Your prospects are already educating themselves on different solutions and experts, says Nicholas Lagersten. Salespeople should provide educational content on social to help buyers make informed decisions.Social media provides endless possibilities for sales representatives, when used to its full potential, believes social selling expert Nicholas Lagersten, who has has worked in sales throughout his career, most recently at LinkedIn. Currently the co-founder and COO of DigitEyes, he helps companies grow their businesses on social by tapping into the power of content and networking.
What is social selling? What can help salespeople succeed in leveraging social media for sales? Let us look at some best practices and common mistakes of social selling and building your personal brand.
What do you think are some of the most common mistakes related to social selling?
First, let us define social selling. It is a threefold thing. First of all it’s about using social media as part of your sales process as an individual sales rep. Using LinkedIn for prospecting is one aspect of it. But to make it a full social selling experience, you need to work with markets, so it’s also about sales and marketing alignment. And then, within that, content is the key.
I see some repeated mistakes in social selling. Companies may say that their reps are using LinkedIn for prospecting, but there is often a sales and marketing misalignment, when:
- marketing is not creating content for the sales reps
- content is not easily shareable.
Not taking part in conversations is also a problem, and in my opinion it’s one the hardest parts of social selling. Sometimes people are confident in sharing in an empty vacuum, they don’t write personal messages or ask questions from their networks to make them reflect on the posts they share.
One thing I also notice is that when it comes to sales, representatives aren’t utilizing the full social aspect of, for example, LinkedIn. They don’t do their due diligence, i.e. look up all the decision makers, even though there is so much information before them. This information could help them prepare before and during meetings. There is no broad horizon there, if you simply take one part of social and adopt it.
And from an organizational standpoint, top executives also need to show the way for going into conversations and finding great content to share, otherwise salespeople won’t take the initiative. They may not always recognize what content is great for sharing.
How do you think personal branding and social selling support each other?
As personal is such a part of social media, it’s hard to build a personal brand without the help of social media. But if we flip it: if you already are a trusted advisor, why not use social to amplify that? Having a strong personal brand offline implies that you’re a thought leader with a large social network, and to really leverage that you need to go online.
LinkedIn can also help you understand who in your network are those who can actually help you with the warm introductions and get your foot in the door with potential clients.
What is the role of content in social selling? What type of content supports social selling?
It’s one of the pillars in the success of social selling initiative. Without content, you’re basically missing out on serving your client. A big part of social selling is educating your customers and doing that on scale. Buyers these days want to consume content in the buyer’s stage and whether you like it or not, they are already educating themselves. They’re looking at industry experts on social media to ask for recommendations and also at your competitors.
When it comes to the type of content you should be using on social, I believe it should fall in the why category, meaning the why do I have a problem category. Breaking the buyer’s funnel into three actionable stages, there’s the awareness stage, when you become aware of a problem, the consideration stage, when you’re considering how to solve your problem and the decision stage, finding out who or what is going to help you solve this problem. I think it’s best to share content on social to the buyer in the awareness stage, where they express symptoms and become aware of a problem, do research on and maybe give a name to that problem.
That said, it’s all about attracting different kinds of clients with great content. Also, you should time it correctly and try to adjust it to different personas. A CEO has different priorities than a CMO, for instance.
What are some of the key ways to build a personal brand on social media?
Find out who you want to be on social media. You have to be authentic – it’s hard trying to be somebody you’re not, especially if you’re going to have long-term success. Find your strengths and weaknesses and amplify the strengths.
Many people are somewhat uncomfortable, when they first become active on LinkedIn. Just remember, if you can say something to a person face to face, you can say it on social media as well. You know what’s common sense (although it might not be so common these days).
If you’re selling an IT hardware, or a similar product that’s not so media-sexy, start by understanding your target buyers and their actual challenges. Then really think about how you can add value. What can I do to make their working life easier on a daily level?
Find five experts in your field that you trust and see what they’re doing. When you’ve done this, it’s all about organizing content and sharing it. Work with some kind of content calendar or Smarp to make sure you really get your content out there.
But don’t immediately jump to “How can my product sell?”. Take a step back and start off with the broader picture. Find what the person is searching for and from that narrow it down to how you can actually help them but at a later stage.
The biggest thing to get a sale done in meetings is the question of how we bring ideas to the table and have a discussion with the prospect. If we can have these discussions in an online world, we can really save time and shorten the sales cycle. If you can have hundreds of online meetings and use content to mimic what you’re saying in real life, then you’re really hitting it home.