I need the leads. I need them now.
– Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet)
Some people feel that LinkedIn is a glorified repository of résumés while others see it as the place where people go to look for a new job.
As the world recovers from the financial crisis and more people get back to work, LinkedIn is increasingly becoming the place where people find, research, and engage prospective connections, partners, and clients.
However, social selling does not start and stop with LinkedIn.
The Open Source of Social Selling
Twitter etiquette, for example, promotes openness. It implies that someone’s presence on Twitter, provided they have a public account, means they are open to being engaged with.
A CEO on LinkedIn may be difficult to reach but if they have a public Twitter account then it is as if they have raised their hand to say “I am willing and open to be social here”.
Whether from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social platforms and behaviours, businesses and the people who sell and market for them have never had access to such vast amounts of data about their prospects and their interests and activities online.
B2C led the way with social media and leads and sales opportunities were easier to find because individuals were quite willing to express their feelings, wants, needs, pains, and intentions. Companies that were listening could insert themselves in the conversations and provide assistance, potentially leading to revenue.
B2B is following suit and, while corporate social accounts might be less likely to reveal their needs or intentions, organizations that pay attention can identify decision makers and influencers to engage and assist over the purchase cycle.
The Persona Angle
More people have influence over or are involved in corporate decision-making so the onus is on social selling individuals and companies to stay top of mind with their prospects.
Marketers and sales people can identify prospects, see the content they are consuming and sharing, and with whom they are sharing it.
Over time they can add the social intelligence they gather to create layers for their prospects’ profiles. They use the intelligence to tailor content, guide where and how to engage them, and remain current and relevant to them.
The compilation of social intelligence turns a quantity of leads into qualified prospects.
Prospects become customers and, finally, customers become advocates. Prospects are tracked and engaged as they do research, seek the opinions of their networks, and eventually state their intent.
Many of the early social media monitoring companies such as Radian6 focused on monitoring sentiment but, while that is still an important attribute to monitor, the focus has moved towards actionable insights such as customer service issues and intentions that could be categorized as sales leads.
From Conversation to Conversion
Companies such as Hearsay Social centralize social intelligence into social signals within their platform. Hearsay Social provides a SaaS-based solution predominantly for financial services and insurance companies.
Their solution is designed to enable customer-facing employees such as financial advisors and brokers to use social media to engage with prospects and clients while remaining compliant with regulatory requirements.
While some salespeople may be reluctant to learn how to use a new tool, once they see social signals they are hooked. They can see who has changed jobs, had a birthday, had a child, moved, divorced, married, or lost a loved one. Most of these life events have financial implications associated with them and those are of great interest to financial advisors and brokers.
If someone changes a job and their 401K, a retirement savings plan, has to roll over to their new employer then that is referred to as “money in motion”. This is just one example of a social signal being a conversation or engagement trigger.
It provides a reason to get in touch to see where and how a financial advisor or broker can help.
For industries where regulatory requirements are not an issue, solutions like Nimble, a social CRM solution, provide a centralized feed for social signals and merged social profiles for all of a person’s contacts.
It can be configured to remind users to engage high priority connections more frequently than others. It can also remind users who they have recently communicated with and who is still awaiting a response.
Marketers and salespeople can leverage these social signals indicating life events and other insights. They just need to know where and how to listen for them.
The Future of Social Selling
Besides Hearsay Social and Nimble, there are a number of free and fee-based social media solutions to illuminate social signals but the purpose of this post is not to examine them all. Part of it is to highlight two companies that understand social selling and have been evangelizing what it is and the associated best practices.
The other part is to discuss a new perspective on sales lead identification and profiling as well as new thinking and methodologies for marketers and salespeople to adopt.
Decision makers are taking longer with their purchase decisions and information and opinions are being sought online in support of those decisions. The old ways of selling via cold calls and tradeshows are no longer as effective.
Social selling leverages actionable insights readily available through social listening and informs the approach that marketers and salespeople should take with their leads, prospects, and even existing clients because they don’t stop being social once they have bought.
As with any change in the way we do things, some people jump right in. Others gradually adopt the new ways while others resist until it becomes futile or they decide to leave the company.
This is a new paradigm for marketers and salespeople. It provides a competitive edge for those people willing to take up the effort. The early adopters will show the laggards the value to be derived from social selling and how the efforts to become and remain relevant to prospects over time pay a substantial dividend.
Have you or your company adopted social selling? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
A recognized senior social strategist, speaker, and blogger. He has held senior strategy roles with wireless, e-business, financial, and social CRM service providers, helping clients remain competitive by embracing social media and digital technologies.