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The rise of social selling and what you can do to tap into it

9th Jul 2015
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“So long as new ideas are created, sales will continue to reach new highs”, is the memorable advice from inventor Charles F. Kettering in 1946. This idea is as relevant now as it ever was due to the huge increase in options available for generating leads, thanks predominantly to social media.

While social technologies continue to grow exponentially, there have also been changes in how the customer now behaves. We are now in a world where potential customers have much more information at their fingertips, and 72% of prospects use social media to research a company or product before making a purchase. Furthermore, 71% of prospects trust user-generated reviews on sites like Tripadvisor, meaning that that consumers have often made up their minds before they’ve even spoken to a salesperson or entered into the purchasing process. In the age of the empowered customer this trend is only going to increase, and light of this, organisations need to evolve their sales and marketing strategies beyond more traditional channels and adopt the new age of “social selling” as a result.

However, using social media to interact directly with prospects isn’t a new phenomenon, or indeed a quick fix for falling sales. Companies now need to take it seriously and develop a solid social selling strategy or risk being left behind by more agile competitors.  They need to view social media in the same light as more traditional sales channels and invest in understanding how it works effectively and how their audiences engage across platforms.  Once companies reach this level of understanding they can then look at how to adapt their messages to be as impactful as possible.

While this might sound like an immense amount of work, this is the consumer-centric view that organisations need to take today. To be competitive, such insights are mandatory for any successful modern business. If you know how a customer interacts with content across their online and social channels you will have unparalleled insight into their “digital body language”. To put these insights into action and make them effective, marketing campaigns should be moulded around such customer knowledge.

A critical issue is also that social selling shouldn’t be driven solely by the sales team. Marketing departments have long been engaging with their audiences through social media and will already have an established social strategy. Sales teams need to take advantage of this foundation and make sure their activities integrate with it too. Overall, there needs to be a coherent approach across marketing and sales which will ultimately cater to the customer in a more effective way.  

Simple steps can really make a difference when approaching social selling. In sales, a team must be authentic with potential leads; they need to concentrate less on a sales angle and instead focus much more on sharing quality content which will help them build connections. Meanwhile, marketing departments need to start meaningful, personalised one-to-one conversations with prospects using existing customer networks.

Again, if this seems daunting, no need to worry, it’s not. There are many examples of companies who have effectively jumped to a social selling model with excellent results.

For example PayPal, one of the world’s leading payments providers, was faced with the challenge of capitalising on leads for its Merchant Services and also improving cooperation between its sales and marketing teams. Using social relationship management software, PayPal was able to achieve a single view of its customers and receive hugely valuable insights for its sales teams. This allowed them to integrate social selling techniques into their prospecting efforts.

There can now be no lingering doubt that social media is where your customers and prospects are engaging and gathering their pre-purchasing information. If you’re not doing it right, or worse, not even there, you’re missing out on a world of opportunity.

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