What is social selling and how can you benefit from it?

Over the last few years we have seen a big evolution of online communication and sales. The times when companies were sending cold emails to random receivers are long gone.

Social media made it possible to know and understand leads and customers better. Still, the times of treating Facebook pages and Instagram profiles as business cards are also in decline. Even collecting a huge amount of customers' data is not state of the art anymore. Especially in the light of the recent Apple and Facebook data war. More and more companies are transforming their online marketing to social selling practices.

What is social selling?

Social selling is a strategy of using social media (and other online tools such as email marketing) to build true relationships with business prospects and customers. Why? Because a true relationship sells much more efficiently, in a more sustainable way to customers than traditional methods. Social selling gets attention, engages prospects and turns potential customers into raving fans. Despite the name, there is no direct sales involved here. The skill is in building relationships, trust, and positioning the brand as an expert in its domain. This indirectly leads to sales.

Quite often the brand is represented by its strong, influential leader, who educates their audiences and engages in hot topic discussions. Take Richard Branson, for example, whose LinkedIn profile is followed by 20 million people. Branson engages in discussions about tech innovation, entrepreneurship, ecology, and other topics of social importance. Thanks to Branson’s engagement in social selling, Virgin's brands gain a strong market advantage.

Many big brands are using social selling techniques to engage with their fans. Some use social media to evaluate their new products, get feedback and show their engagement with burning issues like sustainability or climate change. Others use social media to answer customers' complaints or questions. Today, customers expect their issues to be resolved within less than 30 minutes, and social media is a great channel to achieve that. Nike is a paradigm of efficiency in this.

It’s important to mention that social selling is not just about getting more followers on social media. It’s about engaging your audience in meaningful interactions, showing your brand in the best possible way. Additionally, by giving your audience value, you are earning their trust and loyalty. Which, again, quickly turns them into prospects.

Does social selling replace traditional sales? Definitely not. But social media does provide both B2B and B2C businesses with the opportunity to generate additional leads – the most engaged recipients – which can then be passed on to your sales team or your online marketing funnel.

Why use social selling?

In today's world, social media consumers are more and more aware of data protection, making them reluctant to leave a digital footprint. However, that does not mean that they will not allow companies they trust, that offer them high perceived value, access to their online movements.

As with every relationship, building a strong bond takes time, but the more engaging and positive it is the stronger it becomes. Social Selling provides an opportunity to build a real relationship that creates future sales leads. This relationship makes selling natural and easy. Customers who trust brands are not only more likely to buy but are also more likely to come back and spend more in the future. This maximises the lifetime customer value - one of the key KPIs in sales.

The second reason why social selling is worth trying is that your customers (and prospects) are already involved in social buying. In the first six months of 2021, approximately a third of people aged 18-34 in the US and EU made a purchase online. According to the latest stats, 81% of B2C buyers research online before making a purchase. In B2B, this number hits 75%. If your brand is not visible and recognisable online you are clearly missing out.

There is also the matter of helping your prospects to feel that you understand their problems – and can offer a solution. Again, this is not about promoting your products. It is more about educating your future customers about existing solutions.

Then there is the fact that social selling is a great way to give your customers value and spread positive vibes around your brand. Positive emotions and feelings of gratitude trigger a will of giving back to you in the form of sales. This mechanism is very well described in Gary Vaynerchuk's book 'The Thank You Economy'. Positive emotions around your brand make people like you. And people tend to buy from brands they like.

Lastly - social selling simply works. LinkedIn has got some interesting stats on the matter:

- Social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than peers with a lower social selling index

- Social selling leaders are 51% more likely to reach quota

- 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media

What tools are great for social selling?

It depends. Before you decide where to invest, you need to analyse your audience. Where are your customers? If they are on LinkedIn, that’s probably your best choice. If they gather in Facebook communities, consider creating a Facebook Group. If they are primarily on Instagram, you need to be there as well.

What about classic emailing? Email is not a social media channel. In today’s world, younger audiences will not be likely to wait for your emails. If your leads are slightly older, it can be a valid channel to spread your word. However, keep in mind that you will not get as much engagement on your email list as you would on social media.

Social Selling is a strategy that brings online marketing, branding and sales closer. This mix is a great recipe for increasing your bottom line. That is, of course, if you decide to do it in a consistent and customer-oriented way.