The Practitioner's Guide to Social Selling

Complex sales involve a number of different people. You will find multiple decision makers, buyers, each having a completely different role and need than the next one. As a sales professional, it is up to you to work within the ranges of expertise and knowledge to present your solution in a compelling manner. This is where social selling helps!

Know Your Buyers
Social media helps you get to your prospects unlike ever before. Sales is built upon the concepts of empathy and insights which is why a winning sales professional thoroughly researches their prospects before meeting and keeps tabs on real-time updates and buying triggers. Here are some examples how this can be done:

1)   Look at your buyer’s website regularly.
2)   Download and read their annual reports and check for mentions on trade websites
3)   Set up Google Alerts for your buyer's business and for key decision makers in the organization.
4)   Create Twitter lists with your buyers, listen and interact with them.

Identify Trigger Events
The problem with the above is that they deliver surface-level information that may not help close a deal. Buying triggers are subtle ways sales reps can look for a potential opportunity to reach out to the buyer at the most appropriate time. Especially if more than one or more are present. But what are buying triggers? Here’s a list of 10 examples:

  • Uptick in marketing or advertising spend
  • Funding events
  • Geographic or territorial expansion
  • Government approvals
  • Strategic or mid-senior level management hires
  • Uptick in product or service adoption
  • Additions or changes to the board of directors
  • Industry honors or awards
  • Attending or speaking at conferences 
  • New product releases or iterations
With social selling you can take it a step further by:
1)   Finding out who are key decision makers by using LinkedIn, Xing, and other social sites.
2)   What’s happening in real-time with their buyers.
3)   What needs and challenges their buyer faces on a daily basis.

Monitor Your Competition
Everyone wants to know what exactly their competitors are doing on a daily basis. In many sales situations, a differentiator or USP from your competition may be so small that any tiny advantage may mean the difference between a win or a loss. Social selling tools can help you monitor your competitors and get a leg up and an opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive.  Tools like HootSuite allow you to build a custom dashboard to help you monitor all of your competitors and look for buying triggers from your customers. Where do you start?

1)   Set up a Goolge Alert for your competitors (key people in the company, brands, products, etc).
2)   Follow competitors, prospects, and thought-leaders on Twitter keep a pulse on what they’re saying. Even build a private Twitter list filled with competitive sales reps.
3)   Monitor Slideshare and Scribd for new documents or presentations from your competitors.
4)   Join key applicable LinkedIn Groups and monitor how your competition are positioning themselves. 

While many worry about the threat of social media, if you’re in sales, it’s time to look more closely at the opportunities. There has never been  a better time to embrace to find new customers, craft pitches that meet their specific needs and bring the right people together to make the sale.

Leverage Your Own Team
One internal collaboration tool that my sales team uses on a daily basis is HootSuite Conversations, which is an internal communication tool for sharing real-time information amongst key members in your organization. Collaboration tools like this allow you to:

1)   Find expertise on unique subjects within your own company.
2)   Create groups to collaborate on unique sales opportunities.
3)   Publish updates to make talented coworkers in your company aware of how they can help you.
4)   Collaborate and share important documents very easily.

Too many people have been worrying about the threats and dangers of social media when a carefully crafted strategy can eliminate most of the guesswork. Social selling will help you and your sales team look closer at each of your opportunities, create unique value propositions, meet the specific needs of the buyer at the right time, and bring the right people together needed to close the sale.

Socially Surround Your Buyers
This one is a special edition a great contributor to the social selling movement: Jill Rowley. Jill always stresses to avoid use social media for two things – to be present where your buyer is and to learn more about them. Statistics show that buyers are using social media to self educate. Social media gives salespeople the opportunity to be part of the conversation and share content that may anything from a thought-leader piece or a new whitepaper from your organization.

Any tips & tricks that weren't discussed here? Leave them in the comments.