B2B Social Selling: An innovative and versatile selling toolset
In the landscape of tools and tactics available to modern B2B organisations, Social Selling is unique. Platforms such as LinkedIn provide unprecedented levels of access to deep, rich and self-cleansing databases of engaged potential B2B prospects, the ability to interact in a personalised way and full visibility into professional networks on an unprecedented scale.
These unique characteristics mean Social Selling is ideally positioned to support revenue-focussed teams with the challenge of engaging time-poor but informed audiences across channels whilst ensuring ROI. It provides organisations with a complete selling toolset to identify and build relationships in an innovative and personalised way and drive demand.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of Social Selling in a B2B context, what it is and is not, why it should be considered by modern selling organisations, how to design, develop and deploy a Social Selling program and use it to generate sales-qualified leads and revenue.
What is B2B Social Selling?
Social Selling is not new, but is often not well understood. Social Selling is a modern selling methodology which aims to replicate the traditional selling process using social media platforms such as LinkedIn to drive revenue.
In professional Social Selling, the traditional rules and principles of selling – prospect identification (hunting), building and nurturing relationships, and converting those relationships to leads, pipeline and revenue – all still apply. Being concerned with selling, it is a natural complement to Social Media Marketing but is distinct in that it focusses on the processes and tactics to enable sellers to deliver pipeline and revenue.
Why implement B2B Social Selling?
B2B organisations often have very specific criteria when it comes to approval of marketing or sales investments. Social Selling delivers on these requirements in a number of ways, making it one of the most versatile tools available to modern marketers and sellers.
LinkedIn offers a high degree of targeting precision for B2B sellers and marketers. This is primarily because there are high number of B2B professionals using the platform for networking, jobs and education (upwards of 90% in metropolitan areas and slightly lower in regional areas) and the data is transparent. Organisations can ‘x-ray’ target accounts and build complex ‘connection maps’ in order to empower engagement plans and identify new selling opportunities. Targeting can also be very efficient because the data in the platform is high quality and self-cleansing given users maintain their profiles for networking and jobs. This targeting efficiency can make Social Selling via LinkedIn very attractive for efficiency-focussed B2B sellers, Marketing Managers and Account Managers.
Lead Quality & ROI
Unlike many Sales and Marketing channels, Social Selling when done right typically delivers leads which are middle or bottom funnel. This is primarily due to the ‘1 to 1’ nature of Social Selling interactions made possible by the platform. It is also reflective of the fact LinkedIn is a dedicated professional networking platform comprising potential buyers in the right frame of mind to be receptive to value-adding content and direct approaches. The lower cost of entry and the targeting efficiency of LinkedIn can drive down cost per acquisition and deliver comparatively high ROI on marketing spend. This makes Social Selling a very compelling channel in the context of rising media costs, poorer attribution and declining engagement levels of traditional outbound, ‘interruptive’ marketing techniques.
Sales & Marketing Alignment
Social Selling resolves the common challenge of a lack of Sales and Marketing alignment. A well-designed program ensures complete alignment around common lead generation goals and both functions become mutually accountable. Marketing acts as the ‘enablement’ function providing the planning infrastructure and high-quality content, and Sales becomes the distribution force executing the required activity to drive results.
Personal Brand Development
Social Selling provides users the unique ability to build their personal brands within their networks whilst also driving pipeline. By distributing high-quality marketing content and generating content through comments, insights, likes and shares, sellers can build personal awareness and position themselves more quickly and effectively to buying audiences at scale than almost any other channel.
Organisational Brand Development
Designed and executed well, Social Selling also has significant impact on the organisations’ brand and positioning, in particular via direct communications and content marketing. Content marketing helps build brand with prospects and existing customers and proves to them that they’re working with the right person at the right organisation. With awareness and positioning, the sales and account management teams benefit from the number and quality of relationships and therefore a high volume of inbound and outbound leads.
Customer-Centricity & Multi-Channel
The convenience of phone and email communication means that many traditional B2B sales and marketing functions continue to rely heavily on these channels to engage prospects and clients. This naturally results in the overuse of these channels which can results in poorer rates of contact, lower engagement and a poorer customer experience. Social Selling offers organisations an additional, more customer-centric channel to add to the communications mix which may support or even replace existing channels. As an additional channel, it helps the organisation maintain the ideal contact frequency without risk of frustrating buyers. As a more unique, personalised channel it can also improve contact success and reactivation rates and delivers a better
customer experience over the long often multi-year sales cycles typical of enterprise B2B selling.
Content Marketing Effectiveness
Social Selling is a powerful complementary channel for content marketing. Using the organisations sales team in the content distribution effort helps target distribution, drive higher content engagement, improves viral possibilities and overall enhances lead volumes and the efficiency and ROI performance of content marketing programs.
Leverage Your Brand's Ecosystem
As with Social Media marketing, Social Selling allows practitioners the ability to fully-leverage the ecosystem around your brand(s) and organisation. By engaging channel partners, employees, advocates, alumni, 3rd party influencers and numerous other groups and sub-groups, you can extend the reach of your messaging and strengthen relationships, whilst improving the ROI from your investments in channel and driving better revenue results.
