on November 2, 2020 (last modified on December 17, 2021) • 25 minute read
Don’t be that guy or girl. You know the one that connects with you on Linkedin. Then, once you accept, immediately sends you a sales pitch.
That’s an example of social selling done wrong.
Too many treat social selling today like how college guys act at a bar. They try too close, way too fast. Social selling – and its close, enterprise cousin, account-based marketing (ABM) – are both marketing buzzwords. However, social selling gets a particularly bad rap because there are many people who disguise slimy sales tactics – like what I shared above – as “social selling.” In this post, we’re going to share how to engage in social selling without turning off your prospects, including:
Social selling is a way to engage and get to know prospects using social media. The best salespeople leverage social media to start conversations and build long-term relationships with their prospects.
When it comes to crafting a B2B social media strategy, it is all about hanging out and joining conversations where your prospects and customers are. For many of the people who we reached out to for this article, their top social media channels were either Linkedin or Facebook.
For example, let’s say you own a web design agency, and you are looking to use Linkedin to get more clients.
The first step is defining who your ideal customer is. Think through all of the core attributes, including company size, the job title of the decision-maker, their goals, and pain points. Then, create (micro) content on Linkedin that is related to their goals or pain points. And like, reply, and amplify the content they share on Linkedin. You should do this without expecting anything in return. Once you’ve built up some initial rapport, connect with them on Linkedin. Then, eventually, turn the virtual connection into a real-life handshake or hug (or a socially-distanced one if it is during a pandemic).
Related: 44 Social Media Marketing Tactics That Still Drive Engagement, Leads and New Customers
We asked nearly 50 sales professionals to share their top social selling tips. Let’s take a deep dive together.
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Trying to sell to someone the minute you “meet” them is so off-putting. Even in the slim chance that we’re selling is something they are looking for right now, the experience of blindly pitching will leave a poor experience.
Jack Choros of Little Dragon Media adds, “My tip on LinkedIn is not to sell right away. Sell people on the idea of connecting with you and having a conversation. Don’t make the sale your pitch. Make your pitch the idea of building a relationship. Relationships, in the long run, are worth more than a one-off sale anyway. Ask an open-ended question. Ask for a discovery meeting. Mention that you have similar interests and go from there.”
“Don’t sell,” says Brian Cairns of ProStrategix Consulting. “Engage. Be human. Ask and answer questions to steer the conversation naturally to a close.” It’s been incredibly successful for us. We get our invites accepted at above 20%, and we see networking engagements at the same level.”
Adam Rowles of Inbound Marketing Agency adds, “Create relationships first, the business will follow suit.
The ultimate goal is to get business, but you need to look in a broader sense. You are not there for a one-time business. A long term association is more beneficial for business and goodwill. So focus on creating relationships, and this focus will change your approach towards the lead.”
“Serve before selling,” says Jaime Diehl of Jaime Diehl Style. “I always begin with, ‘What problem do I help potential clients solve?’ And I serve up a free tip that offers the viewer a quick win, such as ‘how to find the best jeans if you are petite.’
The viewer gets a taste of my delivery style. I establish trust and credibility. She walks away with a quick win. All of those components leave an impression.” Chris Wilks of BrandExtract adds, “Offer something of value to your targets.
Most people are on social media to learn something, not to buy. So help them learn something, and then you’ll be in a position later down the road to ask them for a meeting or for their business.”
“Focus on conversations rather than conversions,” says Katie Thomas of Leaders Online. “This enables one to establish trust and build meaningful relationships. One should treat online networking like in-person networking, with the focus of the conversation being about the other person.
Over time, most people will eventually flip the conversation to ask about the business owner and their organization. This is where one can start to talk about the why, what, and how of their organization.”
Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles says, “Start conversations! By asking your followers questions, you can start to gain insights into their interests and the kind of content they want to see. And through conversations, you can start to build higher engagement and brand loyalty through the simple act of speaking directly and building rapport.
This works for both users and account managers at businesses. So, find out what will help them solve problems, produce the content, and then leverage that to take them deeper into your sales funnel through additional content and offers relevant to their interests.”
