The State of Social Selling for Sales Pros: 23 Best Practices for 2016

Get the expert advice you need to succeed in 2016 with these stats, tips, and quotes from social selling leaders.

November 17, 2015

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For sales professionals, social selling is at a critical stage. Given the way buyers research in the age of social media, social selling is widely recognized as the best way to prospect more efficiently, build quality relationships, and make more sales. In fact, a recent survey by KiteDesk and Jim Keenan found that socially savvy sales professionals are 6.7 times more likely to exceed quota than those with rudimentary or no social media skills.

Yet even as early adopters achieve amazing results, many organizations are still in the “wait-and-see” phase. That means salespeople who make the switch now can establish a strategy that works while the rest of the pack is still getting started.

To help you kick off your personal social selling transformation, we have compiled insights from some of the brightest minds in the business, along with statistics that can help you make the case to your sales leader. Read on for advice and insights that can help you crush your sales goals in 2016.

Adopting a Social Selling Mindset

  1. Recognize the potential.

“Sales pros are constantly searching. They’re hungry for new prospects, searching for new opportunities and longing for insight to create engaging conversations with these prospects. Social media is a colossal clue buffet.” Koka Sexton, Content and Social Team, LinkedIn Corporate Communications

  1. Use social media throughout the sales process.

“Social media used professionally helps the seller:

  • Listen and understand customer segments and competitors
  • Identify and build trust with influencers
  • Identify buying triggers and potential leads
  • Nurture a network and stay top of mind with customers” Dorte Moller Madsen, CEO, Stormvind
  1. Focus on the buyer, not the sale.

“Social Selling calls for storytellers, taking your expertise, passion, knowledge, and insight and turning that into answers to customers’ questions. It’s about using the data and information available via the web to create deeper relationships with your customers. Get relationships, get insight, get data.” Jill Rowley, Startup Advisor, Jill Rowley #SocialSelling

  1. Create relationships that lead to revenue.

“Your main mission with social media is to get people to respect you, engage with you (build relationships) and to use those two techniques to build actual revenue.” Marge Bieler, Founder & Executive Advisor, RareAgent

  1. Continue to refine and improve.

The salesperson who doesn’t believe that they know enough will take on personal and professional development projects. They will work to find areas where they need to know more, and they’ll work to learn it. They’ll find areas where they need to develop new choices and discover what other people are doing. They’ll model successful people’s beliefs and behaviors. This salesperson will find new opportunities.” Anthony Iannarino, Keynote Speaker & Workshop Facilitator, B2BSalesCoach.com

Establishing Credibility

  1. Make your personal brand consistent.

“Today, not tomorrow, take action to ensure that your online image casts YOU in the best light.  Ensure that you have professional looking headshots on all your profiles. Ensure that your profiles are complete, truthful and tell your story well. Ensure that you have a consistent profile message on all major social networks.” Jeb Blount, CEO, Sales Gravy

  1. Make your LinkedIn profile a compelling microsite.

“Make your profile a destination. Go beyond keywords and spice up your profile with embedded video and SlideShares. It’s much cooler when leads chase you for a change.” Jamie Shanks, CEO, Sales for Life

  1. Include a call to action in your summary.

“The first section of your LinkedIn profile that people see is the summary. It should come right out and say that you are open to conversations with people who could benefit from a professional relationship with you, and it should say how to start that conversation.” David Mattson, CEO, Sandler Training

  1. Be a beacon of honesty and integrity.

“Stand for something. And stick to your guns. Having firmly held beliefs and speaking the truth to the people who make decisions, which includes your prospects who look to you for inspiration and leadership, is essential in sales.” Andy Paul, Founder & Strategist, Zero-Time Selling

  1. Be active where your buyers are.

“While most companies now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. to promote their own products and brand, individual decision-makers within those companies tend to use LinkedIn as a tool for networking and professional development. And that’s where you can catch their eye by adding value and demonstrating your expertise.” Melonie Dodaro, CEO, Top Dog Social Media

  1. Establish authority to differentiate yourself.

“The indirect component of social selling is about building your own personal brand so people eventually come to you and see you as an industry expert, not just a sales person.” John Barrows, Owner, SalesFromtheStreets and j.barrows LLC

  1. Contribute to the conversation in LinkedIn Groups.

“A quick interaction in a group conversation--even just sharing a news story or a useful link--can be the tipping point that causes a prospect to see you as a problem-solver.” Diana Kucer, Director of Global Product Marketing, LinkedIn

According to a recent study, 57% of buyers browse existing discussions during research, more than any other method of social media research. Join LinkedIn Groups that are relevant to your prospects’ industry and participate in the conversation. You will establish your own reputation, attract prospects to your profile, and provide a resource that future prospects can use to find you.

