How To… The social selling lifeline

In the final part of our How to... guide on social selling, Thierry Gillmann summarises how this method can tear down walls while also warning of the potential pitfalls.

All sales representatives across the world agree: it is becoming increasingly difficult to contact decision-makers. Traditional methods such as bombarding a potential customer base that did not ask for letters, emails and phone calls have clearly shown their limitations.

Social selling to some extent tackles this problem and throws sales people a lifeline through social networks, particularly professional ones. Their prospects may very well be among the more than 400 million LinkedIn users in the world.

Long gone are the days when a profile on this platform was created just to post a CV. Today, users of a professional social network join essentially to stay abreast of things and meet people who could be useful to them in a professional context. 

Indeed, one of the reasons for accepting a request to connect to a commercial profile on LinkedIn is to identify the person rapidly as being capable of keeping us informed and/or being useful.  

Broadly speaking, these networking places facilitate the discovery and qualification of new prospects; improve the conversion rate; and simplify and humanise the commercial relationship. 

Prepare the conversation 

Social selling holds a wider interest for sales representatives. First of all, it provides them with a complete picture of the company they are interested in: its modus operandi, relevance and values. Sales reps are therefore better prepared for the conversation they will hopefully have eventually. Using Google to find out who they are going to meet no longer suffices: reps need to study their prospects much more closely in order to adapt to them optimally. 

But social selling should not be mistaken for a mere tool. It concerns behavioural modification first and foremost, putting customers at the centre of attention and offering to help them to succeed. 

Social selling dos

Design the dissemination framework 

A social network is not enough to embark on a social selling strategy. You will need a correctly designed dissemination framework, adapted to your target group – a framework that inspires confidence and generates conversions rapidly. 

If your website or blog is at the centre of your framework, prepare it to receive qualified visitors. It must be responsive (and mobile-friendly), feature content that is easy to read and share, simple and efficient to use, and capable of guiding the visitor to a conversion tunnel. You will also have to implement a curation strategy. 

Deploy a real editorial strategy 

You need to use the aforementioned framework to provide content for your customers and prospects. To avoid it ending up in the spam folder, you should produce and disseminate two to three such weekly content pieces – one a week at the very least. 

To produce this content, you have to be able to rely on teams that are capable of defining your editorial line, but that can also write, find catchy phrases and illustrate the content (with diagrams, computer graphics or videos, for instance). It is a lot of work, which will have to be outsourced entirely or in part. 

Train the sales teams 

Once you have a well-oiled production machine – and only then – it is time to bring your reps into play. Put in place training schemes to ensure a minimum level of comprehension of the objectives, tools and processes. Call on an external specialised firm to help you get the right message across among the most intractable persons. 

Measure the effectiveness 

There is no progress without measuring, among other things, the number of leads generated by the approach, the conversion rate (compared with the conversion rate of leads from other channels), the proficiency in the approach or tools by the sales representatives, and the ability of the content to generate conversations. 

Improve continuously 

Social selling will usher you into the era of continuous improvement. 

Find the best tools (with integration between LinkedIn and CRM, for instance), improve the content, test new vehicles, discontinue those which are not working properly, invest in dissemination through paid media (advertising of your content online), and share successes with the sales teams, so that everyone knows and works on their areas for improvement. 

Social selling don’ts

  • Create a false profile or several profiles (one for your friends, one for your customers is the most common mistake made). 
  • Not check the image your targets can have of you (if only by typing your name into Google) 
  • Lie about your career or education 
  • Invite new contacts without personalising your invitation request
  • Build your exchanges on commercial interactions 
  • Not be authentic 
  • Request false recommendations from your friends 
  • Flood your network with spam or any inappropriate content 
  • Invite several dozen contacts per day 
  • Share strictly promotional content