Social Selling: Utilizing Social Media for Sales
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published May 20, 2021
Some days, sales might feel like a struggle. Maybe it’s time for a diagnostic. Are your sales and marketing efforts aligned? If you’re not using social media to provide value to potential customers, then you’re definitely not using it to your advantage. Using social media consistently and alongside regular sales-prospecting is one way to improve B2B sales. Ben Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing, OEM for Arter Grinders, Magna-Lock USA work holding, and MagnaLift and Power-Grip lift magnets in Illinois, leads a chat on social sales and leads for #USAMfgHour on Twitter.
Keeping Pace in a Digital World
The average adult spends at least two and a half hours per day on social media, according to HubSpot, a cloud-based CRM company. Professionally, more and more salespeople say social media platforms this year are helping them with sales and are crucial to closing sales, according to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2021.
What is social selling? Why is it beneficial for a company to start employing social-selling tactics and pushing salespeople to start using them?
“Social selling is different from traditional sales because it acknowledges that the competition is not just on price - it is on the value of customer relations,” said Erin Courtenay of EarthlingInteractive, a web and mobile app developer in Wisconsin.
“It's the process of connecting with potential prospects in a social setting/platform so they think of your company first when/if the time comes they need your product/service,” said JD Allen of Cleveland Deburring, a leading provider of deburring machines and solutions, in Ohio.
“Using social media to promote products, services, and also to network to increase an online community, increase sales and build trust as a brand,” said Julie Basello of Radwell International, MRO automation and supply repair.
“Building relationships via Social Media to sell products and services,” said Shannon Simpson of DuraTech, a full-service manufacturer of custom graphics in Wisconsin.
“Maintaining relationships with customers,” said Jerod Clapp of Amatrol, maker of training equipment and software in Indiana. “Keeping them aware of what we're doing as a company that can benefit them. It's also a great way to introduce new products!”
“Using relationships in sales,” said Noah Katzenstein of Artus Corp., a shim and gasket manufacturer in New Jersey. “With people being as connected as ever through avenues like social media, this strategy is becoming more and more important.”
“I think of using social media platforms as the platforms through which we form relationships with our customers,” said Rebecca Hart of Drive Source International/Dynamatic, manufacturer of eddy current drives, clutches, brakes, and controls in Wisconsin.
“Using social media to connect with customers and potential clients (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram). I loved going on visits – not anymore,” said Nick Rivers, a salesperson for Obsidian.
“Social selling is the art of engaging w/ &influencing potential & current customers by using social networks,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing, a B2B social marketing firm in California. “The goal is to promote your business through social media (SM), but it is NOT the same thing as SM. SM is a platform. Social selling is a strategy.”
“Social selling is using SM platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to increase brand awareness, so your prospects feel like they know something about your organization when approached by sales,” said Phil Samuels of Intuilize, distribution software in Texas.
“Making friends of your potential customers, showing you care through strategic messages,” said Nigel T. Packer, of PelaTis, a customer experience optimization consultant in the United Kingdom. “A sales team that is not using social selling is missing a massive opportunity.”
“Social selling is using social media channels to promote your product and services, network, and make connections with potential customers. It can be very beneficial to a company’s bottom line,” said Sue Nordman of Obsidian.
Social selling is being able to build relationships using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others as online avenues to put a salesperson in the right position to make a sale, Ben Nordman said. “According to LinkedIn, 71% of salespeople use social selling daily.”
How are you implementing social selling? What is your most successful platform to connect?
“We use it and have seen an upward swing in sales because of it,” said DSI/Dynamatic. “Our most successful platform is Google. If you're not using Google My Business, you're missing out!”
“Social selling is all about thought leadership and engagement around your content. Most successful platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, and Clubhouse,” said Sam Gupta of ElevatIQ digital consultancy in New York
“For us, the two best sources are Linkedin and Twitter, but we have found by going through our metrics that Facebook isn't doing bad for us. Kinda shocked by that,” said Dan Bigger of Chenango Valley Technologies, a custom contract manufacturing company specializing in Plastic Injection Molding and Tooling, in New York.
“LinkedIn is our most successful, with Twitter coming in 2nd. (We are) building up more Twitter connections though,” said DuraTech. “We have been curious if our customers are on Instagram, since all of our products are custom made, we find that Instagram may be a tough place to market what we do. Am I wrong on this? Is Instagram the right place for B2B-Manufacturing?”
“LinkedIn is my go-to platform. It has a larger business profile and I never contact anyone without first checking out their profile and their company’s profile and website,” said Samuels.
