Social Selling: Myths and What Actually Works
What’s making businesses so commitment-phobic when it comes to social selling?
There’s no doubt businesses want to go deep with social selling, but when it comes to actually doing it, many get cold feet and stick with the same old, outdated traditional sales methods… to their detriment!
A Forrester study found that while 98% of B2B businesses see value in social selling, only 49% of them have developed social selling programs. Of those who have, only one in five has taken a systematic approach to social selling.
This indicates that many sales professional and sales teams have found it difficult to effectively integrate social selling into their sales processes.
But why stick with a model that clearly doesn’t work anymore? It’s not because of a lack of information on social selling but rather the abundance of bad information. Sales professionals still not on board with social selling often cite one of the many myths of social selling that continue to circulate in the digital sphere.
It’s hard to shine a light on the truth when many of the myths are perpetuated by well-intentioned social selling experts. As a result, sales professionals make mistakes with social selling leading to poor outcomes, and eventually they give up.
Social selling myths
#1: Content is the secret
One of the biggest, potentially most harmful myths is that content is the secret to social selling. It’s not! It is one small component.
Social selling is a proactive strategy, which means you have to do more than publish content and then wait for people to find it, read it and seek out your product or service.
It’s like a restaurant owner who opens the restaurant, puts a sign outside its doors and wonders why it sits empty. Such people have the “build it and they will come” mentality. This mentality doesn’t generate reliable results for B2C companies, and it certainly doesn’t for B2B businesses.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t share content. I am simply saying it’s not a strategy that can provide consistent and predictable results. So, if content marketing alone doesn’t generate new leads, what does?
What actually works? Let me be clear: content is important, but it is just one of the tools you will use to build relationships online and generate new leads.
You create and share content strategically so you can be perceived by your potential buyers as a trusted authority (so they can begin to know, like and trust you).
This is important because a potential buyer will not always be interested or ready for your solution when they come across it. You want to stay top of mind with these prospects until they are ready to buy from you. Use your content strategy to build authority, credibility and trust over time so that when they are ready to buy, they think only of you. This strategy requires patience and consistency to be successful.
#2: It’s all about selling
The term “social selling” is misleading. Most people who hear this term assume that “selling” makes up a large portion of the social selling strategy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Quite simply, no salesperson was ever meant to close a B2B deal online with social selling. In fact, would you believe that, when done right, no selling is involved in social selling?
Oh, boy! How counterintuitive is that? If you aren’t supposed to “sell” on social media, what do you do? What actually works? The entire goal of social selling is to book warm phone calls. Any good salesperson knows you need to listen closely to determine what a prospect’s problems are and to understand what they need – before you offer a solution.
The misleading nature of the term social selling implies that social media can be used equally well throughout the sales process. This is simply not so. Social media is very effective for tasks such as:
• increasing visibility
• finding and engaging with prospective buyers
• establishing thought leadership
• creating interest in your services
But further down the sales funnel, in areas such as discovery discussions, sales presentations, negotiations and deal closing, social media is NOT effective. You need to speak with your prospect either by phone or in-person once you are further into the sales process for B2B services.
The key to social selling is to focus on finding your ideal buyers and building rapport with them. You can’t do this by sending a sales pitch message to a lead immediately after connecting with them.
The goal for you is to earn the right for a phone call or meeting by establishing rapport, credibility and a sufficient level of trust to make such a request.
#3: Cold calling is still effective
Cold calling decision-makers doesn’t work. Well, at least 97.5% of the time it doesn’t work. Sure, it did once. But that was some time ago. It’s intrusive, and technologies such as voicemail, caller ID, smartphones and robo-calling have slayed it. In fact, author Geoffrey James, contributing editor at Inc., offers the following opinion about the effectiveness of cold calling today:
“[The use of modern technology]… puts us where we are in 2019: Approximately 50 percent of all calls placed are robo-called cold-calls from companies both legit and non-legit. Now only the elderly and their grandkids actually answer phones in person. No true decision maker is dumb enough to answer a cold-call.
