Define Social Selling

I’m struggling to come up with a definition of social selling that makes sense to me.  It’s not an easy thing to do, and if you think it is – go ahead – give me your best shot. I found these definitions online:

Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power magazine and Sales 2.0 Conferences defines Social Selling (or Sales 2.0) this way:

“Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI and superior performance.”

Axel Schultze,  CEO of XeeMe and Chairman Social Media Academy shares his definition:

“Social selling is a sales technique, leveraging social media, to get and maintain a 360 degree picture of the clients and their influencer on an ongoing basis. It allows sales people to manage and maintain 5 times as many active customers compared to traditional techniques. Social selling allows an average sales person to become a top performer simply by using tools and techniques that allows them to socialize in a way that was only accessible to the top sales guard in the past.”

Do these help you?  Frankly, I’m not feeling a lot of guidance here.  One definition sounds more like a software pitch and the other is just a little jargon heavy for my understanding.

However, based on too many hours of eventually mind numbing research on the subject, I’m prepared to offer you some starting points that you can apply to “social selling” to help you and anyone else on your sales team who are prepared to step out of their comfort zone.

The downside of all this is that, in the beginning, social selling is  a guilt inducing, low return activity. Why guilt inducing?  Because, unless you approach it with the ruthlessness of Attila the Hun sacking the Balkans, you’ll burn hours getting sidetracked into useless discussions with no productive upside that you’ll be very hard pressed to justify to your management, when the numbers are not coming in.

But, there is an upside. 

Social selling, when it is no longer the “hot tamale du jour ” and settles into its real resting place in the sales toolkit, will prove to be a valuable way to drive leads, shorten the sales cycle and increase your close ratios- and that’s worth working for.

At the risk of sounding cynical, social selling IS STILL about selling.  Even if you truly enjoy sharing your experience and opinions about business issues, social selling is still a professional, business pursuit.  It is more selling than social. You’re just not tackling it head on.

While large companies can incorporate new technology tools, like the latest marketing software with a dazzling array of bells and whistles, this is beyond the reach of many other organizations. There are many companies who lack either the funds to obtain this software, or the expertise to manage it properly….or probably both.

So what does the stripped down, entry level version of social selling look like?  I would say it can easily incorporate the following:

  • A well-prepared Linkedin profile for the company and each of the reps who need to put their faces, and reputations out there to be found.
  • Inclusion in the relevant industry groups and regular monitoring of discussions to ensure that you are visible in these most desirable environments.
  • Active effort to extend your connections and potential circle of influence
  • Daily updates to your profile to keep your profile page active and stay top of mind with your connections
  • A daily Tweet.  I wonder about this one, but can only assure you from my own personal experience that Twitter does have the ability to drive business leads. Don’t fight it. Just do it
  • A company blog.  There are a lot of ways to manage this, but a company blog is a content resource for everyone in the company.  It’s a way to drive traffic to your main web site and its a way for the early stage buyer, who is still doing their best to play hide and seek with  your sales team, to get a feel for what your company stands for.
  • A response monitor. When someone responds to a tweet, a discussion comment or a post, you must be prepared to engage them, quickly.
  • Consistent offline activity.  Don’t put all your eggs in the online basket, regardless of its appeal.  This is simply a “Sales/Marketing 101  Best Practice” and some things haven’t changed. Just remember the “You” that you are presenting offline, needs to be the same person you purport to be online, or all of your work will be wasted.

For now, a sales rep who is participating in social selling is doing two things:

  1. They are engaging in a process that can passively generate leads
  2. They are using a unique online blend of traditional public relations and unpaid advertising to brand themselves. If done well, this self branding will create credibility, respect and relationships.

And for now, that’s how I would define social selling.

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