10 Great Resources for the Social Selling Newbie
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

2013 seems to be the year Social Selling hit the mainstream – especially in B2B sectors where “Facebook marketing” never resonated that much.

There is growing evidence that adding social prospecting, lead nurturing and relationship building skills to your arsenal will improve your sales performance. Consider what the most recent Social Media and Sales Quota Report found,

In 2012, 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.

Even if you don’t buy the “quota” argument, your customers are clearly using social media for business – so you’d better learn to interact with them there.

But getting started can be tough.  Software vendors and social media marketing gurus are publishing dozens of articles a day on the subject. Thinly-written & redundant blog posts are piling up so fast it can be tough for someone new to this practice to know where to start.

As Koka Sexton, LinkedIn’s Sr. Manager of Social Marketing, put it in a recent article about the rise of Social Selling:

There are some great people and organizations out there that know a lot about social selling, best practices and ways to implement it, but there are also many people that call themselves experts that are really good at optimizing your LinkedIn profile and that’s the extent of their expertise.

What is “social selling”?

There really is no single definition – it really depends on who you are, what you sell, and how your buyers buy.

You sort of have to dive in and learn by doing.  That’s what the resources below will help you with.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been catching up with some of the leading thinkers, practitioners and best practices in social selling. I’ve learned that there are some excellent, experience-based best practices and how-to guides available online.

The good news is that lot of “social selling” is really just a lot of common sense sales techniques mapped into a new environment with a few new rules and gestures to learn. Plus a bunch of new tools like ours.

But you don’t need tools to become a social sales pro.

This graphic from Julio Viskovich gives you a glimpse of what social selling really is, as suggested by some of the most experienced practitioners today:

SocialSellingGuide 7 pros share their tips

SocialSellingGuide 7 pros share their tips – borrowed from www.julioviskovich.com/

Alright, on with the resources.

Listed below are some of the best online sites and resources for the social selling newbie, which probably best characterizes 90% of sales professionals today. So don’t feel alone!

NOTE: This list is intended to be a quick starting point for new practitioners, not an exhaustive library. If you are an expert, then I’m sure I missed a bunch of your favorites. Feel free to suggest more in the Comments section, below.

First Reads

  1. The Future of Selling” is a great long-form read by Brian Fetherstonhaugh (CEO of Ogilvy One) that explains the context of social selling: why is selling changing? how are marketing and sales blending together in completely new ways? with plenty of data that makes it clear that social selling is a skill we’d better all get comfortable with.
  2. What Is Social Selling?” is a brief and easy to digest introduction by Koka Sexton, Sr. Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn. Maybe a bit too much emphasis on LinkedIn (Koka now works there), but then again LinkedIn is definitely the first network to focus on for most social selling efforts.  Koka has been focused on this subject since 2009, so listen carefully.
  3. The Grande Guide to Social Selling” by Eloqua. Nice broad overview of the terms, technologies and practices involved, with an emphasis on how inbound marketing and sales can work seamlessly together.
  4. Social Selling – a Mini-Guide” by Salesforce.com.  Shorter version & slightly different viewpoint than Eloqua.  

Detailed How-To Guides

  1. Social Selling in B2B” An excellent multi-part blog series by HootSuite.
  2. The Ultimate Guide How to Use Twitter for Social Selling” by InsideView.com.  It’s 47 pages long, and worth paying for with your contact info.
  3. Social Selling, the New Practitioner’s Guide” by Julio Viskovich, Social Selling Sensei at HootSuite.  Of all the social selling experts out there, I really appreciate Julio’s no-BS, hands-on demos and how-to guides. You can tell Julio learned by doing. I’ve learned quite a bit from him.

Personal & Career Training

  1. The Rise of the Social Selling Expert” by Jeff Molander (on eConsultancy.com).  Career context.
  2. Seven Critical Skills of The Social Seller” by Dan Bernoske on salesbenchmarkindex.com. Learn how you need to behave.
  3. Social Selling University  – the online home of social selling best practices. Sponsored by InsideView, a leading prospecting/lead gen/business intelligence solution provider.  Best single collection of resources on the internet, in my opinion.

Why is Social Selling Getting So Hot?

Simple: every business needs to generate sales to survive.

You can’t meet payroll with ‘likes’, after all.

wheres the beef - copyright Wendys

wheres the beef – copyright Wendys

In addition, the whole social media marketing craze is getting long in the tooth.

