“Traditional sales tactics no longer work because desensitized buyers never, or take days to, respond to emails and refuse to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. But savvy sellers who effectively engage on social networks are seeing meaningful results. These modern sellers create 45% more opportunities and are 51% more likely to achieve quota than those who do not embrace social.”
This passage, from a landmark report by a marketing leader Forrester, sums up the pain, as well as enormous opportunity, that B2B organizations face when selling their products or services.
Social media is now the global marketplace, and salespeople are flocking to social selling. But that doesn’t mean that they’re all making a killing.
In fact, the Forrester report goes on to say that:
“...many miss the mark by focusing on selling versus engaging. B2B marketers and sellers must now right the ship before social becomes another channel sunk by sellers’ poor behavior.”
The problem is that many salespeople believe they understand what social selling is, and how it can grow their business. They struggle, however, because they pair scattergun tactics and zero social selling strategy with a poor knowledge of their audiences’ needs.
When the term 'social selling' was first coined, it was meant to help salespeople understand the importance of using social media platforms within their sales processes. Unfortunately, most focused on the 'selling' rather than the 'social' aspect of the term, and this led to a shoehorning of old school hard-sell tactics on new digital platforms, as opposed to evolving to meet the modern buyer where they're active.
All top salespeople understand that relationship building remains paramount to successful sales – whether online or offline. Those who understand this, and have adopted a modern sales approach, while continuing to build relationships with prospects and customers, have enjoyed continued success.
Social selling is tremendously effective for those who deploy it properly, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing it poorly.
In this post, I'll share the seven key mistakes of social selling, as listed in Forrester’s report. I'll also explain how you can overcome these challenges to maximize the potential of social selling, whether you're selling for another company or your own business.
Mistakes to Avoid in Your Social Selling Strategy
1. Treating social networks as promotional channels
Today, it’s easy to broadcast your company’s promotional posts - and you might well be tempted to do just that. But it’s not always a smart, or effective, social selling strategy.
In fact, if you share nothing but promotional materials, you'll either end up being ignored or, worse, you'll annoy your network and prospects. No doubt you'd prefer to avoid both outcomes.
While social platforms seem like a great place to blast out all your sales materials, you're going to be more successful, long term, if you engage with your prospects, creating real conversations.
Think of it as of a virtual networking event - you need to use social platforms for the purpose they were created, which is to find people with whom you want to connect, and build relationships with, through conversations and relevant content for your community, prospects and customers.
2. Asking for something before establishing trust
Trust is in short supply these days, especially online. Everywhere you look, people are talking about the loss of trust in the business world.
This means that potential customers are more distrustful of businesses than ever. No one wants to be duped or taken advantage of. And with trust at an all-time low, asking for anything without first establishing some basic trust will kill your selling efforts before you even begin.
You can start building trust with your prospects by first listening to them on social media. Get to know them, their challenges, and the language they use to communicate their pain points. Once you have a solid understanding of your customers’ issues, you can begin to engage with them and have conversations.
You can further build trust with your prospects through reciprocity, by providing them with content they find helpful or interesting.
3. Under-researching a contact
Solid research of your prospects can be the difference between making a sale and never getting a response – it’s THAT important.
And in the digital age, there's no excuse for not taking the time to properly research your prospects.
Showing you’ve done your homework can make a huge impression on prospects - a little bit of extra effort on the front end can make all the difference when it comes to converting your prospects into clients.
In most cases, you should be able to thoroughly research the company you're trying to sell to before you approach it. To have the most complete picture possible, research its decision-makers, its target market, its competitors, and the industry in general.
Social platforms provide the perfect place to learn more about the decision-makers or buying committees you'll be approaching. In many cases, you'll find a great deal of both personal and professional information about your prospects on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This information can help you determine what's important to them, and what motivates them, so that you can personalize the messages you send in your outreach.
4. Engaging in random acts of sharing
Randomly sharing content – especially if it’s irrelevant – will, at best, waste your time, and at worst, harm your brand image (trust) with your prospects and customers.
