Social Selling for B2B sellers

Two years ago, when I was telling the B2B sellers how to use social selling in their work, I faced mainly disbelief. Most marketers claimed that social media was suitable for promoting trendy consumer products for young people and B2B is best when done face to face.

And this is the paradox. Social Selling supports face to face meetings. The right use of social selling tools and techniques will make establishing sale contacts much easier and when the time comes to talk on the phone or in person, both sides will feel they know each other very well.

In this article you will find information on how to use social selling methods and tools to acquire valuable sale contacts. I will also give you my tips on how to build an expert image that comes handy in B2B selling. You will also know the content of the Social Selling Index and methods of increasing its value.

Why do sellers need social selling?

Social Selling in B2B is not about replacing sellers, but quite the contrary – it should make their work smoother and more effective. How is that possible? In a nutshell, it is about getting rid of cold calling, meaning calling random people whom we do not know and who do not know us.

Dropping cold calling does not mean not using the phone anymore, but dropping the “cold” aspect. Social Selling will become a way to “warm up” the sale talks by establishing valuable relations on social media platforms and building and expert image.

That is for starters, and the next stage will be the so called Inbound Sales, offer requests from people we do not know, but who have contacted us after reading an interesting article or an advice posted on social media. It seems too good to be true? This is how I personally generate about 80% of leads (more data on how I use LinkedIn in selling: “Does B2B need social selling”?).

Obviously it requires preparation and a series of actions you did not use to associate with selling. But if you decide to get through this article and implement the tips I give you, you will certainly improve your sale results. Please remember that it does not matter how big is the company you represent. For more than ten years I worked for big corporations, now I run a small consulting agency – in both cases the practices described below work at a similar level.

LinkedIn regularly monitors opinions of buyers and sellers who use social selling to advertise the effectiveness of such practices. It turns out that the buyers appreciate the contact with the seller through social media, on condition that it is about sharing knowledge.

From the point of view of sellers’ effectiveness, Linkedin informs that active presence in thematic groups increases unplanned selling chances by 70%. .

Social Selling Index – check your social selling potential

Sometimes during a training, when a seller tells me that in his case social selling does not work, I take a look at his LinkedIn profile and say (usually in my mind) – no wonder.

If your profile was created mainly to look for a job and serves as a CV – it will probably not be of much use in selling.

Good news – a good LinkedIn profile can be useful both in looking for clients and in looking for a job. I might just add that the better you are in acquiring clients via Linkedin, the more job offers you get :).

Linkedin if of help in assessing our social selling skills through the Social Selling Index – a free tool that allows you to assess your social selling potential – here on Linkedin.

Check your Social Selling Index!

Linkedin SSI

Social Selling Index components show what elements need work

Social Selling Index demonstrates how our actions on Linkedin translate into sale contacts on a scale from 1 to 100 and comes into four types of activities: building a professional image, acquiring valuable contacts, sharing knowledge, and developing relations.

Each is equally important but requires slightly different actions that we shall now look into, one by one.

Build a Professional Image

According to LinkedIn (and me), A Professional Image is an expert image. It is a good idea to become visible as a person who shares knowledge, gives valuable answers, posts interesting content related not only to the company, but also to the issues interesting for clients.

SlideShare is a tool that you can use to post such content. It is a platform for publishing presentations that LinkedIn has purchased a few years ago. Linkedin promotes content published in this form, which also increases the visibility of the author.

SlideShare presentations can also easily be posted on a blog, as you can see here:

Pro tip: SlideShare copies the text of a presentation and pastes it onto the slides below, which makes it easier for Google to index and find. This is why you should not convert slides into images before loading them onto SlideShare, as it will not be able to draw the text of such a presentation. You can convert the slides into the PDF format (but switch the “compressing” option off).

If you happen to write articles, check out the “publish” option for texts longer than posts. This is a mini blog that you can keep without having to worry about maintaining your own domain. That kind of publications can be promoted with posts. LinkedIn appreciates the fact that you publish on their platform and also promotes these articles.

On the other hand, if you publish regularly, it might be a better option to have a blog and promote the posts on LinkedIn. I post mainly on my blog, but I have reposted a few articles on Linkedin as well.

An expert is a person whose skills have been confirmed by several people. This is what the “skills” section on your profile is for. Describe what you know well, and then ask your contacts to validate it.

How to achieve that? I have realized that my skills are usually acknowledged after acknowledging someone else’s skills. Again: give first, then ask. Here it works even faster: give and you shall get, without asking. Do not skimp on time to validate the skills of your contacts, as most of them will return the service.

Recommendations work in a similar way. Give them frequently and do not feel embarrassed to ask for validation, if you have helped someone or you know that this person will qualify you as a professional.

Acquire the right trade contracts

LinkedIn is a tool not only for sharing knowledge and advertising achievements, but also for providing efficient support in the phase of analyzing the market and lookinging for the right contacts. Take a look at your profile and the data you disclose, the information you share when you publish, like or comment posts. All that data is gathered by LinkedIn and much of it is then analyzed and for social selling actions.

People using the Sales Navigator have the broadest scope of tools – a special, chargeable addition which enables unlimited browsing of profiles in the entire LinkedIn database and searching using keys such as place, position, experience, industry, employment rate, and many others. The interesting contacts can be saved on the leads list.

How does acquiring the right contacts translate into your bottom line?

According to LinkedIn, sellers who exceed their targets by 39% usually get involved with their potential clients more often than their colleagues who do not “deliver the results”. Interestingly, it turns out to be more efficient to follow more people in one organization. Sellers who follow at least 10 people in the potential client’s organization, increase the probability of exceeding the target by as much as 69%.

