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Before social selling became a buzzword, before the age of the internet even, the art of selling goods was always a social process. From water-cooler discussions and garden fence recommendations to the faux-friendliness of a second-hand car salesman, relationships matter.
The proliferation of social media has amplified this phenomenon. The ease with which people can research products and services means there is a huge opportunity for brands to drive sales by tailoring pitches and timing outreach based on consumers’ social media activity.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) conducted a poll of nearly 23,000 online shoppers around the world. 45% said that reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influenced their digital shopping behavior. 78% said they are influenced by social media in some way. On average, consumers will visit three different vendors before committing to a purchase.
“It’s nothing short of a revolution, and the stakes have never been higher for retailers and consumer goods companies. Our survey results point to 2016 as a watershed for many of the trends that have been percolating over the past few years.”
– PwC, 2016 Total Retail Global Survey
So retailers are embracing this trend, surely? Well, in 2014 QuickSprout reported that only 6% of businesses use social media to generate sales. How do the remaining 94% of brands adapt to take advantage of social selling and ensure they are not left behind?
While it is undoubtedly difficult to measure the ROI of generating leads on social, these statistics show that social media is a critical piece of the marketing mix and one that a savvy marketing team cannot ignore.
According to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere up to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they contact a vendor, making it difficult for sales teams to influence the buyers’ decisions.
Content marketing is ultimately the foundation of social selling efforts. A strong content strategy, aligned with your sales funnel, enables marketers to address every stage of the sales cycle with carefully curated, tailored content. In this way, you can influence buyers before they make contact with your brand.
The shift towards social has seen a corresponding shift toward influencer marketing. This is in large part due to the nature of the beast – people are more receptive to individuals than companies on social networks. It has also been magnified by the reduction in organic reach brought about by algorithm changes on these sites.
Another potential weapon in the social selling armoury is social media customer service. The benefits to the brand are numerous: it’s cheaper than phone-based customer care, increases customer satisfaction, makes customers more willing to pay more, and raises the likelihood of them recommending the company.
The real advantage is that good customer care isn’t just about placating angry customers, but providing a touch point for customers with such value that they recommend the brand. In addition to traditional social media influencers, it is possible for customers to be turned into brand advocates.
There are several areas where you can use social analytics, which can be split into three key sections: undertaking research, joining the conversation, and answering questions.
A good salesperson understands the value of insight and empathy in addition to a persuasive manner and strong product. By researching your potential customer base you are much better armed to start selling to them.
Monitor target prospect personas to confirm accuracy
As part of a solid marketing strategy, buyer personas help businesses understand target audiences more deeply to identify what makes them tick. Once you have created your personas you can check they are accurate using a social intelligence tool.
Discover topics for content
It is also possible to monitor these persona groups to see what kind of content they are sharing, helping you understand what matters to them. More generally you can discover content by searching for relevant keywords, and use that to inspire your own content creation.
Monitor industry trends
Monitoring industry trends can provide inspiration, but also ensure you aren’t left behind. It’s like running market research continually, without the time and costs usually associated with traditional methods.
Discover competitive insights
Closely monitoring your competitors opens up a space to learn from their mistakes, emulate successes and potentially poach customers.
Discovering how your potential customers are being interacted with can allow your sales and marketing teams to make strategic decisions on how to engage and enter the conversation.
Monitoring competitors also offers a simple way to more deeply understand the market your business is operating in.
Find discussions of your product category
Doing this will allow you to get a feel for the topics of conversation and types of language and phrasing people use when discussing your product or service.
Monitor for key phrases customers are using when seeking help
Satisfied customers are an incredible asset — and on such a visible platform as social media, some swift assistance when it’s needed will amplify the message that your organization is a great one to do business with.
Uncover questions about your product category
When searching through your research results, you’re likely to discover people asking questions about your product category, or asking for recommendations.
These brand agnostic questions are a great opportunity for your brand to enter the conversation and begin nurturing the relationship before passing to a sales team to push further down the funnel.
Find intent to purchase terms
In addition to general questions, you can monitor buying indication terms, or ‘intent to purchase’ language. These conversations indicate someone has progressed towards actually purchasing, and may be asking for more specific advice from others.
This can be a great opportunity to nurture sales when done correctly, allowing you to offer helpful advice and suggestions. In addition to social media, these types of questions can be found on sites such as Yahoo! Answers and Quora.
A joined-up social selling strategy should include creating great content, working with influencers to spread your message, and using social customer care to improve customer experience.
Embracing the new age of empowered customers means listening for discussions and questions and being ready to jump in with answers. This approach will help drive sales, and can see great results. One report suggests social selling generates 40% more qualified leads than cold calling.
We’ve written a complete guide to social selling that covers the topic in more detail. You can download it for free here. Alternatively, to discover how Brandwatch can bring social selling to your brand, get in touch to see a free, no-hassle demonstration.
Discover how powerful social intelligence can drive new leads on social.
Discover how powerful social intelligence can drive new leads on social.Find out more