Sales is evolving, and social selling skills are being developed and applied by market leaders. Online professional networks and social media for business are creating new opportunities for progressive sales people, sales teams and sales focused organisations.
The rate of take-up of social media for sales differs between sectors. The technology sector is one of the pioneers in the market, with major companies including IBM, Oracle, Dell and others forging ahead. The recruitment sector is another pioneer. Firms in professional services, legal and finance for businesses have huge opportunities. Companies selling large, complex deals, and building long-term relationships with customers will also benefit.
The catalyst or trigger event for change will differ too. It may be that a top-performing sales person is using new social selling skills. Maybe there is a culture of innovation, and investment in R&D into new methods in your company. Maybe it’s the shock and implications of losing a major client or a big deal to a much smarter competitor, and the realisation that they are leveraging social media to create a more effective sales machine. Maybe it’s a decline in the metrics, that it’s becoming more difficult to generate leads, conversion ratios are declining, deal sizes are shrinking, and confidence in hitting forecasts are reducing.
As a sales person, sales manager or business owner there are many reasons why it’s worth considering and developing a plan to develop social selling skills.
Five reasons to develop your Social Selling Skills
1. Lead Generation:
This activity is usually at the forefront for most sales teams, sales managers and business owners. Finding new customers, generating demand and inquiries and creating new revenue opportunities and the top priority for most businesses. Strategies that apply to face-to-face networking apply online too, to build a platform and position in order to attract inquiries, be referred or introduced, or to make an approach. Direct response and overt lead generation campaigns in Social Media should be used with care.
Find the right groups to join, introduce yourself to the host and key people, add value, ‘sell’ through the room, are a few of the techniques that transfer. By monitoring for key events and conversations, and joining promising discussions, you put yourself in-front-of people who are more likely to be receptive, and fruitful as prospects. Inviting people to view something of value to them, to their department or function, or to their business, is an effective approach.
2. Shortened Sales Cycle:
You may have heard or found that buyer’s are 60-70% through their buying process before they speak to a potential suppler or sales person about the solution they offer. Buyers are researching online, searching for information, browsing online communities, asking questions, seeking opinion from peers, and short-listing potential suppliers. So, when they do engage they are more knowledgeable about what they want and who can potentially provide it. Therefore, if you are on that short-list your prospect may reach a decision and select a supplier very quickly.
Listening and monitoring what is being discussed in online forums and LinkedIn discussion groups in a focused and purposeful way is the start. Responding and contributing value means salespeople can be seen as helpful and knowledgeable and approachable. It’s also a good way to identify who is in the market for what you and your company offers. Being short-listed, or engaging when there are clear buying signals, can reduce the time from connecting with a qualified opportunity to closing a deal considerably.
3. Sales Relationship Building:
Social media channels create the potential to build business, professional and sales relationships in ways that were impossible just a few years ago. There is a much greater ability to identify people, organisations and companies that match the profile of your current or ‘ideal’ customer, and then target your time and efforts around them. When there is an opportunity to engage with them directly their response is likely to be more positive if you’ve done the groundwork.
Contributing to discussions in groups they belong to, identifying and engaging with people in their team or their peers, can provide openings and introductions. Through these social media channels you and your sales organization has the ability to reach out and build relationships with an incredibly large audience. The key is to be selective and focused with time and effort. Choose which social media channel, choose which groups, and so on, based on a clear definition of who you want to build relationships with, what you want as an outcome, and what you have to offer that is of value to them, in exchange for their time.
4. Increased Sales Productivity:
Research by Aberdeen Group and has identified that sales people are spending about 20% of their time, or one full day a week, researching people, companies, and other background information. Developing techniques to do this as part of the process of establishing effective new relationships, nurturing customer and prospect relationships, adding value to relevant discussions and closing new business will increase productivity in the short-term, and improve sales results over the medium and long-term.
Monitoring Social Channels for specific Trigger Events is one way to minimize the time spent researching and prospecting. There are an increasing number of systems, apps and tools available to increase social sales productivity. Social media monitoring tools help sales people and companies to find ‘the right person at the right time’. Publishing and messaging tools help to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. The potential for automation of some tasks for sellers and buyers is increasing. These will become more important over time, as the clock-speed and sheer volume of communication increases. People and companies who make effective selections and implementations of apps and tools will be at an advantage as they will have more time to spend on higher value activities.
5. Market Trends and Competitive Intelligence:
Monitoring and researching market trends and competitor activity is also more available through social media. What are your competitors up to? Who is following your competitors? Who are their customers? More of this information can be obtained more quickly through online sources and social channels. The key questions are: How accurate is it? How valuable is it? What decisions will you make as a result of gathering it? How will you execute on those decisions?
At a sales and deal level, listening to what your competition is saying and who they are in contact with can help you identify opportunities, or threats. It may create an opportunity for you to intercept a deal that a competitor has been developing.
Find out how to develop your Social Selling Skills
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