The average American will spend up to 50 minutes browsing through social media today. This means the average user spends approximately 6 hours a week, or 303 hours a year, browsing over Facebook updates, Linkedin notifications, and an abundant amount of tweets.
More important: Those 303 hours of social browsing are sales opportunities for you.
Social selling is when sales professionals use their social network to communicate with prospects and develop relationships to solve problems and achieve sales goals. In fact, 87% of B2B buyers say they would have a favorable impression of someone introduced through their professional social network.
Social media isn’t for everyone. I get it. But the “social” piece of the puzzle is more important than ever, especially when you consider that “the number of people involved in B2B purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today.”
“You need more than a ‘champion’ or the ear of the economic buyer,” says Mark Birch from the Enterprise Sales Forum. “That helps, but what is more helpful is building a network of influencers and supporters inside the organization. You need internal advocates that can fight the battles that you can’t and will never see.”
Read on for examples for how to integrate contemporary social selling into regular real life, in a way that is authentic – and VERRRY effective.
Social selling taps into a preexisting network and builds on relationships that are already in place. Done right, relationships flourish. Done wrong, bridges (and future bridges) are burned. That’s why authenticity is so important here.
Meet DiscoverOrg’s master of natural social selling: Customer Success Manager (and Business Expressionism artist) Kenny Madden.
Social selling is more than just making pragmatic connections on LinkedIn. It’s a sales philosophy that leverages existing social networks, promotes the use of professional branding, … and, for Kenny, creative expression.
Madden uses an artistic metaphor he calls the “Social Phone.” Instead of numbers, Madden gives the rotary phone, a symbol of old-school selling, icons of all the different ways we connect online.
“The Social Phone is symbolic of smashing all these communication methods together,” Madden says. “It is messy and beautiful, and it needed to be put together in a way that people can understand it. That is my philosophy: Smash all these things together, and lead with quality. There’s no one way of getting there, and there’s no linear way, either: Every single dial is a digit, and together they’re a unique way of reaching the other person (notice that one of the digits is a heart). You can’t just pick one method and be done with it. There’s so much more you could be using.”
Every “dial” is unique, because every person responds differently to every sales approach. One client may prefer email-only interactions, while others check Twitter, or live on LinkedIn.
Social media lets us go beyond a normal sales pitch to create a relationship-based network of future prospects and opportunities. For Kenny Madden and other sales professionals who use this tool successfully, social selling is just … selling.
Here’s what you can do today to incorporate social media in a authentic, relationship-based B2B sales strategy, from the Business Expressionist himself.
1.“If you’re not connected to everyone at your own bloody company, do it NOW.”
One of the first steps to social selling is knowing who you work with – and who they’re connected with. Although this seems basic, many people ignore their own valuable online network: It’s likely that future prospects are connected to someone you work with. (See the 6 degrees of separation theory.)
More important, establishing a presence within your own community allows others to see that you are a reliable contact for your own company. Engaged salespeople should be brand advocates for their own company.
If you’re not, your prospects are wondering why.
The social network you choose to connect, as with all social connection, depends on the culture of your company. For sales professionals, it’s probably LinkedIn. For marketers at a hip agency, Instagram may be the go-to network. For B2C and service-oriented sellers, it might be Facebook first. You do you.
This is one of the easiest, low-risk ways to wade into the world of social selling.
2. Establish your image: professionally and personally
It’s important for sales professionals who are social selling to establish a professional brand.
Here’s an example of how Madden combines his personal passion of art with his professional brand in the sales process:
“One company [I was prospecting to] was based in New York. So I did an original piece of artwork of the Flatiron building. (Their HQ was across the street) and sent it to the CEO with a note saying:
“I enjoyed your comments on the Q1 conf call and the specific objectives you laid out to do X. I know that group of buyers really well and it takes a lot to break through in a market like this. Anyway, I hope you like your signed original piece of artwork I did specifically for you and your organization. Respectfully, Kenny Madden”
The result was a $28,000 first-time deal with brand new client, and a lifetime value (so far) of $250,000.
How can YOU create authenticity by combining interesting content related to both your work and your personal interests?
As with any other relationship, trust and communication are built when both people reveal what’s important to them – and that means letting down your guard, at least a little. Even on professional social platforms like LinkedIn, Kenny recommends following and sharing topics of personal interest.
This is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Are you a kayaker? Francophile? Coffee aficionado? Parent? Dachshund enthusiast? Personal tidbits make great conversation-starters and paint a unique picture that connections want to know more about.
Of course, divisive topics like religion or politics are best saved for strictly personal social media accounts.
3. Connect to everyone at your top accounts
Once again for the folks in the back: Connect to EVERYONE at your top accounts.
“If you have a large client like Microsoft or Oracle,” Madden says, “you should be connected to HUNDREDS of people at each of your diamond accounts – at a baseline minimum. At least follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.”
Connecting with your own accounts through social media helps elevate your presence in their community, and lets you participate in the existing community conversation.
Following the company updates of your customers will keep you knowledgeable about projects and industry news. It also makes it easy for customers to refer their contacts (AKA your future prospects) to you: If you’re hard to find online, that referral will go to someone else who’s easier to find.
Interact with the information they share to further establish your presence.
Connect with the DiscoverOrg community on LinkedIn!