Robert Lewis of Peak Access Solutions adds, “One very effective social selling technique I’ve implemented is commenting and liking posts on LinkedIn and interacting with as many of my connections on a daily basis as possible. Aside from growing my network reach, it’s a great way to find other businesses and contacts to refer to others. I’ve found that most will gladly reciprocate. This year, we’ve closed more than $200k just from business with LinkedIn connections.”
For example, Alex Manos of Beverly Hills Car Club says, “Follow your connections closely, wish them Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, and congratulate them for important milestones. Or, comment on their interesting posts by asking questions or offering tips and tricks related to the post’s topic. Build relationships on social media like you would do it with your customers in real life.
Obviously, you can’t play golf with them or have a drink in a bar, but you can still engage with them and talk about the topics that you have in common. Recommend best golf clubs, car batteries, wines that you discovered, or ask about their lives and recent changes they had.”
Related: The 14 Most Important Conversion Metrics to Track Using Google Analytics
“We use EveryoneSocial and Linkedin Sales Navigator as a part of our social selling efforts, and we achieve 16% higher win rates,” says Tino Jaimes of Sunrise House Buyers. “When combined with additional activities—researching buyers via social listening and connecting with that buyer via social media—win rates improved as much as 22% to when we weren’t using the tools.”
“The most effective social selling tip that I have utilized successfully over the years is finding where prospects go online to discuss the problem that the product is designed to solve,” says David McPartlin of AccountsPortal.
“After finding them, plant yourself in these conversations naturally by providing tips or solutions while promoting your brand, or pick up information that you can use to market your product to this audience more effectively.”
For example, Kevin Mercier says, “Since I’m the sole trader of my enterprise, I’ve found that being closer to your customers is one of the best strategies you could employ. When the hierarchical structure of an enterprise is wide, communication with customers is way simpler.
When your customers know who you are, they begin to form trust around your brand. This ultimately encourages brand loyalty and retains customers, which is crucial for the continuation of your business.
As for the social network, I have found most success with, it would have to be Instagram. Instagram is perhaps the most popular social networking site where you can reach a plethora of potential customers.”
“Talk about WHY you do what you do, not WHAT you do,” says Autumn Sullivan of Mobilization Funding. “When Scott (our CEO) and I craft his social media posts, we follow a 70/20/10 rule. 70% of the posts are Why-based: Our purpose and our core values. 20% are educational, not about our product.
Instead, it is tips on leadership, team-building, or cash flow management. Finally, the last 10% is information on our services. Our leads from LinkedIn repeatedly tell us, ‘I feel like I already know you.’ That level of trust makes closing a deal a lot smoother AND a lot more likely.”
“Give first and without expectation,” says Greg Garcia of Curacubby. “Then, remain engaged and interested. This allows you to be genuine in your relationship and serves the purpose of the social platform you are leveraging.”
“We’ve seen tremendous B2B success from adding decision-makers using employees’ personal LinkedIn profiles and then distributing content from their profiles,” says Luke Genoyer of Global Call Forwarding. “We’re very mindful of our signal-to-noise ratio. For every piece of company-related content that is shared, we encourage our brand ambassadors to post 3 or 4 valuable, non-company-related insights as well.”
“I’ve found telling stories and making recommendations on Quora to be a great social selling strategy,” says Stacy Caprio of AcneScar.org. “People tend to seek out specific answers and questions on Quora, and it can be a great format for anyone who sells a product with an interesting backstory or before and after story to showcase both their story, brand, and product to get more traffic and website sales.”
Marcin Muras of UpMenu adds, “I recently started answering relevant questions on quora. It seems that by doing so, I increased my business’s authority, credibility and I saw an increase in traffic on my website. A lot of people look for answers at Quora. You can reach immense amounts of people by answering appropriate questions in your area of expertise. By providing honest, reliable, and thorough answers, I got good results concerning the presence of my business online. You get to build trust and mark yourself as a knowledgeable, experienced entity. All that with the possibility to get more eyes on your company.”