Your prospects are looking to educate themselves during the early buying stages. When they're ready to talk to a sales rep, they're most likely to talk to the person or company which provided them with the best, most complete and helpful information during their research phase.
You want to be that person.
So how can you be seen as a trusted advisor, and not a sales pitcher?
First, stop posting general promotional materials from your company.
If you did your research on your prospect, you'll know what their greatest challenge is, as well as what might be most motivating to the decision-makers of the company. Use this knowledge to put together unique and specific content for these prospects via your content marketing plan, in order to educate them about their problem and possible solutions to it. As a result, they'll likely think of you as the expert during their buyer’s journey.
5. Failing to invest in comprehensive social selling training
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
If you (or your sales team) are not properly trained in the art of social selling, you’ll likely make the same social selling mistakes as discussed here.
Social selling only works when the social seller understands its purpose, and is competent and confident in deploying it.
An effective, comprehensive social selling training program will address a number of key areas, including:
- Setting goals and choosing KPIs
- Customer research
- Personal/professional branding
- Establishing authority on your topic
- Creating, curating and sharing valuable content
- Locating and connecting with potential customers
- Building relationships with potential customers
- Moving the conversation offline
- Social selling tools (CRMs or LinkedIn Sales Navigator)
- Tracking and measuring KPIs
Further, effective training will teach the social seller the four most important social selling pillars:
- Right Profile – Creating the right profile that has decision-makers clicking Accept in response to your connection request
- Right People – Finding the right people who are the best fit for investing in your product or service
- Right Messaging – Communicating with your prospects the right way, so that they respond to your messages and agree to a phone call
- Right Content – Sharing the right content to build authority, credibility and trust, and keeping you top of mind with the network of prospects you're building
Whether I’m training a company with six sales people or 100, my goal is to have the trainees master these four pillars.
6. Under-investing in seller-focused tools
Even with the best social selling training, if you (or your sales team) don’t have the right tools to keep you organized, and maximize your efficiency and effectiveness, you're going to miss valuable opportunities.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce, Oracle or SAP, are valuable tools which successful sales reps and teams use to increase their effectiveness.
When you combine comprehensive social selling training with quality CRMs and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can exponentially increase your results with social selling.
7. Taking an ad hoc versus systematic approach
Random and occasional social selling actions produce random and unpredictable sales results.
If you want consistent results with your social selling, you need to have a plan, and then implement it every day. Only a structured, systematic approach to social selling will produce the sales results you want and need.
And while one trained social seller can produce impressive results, a trained sales team that has the full support of the marketing department can produce truly remarkable sales results.
Tap into the full potential of your social selling strategy
Which of these two statements do you find most relevant to you when it comes to social selling?
“The process of selling or reaching my sales goals has never been more difficult. Very few potential customers, if any, respond to my outreach, and when they do, it is a slow and agonizing process to make a sale.”
“The process of selling or achieving my sales goals has never been easier. Using digital tools, I am able to zero in on the right potential customers, build relationships with them and then move the relationships offline, where I can determine their exact challenges and then provide the solution they are looking for in a timely manner.”
While I hope you relate to the second statement, if you're reading this, you are, like many other B2B professionals or salespeople, more likely to relate to the first statement.
But don’t worry - despite the social selling mistakes that you may be making, it’s never too late to change your approach, and implement a social selling strategy which builds a sales pipeline faster and easier than ever before.
You can move from trying to sell your service or product to various unqualified companies, to finding, connecting and building high-quality, trusting relationships with key decision-makers who want to get on a call with you.
You also have the ability to nurture those relationships, so that when your prospects are ready to purchase the solution to their challenge, they think of you first.
When it comes down to it, there's only one primary goal your social selling strategy should focus on, one that almost everyone misses - book warm calls.
A successful social selling strategy lies in the approach you take, and not the tactics you employ. Social selling is not simply about sharing content – it’s about building relationships.
If you keep that at the center of your social selling strategy, you’re already ahead of the pack.
A version of this post was first published on the Top Dog Social Media blog.