  1. Listen more than you talk.

“Social media isn’t just about broadcasting. It’s about dialogue. Asking questions of your customers and prospects causes them to feel more emotionally connected to you, strengthening brand loyalty.” Don Cooper, Sales Trainer, The Sales Heretic™.

  1. Be a thought leader.

“Be knowledgeable about your industry and share the good stuff. Read and share a wide range of great content, not just the information you or your company produces.” Julie Weill Persofsky, Head of Customer Strategy and Account Management, @Influitive.

Building Relationships

  1. Warm up cold calls with research.

“One of the most impressive stories was when a client did a split test between cold calling and social prospecting—same pitch, same general sales process... The social selling work generated a 50 percent increase in opportunities created.” Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing, Inc.

By now, you have probably heard that 97% of cold calls are ineffective. Use social media to research your prospects, and you can turn cold outreach into the start of a conversation.

  1. Engage quickly with relevant content.

“Because buyers are increasingly likely to start their research online, those that are able to add value FIRST have a greater likelihood of winning the deal.” Amar Sheth, Principal, Sales for Life.

Half of all sales go to the first salesperson to contact a prospect. Monitor your prospects’ feeds for trigger events, and act quickly when one occurs.

  1. Add value with every follow up.

“Every email (or phone message) you send to your prospect has to stand on its own as VALUABLE. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy. And honestly, you feel better communicating this way.” Jill Konrath, best-selling author of Agile Selling

  1. Cultivate the relationship with patient diligence.

“To make social selling an effective weapon in your arsenal, stay involved and think long-term. Don’t ‘Like’ a prospect’s post and expect immediate results. Think of it this way. You’re planting a seed and watering it diligently, not pumping it full of aggressive chemicals. Do your part and wait for the harvest, but remember: plants need to be watered.” Michael Elofer, Chief Copy Architect, Square 2 Marketing

  1. Be respectful of your prospects’ process.

“For many people, the process of buying is as important as the purchase itself. Prospects need to feel like they’re being heard and respected, and forcing a cookie-cutter sales process on them won’t work.” Dan Tyre, Director, HubSpot

  1. Extend relationships beyond the sale.

“You need to keep new relationships strong if you want to reap the full benefits. Which means you need to focus on the part of the sales process no one is talking about: Maintaining the relationship. If you can delight the customer, you can sell them again and again through cross-selling, upselling, and renewals.” Michael Renahan, Content Marketer, HubSpot

Staying Motivated

  1. Enlist allies to keep you on track.

“Social media is not just an activity; it is an investment of valuable time and resources. Surround yourself with people who not just support you and stay with you, but inform your thinking about ways to WOW your online presence.” Sean Gardner, Social Media Producer, TwinStar Credit Union

  1. Treat losses as growth opportunities.

By accepting responsibility (not blame) for the no’s you get, you’ll be able to move from frustration to creation. You move from blame to gain. How great is that?” David Hibbard, Co-Founder, Dialexis Inc.

  1. Stick with it.

“Just like any marketing and sales strategy, social selling isn’t an occasional task — to be successful, consistency and perseverance are critical.” Jeff Haden, Contributing Editor, Inc. Magazine

It may seem daunting to try to incorporate all of this advice into your busy daily routine. But social selling not only gets better results, it also saves time. As LinkedIn’s Diana Kucer puts it, “The good news is that social selling doesn't require a complete overhaul of your schedule--in fact, social selling actions can replace other activities and make your day more efficient and successful.”

Get started today, and you can have your strategies down pat while other reps are still taking baby steps.

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