My father is a salesperson at a software company based in Palo Alto. While sales runs in the family, I’ve always considered myself a marketer, though I’ve found that the line between sales and marketing has become increasingly blurred. One area you can see this is in Social Selling, which is the process of leveraging social media to gain insight into your customers.
Koka Sexton’s Social Selling
Koka Sexton, Sr. Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, is a thought leader who often writes and speaks about social selling. In Social Selling 101, Sexton explains that social selling is not using social media to make a pitch, rather the main purpose of social selling is to serve as a catalyst in the selling process. Salespeople can listen what customers have to say without making cold calls and can leverage social information to build relationships with potential clients over time. Sexton advises salespeople to engage potential customers by sharing content that will resonate with their target audience.
Sexton also emphasizes the importance of finding the “right leads,” and that leads from referrals are more likely to turn into sales than leads from cold calling or website contact forms. Thus the importance of following these best practices on LinkedIn:
- Connect with people you know and personalize your invitation to connect
- Share content on LinkedIn groups where your potential customers communicate
- Ask for introductions to potential customers, but make sure your connection has the option to say no if they do not feel comfortable making the intro
- Create connections with professionals that have the same target market as you, but not the same service – for example, a lawyer and marketer who both offer professional services to startup companies might want to strategically connect with each other
- Look at LinkedIn’s suggestions for people you may know and take the time to learn 3 things about them before you connect
Building up your referral network on LinkedIn is a critical piece of social selling. Social Selling helps salespeople better connect with their potential clients, and that is the most important takeaway from Sexton’s post.
Sexton also smartly cautions that social media cannot in and of itself give you new leads. It depends on how you use it. You must identify the right targets, start to form real relationships with your prospects by curating content that resonates with your audience, and finally convert these online relationships into one-on-one connections over the phone or in person.
I have to say that I agree with Sexton about the future of social selling — “Companies who refuse to employ social selling techniques will become obsolete in another five to 10 years, say industry experts. In fact, in a short time, perhaps a few decades, social selling will just be called selling.”
Social PR – Social Selling for Public Relations Pros
What I would add to Sexton’s post is that Social Selling’s impact extends beyond the world of sales. The same social selling best practices Sexton advises salespeople to follow apply to PR professionals who want to better connect with their audiences. Social PR is essentially Social Selling, but for PR and communications professionals rather than for salespeople.
As I wrote in “What is Social PR?,” social PR combines traditional PR methods with social media marketing to help companies and individuals connect with their customers. For example, if you are a PR professional for tech startups, one of your target audiences would be tech bloggers. Before pitching TechCrunch a story about your client, you will want to build a relationship with the right bloggers there. What better way to do that than to leverage social media to connect with these tech bloggers? Follow Social Selling best practices and start to provide them with content that they would be interested in, even before you have a story that you want to pitch.
One piece of advice to get started — I’ve found that Twitter is a great way to connect with bloggers, and that there are a variety of Twitter lists you can follow to find influencers in your industry. Or better yet, create your own Twitter List of bloggers specific to your company! That will make it easier for you to listen to what those bloggers are saying on social media, and you can RT content that you think is relevant to your audience.
In both Social PR and Social Selling, even the best social media efforts will fail if you do not know your target audience. So before starting any social media program, ask yourself these questions. Where does my audience spend time online? What questions keep my customers, influencers, and stakeholders up at night? What does social media success look like to me?
Once you know your goals, you can put a Social Selling or Social PR plan in place to connect with your audience and achieve success, whether that is more sales or a placement for your client.
* Originally posted on LinkedIn.