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Social Selling: The Key to Demonstrating Marketing's Commercial Value
Includes some wisdom from ChatGPT
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For much of my career, I’ve worked in small marketing teams relative to the total headcount and revenue of the organisation.
We’re talking about 4 to 5 individuals running communications for a solutions provider with dozens of products, thousands of employees and nine-figure earnings.
In this context, it’s easy (and totally understandable!) to feel overwhelmed. With so much falling under your remit - strategy, planning, execution - it can be extremely difficult to figure out how you can influence the commercial pipeline.
This is compounded when so many important factors fall outside of your control. For example, how can you measure the commercial value of marketing if there is a company-wide decision to not use a modern-day CRM?
It can drive you crazy. But one place to start is taking a peek over the aisle at the sales team and figuring out a way to help them do better at their job.
Cue Social Selling - one of the most underutilised tactics by B2B solution providers.
Below I’ve jotted down some thoughts on what it is, a framework to help get a pilot off the ground and how to research where buyers are spending time on social.
If I hadn’t made it clear already, then let me say it now - there is a LOT of bland B2B marketing out there.
And I get it! Sometimes you just need a little push to start experimenting with a new channel.
Consider this it.
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» What is Social Selling?
Because it seems in vogue right now, I asked ChatGPT to give me a definition. Here’s what he/she/it came up with, which is pretty bang on.
Social selling is a sales technique that involves using social media platforms to interact with potential customers, build relationships, and ultimately drive sales. It involves leveraging the power of social networks and online communities to connect with potential buyers, understand their needs and preferences, and persuade them to make a purchase.
Why is it important for brands to care about?
Ultimately, when selling solutions, you need to care about two things - scale and credibility.
Are you reaching enough people with your message?
And do they trust that you know more than them and your nearest competitor?
Social selling - or the act of using LinkedIn, Twitter and other networks to connect with prospects - is a fantastic way of achieving both. Why?
Employees will – on average – be connected to 10x the number of people than the brand handle.
76% of individuals say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by individuals over content shared by brands.
Their posts are considered 3x more authentic and have a 2x higher click-through rate.
» Why Should Marketers Care About Social Selling?
Because it happens in your domain. And you can help the sales team learn how to operate within it.
The reality is that most people have little idea of how to effectively leverage social media to achieve a commercial objective. It’s usually a spray-and-pray approach - we’ll publish a bunch of stuff into the ether, send a couple of DMs to target accounts, and do some deals.
There’s no storytelling, consistency, quality or strategy behind it.
And that is where you come in.
Cherry-picking a handful of sales colleagues who show an appreciation and aptitude for social selling (there’s little point trying to convince non-believers until you have some wins under your belt) and helping them sell better on social is a viable way to demonstrate your commercial value to the organisation.
» How Do You Do This?
As marketing, one of your jobs is to coach colleagues on how to be effective on social. This could take the form of workshops, courses, one-to-one mentoring sessions or any other suitable format you like. But the main priority is to provide structure - a framework for front-of-line colleagues to run through when building out their own social selling strategy.
I break this down into six components.
What are you trying to achieve and over what timeline? How will you measure success?
What topics do you want to talk about? What is the unique POV you want to convey?
Who are you trying to connect with? Who do they follow on social media?
What are the criteria to trigger “the next move” (engagement > connection > conversion)
Are your profile and content output optimised to leverage positive algorithmic effects?
How will you achieve consistency over the medium/long term?
» How Can You Identify the Right Channel Where Your Buyers are Spending Time?
One of the most common objections I hear about NOT starting a social selling campaign is a lack of belief that prospective buyers are spending time on platforms.
I get it. Especially in non-technology industries - where marketing and sales are somewhat conventional - there is an argument to be made that over-investing in social can siphon budget unnecessarily from other channels.
But here’s a fact. Buyers from every industry - from SaaS to Solutions - are getting younger. 74% of 21-40 year-olds are involved in buying decisions for their companies and this is a demographic that is digitally native.
It might not be this year but it is an inevitability that every industry will present its vendors with an opportunity to sell on social.
Want to find out what that opportunity looks like today? Here are a few ideas on how to do some quick research to build a business case:
Self-reported attribution on high-intent forms. Add a field asking where buyers found out about you and tally up the references to social platforms.
Most organisations run customer interviews or research to determine satisfaction levels. Include a question from marketing on where customers stay up-to-date with the industry other than trade media and events.
Search for online communities. If a LinkedIn/Facebook group already exists, you have objective proof that there is an audience waiting to be tapped.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator has a filter option to see who has posted on LinkedIn in the last 30 days making it easy to see not only that a buyer persona exists on the platform, but they are also active.
Desk research. It’s not the most thrilling work, but it shouldn’t take more than an afternoon to pick 100 prospects from the CRM and search for them on your social network of choice.
» Summing Up
Every marketer wants to contribute to the metrics that matter (pipeline, revenue, profit) but in many businesses, it is not always practical to draw direct attribution in the short term. Finding opportunities to influence commercial success by helping sales sell better can be a quick way to demonstrate impact.
❤️ Some articles I’ve recently read and loved:
🚨 NEW PODCAST EPISODE 🚨
How Can Personal Branding Help You Sell Solutions? w/ Amelia Sordell
I talk to Amelia Sordell, Founder of Klowt Agency.
We talk about how personal branding is totally different from publishing content, why businesses selling services should invest in empowering employees to think strategically about social, and what you need to get started today.
If you care about how to equip your sales team with the tools they need to have customers come to them... this is a must-listen.