Social selling has become a very trendy term to describe how salespeople should appropriately use social media to help their customers. The appeal of social media makes sense in a world where an estimated 50% to 70% of the selling process is thought to be outside of the hands of the salesperson. At the same time, potential clients are literally providing information about their key challenges and asking for help in public. However, done poorly, social selling can be just as annoying and useless as cookie cutter email spam.
To better understand how to conduct social selling correctly, sales managers should first understand the basic tenets of successful social selling, then measure the metrics needed to show progress in social selling. Social selling is primarily about several basic tenets:
- Regularly update social media. This may be as infrequently as 1 – 2 times per month for a long-form blog or as often as 4-6 times per day (or more!) for Twitter. However, this activity needs to be a commitment and it needs to consist of messages that are relevant to your particular audience.
- Follow the right audience. Simply collecting “friends” and “followers” to gain numbers is typically a silly exercise. It is far more important to follow 200 people who represent your core customer base rather than 20,000 random people who may range from high school freshmen who love Justin Bieber to automated accounts that simply exist to collect twitter accounts.
- Educate your audience. The salesperson needs to establish herself as an expert to potential customers. This means providing helpful information either from her own knowledge or by appropriately crediting other expert sources. For instance, if a salesperson is selling payroll solutions and consistently provides new tips on providing accurate payroll, people will find this collection of tips over time.
- Understand your audience. Set aside time simply to “listen” or to read your audience so that you know who they are.
- Engage your audience. Always be willing to help answer any questions for people who are following you or who you are following, This can happen on an ad hoc basis or through organized online discussions such as scheduled Tweetchats, which are scheduled conversations on Twitter that last for a half hour or hour on a topic defined by a hashtag.
- Establish expertise. Do not push your product onto other people before establishing expertise. This is a hard one for salespeople to remember. It is easy to simply push product, but social relationships are built through trust and help over weeks and months.
So, given these goals, what are the metrics that companies need to use to measure the success of social media?
- Track basic social traffic. Track the number of people followed, the number of people following you, and the amount of social traffic you are creating each week. You need to know your basic social traffic before you can understand what you’re selling.
- Get specific with opportunities. Find social accounts for each current sales opportunity in place and track their traffic to know if they’re on weekly, daily, or even hourly. Ideally, you would even know how often you replied or mentioned these people in your social efforts.
- Know what’s working. Track the content that you share and see how effective it is. Is there a specific video, blog post, or keyword that seems to attract the audience that you are looking for? How many views, conversions, or mentions do each of your media references get? And are they leading to additional conversations?
- Document new approaches. What new ideas or interactions are you using by listening to your potential customers? Document any new approaches that are being taken, especially if they are augmenting or replacing traditional outreach methods. As an example, if your community is continuously mentioning the need to improve sales pipeline visibility, you might replace a standard weekly outreach email with a specific how-to guide on managing the sales pipeline. Make sure that these changes are tracked somewhere.
- Track Mentions, Re-posts, and Comments. These should be tracked just as phone calls and emails are. Sometimes, it’s the casual touches that lead to conversations. In fact, with the ubiquity and ease of social media, there’s no longer a reason not to have a casual touch or response with any potential qualified customer. This doesn’t mean that salespeople should spam everybody who is a potential customer. But for customers who are already qualified and part of the pipeline, why shouldn’t a sales person be chatting with them on a regular basis online. If anything, companies should track which stakeholders have NOT been engaged online on a weekly or monthly basis to see who is being ignored by the sales team.
- Track when the product is mentioned. There may be salespeople who are overly aggressive, mention the product too soon, then get frustrated that their social efforts are not leading to results. Unless companies track when a product is mentioned, they will not have full visibility into how and why their social sales efforts are active.
Automate Your Social Ecosystem
This metrics-based approach to social sales needs to be automated, which speaks to the need for a next-gen social CRM that focuses on measuring interactions across channels. It’s no longer good enough to just have contact center integration or email integration. CRM needs to be an oversight management tool used by sales managers to align social activity to sales results as well. Social is a way to organically enter the 50% of the sales process where salespeople are currently being removed from the process. And social metrics both validate and enforce the best practices for social selling.
Business legend W. Edwards Demings insisted, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Social is no different. Don’t just think of a social selling as an interesting experiment, but the next step in making your salespeople a vital part of your customers’ research and buying process. And track what goes on. By taking a mature quantitative approach to social selling, your sales teams will gain both short-term and long-term benefits to entering social networks.
Photo credit: Bill Garrett
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