It is an interesting tactic to acquire contacts by introduction. In LinkedIn the most efficient way is to ask a shared contact to introduce you.

This formula makes the person to whom you are being introduced react in a more favorable way, since the request is based on trust. Obviously, I assume that the relation between these people is based on something more than breaking records in the number of contacts.

I encourage you to look into your second range contacts (this can be even up to several thousands of people) – you might be sharing at least one contact that can introduce you.

Another tactic is to look for contacts based on shared interests. Find interesting thematic groups, not only on Linkedin. Facebook and other forums offer a broad choice as well.

LinkedIn offers the additional value of always knowing where a person works, which is not always obvious on other platforms. Knowing what your potential contact is interested in, you can start a conversation by sharing interesting topical content.

There are also other benefits of being present in discussion groups. If your posts are valuable and well received, it is likely that there will be people interested in your services.

You will notice that some of the members of the active groups will visit your profile. They might not automatically become your clients, but have for some reason decided to find out something about you. Sometimes it might be a good idea to reach out to them and let them know discretely that you are there to help or invite them to join your contacts. I use this tactic selectively and try to invite only the people who can really be interested in contacting me, but I have to say that these have a 100% conversion rate. One hint: always, ALWAYS, personalize the invitations. You will be amazed to see what a difference it makes.

Acquire information and share knowledge

The third pillar of the Social Selling Index concerns acquiring and sharing knowledge. LinkedIn grants bonus points to members who actively educate others and participate in acquiring information, because their research proves that this boosts sale effectiveness.

I have already mentioned that I use LinkedIn as a research tool. If I want to reach an organization, I use the Sales Navigator to identify some of its members who can help me see the goals, challenges, new projects, and changes being made in that organization. Looking into the employment history, publications, comments, likes, helps me see if my services or my offer to cooperate can be of value to people who participate in the decision making process.

This is part of the Account Based Marketing method that consists of preparing a set of marketing and sale actions aimed at one organization (Account). In this case the target group is the selected employees of one company or groups of companies. It is obviously effective when applied to bigger organizations where the value of a lead is at hundreds of thousands if not millions of zlotys.

Acquire policymakers for your contacts network

The fourth pillar of the index will tell you if there are enough policymakers in your network – this must be the most important parameter for a seller.

Start with recognition

Linkedin Sales Navigator is not only an excellent tool for establishing contacts, but also for recognizing who to contact and how to choose the best moment. Analyzing the changes in employment or the comments of leads, you can precisely tell who is worth contacting and how to prepare a communication that will interest the potential client and initiate a conversation.

Share knowledge and information that is of value for the client

This is the way to integrate yourself into the network of people you want to reach. Most of them gladly accept invitations from people who publish interesting content and useful information, because this is in their interest. LinkedIn research confirms that this tactic is efficient: sellers who exceed their plans post 23% more than their less effective colleagues.

Sellers are more likely to take a chance on using this strategy if they have proper content provided by the marketing department.

As we can see, content marketing as a communication strategy does not concern only purely marketing actions. The right choice of content available on social media will increase your chances of gaining their trust on a very early stage of making purchasing decisions – maybe you will even initiate such a process if you can skillfully relate to the needs of clients observed through social listening.

Show that you are a true expert, not an occasional one

One-time actions and flooding the social media with a lot of content do not give optimal results. People value experts who regularly provide meaningful and valuable information. Become one of them.

Make it a rule to post at least one information (that is not an ad) a week, which can be helpful for your clients. This does not have to be an information directly linked to your company. You should rather focus on topics that are of interest to your clients.

Marketing can effectively support sellers by providing them in advance with a set of communications that they can use on their profiles. It is a good practice to create social media content as a part of the basic content. If you are creating a white paper or a webinar, think of how to wrap it in a set of social media communications and include it in the package for sellers.

Remember that one “bigger” piece of content can be promoted in many posts, each emphasizing a different aspect.

Follow experts and people who share valuable information. Linking it to clients with a comment of yours will not take up much time and the clients will be grateful.

Be helpful and active

Create a list of thematic discussion groups that your clients might visit and try to regularly answer the questions of those seeking help or information. Remember to be one hundred percent transparent, inform the clients what you do, but do not be pushy in promoting your products. You are here to learn and help. There will be time for selling.

Talk about meaningful things

According to the IDC research, on the early stages of making purchasing decisions, the clients prefer looking into the offers of potential suppliers instead of participating in sales meetings. This research proves that clients tend to come back to suppliers who have been qualified as the ones providing valuable information in the form of e.g. a webinar or a white paper.

Read: Social Selling in B2B Marketing

Read also:

  1. Brudner, „Why It’s Time to Kill the Cold Call Once and For All”.
  2. Hisaka, „How B2B Buyers Perceive Sales Professionals”.
  3. Schaub, „Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience”.
  4. „2012 Buyer Experience Study” – badanie IDC 2012.

 

Digital and B2B Marketing practitioner. Helps B2B Companies to fully utilize the potential of digital sales and marketing tools. Previously Head of B2B Marketing team at Samsung Electronics Poland before holding several marketing and channel development roles in Microsoft Poland.

CEO and Head of Consulting at Grow Consulting.

Over 15 years of experience in building marketing and leads generation strategies in B2B market. Pioneer of Marketing Automation deployment in B2B space.Effie Award winner in B2B category. Blogger, contributor to professional media : Marketerplus, Brief, Marketing w Praktyce. Author of the book “ABC of B2B Marketing” first handbook for B2B Marketers in Poland.

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