Social Selling can be used in a very broad range of applications. For Marketers, it helps enable sales to extract more benefit from networks, positions organisational and product brands, enhances content marketing performance and generates leads. For Sellers, it can directly contribute to pipeline, supports communications effectiveness, improves conversion and nurturing, identifies new prospects and develops personal brands. For Account Managers, it can help deepen client relationships to improve and helps uncover latent selling opportunities to grow account value and improve account retention. Social Selling disciplines, in fact, may be the most versatile Marketing and Sales tool available.
Get Closer To Your Customers
Social Selling is, of course, social. Leveraging social selling, organisations can get closer to their customers. It establishes a direct feedback loop with your customers, helping deliver rapid insights to shape product and marketing propositions, adds depth to buyer personas and enables the optimisation of Sales and Marketing processes and activities.
Sustainability & Scalability
Social Selling, when the processes are embedded within teams and executed consistently, requires little ongoing marketing investment to continue generating results. These results are also highly scalable, as platforms like LinkedIn offer in-built ability for selling professionals to expand their network and hence multiply their reach and results.
With B2B Marketers facing pressure over results and ROI, attributing results to specific campaigns and programs is now a critical factor in investment decisions. Social Selling benefits from being a digital channel. With an investment in tracking, analytics and reporting up front, offers marketers an accurate picture of program or campaign performance – from clicks to downloads and conversions – to allow for ongoing optimisation.
Account Management, Product Marketing & ABM
Account Managers often have a limited view into the full buying landscape within their portfolio accounts, typically only working with a small number of contacts. Because of the unique transparency of the LinkedIn platform, Social Selling provides Account Managers with a more comprehensive view of their clients. This helps them identify more potential buyers and cross sell/up-sell opportunities within other divisions or buying entities within the organisation.
Social Selling is also an ideal tactic for ABM teams, helping them identify buying committees, develop engagement maps, monitor prospects and leverage the influencers and advocates connected with named accounts.
Similarly, for Product Marketers, Social Selling helps drive product awareness and education which supports applications such as product launch, re-launch, cross-sell and numerous other objectives.
Competitive Selling Advantage
With Social Selling still emerging as a B2B sales and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) tactic, this provides the opportunity for innovative, revenue-focussed organisations who implement programs to gain an edge in selling. By adopting new methodologies and tools, an organisation can achieve better-than-industry-benchmark results from their sales and marketing efforts, affording them a sustainable competitive advantage.
APAC'S LEADING SOCIAL SELLING CONSULTANCY
How To Successfully Implement Social Selling In Your Organisation
Implementing a Social Selling program in an organisation is rarely straightforward or simple. A general lack of familiarity with social media platforms, a reluctance to test alternative marketing strategies, a blanket scepticism for social media in general, and concerns around resourcing ABM initiatives often present as significant challenges.
It is critically important that business cases include contributions from all functions (including Sales, Marketing and Account Management) and consider a whole range of internal, cultural and other factors to boost the likelihood of support from Executive sponsors.
Neither are Social Selling program implementations always successful. Performance requires extremely close and sustained alignment between Marketing and Sales functions, the former being the enabler of the latter. Marketing must be ready to commit to providing their sellers with reliable , ongoing access to a stream of high-quality content and other assets. Similarly, Sales must commit to adopting Social Selling behaviours consistently, following agreed processes and ringfencing resource to deliver on activity plans regardless of competing priorities. Working together with mutual accountability, Social Selling can be a very powerful sales multiplier.
Why Consider A Social Selling Consultancy?
A specialist B2B Social Selling consultancy provides Social Selling programs with their best chance of success. A social selling consultants’ broad perspective working across a range of industries and clients combined with their Social Selling specialisation means that clients benefit from best practice implementation, tracking and analytics, reak-world perspective and cutting edge Social Selling tactics from the outset. A stronger platform helps maximise the chances of program success.
Many organisations choose to implement Social Selling programs internally or with the assistance of their primary agency relationship. In some cases this approach delivers success, however our experience is that many organisations find there is insufficient knowledge on how to implement programs, embed practices within teams and sustain results. This can lead to frustration, a lack of direction, unnecessary resource consumption and early program abandonment. Working with an expert social selling consultant can fast-track your social selling program and give it the best possible chance of outperforming expectations.
What is the LinkedIn Social Selling index?
Social Selling has been strongly correlated with high performance B2B selling. At Intersocial, we work with sales, marketing and account management leaders and their teams to develop the social selling skills and competencies to sell more effectively through LinkedIn, the world’s largest open B2B network.
The LinkedIn Social Selling index measures a members social selling efforts and effectiveness on the LinkedIn platform. LinkedIn have correlated that Social Selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than peer with a lower social selling index, are 51% more likely to reach sales targets and 78% outsell peers who don’t use any social media.