In the last five years the notion of social selling has changed dramatically with the adoption of Web 2.0 and social media. Social media has greatly increased the scale and reach of our relationship networks and peer networks, and Web 2.0 technology has changed the way in which we collaborate online, with most B2B buying decisions starting, progressing, and often even closing online without any face-to-face meetings.
According to ComScore, 82 percent of the world’s online population is reached by social networking sites, and more than 33.4 million professionals visit LinkedIn each month to build and maintain professional contacts, bounce ideas off industry experts, and generate sales leads.
But it’s not just the reach of social media that makes it so important. It’s also the quality of data that prospects and customers voluntarily offer. Prospects and customers are sharing what content they are consuming, who is influencing their thinking, and what products they are considering purchasing. This kind of data is invaluable in the sales process.
So what do you need to do to be effective in social selling?
1. Pick a channel: Understand which social channels your potential customers are regularly using. For B2B, LinkedIn is probably the most relevant platform.
2. Build your profile: Create a complete, compelling profile with your photo, skills and experience.
3. Build your network: Reach out to peers, friends, customers, coworkers and ex-coworkers. Ask people to add a recommendation to your profile.
4. Connect with influencers: Who are the people driving conversation around topics that matter most to your customers? Follow them and get their attention by spreading their content.
5. Create your own content: Share content, comment on blog posts and articles, and join groups and discussions relevant to your area of business.
6. Keep listening: A fundamental aspect of social selling is listening. Social media offers unprecedented insight into what the market is saying about their needs and wants, and about you and your competitors. Check in regularly on the groups you have joined, sign up for weekly e-mail updates on the conversations taking place there, and follow your competitors to see what they’re saying and how it’s resonating.
If you use a systematic social media marketing process to educate your target audience and identify sales opportunities, you will be rewarded with business growth.
If you want to know more about social selling, and how you can use it successfully in business, Eloqua’s Grande Guide to Social Selling is a good place to start: http://www.eloqua.com/resources/grande-guides/grande-guide-to-social-selling.html