right choice. And it’s your job to educate them and make the most out of this valuable opportunity.
Those are potential B2C and B2B buyers who want to learn more about possible solutions for their problem. It doesn’t get any better than that. And when it comes to educating potential customers and creating brand awareness, content is king.
You might be wondering, what does content have to do with social selling?
And the answer is everything.
The reason why good content is essential for successful social selling is because of how social selling works.
Unlike cold calls and emails, social selling isn’t about invading people’s lives with offers they don’t want to hear. Instead of trying to get your pitch in front of as many people as possible, you want the right people to discover your brand.
You want them to come to you, and perceive whatever it is that you’re selling as the ultimate solution for all of their problems. Something better than everything else on the market.
So, how do you help people discover your brand and see the value of your offering?
It’s with content. Great content, to be specific.
There are two main goals that social sellers are trying to achieve in the social selling process: Getting people to notice and talk about your brand.
Noticing your brand is the initial contact you’re trying to make with your customers. Think about it this way:
You’re offering a personal finance tool that helps people track their spending. Instead of getting a list of phone numbers and cold calling everyone on it to ask them if they’re interested in your finance app, you let them find you with relevant content.
This can be anything related to personal finance that might interest your target audience. Blog posts about getting out of debt, paying off college loans, improving credit score...you get the picture.
People will search for these topics are potential customers. When they find your valuable content, they will find you. That’s how good content can help your sales team; by attracting potential customers to your business.
When people hear the word “content”, they often think about blog posts.
While evergreen blog posts are invaluable for any business, this isn’t the only type of content you can create. Sure, well-written blog posts that offer real value are great for SEO and getting organic traffic. However, the right type of content depends mainly on your target audience.
Social networks are flexible in terms of the content that you can post there. And of course, there are types of content that are exclusive to social networks. You can’t send a LinkedIn message to someone who doesn’t have a LinkedIn account.
No matter what type of content you use, it has to be well-thought. And by “well-though” we mean high-quality content that’s written with your target audience in mind.
These cover everything from long social posts, to infographics and videos. Of course, the type of posts that you’re going to be using most depends on the platform you’re using, and the people you’re talking to.
So, if you’re on a platform that focuses on visual content like Instagram, you’re going to be posting more pictures and short videos. If you’re on a professional network like LinkedIn, long blog posts that add value to the readers are preferred.
The role of posts is to help your business attract potential customers and build brand awareness.
One of the best things about social selling channels is being a two-way process. Instead of just “talking at your customers” and hoping your cold sales tactics would work, you get to have meaningful interactions with them. And one of the best ways to do this is by replying to their comments.
By doing so, your sales reps will be able to engage your clients and become more than “just another brand” to them.
These messages are available on different social networks, and can be used in different ways. For example, you can automate message sequences for different interactions that people make on your profile. You can create messages sequences for other types of interactions, which will help you engage your customers, and scale your lead generation process.
So, what makes social selling so effective? What makes it that much better than traditional sales methods?
It’s the psychology behind it.
Despite the “selling” part of social selling, it relies on different psychology principles than traditional sales methods.
On social networks, people get this rewarding feeling from connecting with others and having positive conversations. And this rewarding feeling is due to the rising level of oxytocin in their blood after such conversations.
That’s why social media is so addictive. People get this pleasant feeling from using it, and that’s something that social selling takes advantage of.
So, instead of throwing a ton of sales pitches at your customers and hope some of them would get back to you, you can make them enjoy interacting with your brand.
In addition to improving your sales numbers, this will allow you to have meaningful, long-term relationships with your customers.
There are many reasons you should care about social selling. And numbers don’t lie.
According to a recent study, 30% of all the time people spend online is spent on social network sites. In other words, social networks are where your sales leads are. That's where most purchasing decisions begin now.
Not only are millions of potential customers and decision makers spending a chunk of their time on social networks, but they’re also more likely to engage with your brand there. People are more open to the idea of interacting with people they don’t know on social networks.
After all, meeting and connecting with people is the point behind these social sites. That’s why people create accounts there in the first place. That’s a lot of potential customers who are willing to engage with your brand in a scalable way.
And that’s not the only reason why you should care about social selling. The following are the top reasons that make social selling a must for any business that wants to succeed.
When was the last time you received a cold email, opened it, like it, and replied to it?
We’d say never. And you’re not alone.
