I had heard of the social selling hype for a while (it’s hard not to), but I didn't try it myself until I had an opportunity to participate in a Sales for Life program.
We’ve all heard the statistics. 75% of customers incorporate social media into their buying processes according to IBM. A LinkedIn study found that 78% of salespeople who use social selling outperform their peers.
The evidence has been building over the past year. But what does social selling actually look like in practice on an individual level? I was determined to find out what was in it (if anything) for me.
Now that I’ve been actively engaged in social selling for a number of months, it’s clear to me that social selling is not a fad -- it's an important component of building your network. Sales reps will have to engage in social selling or they will be left behind. It’s that important.
I’m still not a social selling expert, but I would consider myself an evangelist. Believe the hype. Here’s what I’ve learned about the practice over the last few months.
The first thing I did before anything else was evaluate my LinkedIn profile, and like many other salespeople, I found it was optimized for recruiters instead of prospects. Basically, I had a digital resume on my hands. So I spent some time tweaking it to be buyer-focused. Here’s an example from my summary:
I also changed my headline to include phrases my prospects might search for. Did you know your profile is searchable? I didn’t.
After my profile was updated so my target buyers could find me more easily, I sought out experts to follow in my space. I looked for people who consistently shared and wrote great content, and whom I could trust to be a resource. A few quick clicks, and my Twitter feed was optimized for me to learn and share content that would capture potential prospects’ attention.
In addition to meeting thought leaders on social, I also met many of them in person at events. This is where traditional intersects with modern sales engagement. In my opinion, social selling only works when incorporating traditional sales activities as well, such as networking.
Finally, with the encouragement of my social selling instructor, I set up my blog and started writing. Throughout my career in sales, I’d always wanted to write content, but there was a fear that kept me from getting started. My social selling initiative presented the perfect opportunity to jump in. I instituted a regular publishing cadence -- one post per week on Friday -- and stuck to it. I soon learned that the importance of publishing consistently. And I found blogging wasn’t outside of my comfort zone at all, since I wrote about my experience and perspective. The hardest part was just getting the ball rolling.
Daily Time Commitment
Many salespeople are hesitant to adopt social selling because of the perceived time commitment. They already have so much to do -- how can they find extra time in their day to monitor Twitter and respond to LinkedIn posts?
I felt this way before I got started. But if you're already reading content to stay relevant in your industry, then you're more than halfway there. Just set up the right technology and systems to move from passively consuming to actively sharing.
The key is scheduling. I don’t monitor LinkedIn or Twitter in real time -- that would certainly take up too much time! Instead, I set aside a half hour to an hour each day to find the content I want to share, and queue it up to publish in a social media scheduler tool.
Here’s what my time breakdown looks like:
30-45 minutes: Find content to share, read it, add a relevant comment, and schedule the post.
15 minutes: Respond to messages on LinkedIn and tweets on Twitter.
Afternoon (usually when I'm grabbing lunch):
20 minutes: Monitor social streams and bookmark posts to share tomorrow, or share them in real time.
1 hour: Write a blog post for the week and publish it to my blog and LinkedIn Pulse.
The primary goals of social selling are to build a personal brand, generate new pipeline, and ultimately, close more deals. I have started to build my personal brand and built some pipeline; however, I have not closed any deals based on social selling yet.
Admittedly, this hasn’t been the predominant outcome for me. But I don’t doubt that in time, my social selling presence and activity will have an impact on my performance. It takes time to build your tribe, and I recognize that.
But in the meantime, social selling has brought about a handful of other positive results:
1) 24-7 Lead and Follower Generation
While social selling hasn’t directly resulted in any new business for me, it has brought about new leads and followers. And every time I get a new follower, that means more people are viewing my content, and possibly sharing it out to their networks, thus growing my reach even wider.
2) Clearer Self-Branding
Social selling has helped me boost my perception as a thought leader in my industry, and more clearly define my personal brand.
3) Stronger Customer Relationships
Because my brand is more visible now, I stick in my customer’s heads more as an individual, and not just a representation of my company. And this means I will be able to more easily carry my customers with me from position to position.
4) More Job Opportunities
Since I started my social selling initiative, I’ve received multiple recruiting and interview offers. And this is after I changed my LinkedIn profile to focus on buyers, not recruiters!
5) Better and Faster Learning
Because I start my day with gathering the content I’d like to share, I’m better informed about what’s happening in my industry, and I more readily absorb tips on how to sell better.
Social selling is still in the early adopter phase, but I’d recommend getting your foot in the door now since it’s a slow climb to results. Start forming your tribe today for a brighter tomorrow. And if you need help, feel free to reach out to me. It’s called “social” selling after all -- and we’re all in this together.
Originally published Dec 9, 2014 7:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017