In many industries, social marketing teams and their agencies are getting increasingly pressured by the CEO and CFO to demonstrate results – aka, ROI, leads and sales. In some large early adopter organizations, social marketing budgets this year are actually flat (gasp!).

The pressure is clearly mounting for social marketing programs to contribute more to the bottom line – or be relegated to the role that other over-hyped “marketing techniques” have in the company. As in, none.

That’s OK with us. The shift in priority away from producing “content” and “engagement” to delivering “leads”, “customers” and “revenues” is refreshing and predictable.

We’ve always believed that social networks are an ideal medium for the social-by-nature, solution-oriented sales professional to thrive in. That’s who we designed NeedTagger for.

Our Social Selling Advice to You

It’s been on the back of our business cards since the day we opened shop:

business card NeedTagger - back

We believe that “finding needs and meeting them” is the proper mindset of every great social selling professional.

Wanna get started today with social selling today? Then go find someone on Twitter or LinkedIn (or any network where your customers congregate) who needs something you have to offer – information, content, answers, services, whatever – and offer them help.

You don’t need tools like NeedTagger to start loading your funnel with prospects.  But we’ll be here if you need us.

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Let us know what you think about social selling by leaving your comments below.

How To Capture Leads, Acquire New Customers and Sell On Twitter
Did you know? A 260 lb. dolphin eats approximately 33 lbs. of fish daily.

Can You Really Sell On Twitter?

Let’s end this debate once and for all:  yes, you can meet new prospects, capture new leads, acquire customers and sell products and services using Twitter.

Thousands of companies, business owners and sales professionals are doing it right now. Over 2,500 business owners, sales pros and marketing specialists use our service to do it.

But let’s not confuse “selling” with what most companies are doing on Twitter right now – which is “marketing”.

For example, you aren’t selling on Twitter if you spend most of your time and resources on the following activities:

  • broadcasting content from your Twitter account, and expecting new prospects to follow you; in general, less than 10% of your socially-active target market will do that; and even when they do, only 1-2% of them will see a given post.  
  • recruiting influencers to share your messages and content with their fans. This is at best an indirect way of reaching prospective customers, and it takes a LOT of time and resources to do it right. 
  • advertising. By advertising, we mean sending one-to-many messages or Calls To Action that may excite someone to click, but offer little immediate value to your sales prospect. Promoted Tweets can be used for so much more.
  • reading news, watching videos or laughing at a Vine clip shared by someone you follow.  

The trick to selling on Twitter is to focus your time on finding and connecting with people who genuinely need something that you have to offer (products, services, advice, critical information, whatever); then, take the time to reach out and help them – with the utmost of respect for their situation.

When prospecting on Twitter, your goal is to search Twitter for the right kinds of people in the right regions who are talking about important Life Events, Trigger Events and expressions of need related to your business.  To do this efficiently, you will need the right tools.

Once you find a hot prospect, patience and time are required to build a relationship with her. You cannot be aggressive or spammy, or your reputation will get clobbered. You should expect to engage in a conversation that may span days – or even months.

In other words, you’ll need to prospect and sell a lot like you already do, in the real world.

The Proof

Targeted, solution-oriented selling on Twitter works, in both B2C and B2B industries.

For example, Marketo shares helpful content to generate leads at a fraction of the cost of traditional lead gen methods.  To quote Jason Miller,

Our Twitter strategy has allowed us to see immediate results from our efforts. Our average lead-conversion rate from emails and online campaigns is between 2-3%. Some of our Twitter campaigns have yielded conversion rates as high as 14%. And the cost-per-prospect is six times lower than that associated with some of our other marketing programs.

In Marketo’s case, they use Promoted Tweets to share their helpful content with a targeted audience.

NeedTagger goes one step farther and connects you with individual people in need.

Listed below are a few recent NeedTagger customers who’ve had success selling this way on Twitter. All posts below are unsolicited, uncompensated and copied directly from Twitter.

Recruiter ReAmplify finds new prospects Using NeedTagger

Recruiter ReAmplify finds new prospects quickly using NeedTagger.

Squirrel Social landed several new clients during their first couple of weeks using NeedTagger.

Squirrel Social landed several new clients during their first couple of weeks using NeedTagger.

Crave Beauty uses NeedTagger to find and assist potential beauty products customers.

