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What is Social Selling and How Does it Impact Sales Prospecting?

What is Social Selling and How Does it Impact Sales Prospecting?

Kushal Saini Kakkar
Kushal Saini Kakkar
August 18, 2022
5 min read

Are you staring at the phone and dreading that next cold call?  

Are you fed up with rejection?

…but gearing up for it nonetheless? That's brave of you. Courage and a never-say-die spirit are definitely key ingredients to effective selling. But maybe you could achieve your goals without cold calling?

Cold calling has its merits, of course. It works especially well when you are selling basic, everyday products (like insurance, perhaps or credit cards) or if you are okay with selling your product at a low price.  

However, cold calling might not always get you very far. Some people - particularly higher-ups and decision-makers - or pretty much anyone who is really busy - might get irritated when they receive calls from someone whom they are unfamiliar with. Worse, you reek of desperation, which could impact how potential buyers view your product (they might think: “if it's so good, why are you so desperate?”). Looking thirsty is also not good for negotiation with potential customers. 

So how do you build familiarity? How do you make contact before the first pitch call? How do you become someone they have “seen around” and get them to warm up to you? 

 

Well, conferences and networking evenings have traditionally been used as opportunities for (subtle and suave) sales prospecting. It's always easier to strike a chord with prospects and get them to warm up to you between sessions at a conference or at the bar during a networking event. 

“How’s the shrimp cocktail?”

“Oh, you’re vegan too?” 

“Can’t choose? The sauvignon blanc is excellent. Cheers” 

Social selling is like the offline version of that. You know, “new normal” and all that. Instead of sales teams making new professional contacts at the coffee counter or the bar or an ice-breaker at such events, you do so on social media platforms.

So what exactly is social selling? 

How can you get started, and what does it entail? 

Social selling is a lead generation approach that involves developing a relationship with prospects over social media and engaging with them in a way that is relevant and not intrusive. Sales reps at B2C brands might achieve social selling via social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook (maybe even TikTok). Salespeople working at B2B brands will typically use social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter for their social selling activities.

A social selling strategy became relevant as soon as social media became popular, but after the pandemic digitally transformed the way we do business, a social selling strategy is a must-have, particularly in B2B sales.

Social selling consists of social listening where you look for opportunities based on what is being said, and sharing content, where sales reps provide valuable insights. Social selling must tie in with your sales strategy - whatever you are doing on social media channels should align with your sales goals.

Social selling is all about relationships

Move over cold calls: there’s a new way of selling in town. 

 

Being unobtrusive means that you don’t spam sales prospects with DMs or pester them in any way. Being relevant means that sales reps share relevant content on their social networks and also comment on posts where you have something relevant (and useful) to say. 

The idea is to build relationships that meet your sales objectives

You need to meet your sales objectives with tact - there needs to be an air of subtlety about the way you talk shop to your social network.

Create a sense of trust with leads by becoming a subject matter expert - your brand’s page should share opinions and information that helps your leads resolve their pain points or gives them something to think about. Positioning yourself as a subject matter expert and sharing useful information related to your sector (or the pain points that prompt purchase decisions in favour of your product) helps you to build a foundation of trust with leads on social media. 

When you do talk directly about your products or services, be sure to offer valuable content focus on how they resolve common issues. That’s how you will build trust.

One of the great ways to get noticed and expand your network is to join and contribute to industry groups and forums. Be sure to stay positive and steer clear of any controversies. Keep it amicable at all times with your eye on the prize: you’re doing this to meet your sales goals. Don’t get distracted by any drama that might break out among peers or prospects. 

From sales prospecting to social prospecting

How does social selling impact sales prospecting?

In traditional sales prospecting, you might profile prospects according to demographic and professional characteristics, but social prospecting lets you zero in on sales opportunities in real-time and based on actual cues that might lead to a positive purchase decision. 

For example: 

Will is a sales professional at a company that deploys and manages security systems. He finds out that Jim plans to open a high-end jewelry store by seeing one of Jim’s tweets about it. In Jim’s post, he is asking his network for contacts for everything from paints to tiling, security, and staff. Will jumps at this opportunity and leaves Jim a message with his website and contact details. Jim saves Will’s information because he is genuinely looking for a security systems contractor. Will drops him a follow-up message a week later, and they have now set up a call to chat more about what Will’s company can offer to Jim. 

Will is also more confident about his sales pitch because he knows exactly what Jim is looking for.

You can see how the sales cycle can be tremendously shortened with a sales process that includes social selling.

Social prospecting can often also bring leads right to your doorstep. The happy situation that we described above could also have played out like this: 

Jim posts on LinkedIn asking his network for contacts for everything from paints to tiling, security, and staff. His friend Frieda sees this and remembers that she read a blog post from a security systems company about how to choose and manage security systems more effectively. 

Frieda shares the security systems blog article in the comment thread on Jim’s post. Jim sees that the blog article is by a security company that seems to really know its stuff. The blog articles and insights that they share - position them firmly as thought leaders and not mere suppliers. He comments on the post, asking to know more about the company and stating that he is looking to evaluate security systems. Jim, a salesperson at the security systems company, responds immediately, and Jim and Will set up a meeting to chat more about Will’s requirements and how Jim can meet them. 

Jim’s getting paper - well, almost… provided he wings his pitch right. 

(Psst! Did you know Wingman can help you pitch more successfully by giving you live in-call cues, helping you improve your talk-listen ratio, and letting you analyze past calls to see what worked and what didn’t?) 

