What is Social Selling? (A Guide for Pros and Beginners)
Sales can happen almost anywhere your customers are. And social media is one of those places—arguably one of the most important ones.
It doesn't matter whether your industry is so niche that you sell to customers one-on-one, or whether you have a product that could be sold to anyone in the world. If your customers are on social media, then social selling could be a great way to reach them.
But what exactly is social selling? And how can you use it to close more sales and grow your business?
In this article, we'll dive into the details of social selling and give you some actionable tips to help you get started.
What is Social Selling and How Does it Work?
Social selling is the use of social media to interact with potential customers and build relationships that lead to sales. Instead of using a blatant sales pitch, it’s about creating connections with potential customers and providing them with valuable content that helps them make informed decisions.
A key piece of social selling is being in the right conversations at the right time, making sure you’re aware of what’s being said about your brand or industry. But mainly, social selling relies on relationship building and trust.
3 Major Benefits of Social Selling for Businesses
Social sellers are playing a long game—so, is it worth the time and effort? Here are three benefits your brand could see from social selling.
1. Better Brand and Relationship Building
Social selling takes a one-to-one approach, as opposed to the one-to-many approach of traditional marketing.
For instance, rather than posting a generic message to your LinkedIn or Facebook page that goes out to all of your followers, reps can use their own social profiles to send a direct message to people who fit your ideal customer proﬁle—especially the ones who have recently engaged with your content. Or, you might comment on one of their recent posts, providing valuable insights or just sharing your reactions or thoughts.
Case in point: Appointfix's head of marketing, Iris Grossman, posted on LinkedIn about "the riskiest email subject" she'd seen all year; SEO consultant Kerapetsi Major commented and shared his thoughts on the post:
See what happened there?
Major has just shown up under Iris' LinkedIn post with his headshot and bio, which lets Iris know he’s an SEO consultant. If Iris' company was in need of SEO services, she might just reach out to him.
But even if she doesn't need his services right now, Major will probably be one candidate she'll consider if the need arises.
And if that doesn’t happen, if Major reaches out to work with her, Iris will probably remember interactions like this and be more likely to respond favorably.
Sometimes, all it takes to make social selling work is little interactions like this, and you can start building better relationships with your target customers and building your personal brand—which can eventually lead to improved sales numbers.
2. Qualitative Customer Insights
Social selling doesn't just help you engage with potential customers, it also helps you learn a ton about them.
For instance, let's say you're a salesperson for a company that sells real estate software. You've been using forums or Facebook groups to establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry, and you've been connecting with potential customers there.
One day, you come across a post from a potential customer who's complaining about something that’s a feature in your software and the challenge it’d pose for their business.
This is valuable insight that you can take back to your team and use to improve your product. Not only that, but you can also reach out to that customer directly and address their specific concerns.
Or you may even see some nice things potential customers say about a competitor's product. This is invaluable feedback that you can use to improve your own offering.
All this is valuable customer insight that you wouldn't have had access to without social selling.
3. Leads and Revenue Growth
After all the brand building and customer insights you get from social selling, what often follows is increased leads and revenue growth.
The reason is obvious: when you’re engaging with customers on different social media, you’re also building relationships of trust. These relationships open the door for conversations and sales opportunities further down the road and can help a lot with your lead generation on these social platforms.
And as your sales team becomes more adept at social selling and hones their sales process, they’ll be able to close more leads and increase revenue as a result.
Case in point: SAP once saw 32% more revenue when their sales reps used social selling techniques for the business; the same source shared IBM generated a 400% increase in sales using social selling.
People buy from people, so when you (or your team) connect with customers on a human level via social selling, they’re likely to convert into paying customers.
A 7-Step Process to Get Started With Social Selling
Ready to start your own social selling strategy? Here are seven steps you can take.
Step 1: Define Your Target Audience
This might seem basic for pro sales professionals, but truth is, even the pros forget these fundamental steps sometimes.
Take the time to sit down and think about who your ideal customer is. Narrow down their characteristics as much as possible so you can focus your social selling efforts on the right people. Don’t make this theoretical—look at your sales data to find your most successful customers and identify commonalities between them.
Some questions you can ask yourself to help define the right prospects (or ideal customer profile) include:
- What industry are they in?
- What size company do they work at?
- What is their job title?
- What are the specific pain points they'd need your products or services to solve?
In short, add any question that'll help you know:
- Who your customers are
- What challenges they want to solve
- How big their company needs to be to afford your product or service
Once you have answers to these questions, you'll have defined your target audience and can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Identify Where Your Audience Hangs Out Online
At this stage, you should have a pretty good idea of who your target audience is and what they’re interested in.
Now it’s time to start thinking about which social media platforms they hang out on the most. Do they spend most of their time on LinkedIn? Or do they prefer visual channels like Instagram and Pinterest?
