The buying process has always been social in one way or another. As humans, we’re wired to seek approval from friends and family when we make purchasing decisions—affirmation is in our DNA. That said, today’s buyer takes this social component to an entirely new level.

Enter: Social selling.

Most businesses understand the importance of having an active presence on social media, but what many miss is the critical piece elevating this presence to the next level—a level that allows you to actually drive revenue. This can only be achieved by tapping into your most powerful internal resource: The social influence of your employees.

To shed some light on the current state of social selling, Bambu by Sprout Social surveyed over 1,000 people to understand their stance on the new role of social media in the buyer’s journey and how it influences their purchasing decisions. Here are some highlights:

  • 38.5% of people said they’d prefer to hear from a company about their product or services for the first time via social media
  • 45.2% of Millennials are more likely to prefer sales outreach via social than other generations
  • 34.9% of people are more likely to buy from a sales representative who shares industry news and helpful content on social
Q3 2017: data report
Shifting the Buyer’s Journey: How to Optimize for Social Selling

Read the full data report exposing results from over 1,000 surveyed respondents on how social media impacts their buying decisions.

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Crafting a Social Selling Strategy

Today’s buyer wants to learn and consume information about a company’s offering through social media—in fact, many are even willing to hear from sales representatives directly. This willingness to hear from businesses on social networks is a result of the increasingly blurred lines between personal and professional spheres. It’s become apparent, especially as new generations enter the workforce, that these once very separate spheres will continue to blend further into one another, paving the way for social selling to have an even larger impact on sales than it does today.

The question is though, while people may be open to communication, how do you use that to drive a certain desired action? How do you get people to actually respond?

Be authentic.

While only a quarter of people (26.3%) said that a sales representative has reached out to them on social media, of that group, over half (16.2%) say that they’ve engaged in conversation once the rep reaches out. What’s more, Millennials are 91.8% more likely than the generations before them to engage with a sales representative on social.

Given what we know about Millennials, they’re characteristically wired to seek personalization and authenticity in every interaction they have—this includes the interactions they have with businesses.

Of those who engaged in conversation with a sales rep on social, 29.1% said the rep’s response was canned, automated or promotional. And while 1 in 4 (25.3%) said their response was friendly, only 9.6% said it was helpful—and from previous Sprout Social research, we know that 78% of people want brands to be helpful.

There’s clearly a disconnect between what consumers want and what they receive, meaning businesses need to find a way to bridge this gap, and quickly.

It is critical, at a fundamental level, for both brands and sales representatives to humanize their social selling efforts. In order for this approach to work, the tone of your message has to match the intent of the platform, there is simply no other way to achieve success.

How Can You Close the Deal? Engage.

17.4% of people are more likely to give a company their email address if that company has responded to their question/request on social. To take it one step further, 43.3% are more likely to actually buy from someone who responds to questions on social. It’s easy to see how quickly social media can impact your bottom line, and the ask from your consumer isn’t that large—they simply want someone on the other end to be helpful and responsive.

Remember that it’s not just about reactive engagement, but proactive engagement, too. Sharing helpful content increases responsiveness from sales prospects: 15.5% of people are more willing to respond to someone who shares helpful content on social.

social selling data report

Almost a quarter of people (22.3%) say that a sales rep sharing helpful content makes them more likely to follow that representative on social, and 15.8% say it makes them more likely to follow that person’s company.

One thing consistent across buying audiences on social media is that they’re looking for thought-leadership. Of respondents, 34.9% said that they’re more likely to buy from someone who shares industry news and helpful content on social, and nearly a quarter (22.8%) said that sales reps who share helpful content on social are top-of-mind when making purchasing decisions.

It’s important to always keep balance top of mind with any social selling strategy. While industry content is extremely influential to buyers as they make purchasing decisions, there’s a great deal of power in showing a little personality, too. In fact, 26.1% of people are more likely to buy from someone who has shared friends or personal connections on social.

Furthermore, 27.9% are more likely to buy from a sales representative when they post videos and pictures. Millennials are used to a more visual social experience—37.1% of this generation say that they’re more likely to buy from someone who posts videos and pictures, proving that authenticity is the key to success with any social selling strategy.

social selling data report

Consumers want to do business with a company that’s engaging and personable, and they’ll quickly sniff out anyone trying to take shortcuts. Not only does this reflect on your brand and how it’s perceived in the marketplace, but your presence on social media affects your bottom line. Buyers are vocal about which factors influence their buying decisions, and they’re telling us—loud and clear—that they want helpful content and human interactions from brands and their employees.

When it comes to social selling, there is no fast-track to success. It takes time to gain credibility and develop trust among your audience, but once that relationship is established, it will be your most valuable resource and greatest return on investment.