Yes, there was a time we're cold emails were the leads generation channel. But now, things have changed.
First of all, everybody is sending cold emails. And we mean EVERYBODY!
People are getting a ton of emails per day and they just automatically ignore and delete any email from people they don’t know. If people opened and ready every one of those cheesy sales pitches they got, they won’t have time to do anything else.
In addition to being unsolicited, invasive, and generally ignored by people, the deliverability of cold emails is dropping as well.
That’s mainly because the spam detection technology has become better, and will keep getting better. As a result, the deliverability of cold emails is expected to drop over the next few years.
Not to mention the legal issues that are associated with cold emails, GDPR compliance, and a ton of legal hassle that makes the process even more complicated.
On social networks, you don’t have to deal with any of this hassle. Just find potential leads, approach them in a smart way, and you’ll be fine.
Let’s face it, emails from people we don’t know are kinda creepy. You don’t know the person, you don’t remember giving them your email, you know how they got it...that’s starting off on the wrong foot.
On the other hand, approaching people you don’t really know that well is acceptable on social media. Especially on a professional network like LinkedIn. People there are open to the idea of connecting with other people.
So, sending someone a cold social media message is a much warmer approach than doing the same thing via email. Because when you’re approaching new people, context is everything.
You can think of social selling strategy as an inbound sales method, where your customers come to you, instead of you trying to pitch your service to them.
Unlike cold emails and calls, social selling isn’t about engaging leads individually. Sure, you can send people custom messages, reply to their comments, and do different types of individual interactions.
Where social selling truly shines though is the shareability and network effect. Let’s see how that works.
You’ve created a new piece of content to share on your LinkedIn profile. It’s well-written, adds value, and was created with your target audience in mind. You’ve posted the content, and your target audience has started reading it.
If that content is really good, there is a good chance people will share it. And when they do, other like-minded people will read it, find your profile, and know your business. This effect is something that’s pretty much exclusive to social selling.
When you create good content for your social selling channels, you will end up getting lots of free publicity and sales opportunities in the form of shares. Positioning yourself as one of the thought leaders in your industry is always a good thing.
Another reason why social selling should matter to you is the quality of leads you can get from social networks. Unlike with other traditional sales channels, you know a lot about your leads from their social profiles. This includes things like where they work, their interest, location, and much more.
As a result, the quality of leads you get from social networks is much higher than your average cold calling list. You know a great deal about your leads, understand their pain points, and if you narrow down the criteria, you’ll get a list of leads who are very likely to be interested in whatever it is that you’re offering.
Social selling takes lead nurturing and engagement to a whole new level. There are so many ways in which you can engage and nurture your leads and the best thing, they are all scalable.
Everything from direct messages to comments and content allows you to build meaningful relationships with your leads, without sounding like an annoying sales pitch that nobody wants to hear.
There is lots of innovation in social selling right now. It’s relatively new, and there are new platforms to experiment with all the time. And that’s another reason that makes social selling so promising for sales professionals.
No matter what industry you’re in, there is probably a social selling tool that can help you generate more leads, engage your customers, and create a professional brand image. In many cases, this might be the edge you need to outperform your competitors.
Absolutely not. We never said that and never will. At least not anytime soon.
While cold emails are a terrible way to approach a new lead, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use emails at all. You just need to keep your TOFU free from emails and use social selling instead.
In your MOFU and BOFU though, you probably have your customers’ approval to send them an email, and they already know who you are. And in that case, email is a great way to communicate with your customers. This includes everything from upselling and cross-selling to lead nurturing.
Cold is bad. Remember that!
There is one thing that’s better than social selling. And that’s automated social selling.
Just think about it...you get all the perks of social selling, without putting in a ton of “manual effort” like you’d do with traditional sales methods. That’s the dream!
The question isn’t whether social selling automation is good or not. The question is what you should automate, and how you can automate it. And that’s what this chapter is all about.
Everything from the role of complete leads’ data in automation success to what interactions you should automate is covered here.
So, let’s start with getting the “right data” that you need to create an effective social selling automation process.
Data is playing an increasingly important role in every industry imaginable. Everyone from oil to tech companies are using data to make their business more profitable. And social selling is no exception.
When you’re trying to sell something to someone, knowing more about this person will boost your chances of success. Especially if you want to automate the process.
Not a very long time ago, getting such data was complicated and unreliable, to say the least. You’d have a list of phone numbers and names, and you just need to improvise.