“Yes. I check our 3 Websites, 4 Facebook pages, 4 LinkedIn accounts, Twitter, and Instagram daily,” said Rivers. “I try to interact and grow my social media footprint by connecting with new potential clients.”
“We stay active on our top 5 platforms for B2Bs. Twitter is just one of them,” said Rusine.
“In some way, everyone in this chat is already using social selling,” said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative, a creative agency with an edge in manufacturing in New Jersey. “Yes, our most successful platform is LinkedIn, with Twitter coming in second and the rest fall pretty far behind.”
“Absolutely! We're on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube, and we get the most customer engagement on Facebook,” said Amatrol. “We get great engagement from other partners on just about everything.”
“I think LinkedIn will be the place to go for our products as they are bespoke for the application,” said Neil Hussey, of Denco Lubrication fluid dispensing products and systems in England. “However, we're really niche so SM isn't the ideal place. Certainly not Insts or FB, Twitter is great to get your name out there but building your personal 'brand' on LinkedIn is the way to go. To show your network that you're the trusted expert in your field earning the trust of your prospects.”
“We've been unknowingly selling socially for a while but have recently made more of a conscious effort to work it into the sales process,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian. “At Obsidian, we have recently made a conscious effort to increase the social footprint of our sales team. Combining the efforts of sales and our marketing team, we continue to improve upon the social selling front over the past few months.”
How do you get started with enacting social selling as a sales strategy or what have you done already?
“Always have a plan,” said Rusine. “Those that do have a plan, use social selling as a tactic with a very specific goal in mind, such as lead generation or customer retention. Social selling should not be confused with social media marketing. Social media marketing focuses on brand awareness and exposure. Social selling, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship with customers, and it is a tactic that leverages social media to gain insights, gather feedback, and maintain that relationship.”
“The first step is to set up a social media account,” said Sue Nordman. “After that, be active and stay active. Post, comment, like, and follow accounts in your industry. Always be real, but use professional social media etiquette always.”
“Dive in! Strategy plays a role, but in the end, a portion of the process is to reveal something about yourself and your company to help prospects understand why they should like you and trust you,” said Samuels. “Better to be seen regularly on one platform than manage multiple platforms poorly.”
“Educate and engage! Ask questions! See what people know, or don't know,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“When you're posting content, keep the user in mind,” said Amatrol. “They don't want constant ads for products, they want information. Your content should show you understand their roadblocks and provide solutions.”
“Build a personal brand, not a company one. People buy from people. Show your prospects you're the font of all knowledge on the subject and earn their trust,” said Hussey.
“I look for businesses that are similar to current customers to share a post, re-tweet, follow them, like them, or invite them to connect,” said Rivers.
“An easy thing you can do to get to know your customers and audience more is to ask questions,” said Kiesche. “Ask the questions you want to know that will help you sell better and know your industry better. Another tip is to get involved in communities and networking like #USAMfgHour.”
“Probably good advice for literally anything, but be genuine and forthcoming,” said Artus. “Create an environment that makes people comfortable.”
“Google research best practices, ask others you know that are already involved for advice, and most importantly, jump in,” said Cleveland Deburring.
“My most important piece of advice is to give it time. I have been social selling for about 3 months - and am beginning to see results,” said EarthlingInteractive. “Today a referral source shared a podcast we did with @Samguptausa to a prospect, and they called us! Second - invest in content. Content marketing is the BFF of social selling. You need to demonstrate value - that spending time with you will produce results. Third - find your tribe. I have had such a wonderful experience with the community here at #USAMfgHour. You don't need a formal ‘pod,’ but it is so helpful to have dedicated pals (who are often competitors!) to share your content and comment on social media.”
“I would say getting connected on social media with a professional account is a good way to start,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian. “Spending time finding people you know and reaching out to those you should know is a good way to build a network. As a marketing person myself, I was able to give our sales team tips on how to start marketing themselves and making their own personal brand on their professional accounts. Being open to new ways of making sales is also a great attitude to have.”
Social Selling Strategies
Do you social sell across platforms? Do your social selling strategies change across platforms? What are some differences?
“You should only sell in 20% of your posts (or less). If every post is ‘buy my stuff,’ why would anyone follow you? Inform me, entertain me, demonstrate expertise in other areas of importance (leadership, ethics) and you earn the right to tell me about you,” said Samuels.
