5 ways to use social selling to gain competitive advantage

Samantha Caine

Blog post by Samantha Caine

Samantha Caine, is the Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams and has over 20 years experience working as a strategic training and recruitment expert for a variety of international businesses. She works with organisations to develop interactive, training solutions and oversees the implementation of global sales and leadership programmes that are aligned with leading edge thinking from across the world

20th May 2019

Social selling is a powerful way to support your sales strategy through social media. Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams explains how social selling can ease complex sales situations

There was a time not so long ago when social media use in the workplace was frowned upon. Today, however, social media is regarded as a powerful tool for businesses. Beyond social media marketing and advertising which require a lot of financial commitment, there is a subtle and cost-free way of selling through social media that can deliver strong results.

Social selling is a lead generation and customer relationship management technique grounded in social media. It supports the idea that the most successful sales people achieve the results that they do, largely due to contacts that they have and the relationships that they build with them.

Why is social selling important for the complex sale?

Complex sales are, by definition, exactly that – complex.  The sales process isn’t always linear and there are often multiple individuals within the customer’s business who have a stake in the transaction. 

Many sales people will attest to the fact that in order to be successful, they need to build long term relationships with a number of key people in order to create awareness of their product and their business and more subtly to build their reputation and trust. Done correctly, and with a well thought through strategy, social selling can really amplify the work that sales people do in these areas.

Simply put, social selling in today’s digitalised world is a critical skill that sales people can use to showcase their product and business to their customers. Done well, it will enable sales people to find the right connections and to build strong enduring relationships with their customers. It provides another route to focus on value to the customer, to tailor their messages and to differentiate from their competitors.

5 ways sales people are using social selling to gain competitive advantage

In forward thinking organisations, it’s likely that there will be two tiers to a social selling strategy; firstly at a corporate level, activities that are managed centrally and linked to marketing and PR activities. The second tier which is much more difficult to manage and get right focuses on the social media activities and presence of individual sales people themselves.

Here are five ways sales people can master that difficult second tier of a social selling strategy: 

1.       Create a social media plan

Sales people should be proactive in developing and implementing their own social media plans and activities. These should be aligned to the corporate plan, but should be much more tailored towards individual customers and customer groups.

2.       Use content strategically

When we talk about content, we mean the information that sales people are putting out there. The aim here isn’t to directly market the product, it’s to build subconscious awareness of the quality of the business and what’s on offer. Content should be useful to the customer and should create a picture in the customer’s mind of the benefits of working with the organisation.  Examples include sharing success stories, testimonials, relevant support information.

3.       Aim to become a trusted adviser

Building on great content, sales people should position themselves as ‘trusted advisers’. Customers know that each sales person they come into contact with will tell them that they have the best product, but why should they believe it? Social selling allows sales people to back up their claims by providing supporting evidence in a subtle way. This means that sales people should be using their social platforms to add value to their customers. Examples include sharing best practice tips, identifying common challenges and providing ideas to overcome them, and sharing case studies. In conjunction with all of the other things that sales people do, these types of activities will help to cement the perception of the sales person as a trusted adviser.

4.       Be adaptable and respond to changes in the marketplace

In complex sales, big changes can take place often. The key to effective social selling in this environment is flexibility. Sales people also need to view their social media activity as a tool to address specific issues that they are facing in the customer’s buying process. For example, if during the negotiation phase of a particular sale (which will likely be drawn out over a period time), a customer specifies an objection that needs to be resolved, the sales person can use social media to provide a second perspective or back up whatever solution they propose. 

5.       Be a constant presence

Social selling isn’t a one hit activity – it takes time to build a profile and to build credibility. There is so much content out there that making an impact will be a gradual project. Sales people must ensure that their input is constant in terms of quality and frequency if they want to create a strong, reliable bond with their customers.

By putting a social selling strategy into place with these five steps, sales people can strengthen their future sales opportunities, even in the most complex of sales situations.