There is a lot of buzz about the power of ‘social selling’. Unfortunately, however, there is also a fair bit of confusion over what it is.
Helping merchants to maximise their revenue, Westco marketing manager Katie Cullen takes a look at how retailers can use social selling to meet the needs of installer customers, and generate those all-important sales.
What is social selling?
One of the hottest trends in marketing, social selling uses the connections, relationships, data, and insights available via social channels to improve and support the sales process. And, with social media increasing the reach and scale of business relationships, and online recommendations becoming increasingly valuable, using social channels as part of the sales funnel is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
According to a recent report , 64% of organisations have, or plan to have a social selling programme in place. Not surprising when you consider that the majority of b2b buyers don’t make direct contact with potential suppliers until at least 57% of the purchasing process is complete.
By establishing an online relationship with installers before they’ve even picked up the phone or come into a store, social selling can be used by merchants to get on their customers’ radar early in the sales process.
However, social selling is often misunderstood, with many people seeing it as a way to connect with customers using only social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The reality is, however, that to get the most out of social selling, merchants must make it a core part of their wider sales and marketing strategy.
Top tips to help merchants maximise their social selling activities
1. Make social selling part of a wider sales and marketing strategy
To generate results, simply being on social media isn’t enough. Instead, social selling should form part of a broader strategy. Consider how social sits alongside content creation, engagement tools, analytics and more traditional sales and marketing activity.
2. Adopt an integrated approach
Make sure your sales and marketing teams are working in sync to maximise the sharing of information and avoid any disruption in the user journey.
3. Understand your audience
Every successful business knows how to develop and maintain customer relationships. Social media provides us with another opportunity to do this. By adding prospects to LinkedIn, or following them on Twitter, you not only help installers to find out who you are, but you also gain insight into what makes them tick. Social selling, when you get down to it, isn’t just about what people are saying about you, but also, what you know about them. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to devise a sales and marketing strategy that appeals to them.
4. Be aware of the pitfalls
A great deal of social selling is public, so you can’t hide behind your marketing messages – particularly if installers are sharing a less positive experience of your service and products.
5. Give it time to work
Having a social media presence that generates results takes time. So, don’t expect sales to skyrocket overnight. That said, you can establish some interim metrics to ensure your efforts are working (and don’t be afraid to take another look at your strategy if not).
6. Create a content and engagement strategy
You need content such as blogs, guides, infographics, and videos to make social selling work. However, forget about what YOU want to say, and instead figure out what installers want to hear. The more content of value you give away, the more you’ll be seen as an expert in your field, and the more customers will want to engage with you – and turn to you when they need to make a purchase.
7. The salesman isn’t dead
People like to work with people they know and trust, and business transactions – in particular those of value – have always been social. So, while technology can be used to establish an online presence and help you to get in front of the right people, eventually it all comes back to building stronger relationships with potential buyers, and that usually requires human interaction.
8. Consider social selling tools
Social selling tools and software can add another dimension to your marketing efforts. Used correctly these services can result in a highly efficient use of your resources, making your life easier and helping your business to achieve real ROI.
9. Measure your results
Never forget the golden rule: what can be measured should be measured. Look at engagement rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and new business sources to make sure your activity is delivering.
10. Don’t be afraid of change
Don’t ignore the results. Once you have established reporting and analytics to test the success of any activity, if needed, tweak your social selling activities accordingly.
One thing’s for sure, with the internet now a core part of the purchasing process for most businesses, and social media increasing the reach and scale of b2b relationships, if you’re not using social channels to reach out to your installer customers, your competitors will be.