“How can a hashtag help you sell,” says Derin Oyekan of Reel Paper. “Well, even though this is a very used and abused tactic by many people who post about their vacation in Bora Bora. When it comes to businesses, hashtags provide new mechanisms for people to find you by relevance, topics of interest, or by the hyperlinked subject.
At Reel paper, when we are making the schedules for our social media post dates, we make sure to research relevant keywords and add them in our hashtag column to make our content stand out, especially by those who are not already following us.
However, you also don’t want to go overboard with too many hashtags, keep it minimalistic, and only use keywords that resonate with your brand and/or post.”
“I’ve created a weekly Facebook Live series where I interview educators, psychologists, computer scientists, and others to support parents with remote learning,” says Laura Hart of Robofun. “Facebook Live participation has been from 5.2K to 24 people, depending on what I speak about and who I interview.”
“Our best tip for social selling has been in recruiting what we call influencers-lite,” says Dan Bailey of WikiLawn. “These are people with a good following in our niche but who don’t have an official influencer platform. If we can convince them to try out our service, they tend to review it favorably to their followers.”
Hailey Feldman adds, “Connecting with leads and selling to leads go hand in hand. This is especially true on Instagram.
The most effective social selling and lead nurturing tip I’ve employed on Instagram is incorporating influencer marketing into my clients’ big-picture marketing strategies.
If you want to generate more revenue, plan your marketing strategy to stimulate consumers with influencers.
When I integrate influencer marketing into the rest of a marketing strategy to create a coherent campaign, I can broaden a brand’s reach and increase brand awareness, equity, and authority.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about how companies can use social media and influencer marketing. A marketing strategy that incorporates influencers helps you incorporate your brand’s message and products into the expert feeds on social media in a way that makes sense to your followers and feels natural.”
Related: The 7 Pillars for Implementing A Successful Influencer Marketing Strategy
“Keep an eye on Reddit for folks asking for alternatives to your competitors, and send them a personalized chat message that includes a snippet of their post,” says Justin Pincar of Achievable.
“The individual outreach makes it very clear that you want to be their partner and opens up a channel for them to discuss in more detail. Replying to the public thread might get you broader reach but can easily appear salesy, so post sparingly.”
“We’ve done brand collaborations on social platforms, which has been highly effective in terms of visibility and growth,” says Kimberly Smith of Clarify Capital. “One of the main benefits of using this method is that loyal customers are learning about you through a brand they trust, which gives your company instant credibility.
Because collaboration is a mutually beneficial endeavor, we didn’t have to tap into our marketing budget for cross-promotion; the advertisement was free of cost. The exposure we gained was phenomenal and provided us access to more qualified leads than alternative social selling methods, given that the brand we partnered with was highly relevant to our industry.”
“DM those who engage with you,” says Neil Alonzo of Vocal Visual. “DM a new follower. DM someone who commented on your page, DM some who shared a post.
To be truly effective it has to be rooted in being genuine and authentic, then tie to a single-minded value proposition for the recipient, not only thinking of yourself.
Cliche to say, but. Just be positive and appreciative of the engagement and give each individual your full attention for that brief period in time.”
For example, Daisy Jing of Banish says, “Every time we have a new follower, we send them a message to check on them and ask about their questions or concerns. We purposely and intentionally slide into DMs and messages to initiate the communication and for them to know they’re welcome if they have more questions.”
AJ Alonzo of demandDrive adds, “Nurturing warm leads on LinkedIn vs. email has worked wonders for us. We sell to salespeople (so this won’t work for everyone, and that’s important to know), and salespeople spend a lot of time on LinkedIn.
They don’t spend a lot of time checking their inbox for follow-up emails or hang out by the phone waiting for your call.
So if we can get in front of our prospects on the channels they like to be on, we have a much higher chance of engaging with them.
We take that a step further and make sure the ways in which we engage aren’t ‘salesy.’ That means no direct pitching via messages. Instead, we post content they want to see and tag them, or we comment on their posts and add our own insights.
