Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Mikael Lauharanta. Mikael is a digital media authority and one of the founding fathers of employee advocacy. As the co-founder and COO of Smarp, he has helped foster the expansion of the company from the founding team to a global organization with 60+ employees and offices all over the world. For more information, visit: smarp.com.
SmallBizLady: what is social selling?
MLauharanta: Social selling is the process of developing and utilizing your online and offline relationships during the sales process. It’s closely related to the social business trend and ties in well to the ongoing digital transformation that is changing the way companies do business and interact with the outside world. When it comes to social selling, social media networks play a key role in interacting with potential buyers to build revenue driving relationships.
SmallBizLady: how are potential customers approached differently in social selling?
MLauharanta: Social selling is a form of soft selling. Instead of aggressive pitches, prospects are approached in a way that delivers actual value right from the start. Social selling is all about answering questions, offering interesting content, and engaging with prospects until they are ready to buy.
SmallBizLady: why is social selling important?
MLauharanta: We live in a knowledge based economy where your potential customers are looking for information online and making comparisons to support their purchase decisions. 75% of B2B buyers are said to leverage social media to support their decision making, while 57% of the purchase decision is made before the customer even contacts the supplier. The effectiveness of cold calling and e-mailing prospects is diminishing as people look for less intrusive ways to make buying decisions and to interact with sales professionals.
SmallBizLady: why should salespeople be active on social media?
MLauharanta: Social media is filled with information that functions as the basis for decision-making for your prospective customers.
That’s where leads evaluate options and make purchasing decisions based on your and your competitors’ activity and presence on social media. SoMe is also filled with buying signals from your buyers and it can help fill your pipeline with highly qualified leads. Hence, according to Forbes, sales representatives leveraging social media outsell 78% of their peers.
SmallBizLady: how should companies approach social selling differently from traditional sales?
MLauharanta: If the traditional sales mantra is “Always Be Closing”, the social selling mantra is almost the opposite – “Always Be Connecting.” You should always be opening new doors and creating new relationships and go for the close when the prospect is ready for it. It’s difficult to close deals solely by using social media channels, but having an active presence on social media discussions provides an advantage in creating relationships before hitting the phone or setting up a meeting.
SmallBizLady: what’s the first step in getting started with social selling for an individual?
MLauharanta: First impressions matter. At the bare minimum, you should create profiles and have an active presence in the social media networks where you expect to find leads. Adjust your social media profiles to serve your purpose by making sure you appear professional. So get rid of those blurry photos and spelling mistakes and try to look as professional as possible but don’t forget to show some personality to make yourself more easily approachable.
SmallBizLady: what’s the first step in creating a social selling strategy for your organization?
MLauharanta: First, determine your target audience. Start by finding out who your potential customers are (their age, gender, occupation, location, etc.). This will help you to identify the channels they are using, and get into the right mindset to understand their needs and solve their problems.
SmallBizLady: which channels should businesses use?
MLauharanta: Define where and how you are going to trigger conversations. If you are doing B2B sales, it is likely that LinkedIn is the most relevant channel for you, in which case you may want to adopt a more professional tone. On the other hand, if you are selling surfboards, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat could be your weapon of choice for more visual and laidback communication.
SmallBizLady: how often should one be active on social?
MLauharanta: Aim to share at least twice a week. Try to be especially alert after adding new connections and make sure you are visible to them. This will keep you top-of-mind and relevant to your network. Coming up with timely content may sound like a mission impossible but it really isn’t. And if nothing else you can always comment on and react to something your prospects are sharing.
SmallBizLady: what type of content works best when social selling?
MLauharanta: It is important to produce content yourself to showcase your expertise but not all content has to, nor should be, produced by you or your company. The internet is full of interesting industry news, articles, videos, etc. which you can and should share to your networks. By sharing content produced by someone outside your organization, you create credibility and look more authentic and trustworthy in the eyes of your audience. This way you are also creating new relationships and attracting the attention of other influencers.
SmallBizLady: how can a company get real results from being active on social media?
MLauharanta: In order to persuade your prospects to take the next step in their buying journey, you should always place a call-to-action on the landing page where you are driving traffic. This can be a link to a trial, a newsletter subscription form or a guide (like the one you are reading at the moment). However, keep in mind that not all content you post to social media should link to your own content. Don’t forget to set up sufficient monitoring to be able to calculate the monetary value of the initiatives and optimize your resources.
SmallBizLady: how can a business tell what is working and what is not?
MLauharanta: It is vital to measure the impact of your shared content – what works and what doesn’t. Analyze and identify the type of content and the time of sharing, which generate the biggest impact. This will help you to plan your future content and make adjustments on the go. Platforms like Smarp are equipped with advanced social monitoring tools that help you to make educated decisions on optimal sharing times and analyze what content resonates the best. In addition you can track the incoming traffic on your website all the way to the conversions you have set up for your website.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
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