Making a Connection to Social Selling

By Amber Fox, System Consultant, NAVIS — member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

It’s been a long time since cold calling only meant knocking on a door or picking up a phone. Twenty-five years after email became a widespread tool for business communication, there are more ways than ever to identify, research, and contact potential clients. On a recent conference call for HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, I led a discussion of social selling, through which individuals and organizations leverage social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to make contacts, spread brand awareness, cultivate customer relationships, and more.

Here are several takeaways from our conversation: 

The accent is on social, not selling. It’s first important to differentiate between marketing social media and social selling for salespeople. There may be some crossover, but salespeople’s focus should be on establishing themselves as thought leaders and building relationships — and not solely on promoting their product, or they will lose credibility. One best practice that was mentioned on our call: Make six educational or informational posts for each promotional post.

It starts with LinkedIn. Many sales professionals’ concept of social selling begins with LinkedIn, whose subscription-based Sales Navigator “expands your network,” according to one Sales Advisory Board member, “so that instead of each person on your team being able to have their own individual network of 500 connections, the Sales Navigator pulls you together as a team, so you have access to those connections for everybody that’s part of the Sales Navigator license.”

Another member singled out PointDrive, a tool within Sales Navigator, noting: “It’s very easy to use, and there’s a lot you can get out of it. You can target specific people, but then you can see who they’re sending content to, which ultimately can help you uncover who is involved in decision making and so forth.” And LinkedIn even allows your team members to measure the strength of their professional brand using its Social Selling Index.

There are other social networks, too. But social selling is — or should be — about a lot more than LinkedIn. Indeed, because other platforms are less frequently used, there’s more opportunity for you to make an impact there. For example, use Twitter to conduct research into your market, connect with colleagues and clients, and establish your personal brand.

As a visual platform, Instagram is a natural fit for hospitality sales. One Sales Advisory Board member’s company recently had its director of corporate communications discuss social media during a conference call for its global sales team. “Her recommendation for Instagram was [for sales team members] to start with our company’s Instagram site,” the member said, “and to make sure that we use that as the baseline. And then we essentially leverage the photos that are taken there, so we don’t necessarily have to create our own…. It’s very much a visual platform, and our brand specifically really is all about the visuals and the images.”

Whatever you decide to do — commit. “It’s not as important to focus on the number of social-media channels as it is to focus on whatever channel you do choose, to be all in,” one Sales Advisory Board member said. “If you’re not a Twitter user, it makes no sense to do it every now and again. Some people might not be as comfortable in some channels as others.”

Social selling means content. One Sales Advisory Board member’s company has hired a B2B-marketing manager, whose work is distinct from the company’s director of digital marketing, which is a consumer-facing position. “What I would say makes a huge difference is this B2B-marketing manager is able to develop specific content,” the member said, “and everything that I know and understand is that it’s really important to have content to share on your social-media sites…. It’s about building our brand and how we are thought of as thought leaders. We shouldn’t be trying to sell ourselves or really doing a strong pitch on our hotels.”

That said, social selling can help salespeople — who are coming into the buying cycle much later than they did in the past — be a part of the process. By the time salespeople connect with buyers these days, buyers have already researched solutions, learned pricing, and sought out peer reviews. Social media is a great way for salespeople to insert themselves into that conversation earlier.

Categories: Sales
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