The buying and selling landscape has morphed into one driven by digital and social media, where today’s customers are extremely well-informed and conduct a significant amount of comparative research online when sourcing for options. This generation of social customers are not just hungry for information, they’re starved and almost insatiable. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research reports that the average customer checks 10.4 pieces of content before buying, while Forrester reports that buyers find three pieces of content about your solution for every piece of content you create.
This shift in dynamics means that as much as 70% of the buying decision is now made before the sales person every gets into the conversation and 78% of sales from the web go to the first company that responds to the inquiry. So how are channel partners able to swoop in to influence the buying decision and capture sales in the age of the social customer?
Social selling on LinkedIn is the way to go.
In fact, you’ll hardly find a power user of the platform who isn’t actively using it as an indispensable tool to efficiently prospect and generate qualified sales leads. Other uses of the social networking service for professionals include being able to increase the reach and scale of your marketing efforts and strengthen your brand and relationships with current and potential customers. These all lead to greater sales success and bodes well for your bottom-line.
So, without further ado, here are some secrets to getting you started on building a great social selling strategy on LinkedIn:
Establish your personal brand
That means moving past using your LinkedIn profile as a digital resume. Why not, you might ask. After all, the vast majority of users flock to the platform because it’s a great recruitment tool to hire and get hired. But that couldn’t be further from the truth if you’re looking to attract sales prospects.
As odd as it sounds, your profile shouldn’t be about you. It should be buyer-centric and offer reasons to be believe that you are the person who can solve your customers’ needs. In doing so, you’re effectively changing the narrative from “Who you are” to “What you stand for” and “What you can offer” – the idea is to provide insight into the business value you can bring to customers for a much more persuasive sales discussion.
Here are some tips on where to begin:
- Upload a professionally taken photo – no selfies or beach shots
- Use your headline to communicate who and how you help – a one-liner will do
- Expand on your headline in your summary but keep it tight – three paragraphs of no more than three sentences each
Identify the right prospects
Cold calling is not only inefficient, it also involves lengthy discovery sessions and run-arounds before sales associates get to reach a real decision maker – it’s downright tedious and the bad news is that you might have to repeat this 9 more times. A survey by CEB, acquired by Gartner, reports: “Today there are, on average, 5.4 buyers in the B2B sales process. And when you include the key influencers, there are probably closer to 10 people influencing the buying process.”
For Microsoft, its savvy sales team placed a heavy emphasis on building the right relationships with business decision makers when the software giant first launched Azure, its cloud computing solution. The result? A 38% boost in sales productivity with its social selling pilot program centred on LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. Their team has since grown from a tight circle of 15 sellers to over 3,000 in less than 2 years.
Much like a preparing for a job interview, you’ll want to do your due diligence on your primary contact’s organisation and come prepared with “insider” information for when you connect. For instance, you could search for an individual based on their seniority, profession and industry, allowing for a much more precise targeting of professionals as compared to other social networking platforms like Facebook.
Here are some tips on where to begin:
- Map out the different buyers and influencers in the customer’s organisation – you can start out with a basic (it’s free!) search on LinkedIn before moving on to more refined search filters with the paid Sales Navigator version
- Identify 10 others who are in the same department as your primary contact and/or likely to be in the sphere of influence in the decision-making process – be open to considering departments outside of IT which might have a stake in the purchase too
Engage and nurture strong relationships
Bet you didn’t know that the simple act of sharing content increases your visibility on LinkedIn. A HubSpot research found that people who consistently share content get 2 to 3 times the number of unsolicited profile views.
What you’re trying to build here is a solid relationship with your customers; It’s a two-way loop where you actively respond to others while inviting others to respond to you. Here are some tips on how to engage:
- Spend 30 minutes each day browsing your LinkedIn feed and engaging in a conversation with your network e.g. liking, commenting or sharing their updates – you just might come across a connection who has a pain point which you can solve
- Share at least 1 to 3 pieces of third party content every day – but be mindful to keep your sales messaging to a minimum as no one appreciates reading self-serving pitches all the time
- Publish 1 to 2 pieces of original content every month using LinkedIn’s publication tool – providing value to your customer which cannot be found elsewhere is a great way to keep them coming back for more
Do also take the initiative to invite existing, new and potential customer into your network. First off, you’ll be able to solicit quality recommendations that can be publicly viewed by others who come across your profile. Second, it’s a better social alternative to keep in touch and maintain relationships with your customers compared to traditional forms like calls and emails. Third and most importantly, browsing the shared connections of your existing network is a more efficient way of prospecting new customers who may be similarly interesting in your offering – therefore it is important to build a strong first-degree network rather adding people at random.
Here are some tips on how to nurture stronger relationships:
- Invite existing, new and potential customers to join your network – this could include professionals that you had met at a recent industry networking event
- But be selective about who you’re adding to your network – impulsively connecting with everyone and anyone dilutes the value of your connections as these people are unlikely to support your cause
The relevance of social selling is undeniable in this digital age and perhaps felt even more so in the information and technology (IT) sector, where the rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers set in motion a shift away from selling products to offering subscription solutions.
Heavyweights like Symantec have also experienced tremendous success with their social selling initiative on the business-oriented social networking service. Its Sales Navigator users are now twice as strong at engaging with insights than their competition, 45% more effective at finding the right prospects on LinkedIn and 58% more effective at building relationships and connecting with decision makers.
Truth is, social selling is a long-term strategy that is more of a lifestyle than a sales technique. You won’t turn into a social selling superstar who closes deals at the snap of a finger but the payout of your efforts will materialise in a higher conversion pipeline over a 90 to 180 day time frame.
When done right, social selling allows you to swoop in for the home run right before a customer decides to convert; use it as a well-oiled machine which consistently and continuously delivers high, inbound quality leads to you rather than toiling for it. As the adage goes, “the fruits of today are the seeds of yesterday”. So, if you’re an IT services provider whose sales team has yet to hop onto the social selling bandwagon, then there has never been a more opportune time to do so than now.