Humans are social beings by nature. We are hardwired to seek approval and advice from those around us—this is no different when it comes to the way we buy and sell. In fact, the only difference is that now we have resources to capitalize on this social element, making us smarter and more intuitive in our approach.

Around 67% of the buyer journey is digital, and decision makers read at least 5 pieces of content online before making a purchase—making today’s buyers informed and hyper-connected. Social selling is your opportunity to get involved in the purchasing decision by creating conversation and education throughout every stage of the buying funnel.

To help refine your strategy, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for social selling—arming you with the resources needed to transform information into actionable next steps.

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Using Social Selling to Become an Industry Expert

All types of sales are social in one way or another, but at its core, social selling is about building a connection with your audience before they buy your product or service. It’s about providing resources that let customers know they can come to you not only for information about your product, but also for industry knowledge and general education.

Consider the following statistics:

Let’s compare the above to what research says about selling via cold calls and outbound efforts:

Key takeaway: Sales reps sell more by using social media and employing social selling tactics.

It’s important to note that social selling and social marketing are not one in the same. Social marketing focuses on producing attention-grabbing content that users will share and engage with, thereby increasing overall brand exposure and driving web traffic.

The single most important difference between the two is this: Social marketing is a one-to-many approach while social selling is a one-to-one approach.

The Social Selling Index: Where Do You Rank?

One particularly complicated question that arises when with social selling is how to measure success. Daily engagement is the best way to boost your potential, and for B2B companies, LinkedIn is 277% more effective than any other social platform.

But how do you know if your social selling efforts are making an impact?

The LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) is a good place to start. The index looks at your LinkedIn activity according to the four “pillars” of social selling. The better your activity is within these four pillars, the better your score.

By looking at the four pillars of the social selling index, you can can see how your team should be interacting with leads, prospects and customers on social media.

Pillar 1: Create a Professional Brand

Creating a professional brand is key to social selling, as 81% of buyers feel more comfortable engaging with a brand that they consider to be strong, knowledgeable leaders. If you can upgrade your brand presence across social media, it will build this industry credibility and consumer trust, while simultaneously enhancing your position as a thought leader. Some ways to create a professional brand include:

  • Making sure your profiles are 100% complete and optimized for search
  • Using rich multimedia content on your profile, including long-form content, videos and presentations
  • Increasing and updating your endorsements or recommendations from customers

Pillar 2: Find the Right People

There are plenty of ways you can use social media to tap into new groups of prospects. Ideally, your aim as a business should be to find the users that are most closely aligned with your ideal customer profile.

The more accurately you analyze potential leads, the better your social selling index will be. Remember to:

  • Look for the right people by filtering users by skills, role, seniority and other key elements
  • Follow up with potential leads by answering questions and responding to conversations
  • Support your social selling program with technology to track leads and measure success

Pillar 3: Engage With Insights

Active engagement is a critical part of any social campaign. Social sellers attract 45% more opportunities than their peers, are 51% more likely to achieve quotas and outsell their non-social counterparts 78% of the time. However, you can only achieve these results with constant engagement by doing things like:

  • Positioning employees on social as industry experts who share diverse, relevant content
  • Reaching out to your community, participating in online conversations and seeking to solve problems
  • Joining relevant groups and taking part in niche discussions by offering unique perspectives or ideas

Pillar 4: Build Trusted Relationships

Finally, the core of social selling revolves around offering value to prospects first, and selling products second. The sales you get should be a by-product of the care and attention you give to your customers. Brands and employees can establish this trust to build stronger relationships by:

  • Connecting to prospects on a more personal level with customized messages or content
  • Starting conversations around topics that may not always be directly relevant to your product, but rather, the industry as a whole
  • Providing content that offers helpful solutions (outside of just buying your product) to pain points your prospects might be challenged with

Foundational Best Practices of Social Selling

  • Building a relationship is your first priority. Never throw your sales pitch at a potential customer before building rapport with them—the relationship should always come first.
  • Provide value before asking for something. Give your prospects something of value at no cost. By doing this, you not only establish a level of trust, but you also lay the groundwork for a sale to occur down the line. Relationships take time, but prove to be worth it in the end.
  • Refine your follow-up process. Sales usually don’t happen on the first contact, so it’s important to have a follow-up process and stick to it. Did you know that 48% of sales reps never follow up with a prospect and that 80% of sales happen on the fifth to twelfth contact? The biggest and most profitable sales come from relationships that have been built over time.
  • Have specific goals and build buyer personas. It’s important to ask yourself specific questions about your buyers in order to target them more effectively—what’s their title within the company, what cities do they live in, what are their interests and hobbies? By moving away from macro-level targeting, you spend more time reaching out to the individuals that matter and relate to them in a way that can assist with closing the sale.
  • Always customize your messages. You should be tailoring each message you write to prospects in a way that best speaks to their needs and pain points—even just a little can go a long way here.

The Value of Social Selling

There is no silver bullet when it comes to social selling. It is comprised of many different activities that work in unison.

By making the most of social selling tools and strategy, you’ll solidify your place in the market and sales will organically follow. Put customer value at the heart of your strategy—answer questions, establish trust, build authority and then empower your employees with the tools to do the same.