“All platforms should have some consistency in style and brand voice but there are opportunities to be more ‘business casual’ in tone on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. You can connect faster to folks there so put your most human foot first,” said Julianne Schaub with Striven, an all-in-one business software solution in New Jersey.
“We use slightly different strategies for each platform and try to use techniques that those audiences respond to. Differences can be the length, visuals, engagement, etc.,” said Kiesche.
“We often reuse content across platforms, but with different messaging,” said DSI/Dynamatic. “The audiences are different and the environment of each platform is different. LinkedIn is the watercooler at work, Facebook is the networking event, and Twitter is happy hour after work.”
“Linked In seems to be my favorite, because it’s all about businesses and the most professional,” said Rivers. “Twitter would be next. Facebook only works if a company posts updates.”
“Most people miss on cross-platform selling. That's where the real ROI is. The more you utilize your channels, the better,” said Gupta. “LinkedIn is all about quality content and engagement. Twitter is about speed.”
“Different customer groups occupy different platforms,” said Packer. “Change your dialogue to suit the platform you are on and the customer groups on it.”
“Your audiences are going to differ slightly from platform to platform,” said Amatrol. “What works on Twitter may not work as well on LinkedIn, and vice versa.”
“There are definitely differences across each platform. The target market changes as well as the tone of each platform,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian. “The start of social selling is always relationship-building though, and that is a constant on each platform.”
Do you think social selling is more about the social aspects or the selling tactics?
“Universal advice: Don’t forget the word SOCIAL and what that means. Then marry that up to social media MARKETING and/or social SELLING,” said Rusine.
“That’s a tough one to answer. I would probably lean towards more social aspects. It’s definitely both, but I think the social aspect should take a front seat,” said Sue Nordman.
“If you are genuine about the customer, what may start as a selling aspect becomes social. I have met and made so many great friends on LinkedIn, and more so Twitter with these great chats,” said Packer.
“We never ‘sell’ on social. So, I'd say remove or replace the ‘selling’ from Social selling completely. Better to build relationships, engage, educate, inform, build credibility, show experience, entertain, discuss, build communities, etc. The sales will come,” said Kiesche.
“I would say that it’s a combination. I tend to like the social aspects because that’s how I’m wired. I can also see that old tactics die hard. They were an immediate response, and today, things take longer,” said Rivers.
“It's more for branding and awareness. It's hard to find real ROI from social selling efforts unless you are doing ads. But it's necessary just like branding is,” said Gupta.
“I think it's called ‘social’ for a reason. I think it's more about engaging the potential customer. Get them coming back to your page, to like you, to engage with you, to trust you. Then it's easier to make the sale,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“There's a mixture of the two in social selling, hence both words in the tactic. The social part is fostering the right relationships through social media while the sales part comes into play when the time is right,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian.
Do you think social selling will be or has replaced old-school sales tactics?
“Great question. I hope not,” said Cleveland Deburring. “Who doesn't enjoy business lunches?”
“Social media has changed a lot of that, giving salespeople a NEW tool to reach out and connect w/ potential customers, partners, and job candidates but there is still a lot of value on face-to-face meetings & phone calls,” said Rusine.
“For me it has. I can get a lot more done doing things this way,” said Bigger. “The old ways still exist, but it is harder and harder to get into companies and the walls that are built to keep sales out. This is the best way as far as I am concerned now.”
“Yes, but personally, I’m not ready to shut the door on old school sales tactics. I think those work wonderfully, even better, with the right customer and the right situation,” said Sue Nordman.
“I think you can combine some sales strategies with Social Selling, but definitely some selling tactics of the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and even in the 2000s should be replaced,” said DuraTech.
“Social selling is just part of the marketing and sales arsenal,” said Kiesche.
“I think they'll work hand-in-hand for a good while. Will they completely take over? Maybe, but by then, something else might come along, too,” said Amatrol.
“It is additive. But it has raised expectations in the marketplace for the quality of the buyer’s journey,” said EarthlingInteractive.
“All tactics and strategies are tools that we can use to reach out to potential customers. If we understand customers and the tools, we will use the right tool for the right customer,” said Packer.
“Ain't nothing that beats picking up the phone and talking to people or face to face meetings,” said Hussey. “Social Selling is another 'tool' to get warm leads. After engaging with a potential prospect and adding value for them through imparting your expertise for free you're more likely to get a Yes when you ask if you can have a conversation than you are from a cold call.”
“I think having a mix of the two will be key in the future. While the social parts might be newer, making the sale will always be there when the time is right,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian.
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