I read a story recently about this restaurant in London that offers professional lighting equipment to any patron wanting to get a better picture of their food.
While it’s easy to roll your eyes and deride the idea—“Those darn foodies and their smartphones!”—it really makes perfect business sense in the social world we live in.
What do I mean?
People are going to take pictures of your food anyway. They’re going to share them. Giving them the tools to take better pics means your food looks better. Better-looking food means your friends want to come eat it, too. It’s that simple.
In this and countless other ways, social media has changed the way we eat, shop, buy and learn about what we want to buy. And sales leaders must adapt to social selling best practices to keep up with their competition.
The Importance of Social Selling
The process your parents used to buy a car 40 years ago is way different than the process of buying a car today.
Back then, they went to one or two dealerships, listened to the sales pitches, asked their friends, weighed their options and made a decision. Today, the internet has bypassed that process by offering a near-bottomless amount of information, accessible anywhere at any time.
And that changes the role of sales in a huge way. Today, buyers use the internet to make themselves knowledgeable about your product at their speed. They investigate options and compare cars while watching the nightly news on the couch. They read reviews and ask their social networks what they should buy.
With all that info at their fingertips, people aren’t necessarily interested in cold calls or “traditional” sales outreach. To adapt, smart salespeople have evolved the craft of social selling—being present and visible on social media, where buyers and influencers already are.
Just by being there, sharing your knowledge and stepping in to solve questions on social media channels such as LinkedIn, you’ll stay front-of-mind with the people you’re looking to influence.
What’s the best way to use social media? Just remember CHOPS:
- Pay Attention
Connect With Warm Prospects
We use a sales process called IMPAX: Beyond Selling Value, which emphasizes the importance of research through development of a coach network. We believe you need at least three coaches to provide the necessary account research before approaching the decision makers. Social media might not be the best place to make a sales pitch, but it is the best place to learn more about your prospects at a glance.
Scrolling through the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts of a prospect can reveal their passions, interests and hobbies—all incredibly useful information when relating to someone on a person-to-person basis.
And relating to someone is a wildly important part of making the sale.
"If you know a customer has a daughter finishing up grad school, ask for an update," says Laurie Brown, author of The Greet Your Customer Manual in an Entrepreneur interview. "Everyone likes to feel they're important enough that someone remembers the little things in their life. It's one important way we go past viewing customers as a dollar sign to a human who is appreciated."
Help Out Your Prospects
Just as you spend much longer looking for a car than your parents did, sales cycles are simultaneously getting longer and shorter. They’re longer for prospects who are looking at their own pace, but much shorter once they land in the hands of your sales team.
Accordingly, your prize prospects are sizing you up without you even knowing it. That’s why you should approach social media as an advisor—a source of industry insight and relevant news—not just a vendor that constantly pushes the sale.
More than that, knowing the content prospects react to can help you hone your sales process.
“A lot of companies survey their customers and find out what their pain points are…but they don’t think about how they are consuming content, and how they like to be communicated with,” said marketing expert Ann Handley.
Take education a step further by incentivizing your team to share important articles. After all, buyers are 71% more likely to engage with a salesperson if they mention relevant info.
Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
While LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are perpetually evolving, think of your social media profiles as a business card. It makes a lingering impression, and the way you present yourself on social media determines whether that’s a good one or not.
A few best practices to optimize your profiles for social selling:
- A professional headshot
- A vanity URL that reflects your name (linkedin.com/in/RobDanna)
- Branded imagery that indicates your company and/or logo
- Join and participate in groups relevant to your background, interests and industry
- Share relevant content and thought leadership—but not too much!
- Make your profile client-facing with your buyer in mind
- Get endorsements and recommendations from colleagues and connections
- Link to any professional publications you’ve contributed to so you can show you’re a thought leader
- Add some personal flair—your prospects want to know you’re a regular person, too!
- Check in on social media for at least a few minutes every day—write or share a post, send a note to a prospect or do some research to help you construct a relatable conversation next time you check in
Pay Attention to Industry News
There’s no industry that’s immune to massive external change. Shifts from new legislation, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and more open doors and close others. Companies must pivot to be on top of that change—and any sales force that seeks to take advantage of it must stay in the know.
In social selling, it’s important to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry by sharing any important news with your social media followers.
One cool tip: online tools such as Google Alerts and LinkedIn Sales Navigator can ping you when a select term appears online—a powerful way to keep in the loop with the goings-on of your market and prospects.
Seek Out Customers at the Right Time
As the comments section of any online newspaper will indicate, social media is frequently a place where people make their frustrations heard.
But social media isn’t just for complaints. We announce important updates with our companies as well.
Make the most of social selling by picking up cues. Some may be more subtle than others, but all indicate that change is imminent—and that you can step in to save the day.
Here’s what these might sound like:
- “(Competitor) is so hard to work with.”
- “Does anyone have problems with (issue your product can solve)?”
- “We’re opening a new office in (your territory)!”
- “Meet our new executive in charge of (something your product addresses)!”
Getting Social Selling to Stick
Asking your salespeople to get out of their tried-and-true practices can be a challenge. After all, no one wants to do more work for no real reason.
For sales leaders looking to push their team toward social selling, incentives can be just the thing. And it’s not just about goods and gear—intrinsic motivators such as autonomy and purpose can be just as powerful.
Take social selling to a new level with sales incentives that move the needle for your team.