texting while riding a bicycle
The term "social selling" is a little misleading. While it does involve developing sales leads, it's more about providing value to a customer PHOTO: Tom Woodward

Social selling is quickly becoming a trending buzzword in the sales world. But while many are still trying to grasp the concept of social selling, others are learning that the medium might be different but the message is still the same.

Social selling at its core is all about how salespeople use social networks to listen to, and engage with, decision makers who are using these same networks to ask questions and search for answers. Digital salespeople can utilize their professional brand on social to fill their pipeline with the right people, insights and relationships.

Turning Insights Into Engagement

One of the more established avenue of using social media for business is utilizing social for marketing efforts. While this remains one of the most important means of engaging audiences on social media, it has also yielded the secondary benefit of giving marketers more insight into the social selling process than they might realize.

Through their strategic efforts, marketers have gained insights about what their buyers are reading, watching and saying, particularly when it comes to understanding their pain points and important life moments. In turn, this lets marketers help teams’ sales professionals understand where they need to be and how best to engage in conversations.

Think Value Not Sales

This also solves a common issue regarding ROI on social. With marketing increasingly being measured on pipeline-generation activities such as tracking marketing-qualified lead conversion to sales-qualified leads, social selling gives marketers the ability to show that, in any given quarter, they’ve developed a certain number of pipeline leads that closed.

The term social selling remains slightly misleading, however. That’s because, while it does work on a base level in developing qualified sales leads, it is less about selling products and more about providing value to your customers.

Choose Content That Adds Value

The old adage, ‘content is king’ still applies in the context of social selling. Every salesperson needs to get in the habit of knowing what content will add perceived value in the eyes of their target network. By doing a simple keyword search, salespeople can figure out what is trending, who else is talking about the topic and whether customers are engaging with, and sharing, that information.

As a salesperson, you need to remember to add value that exceeds whatever it is you’re asking for in return. Remember that the role of the salesperson has shifted. You now play the dual role of concierge of all the information, as well as resource to help buyers make the most educated decisions, even if they don’t choose your platform.

Branding Helps You Stand Out From the Crowd

Since many salespeople will be offering similar services over social, branding is crucial to stand out from the crowd. And much like in-person sales, perception is everything. A salesperson could be trained in all the best practices of identifying and engaging decision makers across any number of social platforms, but if their brand isn’t captivating, they’ll find themselves discounted immediately by any potential leads.

That means a strong personal brand will be one that not only comes across as mature and well-versed in the space, but one that can be referenced by potential customers as an information hub and resource center as well.

So even if your information isn’t originally-created content, you’ll find more and more business coming to you because of the expertise that you are demonstrating through your social channels.

Keep Your Prospects Moving Through the Pipeline 

Once a flow is incorporated and your sales team has started to see inbound leads coming through the pipeline, the next step is learning how to disqualify prospects faster than you qualify them. That might sound counterintuitive but you have to move people out of your pipeline faster than they’re coming in. To do that effectively, you must use the right definitions, which means understanding what those buyers are actually looking for.

Finding the right way to cut through the noise will be critical to streamlining this process. Utilizing an integrated social media dashboard like Hootsuite, allows salespeople to reduce social clutter and find more meaningful and digestible conversations, while easily engaging within those conversations.

Taking Advantage of Trigger Events

By narrowing down streams based on keywords, demographics or geographical locations, a much more targeted approach to social selling can be applied, and those pipeline leads will be more qualified from the very start of a trigger event.

From the moment of a trigger event, be it a customer who looks at your LinkedIn profile, or a qualified conversation starter on Twitter, how do you move that lead through the pipeline?

First, get to understand your potential lead through their social profiles. If they’re on Twitter, what are they tweeting about? Do they share content on LinkedIn? By organically sharing some of their content via your own platforms, you can start to develop a relationship with your customers, and once they start realizing that you’re paying attention to them, they’re going to start engaging beyond that initial trigger event.

Provide Information, Not Sales Pitches

That’s when you know as a salesperson that you’ve got their attention. You’re no longer interrupting them and now’s the time when you can connect with them. However, the worst thing you can do at this point is to start pitching your product because that’s not how you add value.

Instead, you want to get to a point with decision makers on social where they’re asking you to come to them with information, so you need to focus on moving the conversation from online to offline.

At the end of the day, social selling is more about social listening and engagement. You’re trying to foster relationships with potential buyers in such a way that you become the obvious choice when it comes to making a buying decision.