The goal isn’t to convince them they should talk to us. It’s to put enough value out on LinkedIn, so they convince themselves to talk with us. We’re carving out space in their brain for our brand, so when the time comes where they need help or start evaluating partners, we have more real estate than anyone else.”
“One of the most effective ways to increase our sales via social media is through engagement with our past customers,” says Lisa Chu of Black n Bianco.
“Neglecting existing customers on social media is one of the most common mistakes. Existing customers on social media is a treasure mine because they give your brand credibility.
They are your loudest supporter and will help convince new customers to give your product or brand a chance. Instagram is, by far, the most robust and converting social media platforms. Every brand and company that matters has an Instagram page.”
Related: The 14 Website Engagement Metrics Every Marketing Team Should Be Tracking
“My one effective social selling tip that has continuously worked for my clients is to promote other people/companies doing great work,” says Josh Stutt of ABCD E-Commerce.
“When you spread the word about other people doing interesting things, your audience trusts you more as someone not merely interested in promoting yourself and your wares.
An even bigger benefit is that as you promote others, they engage with and share your content (who doesn’t feel good about unexpected shout outs?) to their audiences, which in turn gets you in front of new people that may have never heard of you. Do good to others, and good things will come back to you.”
Joe Akers of Pyrpaw Marketing says, “I have been the most successful with social selling by sharing relevant content.
My targeted leads are small businesses participating in the digital space (social media, blog posts, etc.) to market themselves but are frustrated with their results and either want to get better or have someone take the reins.
I share helpful and relevant content that’s free and broken up into easy-to-digest posts. Each piece of content is created to stand alone as a great tip, but they’re also part of a series that builds on the previous post.
It’s a great strategy to give the potential leads an understanding of what goes into digital marketing. They’re able to decide if they want to keep working on it themselves or hire a professional to move forward.”
Nikola Roza of Nikola Roza- SEO for the Poor and Determined adds, “For me, selling to people on social media is actually getting them from social over to my property where I can get them to read my content and potentially click on my affiliate links.
The number #1 way I achieve this is a combo of engagement and being super helpful.
For example, I regularly visit more than a dozen internet marketing-related Facebook groups where I specifically hunt for questions clear newbies ask.
Then I respond to those, and these people get interested in me, check out my profile, and click through to my website.
Sometimes I even drop a link if it’s super relevant, and the group allows for gentle self-promotion.”
“We love to sell through our content,” says Alexandra Zamolo of Beekeeper.
“When we post to social media, it’s a great idea to share links to posts that are of benefit to your current or potential customers. In other words, a great strategy can be to create how-to guides or blog posts filled with tips on how to best utilize your products or services.”
“Understanding your audience’s pain points and connecting with them through storytelling is the key to sell yourself socially,” says Mudassir Ahmed of Blogging Explained.
“It can happen through a short video, infographic, image, a blog post, or even a gif. You need to present social content that is rich with value for the audience, and when you do, they begin to notice and eventually trust you as an expert and eventually buy from you.
It simply means you always don’t have to sell products directly on social media; instead, focus on building human-centric connections, which lead to conversions at the end of the day.”
“Don’t limit your communication with a particular potential customer to one channel,” says Simon Dwight Keller of SDK Marketing.
“If you’re logged in on Facebook and interact there regularly, don’t think you can’t be logged in on LinkedIn or Twitter too. Different platforms seem to have different feelings or nuances, so go with the flow and connect on as many as possible.
You may find that business seems more entrepreneurial on LinkedIn and more fun on Instagram. Take advantage of that opportunity to form a bond that encompasses a variety of different thoughts and emotions, and you will likely be more successful in meeting your goals.”
“Always ask for referrals, reviews, and testimonials,” says Tiffany Lewis of More Meaningful Marketing. “Having these gives your business so much social equity, and people like doing business with people others know, like, and trust!”
“One tactic that we’ve employed with success is to create a content schedule and to stick with it,” says Mike Charles of Lookout Lofts.
“You want to make sure that you are sharing the right information and the right time for your audience. By having a consistent schedule, your followers will become accustomed to your posts, and this will help with engagement.”