Are you missing the old-school way of doing things?

Sometimes sales prospecting can even work just like advertising did in the past. 

Will’s security systems company posts about how its security systems can provide remote locking and unlocking, a real-time stream of activities around door

s and windows and armed security intervention in 5 minutes.  This is just one among many such blog articles on topics relevant to their target audience.

Jim comes across this post while scrolling through his feed. He saves it because he plans to open a jewelry store in a few months. When he does embark on opening his jewelry shop, he DMs Will for a quote. 

Benefits of social selling and social selling tips

1. Helps you stand out to reach the targeted audience 

Social selling lets you reach an audience that is right for your product in many ways. For example, some might use search engine optimized blog articles to reach prospects whose search patterns indicate that they might find your product useful. 

Alternatively, like the examples above, you might see a post by a prospect that provides a relevant opening for you to state that you can help, or someone in your prospect’s network might refer them to you based on the content you have shared previously. 

The point is that social selling lets you reach a ripe audience. Your efforts are far more targeted, and you reach people to whom your message is more relevant. 

Social selling tips to get the most of this benefit: 

  • Using storytelling: Use both short (quick and easy posts and videos) and long-form (blogs) methods to tell the story of your brand. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional, complete, and packed with useful insights that position you as a subject matter expert. Have higher-ups on the sales team (or at the CXO level at your company) develop personal brands that allow them to be positioned as subject matter experts for the sector that you target
  • Use content strategically: 
    - Share literature (and publish your own) that offers your prospects a way to make their lives or jobs easier – with your product. But the focus, theme, and tone should center on helping the prospect, not on selling. 
    - Use reviews – reshare them, or ask existing clients to endorse you for skills on LinkedIn. There’s nothing like third-party praise. 

2. Allows you to accelerate network expansion 

 

If you are not expanding your network by using LinkedIn or Twitter (or Instagram if your product fits better there), you are not expanding your network as quickly as you can and should. Databases get outdated very quickly - people change jobs, addresses, and phone numbers. Errors are not uncommon on databases either. 

Social selling tips to get the most of this benefit:

  • Set up Google Alerts for mentions related to:
    - Your industry
    - Pain points that your product is able to resolve 
    - Your product (not necessarily your brand but your product. For example: Security systems or flooring or market research)
  • Spend time going through relevant LinkedIn groups pertaining to your sector. You should also view posts by industry leaders to make your voice, opinion and suggestions heard. Remember, offer solutions and suggestions first, sell second. 

3. Fosters better client engagement 

When you call a prospect to tell them about your product, they might be tempted to shut you down. But people go to social media open and ready to learn about things and read about things.

You also get a chance to share what someone else said about you - a repost of an existing client praising you certainly has a better impact than you telling a lead, “We have a 100% satisfaction rate” or even “Your competitors love our product.” It also eliminates the time gap that comes into play when you attempt to connect a phone lead with referrals.

Moreover, you have the chance to build loyalty by staying on top of a prospect’s mind. Like and share posts that genuinely resonate with your brand. This way, you become known and familiar - you move past the stranger phase without bombarding your leads with calls. 

Social selling tips to get the most of this benefit: 

Joining groups or even creating your own - this can never be underscored enough. 

Paying attention to the comment section - it is possible that the main post does not give you an opportunity to engage. However, in the comments, you might find an opening to add your two cents or laud a potential lead on a good suggestion/ best practice, or position your product. 

4. Gets you better results through data and insights

Just like any other sales technique or marketing strategy, effective social selling is about making sure that your efforts translate to some form of ROI. If not, you need to tweak your strategy.

In other words, analytical data is not only necessary; it is precious. 

The best thing about social selling is that you can measure reach and impact. When you call a prospect but don’t reach them and leave a message, you might not have any idea if the message reached them. The same goes for when you send an email (yes, even if you turn on read receipts because the prospect can decline the read receipt). 

With social sales, you are not in the dark about how far your efforts are going and you can pursue the kind of posts or engagement moves that deliver better results. 

Social selling tips to get the most of this benefit: 

  • Measure the reach and engagement on your posts across platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, using tools like HubSpot. 
  • Use social selling tools like LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) scores companies on a scale of 0 - 100 based on your LinkedIn activities across what they refer to as the 4 pillars of social selling that is building a professional brand, focusing on the right prospects, engaging with insights and building trusted relationships.  

Social selling is for everyone in B2B!

Especially if you’re selling in a B2B market, you need to strike a chord with prospects if you intend to turn them into customers. The only way to do this is to position yourself as a subject matter expert and build a relationship with them that is based on trust, expertise and the right degree of familiarity (don’t go commenting on their personal posts!). 

A good chunk of B2B markets are tightly knit communities, and as a result, the benefits of developing engagement with a few prospects via social selling can have a multiplier effect. 

We made all of that feel really simple, but for some people, going and saying something publicly on a social media channel evokes some form of digital stage fright. 

But when Wingman has your back, it’s not so hard to figure out an opening line or smart (And useful. And relevant.) comment to add to a thread that is bursting with activity. How’s that, you ask? 

Well, Wingman gives you call summaries that let you see what tactics worked on calls with your clients - you can easily migrate these winning moves to your digital conversations too. 

Maybe you want to take cues from your sales team’s biggest star at winning over clients. Wingman’s Game Tapes lets the whole team access shared playlists of winning sales tactics for discovery, demos, and more. 

Try it now; go for the win! 

And, of course, enjoy the sweet relief of not having to brace yourself for potential rejection on cold calls.

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