"Everything we do is social. And so is selling."
Before making any purchase decisions your customers and prospects do their research, whether by scouting for trends from industry journals, asking their colleagues and friends at the country clubs, or Googling. Now in the era of social web, research is not only easier, but also a whole lot faster. Social media has fundamentally changed how prospects reach out to their peers for "street information" and make decisions.
Think back to the last time you purchased something important, what affected your decision?
As a sales pro, you simply cannot overlook how social media affects your sales. Social selling is the practice of leveraging social networks and social tools in the sales funnel from lead generation to closing the deal to account management. Social selling emphasizes the social aspect more than it does the selling. Above all, it's really empowering your customers and prospects to make better purchase decisions
It is safe to assume that your customers and prospects are on social media. They do research, ask questions, follow trends and get opinions from the people they trust the most; their friends, and close networks. They are making decisions about you and your company based on your company’s and your employees’ social media presence. For example, IBM reports that they saw a staggering 400% increase in sales in the first quarter of 2012 when they launched a Social Selling Pilot Program.
Know Where Your Audience Is
It really doesn't matter whether you’re in B2B or B2C. If you’re in B2B the chances are that your go-to-channel is LinkedIn, whereas if you’re in B2C, you might be better off on Facebook. The key here is to search where your target market is, so that you know where to share information. It's up to you to find out where and who your audience is. If you’re actively using Twitter, but your customers are asking question on LinkedIn, you’re doing it wrong.
Be Proactive, Show, Don't Sell
Unless your customers and prospects are lining up to come to you, don't wait to be asked for information. Otherwise you’re missing out on opportunities to educate and empower them through content. The content can be shared across the social web, anywhere your target audience might be, and in the form of white papers, guides, blogs, infographics, videos, and any other informative content. However, you need to remember that content doesn't do the hard selling for you. Instead, use it as a way to establish yourself as a thought leader. This will help you gain your customers' and prospects' trust, which is a huge headstart for you and your company.
Be THE Thought Leader in Your Industry
Remember the mantra: showing, not selling. People don't want to be sold to, they want to be educated and empowered to make smarter business decisions. There are few things you need to keep in mind en route to becoming a thought leader.
First and foremost, do not push your products and services, it annoys people. No one likes that guy who only talks about himself.
Secondly, recognize and share helpful information. Read as many publications, blogs, charts as possible and do a lot of research in order to share the best information that will benefit your customers' and prospects' business. That's why you’re in business - to help your customers succeed.
Thirdly, establishing thought leadership means that you cannot only share relevant articles, but you need to create original content yourself. When you create high quality content that provides value to your customers, and thus gets shared in their networks, you get more visibility for yourself and your company. In addition, this opens new possibilities for leads.
When you’re capable of educating your customers and prospects about your industry without making them feel like they are being sold to, you empower them to make better business decisions about their purchases and you gain their trust. I hope I don’t have to sell you the value of that.