While there are still sales trainers around who are pretending it’s still the 1970s and that you can build a business with cold-calling, their success stories are either bunk or outdated. Cold calling isn’t just dead; it’s buried and rotted to the bones.”
That’s a pretty bold statement! So, if cold calling isn’t working, what is? What actually works? While cold calling doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean phone conversations are not vital to the social selling process. They are, but not until after you have built some rapport with your prospects first. That is where social selling shines. It turns cold calls into warm calls.
According to LinkedIn, 62% of B2B buyers respond to salespeople who connect with them to share insights and opportunities relevant to their businesses. These are highly targeted potential buyers, willing to have a conversation with you. That is a far cry from the dismal results produced by cold calling.
When done properly, social selling allows you to seamlessly get on the radar of decision-makers, establish rapport and build trust with them. Once you have nurtured a relationship with your prospect, you can move the conversation offline to a warm phone call or in-person meeting, where a sales conversation can take place.
#4: Only millennials are good at it
Many of those same sales professionals and sales leaders who still cling to dying sales strategies such as cold calling are also those who claim social selling is only for the young. There is still much resistance to embrace social selling by more experienced sellers, based on fears around the difficulties or complexities of using new technology. But these fears are unfounded.
While social selling does require the adoption of new technology, e.g., platforms such as LinkedIn or Sales Navigator, many non-millennial sellers are already successfully using them. In fact, a 2019 Sprout Social report indicates that 66% of LinkedIn users are 30 years or older and 33% are over the age of 50.
What actually works? Selling is a unique combination of art and science.
To be successful in any sales endeavor, you need to already have or be willing to develop the personality, passion and self-confidence of a successful salesperson to compliment the skills and tools of social selling.
Remember that social selling strategies are designed to enhance the skills of an already effective sales team. Experienced sales leaders and professionals are already perceptive communicators who understand consumer needs. Adopting a social selling strategy enhances those skills for greater sales outcomes.
While millennials may excel at using the tools and platforms of social selling, they often still require the training and experience in fundamental selling skills to be successful. Such skills include listening, asking the right questions, adding value before asking for something in return and, most of all, being personable and authentic.
Regardless of your age, by combining your sales skills with effective, repeatable social selling strategies, you will soon be growing your network, building relationships and enhancing your credibility and personal brand.
#5: It isn’t measurable
It is absolutely vital you measure your social selling results. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
And while measuring your social selling activities can involve many moving parts, it can be done well with the right planning and tools.
To do this successfully, you need to determine your key performance indicators (KPIs), which are the results or outcomes you want to achieve from your social selling efforts.
What exactly should you be measuring? What actually works? Start by considering these two fundamental questions: What are the outcomes I want from my social selling efforts? Do I have access to data that supports those outcomes to measure success?
You can then break this down further. To measure your efforts, you need to: list in detail each goal you plan to achieve with social selling; identify what KPIs you will track for each goal; know how you will measure each KPI.
While there are many social selling KPIs that can be tracked and measured, several specific metrics will provide you with insights into both your activities and their results.
These key metrics include:
• number of messages sent to your prospects
• number of offline conversations generated
• number of new connections and followers
• increase in quality of connections and followers
• number of people engaging with your content posted on LinkedIn
• number of views from posts or shared content
• engagement with shared content (reactions, comments and shares)
• increase in your sales pipeline through social selling
• increases in deal size in your pipeline due to social selling efforts
• close rate of your sales pipeline (are you winning more deals?)
• if you use Sales Navigator, you may also want to track:
• number of accounts you are following
• number of leads you are following
• engagement of PointDrive interactions
If any additional KPIs are important to you, include them in the list of parameters you want to track and measure.
#6: It’s okay to start without a plan
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” This is certainly true in social selling. Random and occasional social selling actions produce random and unpredictable sales results.
If you want consistent results with social selling, you need to have a plan, and you need to implement it every day. Only a structured, systematic approach to social selling will produce the sales results you want and need.
What actually works? An effective social selling plan has a number of critical pieces.