Make no mistakes, it takes extraordinary skill — and luck — to be able to sell something to someone that you know close to nothing about. And that’s something you can’t scale — or automate, because it relies on the individual skills of each salesperson.
Nowadays though, things have changed...a lot!
There is a ton of information about each lead that’s already available on the internet. In fact, that’s the case for most of us. In a time where almost everyone has some sort of an online presence, it doesn’t require detective work to find out more information about anyone.
People share those things willingly on social networks. All you have to do is use the right tools, and you’ll end up with more information about your leads than you’ve ever imagined.
And as we’ve previously mentioned, this data is crucial to the success of your social selling automation process though.
At this point you probably have lots of what we call “incomplete data”. In its current state, this data can be used in social selling. However, once you enrich this data with a tool like Orbitly, the possibilities are endless.
To help you understand how exactly can enriching leads’ data helps improve your social selling process, we’ll start with something that most businesses have: LinkedIn profiles.
Nowadays, LinkedIn profiles are something that most companies have in common. It’s becoming the norm to have a business profile on this network so, there is a good chance you already have one.
What you don’t know that you have though, is a wealth of leads’ data, that’s accessible to you with just a few clicks.
All you have to do is export your LinkedIn connections data, upload it to Orbitly, and it’ll take care of the rest. Once Orbitly is done enriching your data, you’ll have full information about your leads. This includes everything from their work information, email address, and different social profiles.
Having full information about your leads will help improve your social selling by improving your targeting, and helping you create better content. When you know who exactly you’re talking to, it’s easier to create content that appeals to them.
Now that you’ve enriched your data, it’s time to put that social selling process of yours on autopilot.
When done right, automation doesn’t only help you scale your social selling process and make it more efficient. It’s supposed to make the entire social selling process better, and give your leads a better experience.
In some cases, automation can make things worse. The general rule here is that if automation will make you sound like a spammy sales machine, don’t do it. You should be automate redundant tasks that take up a big chunk of you —or your team’s— time for no good reason.
The following are some engagements that you should be automating for different social networks:
These interactions include profile visits, follows, subscribes, etc. They are non-invasive interactions that should always be automated, because it doesn’t make much of a difference if a real human is doing them one by one. So, instead of wasting your sales team’s time on this task, a good social automation tool will give you the same results, without wasting precious time.
Whether you’re adding someone on Facebook, or sending a connect request on LinkedIn, these are all invitation-type interactions. Unlike cold email, where you just jump into total strangers' inboxes, these social invites are like asking for permission before sending people anything. As you’d expect, this works better than unsolicited emails.
You can automate social invites by setting criteria for the people you send the invites to, and have this process run on autopilot.
This is where you build relationships with your leads. If there is one thing that all social networks have in common, it’s probably direct messages. While you shouldn’t be automating all messages that you send to your leads, there is a level of automation that can make those messages work better, at scale.
The first messages that you send to your leads, specific sequences and triggered messages are all interactions that are better automated. By doing so, you’ll be able to reply to your leads fast, which is something they appreciate. Also, you won’t have to repeat the same process over and over, if you use the same first message for all of your leads.
There are many ways to engage your leads on social networks. Comments, likes, claps, retweets, shares, endorses...etc. are some of the things that you can use to interact with your audience, depending on the social network you’re on. These interactions are one of the major advantages that social selling has over traditional methods.
The only downside is that the more contacts you have on a social network, the more difficult it is to scale these interactions. At least when you’re doing it manually. When you automate these interactions, every one of your leads will feel like they’re having a personal interaction with your brand, without having to waste countless hours on this.
This is another thing that you should always automate. Posting content manually is something that’s always a waste of time and effort. When you automate posting content on your social network accounts, you can plan and schedule weeks of content at a time. You’ll also be able to post your content in a time where it’s most likely to be seen by your audience, even if it’s not a convenient time for you to be online, and posting content. This is particularly true if your leads are in a different timezone.
Social selling isn’t a fad. It’s a sales method that’s working now, and it’ll be around for many years to come.
Even though social selling is powerful by itself, the right automation tools will help you make the most out of it, and scale the entire process. Using a tool like Orbitly, you can get the full information of your leads, so you can effectively engage them on different social networks, and even send better cold emails, that are customized to each lead.
No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re not engaging your leads on social networks, there is no better time to start than now.