4. Prepare with research
Before any kind of outreach (social or otherwise) it’s important to research possible prospects and know the basics of their industry.
Professionals in a position with buying power constantly receive invitations to connect, and most are looking for a reason to say no.
Put your best foot forward with a little web research: Get to know their work history, company projects, and industry news.
… Did someone say “web research“?
5. Create goals for social selling – and put a number on it
How often have you gone on Facebook, started scrolling … and noticed that an hour just went by? And ten minutes after you put down your phone, you’re back on Facebook again!
Social media can eat up as much time as we’re willing to allow.
That’s a serious problem in the numbers game that is sales, where odds are calculated in time and efficiency.
Don’t blindly connect with contacts without concrete goals.
“I’ve got this on my whiteboard,” Kenny says. “I have a numeric minimum number of connections, comments on various social networks for each day. It is a discipline, every single day, week, month. Otherwise, even I get overwhelmed quickly on social media. (‘You’ve done nothing today but make Twitter comments. Good job, Kenny!’)
Madden has very specific goals for using social media, which he uses to create 3 opportunities and $75,000 of qualified pipeline every month: “A minimum of 25 calls. Every day, Monday through Friday, I make at least 25 outbound calls or voicemails or emails. That might mean reaching out to three brand-new contacts at my prospect company, or three voicemails for my main point of contact to agree on next steps. But it has to be 25 per day, Monday through Friday. That keeps me disciplined.”
It’s easy to get lost in social media and to lose track of time. Kenny combats this by giving himself social network connections goals that correlate with his sales goals.
6. Social selling doesn’t require you to be motivated. It requires you to be disciplined.
“Everyone’s motivated. They’re hustling, they’re killing it, crushing it. Sigh. The last thing in the world I need is motivation,” Madden says. “I need discipline! It’s a path, a lifestyle.”
Successful social media sellers are disciplined in how they integrate it into their life. It’s more than just sending someone an invitation to connect; it requires discipline and a strategy.
A social-selling strategy
- Identify and document which platforms your prospects prefer.
- Craft a script to use when introducing yourself on different social platforms (see below) – this might be an email, or a direct message (DM)/chat.
- Put yourself on their radar by liking a few of the company’s and prospect’s posts, and making a comment or two.
- Click on the prospect’s profile generates an alert – another good way of getting on the radar on LinkedIn and most other social platforms.
- Introduce yourself and invite them to connect.
… wait – How do I introduce myself to someone on social media that I don’t know?
What does that social introduction look like?
“I keep it super casual,” says Mina Meman, Sales Development Rep (and DiscoverOrg’s Wingwoman to the Director of Sales). “I don’t even talk about my company. It’s all about them. I say something like:
“Hey, tell me about what you’re doing. Are you responsible for [X]? Do you wear a lot of hats at your company? (I’ve been there!)”
Meman adds: “Sometimes, salespeople, when they get what they want – a demo – they drop off the radar. This makes the prospect feel like they’re just another person who wants something from them. It’s not a great feeling, and sometimes prospects just won’t show up to demos because they don’t think you’re invested. Connect with others as human beings, not as ‘decision-makers.’ Mention something they’ll remember, ask them about personal things, find something to relate to.”
“I like to drop hip-hop quotes in my DMs. I’ve not only booked demos from that, we actually closed a major deal from a conversation that started with a quote from Ice Cube.”
7. Don’t be too eager!
A common mistake when it comes to social selling is being too eager and jumping right into a sales pitch.
“Focus on what they do,” Madden says. “Don’t lead with your product.”
When making a connection, get to know your contact – then follow up with business intelligence. Lead with the knowledge of their projects, establish a relationship, and then your own product will follow.
Building connections and trust in an online community takes time – no way around it.
8. Know when to unplug
“When you start eye-rolling on LinkedIn,” Madden says, “you need to take a break. When you start to write a comment and then say No, I just can’t … that’s when you take a break.”
A constant connection can give you an edge, but you have to unplug and relax!
“I’m so wrapped up in the work I do – my artwork, selling, my authentic self – that I don’t really have a ‘job.’ It’s all integrated. But when I go to the gym most nights, my phone is off. I don’t touch LinkedIn in the evenings, but if I am on social media, I switch to Instagram which is more art-focused. I share my art on Instagram and engage with other artists, and my client base.”
For Kenny, the balance is learning when to turn off your notifications and finding a different way to engage your social network. In the evenings, he isn’t making calls or connecting with business professionals; instead, he expresses his interests: family and art.
You don’t need to be online all the time to be a good social seller. Learn where your prospects – and you – are most comfortable online, and use social media platforms as different tools for different kinds of connection. Sometimes that means business, and sometimes that means something much more personal – but authentic connection should come first.
“It’s the same old, same old: Treat people how you would want someone to treat your grandparents, or your daughter. Be kind online and offline. Get engaged, and be disciplined.”
When social selling as a philosophy rather than a strategy allows you to find unique ways to connect with clients, prospects, and competition. Like Kenny Madden, you can integrate the social phone into your goals by being kind, disciplined, knowledgable, and creative in your self-expression.
Take a look at your online presence, document clear goals, and get ready to connect – because your next customer is probably a few clicks away.
Read more from our sister company, ZoomInfo, on why social selling is important.