One of the best ways to find out is to go to each platform yourself and see which ones have users that match your target audience.
For example, if your target customers are founders, you could find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. But to be sure, head over to each platform and do some research on your own.
When you search "founder" on Twitter, for instance, and navigate to the "people" tab, you'll discover that there are so many people with that keyword in their bios:
Or if you go to LinkedIn and do the same, you'll find there are almost three million LinkedIn profiles of founders in the UK and US alone.
Of course, you’ll need to narrow this down to your particular niche and the industries you sell to. But this way, you get to know where to find your target audience. Do your own research to see which platform is most popular among your target audience and focus on that one first.
Step 3: Follow and Connect with "Industry Stakeholders"
Your industry stakeholders are typically potential customers and industry influencers, people who regularly post content and engage with others on social media. They may include existing customers who are active on social as well.
You need to connect with these two sets of people because (1) your potential customers can become your paying customers, and (2) industry influencers can help you amplify your content and generate awareness for your brand organically.
So you want to find "industry stakeholders" in your field and start connecting with them.
And this is an ongoing process—you won't just build a large network overnight, it's something you'll have to keep doing regularly.
The larger your network gets, the more chances you have to sell.
Step 4: Create Content That Genuinely Provides Help
Once you have at least 200 "industry stakeholders" in your network, it's time to start creating content.
Your goal here is two-fold:
- To help these industry stakeholders with their pain points
- To show them that you're an expert in your field who can help them solve their problems
People are more likely to buy from someone they see as an expert or thought leader in their field—because they trust them. But they won't just develop trust for you overnight. You'll need to build it—and that building process almost always starts with sharing helpful and relevant content.
What does “helpful” content look like? Here are a few ideas:
- How-to guides: Teach your audience how to do something related to your product or service. For example, if you sell cold calling software, you could be sharing content on how to write cold emails that get results with templates, letting your audience know you know a lot about how to do cold outreach.
- Tips and tricks: Share tips and tricks that will help your audience get the most out of your product or service. For example, if you sell a productivity app, you could share your personal tips on how to have a productive day.
- Industry news: Stay up-to-date on news and developments in your industry, and share this information with your audience. This will not only help them stay informed, but it will also position you as a thought leader.
- Product reviews: Give your honest opinion about products in your industry. This can help decision-makers make more informed buying decisions—and trust what you have to say about your own products.
Notice how all this focuses on you helping your target audience?
Be as helpful as possible with your content and you'll eventually build trust. Once that trust is there, it's much easier to sell them.
Step 5: Join Conversations and Build Relationships
You don't just want to keep posting content and hope people will see it. You want to build relationships with other users on the platform.
One of the best ways to do that is to join conversations that are already happening. If you see a piece of content you have something to say about, add your comment. If someone asks a question, answer it.
You can also start your own conversations by asking questions your target audience might be interested in.
But all in all, remain strategic; remember your goal is to connect with potential B2B buyers; so avoid interacting with content that doesn't align with this sales goal. Keep most of your conversations and interactions business-focused.
Step 6: Monitor Your Social Selling Results
There are two types of social selling results you need to focus on:
- Quantitative results: This includes reach/engagement numbers and follower counts.
- Qualitative results: The quality of the relationships you're developing and how many people reference your social selling activities on sales calls.
Both are important results to track, but you also need to be careful not to get too caught up in the numbers—especially at the beginning. Keep in mind social selling is often a long game, and most of the relationships you're building may not pay off until months and years later.
5 Common Social Selling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Just like any sales strategy, social selling has some common pitfalls that you’ll need to be aware of.
1. Being Unresponsive
One of the most common mistakes you can make is to not reply to comments and direct messages (on time)—maybe because you don't get email alerts when people leave you comments or messages or for any other reason.
Solution: Set up email alerts or push notifications. Most social media platforms allow you to do this. Or check your notifications regularly and reply as soon as you can.
2. Posting Low-Value Content
Low-value content could be something like a fluffy, one-sentence answer to a question or just regurgitated content that doesn't provide any new information for your target customers.
For example, if your target customers are remote workers, low-value content would be something like a post titled "The Benefits of Working From Home." Most remote workers already know the benefits of working from home, so this topic will likely not interest them.
Solution: When creating content, always think about what value it will provide to your target customers. And if you're not sure whether or not your content is low-value, ask yourself if it's something that your target customers would find interesting or useful. If not, it's best to scrap it and look for other ideas.
3. Being Too Sales-y
Social selling is a long game, so trying to sell someone on your product or service right away is a surefire way to lose their trust.
For instance, if you’re constantly pushing your products or services on social media, people will tune you out. Instead, use a jab, jab, jab, punch approach, where:
- Jab = Give, give, give
- Punch = Ask for the sale
When you give so much value, people will be more likely to buy from you because they've derived so much value from your content and have now developed a level of trust in you.
