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Posted by: Tyler Abbott

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Social media has changed our lives in many ways. It’s allowed us to communicate with people all over the world, share our thoughts and feelings with our networks, and stay up to date on current news and events, all in real time. But it’s also shaped the way we do business. Instead of relying on outbound selling techniques like cold calling, organizations are now focusing their efforts on web-based activities to sell their products or services. And the newest entrant in web-based selling is social selling.

Though often misunderstood and underutilized, social selling is about using social networks on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, to learn about, find, and interact with prospects and customers. Through social selling, salespeople can both educate and build relationships with their audience by supplying content, answering questions, and engaging via social media.

Why the Rise of Social Selling?

Because the sales process has drastically changed, organizations have to adapt their selling strategies to the new way people buy. Now, customers are doing their own research online. They’re using the internet and social media to research your brand, learn about your products or services, ask questions, and seek out solutions. They’re using social media to guide them through their buyer’s journey to ensure that they’re making the right choice. In fact, customers now go through the majority of the sales process on their own, before even getting in contact with a sales rep.

It’s important for salespeople to understand this shift in power and adapt by embracing social selling in order to gain influence early in the sales process, establish credibility, and ultimately, sell more. The earlier you can be involved in guiding buyers’ decisions, the more likely they will buy from you instead of your competitor—and since they are doing their research on social media, that’s where you should be, too.

Here’s how to be effective with social selling.

Step 1: Create a Professional Brand

Buyers are now more hesitant and apprehensive of brands and salespeople than ever before. They’re more selective. To influence buyers during their research phase, you must position yourself as an active participant in your industry. You must share and discuss relevant content in an accurate and informational way on social media in order to eventually be seen as a subject-matter expert—a thought leader. This will lead to more inquiries and responses, and thus, more customers. No one wants to buy from a brand they do not trust. Building your professional brand will allow you to gain trust and credibility.

Step 2: Focus on Your Audience

To be successful with this type of selling, just like any other, you have to target the right prospects. You have to use the platforms that your core demographic use, share content that this target audience will be interested in, and identify prospects that fit your buyer persona before spending time interacting and engaging. You can use social media filters with specific keywords to zero in on the group of people you’re looking to target. Then, use the information they share on social channels to segment your leads to ensure that you’re having the most meaningful conversations.

Step 3: Build Relationships

The key to success is being social—not selling. You have to have genuine conversations, take a real interest in your prospects’ pain points, needs, wants and desires, and put your focus on these prospects, not on yourself, your products, your company, or selling. Be sincere and authentic or you might end up doing more harm than good for your company and your sales. Personalize your content and nurture your relationships. Remember, social selling is a long game. It’s going to take time, so don’t rush into it and force relationships on buyers who are not yet ready.

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