Did you know that before your first interaction with an inbound lead, that customer has already completed 57% of their decision making process?
According to the CEB, solution sales is dead, or at least dying. Customers today are developing their own solutions and running the due diligence on their suppliers before they even make contact. What does this mean for sales professionals?
It means that we can no longer identify and solve our customer’s problems during the first conversation. It has to be done sooner. Much sooner.
Today’s customer is a technology aficionado with a super computer in their pocket. They’ve done their homework, read the blogs, checked the forums, and perused the social media streams of you and your competitors before you even knew you were being evaluated, and certainly before they signed up for your free demo.
It means we need to adapt our sales process.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is the process of using your professional social networks to identify the right prospects, engage the right people and develop the right relationships to achieve your goals. Or as SaaS sales expert Jill Rowley defines social selling: Research to be Relevant to build Relationships that drive Revenue.
Research to be Relevant to build Relationships that drive Revenue. #SocialSelling
— Jill Rowley (@jill_rowley) September 7, 2015
If you’re interacting with your target audience and sales prospects via social media, you’re already engaged in social selling, but now you can increase your chances.
Social media is traditionally reserved for the marketing team. After all, it is the largest and most accessible marketing channel they have today. However, while marketing is focused on developing the company’s brand, positioning its value in the mind of the customer and crafting messages one-to-many messages, social selling is focused on building one-on-one relationships.
However, before you can successfully leverage social selling in your business, you need to first sell your own sales team that it’s worth their time. You’re basically telling them to change the way they sell, a trade they’ve spent years or even decades crafting. Not a simple request.
In order to showcase the value of the new sales tactic, communicate the benefits and importance of social selling in terms of their longterm sales pipeline. Social media, and the abundance of automated social tools can put their pipeline into a hypergrowth mode just 1-2 quarters out. By successfully developing their CRM from cold leads into warm relationships using social media, their closing percentage and personal income will increase in a very short amount of time.
Polishing their profiles
The next big obstacle for a successful social selling program is reigning in the “variety” of social media profiles proliferating throughout your office. Our generation was the first to experience the social media phenomenon and we’ve had to survive the ongoing rules and social etiquette of publishing our personal lives online. Needless to say, some have learned faster than others.
Before your sales team can get online and start delivering value for your company and themselves, you need to make sure they’re not a social media train wreck waiting to happen. With full consent and along with another employee (ideally from HR or the communication team), go through your sales reps’ social profiles and make sure there aren’t any PR nightmares hidden in their public-facing profiles. They don’t need to pass you the keys to their social universe, but if they’re going to be representing you on LinkedIn, you should make sure they look the part.
For example, do they need a new profile picture? Are they using the correct description of your company and their role? Are they using the platform in the appropriate manner?
Help your sales team craft their online brand that matches both your company’s brand and their role on the team. Consistency is key.
Set them Loose
Once their profiles are polished and looking sharp, give them the guidance they need to get the most value from their efforts. Help them develop a list of targets and industry influencers. Encourage making new connections and participating in groups or forums relevant to their target list. Add their LinkedIn icon to their email signature and remind them to connect with potential prospects and ask for referrals. There is no shortage of strategies to utilize social media platforms like LinkedIn for business success, but the real magic happens when your sales team morphs into a genuine and authentic social selling machine. It starts with the basics and mixes in their personality along with the culture and personality of your brand.
Help them invent that perfect cocktail of social presence that compliments your brand and captivates your target market. It will pay longterm dividends and convince new prospects to choose your business before they even make contact. Which is important because in today’s nonstop business world, decisions are made on based on first impressions.