Always begin by identifying your goals. Your goals will guide your actions at every step. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with your company’s goals. If your company has an accessible sales and marketing plan, identify the goals that can be achieved using social selling. If you don’t have access to it, think of general goals that would be important, such as:
• increasing sales and revenue
• increasing brand awareness
• establishing your authority on your topic – becoming an influencer
• attracting more leads and buyers
• building relationships with potential buyers
• maintaining and improving relationships with existing buyers
• improving customer service and retention
Once you have identified your goals, you can determine what KPIs you will track and measure.
Next, you need to map out your buyer’s journey as well as who would be involved in the buyer’s journey. Important steps to consider include:
• identify high-value accounts
• map individuals to accounts
• define and create targeted outreach
• pinpoint optimal channels to promote the message to your buyer
• develop a strategic social selling playbook
• execute your plan
• measure, optimize and adjust
Once you’ve solidified an effective social selling routine, you need to ensure you are following and executing the plan in a consistent manner. Consider making your routine flexible, based on the results you are achieving. Keep in mind that if you don’t already practice a regular routine, it will take time to adapt to it. The key is to maintain consistency, which will help you achieve the greatest results.
#7: You don’t need training
If you (or your sales team) are not properly trained in the art of social selling, you’ll likely make a number of sales-killing social selling mistakes. Such mistakes can hurt your and your company’s reputations as well as your sales results. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Just as you wouldn’t put an untrained driver behind the wheel of a car, neither should you or your salespeople be expected to become social sellers without first having the proper training to do so.
In the CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Study, 43.1% of sales professionals felt the social selling training they received needed improvement. An additional 30.4% of sales professionals felt that the social selling training required significant redesign, which was more than any other sales training process.
Now consider the cases in the study where social selling training met or exceeded expectations: compared to averages, win rates were improved by 38% and quota attainment by 51%.
These results demonstrate social selling’s immense value, but only when the social seller understands its purpose and is competent and confident in deploying it.
If excelling at social selling requires proper training, how do I get it? What actually works? If you are going to invest in a social selling training program, you must ensure that you or your sales team are receiving the most up-to-date and complete training.
An effective and comprehensive social selling training program should address a number of key areas, including:
• setting goals and choosing KPIs
• customer research
• personal/professional branding
• establishing authority on your topic
• creating, curating and sharing valuable content
• locating and connecting with potential customers
• effective messaging to build rapport
• building relationships with potential customers
• moving the conversation offline
• social selling tools (CRMs or LinkedIn Sales Navigator)
• tracking and measuring KPIs
Further, effective training will teach you or your sales team the four most important social selling pillars:
Right Profile: creating the right profile that has decision-makers clicking Accept in response to your connection requests.
Right People: finding the right people who are the best fit for investing in your product or service.
Right Messaging: communicating with your prospects the right way so they respond to your messages and agree to a phone call.
Right Content: sharing the right content to build authority, credibility and trust and keeping you top of mind with the network of prospects you are building.
Whether I’m training a company with six salespeople or 100+, my goal is to have the trainees master these four social selling pillars.
Receiving the training is the first step in mastering the foundations of an effective social selling strategy, but it’s not the only step. Coaching in small groups, where each person can receive one-on-one feedback to ensure the successful implementation of a social selling program, is also a key element of learning these valuable skills.
Generate more sales and revenue with social selling. Social selling is not a trend, gimmick or a fad. It is a reliable and predictable way to generate more leads and sales for your business. And, it will remain a viable strategy for years to come even as technology evolves. That’s because social selling is about using the most effective tools to find, connect and build relationships with your ideal buyers. It is simply a dependable way to target the right buyers and turn them into warm leads, accelerating and improving the results of your sales process.
Melonie Dodaro is founder of Top Dog Social Media that helps brands and businesses, use social media marketing and social selling to boost visibility, attract new customers and increase revenue. Dodaro is also the author of ‘The LinkedIn Code’ and ‘LinkedIn Unlocked’. To learn more visit www.TopDogSocialMedia.com