The term “social selling” may seem a little redundant to some; the field of sales and selling has always been a social matter. Back in the day, people sought advice from family and friends when considering a significant purchase; spoke face-to-face with salespeople; and waited on the phone for after sales support, wanting to speak to a human being.
However, online conveniences have opened this process up to a world of anonymous reviews, customer relations over social media, and price comparison sites. Some would much rather check out a company’s Twitter feed (for example) rather than their website, so it’s important to meet potential customers where they’re looking for you. So what are the benefits to social selling? Where do you start?
1. Observe & Listen
If you are new to using social channels to sell, or indeed to social media as a whole, it’s important to do a bit of homework before you start posting. Familiarise yourself with those in your industry and how they are using social media, the language they use, and the content they share. It may help you to keep an eye on relevant key terms, trigger phrases, and hashtags using tools like TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Google Alerts. Businesses who deal with the general public may find Facebook, Twitter and Instagram most useful to monitor. Business to business organisations may prefer to use LinkedIn, Twitter, and – to a lesser extent – Facebook. As well as keeping an eye on key terms it is also worth monitoring mentions of your company, simply to make sure everyone is happy with you and nobody’s complaining about your service or product. Be sure to search for mentions that aren’t linked to you as well as ones that are (on Twitter, for example, keep an eye on your “@Name” mentions, as well as those of your proper business name without the “@”)
If you’re a B2B company and you want to sell your service to a particular organisation, you can use social media to find out all about them; a cursory LinkedIn search can find you the best team member to speak to, a look at their Twitter or Facebook will also tell you how the company presents itself online and how they deal with prospects and customers; a wealth of information for you to talk about. Nowadays salespeople needn’t to go into a sales call with no information about the prospect – and there’s no excuse for not doing your homework! Many CRM systems also integrate a contact’s social links as well as their basic information for just this purpose. You can keep abreast of their latest posts and see what’s going on in their world before you strike up a conversation. This helps to make the sales process more about them than you.
2. Check Out the Competition
By now you probably have a vague idea of how social selling will fit in with your overall online presence. Even if you’re not going to go down the social selling route, it really pays to check out the social media presence of your most direct competitors. How are they using the different social media platforms? Which ones are they most engaged on? How do they deal with customers directly? Do they deal with complaints and customer service issues over social media? Keep an eye on any upper-hand they may have over you (and indeed if there is anything they’re doing that you can improve upon), and be prepared to adapt and improve your own processes wherever possible.
You’re not looking to totally emulate any other user online, but it pays to learn from those who are trying to sell the same sort of product or service, and to therefore work out what could work for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things, fresh approaches, and useful tools; but equally don’t be afraid to ditch anything that doesn’t work out.
3. Encourage Feedback
On a very basic level, be aware of the ways that your customers can leave feedback about you publicly. Facebook and Google+ have 0-5-star rating systems in place for all business listings, so encourage people to leave a review on those channels if they are happy regardless of your industry. If you’re trying to position yourself as a destination, say if your business is a bricks-and-mortar retail store, an eatery or a hotel, then don’t underestimate the power of review sites. A positive presence on TripAdvisor and Yelp can be immensely powerful. A well set-up profile and a few glowing reviews can really raise your profile, and may help set you apart from those in your industry who are solely using more “traditional” social media. Rather than trawling Google and browsing different websites when looking for somewhere to go for an evening out with friends, nowadays people often see what locations are most popular on these kinds of sites, so it pays to get involved.
Those in the service or retail industry aren’t alone – online retailers can get in on the act too by pairing with independent product review sites like TrustPilot, Reevoo and Feefo. These allow customers to provide a review of both your individual products or your business as a whole. These kinds of online destinations are like the “asking friends and family” route of yore, whilst also tapping into the buying experience and knowledge of the public at large.
Bonus Tip: Use Social Buy Buttons!
This one is also for those in the online retail field. A handful of the most popular social media platforms have integrated “Buy Now” buttons or other shopping functionality. Facebook now has a shopping tab, and Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr now have “Buy” buttons that take you straight to where you can buy the product shown. Social media (and especially Instagram and Pinterest) are based around graphics and visuals, so if you have a very visual product, this functionality is ideal.
They may seem like an odd addition to social media, but they help by taking steps out of the buying process, bringing the customer closer to a sale. Having to search for your website or navigate to a product on your website may seem like tiny, inconsequential steps, but they’re steps nonetheless – and each step provides an opportunity for the customer to lose interest. By shortening the process, you are striking while the iron is hot; minimizing the time the potential customer may have to get second thoughts or to decide to shop around.