Crave Beauty uses NeedTagger to find and assist potential beauty products customers.

Using NeedTagger, she landed 4 new accounts

Using NeedTagger, Tracey landed four new accounts. By talking about her success on Twitter, she generated another lead. The public nature of Twitter has its advantages!

From what we see, this solution-minded approach to social selling appears to work in almost every industry and region – we support 13 industries in B2B and B2C.

New to Social Selling (or Twitter)?

You’re not alone. Only 16% of internet users are active on Twitter, after all.

If you are a new Twitter user, then social selling is not something we recommend you jump straight into. Before you try it, take a few weeks to learn how to engage with people naturally on Twitter.

But don’t worry – when you are ready, it’s not hard to learn.

You may be pleased to learn that most of your real-world selling gestures can be mapped to Twitter gestures fairly easily, as this chart illustrates:

Map real-world selling gestures to their equivalents on Twitter

Real-world selling gestures and their equivalents on Twitter

 

If you are an experienced Twitter user but new to social selling, it might help you to look at Twitter as a giant dinner party or business conference – with the added advantage that you can hear what everyone in the room is saying, in real time.

You may not have a relationship with most of the people in the room, but you are probably connected to many of them through shared interests or personal relationships.

How would you approach a potential customer in a situation like this?

Exactly…

Great for Lead Nurturing, Too

Twitter is also a great way to handle middle-of-the-funnel lead nurturing.

Once you’ve identified a list of prospects to follow, responding to their requests for help or opinions is a natural opportunity to guide them in their decision making process.  You can use a social media monitoring tool like HootSuite to do that efficiently.

Copied below is an example of lead nurturing taken from a customer of ours who sells social media management services – note how he’s helping someone solve a technical problem, building goodwill in the process:

Screen Shot 2012-10-29 at 12.51.02 PM

Using social media in this way, you can reach more people at more engagement points than you can in any other media.

You can also learn a lot about why people like or dislike your offerings, and how people talk about your brand.  Try getting that from a Search Engine!

Social Selling Is A Greenfield Opportunity

Perhaps the most important reason to learn how to sell on Twitter (or any social network for that matter) is the fact that most of your competitors want to, but they haven’t learned how to do it, yet.  Most are still stuck in the mode of analyzing, but not acting upon, purchase intent.

recent survey by Gleanster revealed that the vast majority of Top Performing marketing organizations are focused on identifying purchase intention in social media.

Top Performing companies that rank monitoring social data for purchase intent as a priority

Top Performing companies that rank monitoring social data for purchase intent as a priority. Source: Gleanster.com, Feb 2013.

 

Yet Gleanster’s report also noted that only 6% of top performing marketers are actually measuring purchase intent in social media.

who measures purchase intent - survey of top performers by Gleanster

who measures purchase intent in social media?  From a survey of top performers by Gleanster, Feb 2013

This is what’s known as a “greenfield opportunity”.

Game On!

It is clear that during the past few years, businesses have become increasingly interested in generating leads and sales using social media.  In the Google Trends chart below, note how “Twitter leads” and “Twitter sales” queries are increasing in popularity faster than “lead generation”:

That’s why we developed NeedTagger.

NeedTagger surfaces the most valuable and actionable engagement opportunities for your business on Twitter – and makes it easy for you to capture leads, land new accounts and sell.

To acquire customers with social media, share your most helpful content with people who need it, as close to their moment of need as possible.

Recruiting Fans Isn’t Enough

Is your social media marketing objective to grow your business? If so, then you know you will have to reach NEW customers, not just your fans.  And influencers and advocates are really indirect methods of doing that.

Have you studied who is actually following your social accounts so far?  Are they customers and potential customers – or lurkers, bots and coupon-clippers?  Do you even know?

If you’re like most leading brands (see graphic below), then less than 10% of your addressable market in social media actually follow you there today (see chart below).

This means that for every qualified customer or prospect that follows you on Twitter today, there are probably another 10 who don’t (or won’t).

So how can you reach the “other 90%” of your market who won’t follow you online – but may need your stuff?

Content marketing has been recently bandied-about as the best way to attract new customers in social.  There’s a lot of logic behind this trend – organic search engine marketing is the biggie – but there’s so much crappy content out there today, many potential customers may never even notice you!