In fact, as a rule of thumb, you should only try selling to people who have engaged with you or have built some level of trust in you.
4. Waiting Too Long to Sell
There's such a thing as waiting too long to sell. It usually happens because some sellers feel it's a dirty practice to sell anything on social media.
But in reality, if people have already seen or engaged with your content and your offer is relevant to them, they'll almost always be interested in what you're selling. There will be a few that might not be interested no matter when you sell them, but you shouldn't let that stop you.
Another reason sellers avoid selling on social is the fear of rejection. But selling is a numbers game; the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find customers.
So when you see a potential customer—especially the ones who have engaged with your content before—feel free to present your offer to them.
5. Not Monitoring Your Activity & Results
If you're not monitoring your social selling activities and results, then you're essentially driving in the dark.
You need to know what's working and what isn't so that you can optimize your sales strategy when needed and continue to drive B2B sales through social media.
Most platforms provide dashboards you can use to keep an eye on your social selling metrics. For example, if you use LinkedIn, you can see how many profile views you're getting, who's viewing your profile, which industries and job titles are interacting with your content, and more!
With data like this, you can see what kind of content is resonating with your audience, you can identify new leads and potential customers, and so on.
Top 4 Social Selling Tools and Platforms
These four will help you carry out effective social selling that gets results.
With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can target your ideal customers with laser precision and connect with them on a professional level.
One of the key features it provides is the ability to see when someone in your network has changed jobs. This is important because it allows you to reach out to them and see if they need your services or products in their new role.
Another great feature of LinkedIn is its Social Selling Index (SSI) which measures how successful you are in building your personal or professional brand on the platform.
There are a lot more features it provides, but overall, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an essential tool for any business that wants to use social selling as part of its sales techniques.
Close is a powerful CRM tool that helps you manage your sales pipeline and connect with leads. But it also has some great features for social selling.
For example, you can use Close to store and manage contact information for potential customers, track your interactions with them, and even set up sales sequences and reminders to follow up.
Using Zapier, you can connect Close with all the major social networks, so you can easily import your leads from those platforms and interact with them from the Close platform.
So if you're looking to step up your social selling game, be sure to check out Close. It's a great tool to close more deals and build stronger relationships with potential customers.
While Twitter is a powerful tool for building relationships and growing your business, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd with so much noise on the platform.
TweetDeck can help you take your Twitter game to the next level by giving you more control over the conversations you see and who you engage with. When used strategically, TweetDeck can be a powerful tool for social sales.
Here's one way to use TweetDeck for social selling:
- Use lists to segment your audience: Creating lists on TweetDeck is a great way to segment your audience so you can easily see and engage with the people who are most relevant to your business. For example, you could create a list of potential buyers, influencers in your industry, or journalists who cover your sector.
- Search for keywords and hashtags: The search function on TweetDeck is incredibly powerful. Use it to find tweets containing specific keywords or hashtags that are relevant to your business. This is a great way to find leads or customers who are actively talking about topics related to your products or services.
- Monitor competitor activity: Keep an eye on what your competitors are up to by following their Twitter accounts on TweetDeck. This will allow you to quickly see and respond to any news or announcements they share, as well as get a better sense of their overall social selling strategy.
- Engage with followers and potential buyers: TweetDeck makes it easy to quickly see and respond to tweets from people who follow you or mention you in their own tweets. This is a great way to build relationships with potential customers or followers and get them familiar with your brand. You can also use TweetDeck to DM (direct message) people privately, which can be helpful for starting one-on-one sales conversations without bombarding someone's public timeline with messages they might not be interested in seeing.
- Set up alerts for key terms and phrases: TweetDeck allows you to set up real-time alerts whenever someone mentions a specific keyword or phrase in a tweet. This is an incredibly valuable way to track brand mentions, customer feedback, and even industry news as it happens so you can quickly jump into relevant conversations. Alerts can be sent via email, push notification, or both so you'll never miss an important mention again.
Hootsuite provides users with powerful tools for managing their social media presence.
Besides allowing users to schedule and publish content, Hootsuite also provides insights into who is talking about your brand and what they are saying—essentially, it helps with social listening. And you can use all that info to inform and refine your social sales strategy.
For example, if you see that a particular product is generating a lot of positive buzz, you can use that information to target other potential buyers who may be interested in purchasing that product.
Similarly, if you see that a negative story about your company is gaining traction, you can use Hootsuite's tools to monitor the situation and respond quickly. By taking advantage of Hootsuite's features, you can ensure that your social selling strategy is based on real-time data and insights.
Be More "Social"—Find Social Selling Success
As we've seen, social selling is a powerful way to connect with potential customers and build relationships that lead to sales or referrals.
But it's not a magic bullet—it takes time, effort, and a genuine interest in helping others. In simple English, be social.
If you're willing to put in the work, social selling can be an incredibly effective way to grow your business.