Outside of marketing and customer service, one of the fastest growing areas in the social media world is social selling. With billions of people connected to social networks for personal and business reasons, time and attention of prospects is both valuable and highly competitive.
Connections between people supported by social technologies have become more valuable than ever as trusted sources of information. Interactions with brands don’t have to happen on the corporate website anymore. From customer service to sales – social networks are powering important buyer and brand discussions from awareness to purchase to advocacy.
Companies of all sizes are empowering their sales teams to leverage the technology of the social web with the human connections between sales people and their customers to scale reach, engagement and new business. Demand for social selling experts is rising too, as companies look for outside perspective on how to create the culture shift, processes and skills training necessary to make social selling real and valuable.
Along with considering an outside expert to help scale your social selling capabilities, here are a few tactical considerations:
1. Create an Authority Hub
Whether it’s a blog, tumblr site, or Facebook Fan page, a destination for social participation can serve as the hub for a salesperson’s social media activity. This is where social content is published, aggregated and curated. It’s also where calls to action, offers and invitations to engage on a more business level can be posted. The social hub scan serve as a destination for other publishers and bloggers to link to and appear within search results.
The preference for a hub is a domain and site you own, like a WordPress blog. Companies could create a multi-blog platform to support blogging efforts across hundreds or thousands of salespeople of the brand domain. company.com/blogs/sheilasales/ or sheilasalesblog.company.com.
2. Listen for Engagement Opportunities
As more consumer and B2B buyers participate on the social web during the discovery and consideration phases of the buying cycle, sales people can monitor for comments and conversations that indicate engagement opportunities. Monitoring social media sites for keywords that indicate prospects with questions or in the search phase can shortcut time to sales discussions drammatically.
Simple tools like search.twitter.com, board reader or a variety of free social search engines and discovery tools like socialmention.com, buzzsumo or topsy can also be used along with Google Alerts to surface interaction opportunities. Ideally, a robust social media monitoring tool could be used that includes advanced filtering options. It takes some refinement of search queries to make this kind of monitoring work, but can be very effective at identifying prospect conversation opportunities at their greatest moment of need.
3. Create, Curate & Repurpose
Most Sales Reps, Account Executives and Business Development people are pretty busy, so efficiency with social media and content is essential. With an understanding of relevant search keywords and social topics that matter to prospective customers, salespeople can create a content plan as a guide.
However, creating new content on a regular basis while maintaining high quality can become a challenge, so it’s important to think about where content can be repurposed.
For example, salespeople might each maintain their own blogs that they publish to once a week. But they might also share portions or customized versions of their blog posts with other industry blogs, online publications and industry newsletters. They could compile blog posts into ebooks or could be used within corporate content marketing materials.
An effective way to become a “go to destination” for information on a particular topic is to aggregate or curate news from different sources on the web to the salesperson’s hub. Subscribe to other industry news sites, newsletter and setup Google Alerts for topics of interest to collect news. Collect the most interesting and/or themed news of the week and add short comments. The same curation tactic can be used to create a newsletter. With some practice, the process of scanning headlines and putting together a weekly news roundup can be done in only a few minutes a day, resulting in one beefy blog post per week.
4. Interact, Engage & Persuade
In the course of researching useful industry news to aggregate or to cite in original blog posts, salespeople will undoubtedly find other blogs and online publications that allow commenting. They’ll also find others discussing topics of interest on sites like LinkedIn, Groups & Forums, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others. Searching or monitoring for prospects also reveals these kinds of interaction opportunities.
Answering questions, sharing useful resources and asking questions on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ helps communicate personal characteristics and thought leadership for the salesperson. Corporate marketing might be able to use their resources with social media monitoring tools to identify social channels, groups or individuals that are most influential and relevant. Salespeople could also use tools like Klout to find others with influence to engage with.
This can seem like a very time consuming task, but many salespeople who are the most productive with lead generation through social media make a consistent effort to participate on a frequent basis. Setup a recurring reminder in Outlook to spend 15 minutes each morning to ask/answer questions, collect, aggregate and share useful links. Spreading this activity over several days using a consistent amount of time is very productive. Schedule Tweets and Facebook updates during the day in advance using a tool like Hootsuite.
5. Tap the Wisdom of Your Social Sales Crowd
Corporate sales and marketing leadership can keep tabs on the most effective uses of social media and networking sites by their sales teams and create best practices for the benefit of all. Continuously improved processes, new social tool evaluations and tactics evolution can improve salesforce social media effectiveness and overall ability to create value and engage prospects.
Companies can provide sales teams with templates, process and training plus regular internal networking opportunities to share best practices in order to help salesforce social media efforts succeed. It’s also important to provide ongoing education so salespeople know what it looks like to be overzealous and forward with their social participation efforts.
As with all social media marketing efforts, mileage varies according to the target audience, industry, resources and sales teams capabilities. There’s no doubt that strategy alone doesn’t sustain long term social media marketing success. Ongoing training and feedback mechanisms are essential to improve skills and identify both productive and non-productive behaviors.
Has your company implemented formal social selling training or best practices? Does your company support social sales with a blogging platform for sales teams or are they left to create their own using WordPress or Tumblr?