And spamming Twitter won’t get you there – especially if you try to automate your introductions, like this amateur spammer attempted to do:

Twitter spam FAIL

Twitter spam FAIL

So what sort of “content” should you share?

Funny videos, contests, personal stories and games may make you more interesting, but these forms of content are one-hit wonders that don’t address the reasons your customers buy stuff from you in the real world: you solve a problem for them.

To get customers really interested, you should probably strive to share helpful content, not to be “interesting“.

But forget theory – what do your customers say they want?

Better deals, for one. Study after study have clearly shown that better deals are the number one reason most people follow a brand in social media.  Here’s one study I grabbed from HootSuite recently:

why people follow brands in social media - hootsuite study

why people follow brands in social media – hootsuite study

If you really want new customers to follow and engage with you in social media, then your content will need to dig deeper and address the needs that your organization and your products satisfy for your customers in the real world. And, you need to deliver this helpful content to people who need it, as close to their moment of need as possible.

But first, you’ll need a way to identify the people who need your stuff.

Does Purchase Intent Exist in Social Media?

For most digital marketers, purchase intent doesn’t pop into their head when talking about social media. Not a lot of people are buying stuff on Facebook, after all.

So, can you really detect if a social media user is in the market for something you sell?

The short answer is, YES. Purchase intent exists in social media, and it can be tapped to capture leads, to attract high quality traffic and to grow your business.

Don’t believe it’s there?  Try our free Customer Search Engine for Social Media  to view a live stream of people complaining about their allergies, shopping for a car, discussing their mortgage needs, hungry for pizza and discussing their college applications.

The truth is that purchase intent is discussed by people in social media millions of times a day in the English speaking world. We know, because we measure it.

But in social media, people express many forms of intent that go beyond the specific, personal intent that you see in search engine queries.  The breadth of intent expressed in social media is vast.

Social intent ranges from the aspirational

to the downright actionable:

In fact, some forms of purchase intent are only expressed in a social environment. For example, when people “fall out of love” with their phone company, they don’t first signal it by searching for a competitor.

Instead, they complain out loud:

Some view this wide range of intent as a weakness of social media, but I think it represents a unique opportunity for savvy marketers.  Because the range of intent is so diverse, content marketing can be used to guide people in their decision making process at many more engagement points than you can touch in other media.

To act upon these streams of intent, you just need a way to differentiate the various types of demand so the right team members can address each of them (cough). That’s one of the reasons we built NeedTagger.

But most marketers are only beginning to learn how to tap into social intent to build relationships with their market.

Publishing At The Moment Of Need

Social feeds move really fast, so timing your content delivery is important. If you can target people close to their moment of need and help them, then you have a much better shot at getting their business.  This is especially true of people discussing their most important life events in social media.

In fact, I would argue that getting the right content in front of potential customers when they need it most is becoming the single-most important success factor in online marketing. There’s simply too much noise out there, and the amount of online content that people have access to is more than doubling every year.

Today, good timing can mean the difference between getting 0.01% and 50% response rates on the same piece of content. As signal-to-noise continues to fall in your market’s news streams, the importance of timing your delivery will only grow.

Targeting Intent With Helpful Content Delivers Results

You can achieve amazing results by targeting social intent with the right content at the right time.

By helping people in their moment of need, you can not only capture new leads – you can create incredibly high levels of brand loyalty at a very low cost per prospect. At the very least, you will drive highly qualified traffic to your web properties.

For example, here is an example of someone posting an intent-targeted message inside NeedTagger, our Customer Search Engine for Social Media:

And here is a Pinterest gallery we put together showing how business marketers use NeedTagger to connect with prospects on Twitter.

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

Using this simple listen-and-respond process a few minutes each day, our customers achieve 5% to 80% click through rates on messages sent from our service to people who do not yet follow them.  In other words, unsolicited posts.

Other social intent-targeting platforms such as Solariat, LocalResponse and GoChime are reporting similar levels of engagement with intent-targeted messages.

In contrast, when you post a message from your Twitter account to your followers, about 1-2% of your fans will engage.

Once you learn how to talk to prospective customers in social media, the help you deliver can feel like serendipity to the people you reach.

Even better, when you behave this way in a viral, public forum like Twitter, you gain the added benefit of appearing to the world that you are a business who cares.  Because you do!

In summary, targeting people in need with your content is a powerful and natural way to capture leads, drive traffic and build your brand in social media.