Related: 52 Expert Tips for Managing Your Content Editorial Calendar Efficiently
“One of the greatest social selling techniques I’ve used has been developing referral networks from local businesses,” says Osiris Parikh of Lilius.
“By developing deep relationships with real estate agents, banking partners, telecom providers, and restaurants within my city and county, I was able to not have more visibility within my area, but have strong alliances with local industry leaders that resulted in significant profitability for the both of us. Relationships matter!”
Related: Here’s How to Increase Your Referral Traffic (Tips from 42 Marketers)
“One effective social selling tip that I’ve employed successfully is taking advantage of LinkedIn Video,” says Jacob Fernandes of Vidyard. “LinkedIn is booming with video content–with over 350 million videos circulating around the platform. This means that millions of eyeballs are also waiting to engage with your content.
My tip is to re-create video versions of my employer’s blog posts. This simple technique has helped me generate over 100 leads (via organic engagement) and over 10,000 views. And it’s so simple.
For example, in one case, I read over a Top 5 Tips and Tricks article that was posted to the Vidyard blog, then I recorded a 2-minute video version of the blog post.
Next, I posted the video to LinkedIn and added a couple of relative hashtags. Once a few of my colleagues engaged with the content, the LinkedIn algorithm picked up the video, and my work was done.
When I got traction on my post, I’d then scroll through the likes and comments and connect with those in my target audience by sending them an invitation, thanking them for their support, and starting an organic conversation from there.
Taking advantage of existing content, whether in the form of articles, slide presentations, or whitepapers, is one of the best ways you too can repurpose information and grab attention using a new medium: video!”
Related: How to Use LinkedIn for Marketing: 19 Tried and True Tips
“Building a strong network through various social media channels allows you to seek out introductions to new sales prospects through existing mutual connections, creating an immediate sense of trust and rapport,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls.
“That trust is an incredibly important resource for both clients and salespeople, creating a favorable impression of someone introduced through their professional network.
Ask your shared contact for an introduction and customize your messaging based on the wealth of information people share on their professional social media profiles mentioning a shared interest or that you particularly enjoyed a blog post they shared.”
“When you use Instagram’s polls and sliders, you engage users, and bringing them into your funnel is easier,” says Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging.
“I’ve sold books and courses using the poll. I use two options in the poll: Yes and Send Me the Link. People ask me to send the link to my course, for instance. We network in the DM, and a percentage buys.”
“I believe social selling is different from traditional sales,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers. “On social media, you want to share insightful content consistently with your audience.
This is not a 1-time thing. You don’t just pick up your phone (In this case, just outreach by sending a private message) and start your sales pitch.
You want to be patient, curate, create, post, and share content that resonates with your audience on a regular basis.
Once you’ve established yourself as an authority, getting in touch with prospects and leads on social media gets easy and social selling as well.”
Yash Chawlani of Marveta adds, “The more relevant and consistent social media posts, the more chances to generate potential leads.”
“The one effective social selling tip that we’ve employed successfully is gathering data on our most sold products and also by gathering data on our most interacted posts,” says Catriona Jasica of Top Vouchers Code.
“By doing so, now we have a little insight on how the followers on media pages react to certain posts, and by changing our visual interpretation and products according to their needs, we have started reaching more people organically than before.”
“Engage with the audience,” says Melanie Musson of AutoInsuranceCompanies.org. “When the comment, reply. When they ask a question, answer it. Build a relationship. Be likable.”
“The effective social selling tip is to build your credibility, and for this purpose, the social network plays a vital role in building a personal brand,” says CJ Xia of Boster Biological Technology.
“With every activity on social media like posts, comments, or likes, you have a chance to grow the reputation and build your credibility. Social proof on LinkedIn is another way to build credibility in which you can ask for recommendations or endorse others in hopes that they’ll endorse you back.”
In sum, many entrepreneurs and salespeople overcomplicate social selling. This might sound counterintuitive since we just shared a bunch of tactics you can test out.
However, the best strategy is to just go in by being authentic and helpful. If you show up and are consistently helpful, you are going to get better results than if you try to treat every new connection you make as a walking ATM machine.
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