By Liz Proffitt Lemarchand, MediaDev
In the world of software sales, “social selling” is all the rage. As a software vendor, engaging with prospects on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can help build relationships, create robust networks of potential buyers, and increase visibility for the solution itself.
For those unfamiliar with the term, social selling is the process of developing online relationships and nurturing prospects on social media channels in order to push them down the sales funnel. Social selling tactics may include sharing relevant content, one-on-one interaction with potential customers, and what’s now being calling “social listening” (which can be described as monitoring chatter on social media communities or online groups). Social selling should not be confused with social marketing which is more about broadcasting “one-to-many” messages instead of cultivating one-on-one relationships.
While the term social selling is new, the concept itself is not. The idea of building relationships in order to sell product is as old as sales itself. And telemarketing has been a form of social selling that’s as old as the telephone. Of course, the rise in social media use has given sales yet another channel to use; one that provides access to a much wider audience than was ever previously available.
The sales experts at LinkedIn say that, “Seventy-eight percent of social sellers outsell their peers who don’t use social media for selling.” In software sales, being effective at social selling is even more important since technology sales cycles are likely to be longer than those of most other products. Initiating a dialogue with a prospect and maintaining it over time as a way of building trust, however, is not as easy as it sounds.
Here are some strategies to help you become a pro at social selling:
5. Create A Memorable Profile
Creating online profiles that stand-out is the first key to a successful social selling strategy. Many individual social media profiles highlight the benefits of the solution being sold (instead of listing the job responsibilities of the person selling it). Having a description that is easy to understand, quick and to the point, will make it a lot easier for prospects to see the value in the solution; they will be more likely to want to connect and add you as a contact.
Having fun job titles like Sales Ninja or Biz Dev Guru can also get people’s attention. Not only will it help more people look at your profile, it can also be a good conversation piece to break the ice. Of course, a nice photo goes without saying. It’s not a requirement to have a professional photographer take your portrait, but ditch the sunglasses, wear a clean shirt, and smile! Make sure the photo you use is of high-resolution. There’s nothing worse than an old, scanned photograph (except perhaps no photo at all, or using your company’s logo… seriously, who wants to buy software from someone with no face, or from a logo?)
4. Diversify Channels
Social selling doesn’t mean that you have to use social media exclusively. Using social media to find the right prospects is a great first step; researching the company they work for is also key. By being present in industry-related (or job function-related) communities/online groups and responding to comments and inquiries, you will naturally start to engage with the right people. From there, outreach can be done on the social media platform itself (via Inmail or private message), but you can also use personalized email messages, or pick up the phone and call. In cases where prospects are based locally, you can even write them a letter and send it by postal mail. While that may seem old-school, if it’s done well, it can truly work!
3. Tailor Your Messaging For Each Contact
Using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to social selling is the fastest way to be forgotten by prospects. The point of social selling is to build relationships with your target audience—in order to do that, you need to know them (and the company they work for) well. Researching common interests or similarities between companies will show the prospect that you’ve done your homework, and should be a natural attention grabber.
It’s important to remember that even in B2B software sales, there are real people behind each purchase. Knowing your buyer personas in and out will help you create highly tailored messages that should resonate with them because you’ve touched on something that they feel is important.
2. Use Content To Build A Relationship Pipeline
Sharing, reposting, and liking other people’s content will increase your online footprint. The fact that the friends of your friends can see a lot of what you’re doing online can help expand your reach ten-fold. On the flip side, the footprint left behind by prospects can give you a great deal of insight as well. It can enable you to know more about the people you are targeting, which will facilitate your contacting them at the right time with the right messaging—the two most fundamental aspects of sales.
Good content will help you better engage with prospects. Case studies and success stories can help educate prospects with concrete examples; short videos and blogs are fun and can make your brand more accessible. When reaching out to individual prospects you can send them links to such content as an FYI; this should give credibility to your approach and not make you appear overly “salesy.”
1. Show Your Passion
If you’re not passionate about sales (or the product you’re selling), you shouldn’t be doing it. If you love the software product you have to offer, let it show. When you truly believe in the benefits of the solution you’re selling, you can stand firmly behind it; this will naturally attract buyers (and can even help with upsell/cross-sell with existing clients). It’s like being at a cocktail party—people gravitate towards those who are passionate about what they’re talking about (regardless of the subject). But a good sales rep can make anything seem exciting.
Social selling is here to stay and for software vendors, it’s one of the best ways to engage with prospects. But let’s not forget that social selling is not just about social media—it’s about building relationships over time (both on and offline). The best way to do that is to understand your buyer personas and what’s important to them. Only then can your social messages turn into sales.
About The Author
Liz Proffitt Lemarchand is the Chief Operating Officer of MediaDev, a global IT marketing firm. She has 20 years of business experience and provides strategic counsel to software vendors both large and small.