Are your B2B sales stagnating — or worse, plummeting — despite prospecting efforts that previously did the trick? If your current numbers aren’t where they need to be, it’s time to inject social selling into your overall sales strategy.

What is social selling? Beside your quota’s new best friend, it’s a next-generation prospecting technique that uses a combination of social messaging and social listening to interact one-on-one with potential and existing customers about the things that actually matter to them.

Let’s take a look at how social selling can take your sales to the next level.

Social Selling 101
Successful selling has always been about making genuine connections with prospects and maintaining real relationships with existing customers. The same is still true. The difference now is where that connection is forged and nurtured. Today, it’s most likely to occur where people spend the majority of their time — on social channels.

First-contact phone calls, voicemails, and emails rarely generate the responses you want anymore. Even check-in messages to existing customers via these mediums often slip into the oblivion of overloaded inboxes.

With social selling, however, you directly connect with leads and customers through their social media feeds. The process is one-part listening and one-part messaging, all through social networks.

Example: Making Contact
Imagine you’ve identified a potential lead.

In the past, you might have emailed them to introduce your product or service. This approach likely yielded limited success, which meant that you had to source a higher number of leads just to land one or two customers.

Now, you connect with that lead via their social media accounts and start taking a look at the conversations they’re having. In the process, you identify common interests, either personal or professional. Then, when the time is right, you message them directly through social media and use the commonality as your ticket through the gate.

New Sales Opportunities
Although social selling is a relatively new concept, it’s quickly gaining traction with buyers, who are tired of receiving a daily deluge of impersonal emails from various vendors. On the purchasing end, such mass messaging comes off as highly self-interested. What buyers really want is someone to listen to their issues and solve their problems.

You can turn this emerging status quo into a deep well of opportunity. LinkedIn’s social selling index (SSI) results show just how much of an edge this technique provides. Social selling leaders:
Create 45% more sales opportunities
Reach their quotas 51% more often
Outperform their competition 78% of the time

Example: Creating a Connection
Consider a company that makes it known it’s in the market for a particular product or service. One vendor sends a salesperson to cold call on the firm. A second vendor emails an unsolicited message touting its solution to a general company inbox.

Your strategy is to identify the appropriate decision-maker on social media, connect with them, and watch their feed to learn as much as you can about the contact and the company. You begin to share information specifically relevant to them, including a good mix of external thought leadership articles and internally generated content.

What happens when it’s time to choose a vendor? According to LinkedIn Sales Solutions, this potential lead is more likely to go with you. B2B buyers tend to engage with sales professionals who target customized content to their particular needs.

Measuring Social Selling Success
In addition to external tools such as LinkedIn’s SSI, the results of the following internal key performance metrics can gauge the success of your social selling:
Lead conversion: Increased rate of turning prospects into customers
Time to convert: Decrease in the overall time it takes to close a sale
Sales quotas: Meeting or exceeding monthly, quarterly and annual goals
Customer retention: Decrease in customer attrition
Customer satisfaction: Increase in repeat sales and decrease in customer complaints

Example: Forging a Lasting Relationship
As an active social seller, you learn that one of your connections is a close colleague of a lead you’re scouting. You ask that connection to introduce you to the prospective client on social media. Because you’ve built up your professional credibility through your value-added posts and informative messaging, they accept. Better yet, the lead takes you seriously because they trust their colleague’s recommendation.

Twelve months down the road, that introduction-turned-customer is still with you because you keep a close eye on its socials to catch any emerging issues before they become relationship-ending problems.

Implementation Made Easy
Developing and delivering highly individualized and valuable content for each lead and customer is the hallmark of social selling. All the information you need to generate that dialogue is publicly available at both the company and individual level via various sources, including:

Google search results
Company websites
LinkedIn profiles
Twitter feeds
Instagram accounts
Facebook pages

While information is abundant, a salesperson’s time is not. Busy schedules leave little time for the grunt work of social selling. Fortunately, you don’t have to manually scour all those individual sources to find the key pieces of information needed to start, maintain, or save relationships for each lead.

Example: Personalization at Scale
You use an automated sales engagement tool like Sharetivity that employs machine learning to conduct research, identify relevant icebreakers, and provide corresponding messages that help you connect and stay in touch with prospects. In the time it takes your competition to manually scout and reach out to just one of their leads, you can deliver laser-targeted messaging to all of yours.

Embrace the World of Social Selling
For all the time now spent in the virtual world, people still seek interpersonal connections. Key decision-makers within your lead and customer ranks are no different. That’s why social selling is a critical component of successful sales.

Ready to embrace a social strategy? Get started today with Sharetivity’s one-of-a-kind, totally automated sales engagement tool.