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What is B2B Social Selling?

And does it work?

Social selling builds long-term mutually beneficial relationships with your customers and prospects.

What is social selling?

Social media has become increasingly important in every aspect of work – not just marketing and PR, but sales, customer service, product development, recruitment, retention and how we communicate with our colleagues and partners to deliver day-to-day activities. Just like digital transformation involves using new technologies and tools, social transformation involves learning new behaviours and ways of communicating.

Social selling is part of this social transformation of work. It looks to build long-term mutually beneficial relationships with prospects and customers and harness social media to support them.

Anitia Veszeli, Social Media and Advocacy Director at Ericsson, defines the power of social selling as using social media to “foster key relationships with customers or potential customers, to prospect, to connect leads back to their pipeline and measure performance”.

By utilizing social media at every stage of the buyer’s journey, you are more likely to reach your goals and your customers will be more satisfied with their decisions.

Who is involved?

B2B social selling isn’t limited to your sales team. It involves everyone who is responsible for promoting your business and driving growth. That means the CEO, founder, business development teams, marketing, specialists and experts, as well as sales. This joined-up approach benefits not just the organization, but all the individuals involved, as they build their own personal brands and reputations alongside that of your business.

Why should I try it?

It really works.

Leads cost less, sales professionals perform better and your C-suite cares about what is said on social.

How do I start?

To be successful, you need to take a strategic approach that puts your customer and their needs at the heart of your business. Traditional selling can often be a baton-handing connection, with marketing driving awareness and providing leads to sales teams focused on short-term sales targets and an over-reliance on their personal contact information and event attendance, or cold calling lists. Social selling focuses on the longer term, building relationships as part of a team within your organization and benefiting from a synergy between individual and corporate social media activity.

There are four key stages in the social selling pathway:

  • Find and be found – The goal here is to be able to find potential buyers on social media and, crucially, to also be found by buyers looking for new partners. In traditional selling, this stage is often focused too much on the ‘find’ element rather than being found. You may be over-reliant on attending events or limited by your current network of contacts. And even if your business buys in lead lists, you may find it difficult to overcome the decision makers’ gatekeepers. Social selling balances both the finding and being found elements by recognizing the importance of creating useful and informative content that can be accessed via both personal and corporate social media channels. By taking a strategic approach to thought leadership and personal branding, SEO improves for both you and your business and potential buyers start to seek you out. In addition, social targeting and network sharing across your organization enable everyone to widen their network and identify new contacts to approach with your proposition.

  • Relate – This stage is about building relationships and providing information to enable your potential buyers to evaluate their options and ensure they have a consensus on the requirements and specifications of any new solution. In a traditional selling approach, information can be limited and is often held with individuals in an unstructured way. Social selling focuses on identifying the people who are ready to interact. Social insights and listening can be used to inform the content they would like to consume, identify their connections and fellow decision makers, generate triggers for next-step activity from buying signals and ensure outreach calls are timely and relevant to the buyer’s challenges.

  • Engage – Here you are trying to ensure the potential buyer picks you and your solution. You may be under pressure to meet sales targets and deliver results. In traditional selling, a volume, one-size-fits-all approach can sometimes be taken, or you may use cold calling or cold emails to increase the potential buyer pool size. Social selling focuses on leveraging the existing relationships you have built to support your being chosen as the new supplier. Your reputation as a thought leader and informed adviser is important here, enabling you to leverage a warm relationship and help guide the buying process with highly relevant and insightful conversations.

  • Support – This final stage considers the post-sale relationship. Often in traditional selling sales professionals may have a very limited role, with responsibility handed to onboarding teams, account management or marketing. Social selling means you retain the connection to ensure customer satisfaction and are ready to help identify possible future problems or needs. By continuing the relationship, you can also encourage recommendations and referrals and follow your contacts when they move to new roles or new companies. Having built up trust with your network, this is a great way to continue your thought leadership reputation with them and be front of mind for the next opportunity.

Social selling isn’t about hard selling or a quick sale. It’s a long-term commitment that requires a clear plan, an integrated approach and management support. Whether you are a small entrepreneurial start-up or a large global brand, by taking a structured approach, you can build an effective strategy that grows over time. SAP, the market leader in ERP software, started by testing the process in a single division and saw significant pipeline results before rolling it out across the world. Copy House, the independent technology content marketing agency, started by focusing on its founder’s personal brand and saw unprecedented growth within a year.

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