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by David Houston David Houston on March 21, 2016

Inbound Social Selling: 3 Things All Reps Need to Know

Think social media doesn't belong in sales? Here's proof that inbound social selling works. 

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You know that pesky statistic that keeps following us sales people around? The one incessantly reminding us that we only make up about 30 percent of the buyer’s journey today? Turns out there’s an effective way to reclaim our stake in the other 70 percent. Who’s hungry for a bigger slice of the pie?

We’re talking about inbound sales and its highly effective prospecting partner, ”inbound social selling.” Inbound sales is a selling philosophy that takes a more consultative approach. Instead of focusing on the pitch, inbound sales is about monitoring buyers as they browse and research, learning as much as possible about them, and guiding them in a more helpful way toward a purchasing decision.

Social selling is an inbound sales tactic that’s very similar to lead nurturing. Instead of cold calling, hard selling, and scripting conversations, inbound social selling is about connecting and interacting with potential and current customers on different social media networks. Doing so allows your sales reps to gain greater insight into who prospects are, foster the discovery of shared interests, and establish common ground. In other words, they gain access to that exclusive chunk of the buyer’s journey.

But why social media? According to recent research, the average person spends 1.72 hours per day on social media — learning more about products or services, sharing information (often personal) about themselves, being entertained, socializing and more. Doesn’t this sound like a sales reps’s jackpot?

Here are 3 things all reps need to know to properly pull off inbound social selling:

1. It Takes Routine Time & Effort

Connecting with people on social media sounds simple enough, right? You probably already use at least one channel personally. But as a sales tool, it requires a lot time and effort. More importantly, it requires consistency. It’s not enough to simply exist in the places your prospects spend their time; you must also be a regularly participating member of the community. That means:

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Having an optimized profile (professional headshot, accurate description, link to company website, etc)

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Subscribing to blogs

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Joining groups and relevant forums

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Interacting with the content your audience likes and shares

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Answering questions and responding to comments

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Using networks (like LinkedIn) to find common connections and request referrals

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Creating original content to share

2. It Can Be A Platform for Thought Leadership

Did that last bullet point catch your attention? Inbound social selling works best when your sales reps are also sharing original ideas. Think about it — prospects use social networks as a research tool. If your sales reps want to be identified as experts in their subject matter (which they should be) they need to make themselves known as an educator.

True, your marketing team is already peddling content around the web. And sales reps should help push that content out to their own networks. But to build real authority, sales reps should also publish their own original content. Doing so will help reps reach a wider audience and take part ownership in the lead nurturing process. The goal is to get audiences engaging with and sharing  your content. We call this phenomenon “social proof” — and it’s incredibly powerful in the development of brand trust and authority.

3. A Social Connection Isn't An Open Invitation

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A social network connection is not an open invitation for sales reps to reach out and make their pitch. Yes, we are using these social platforms to sell. But we must not lose sight of what they are truly intended for: to share information, learn more about one another, and build relationships.

There is a time and place for acting on social connections. Move too quickly, and you risk scaring off a prospect. You also miss out on learning more about them and building your own credibility. The entire point of inbound social selling is to nurture leads and discover more about them to create a buyer experience that is incredibly personalized and customized.

Will Prospects Find Inbound Social Selling Creepy?

Critics of social inbound selling question whether it’s an invasion of privacy. They’re afraid the practice might come off a tad sleazy. But the fine folks at Hubspot did some research, and the answer is no — prospects don’t find it creepy. Here’s what else they found:

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Buyers find it less creepy if sales people share a common connection

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Buyers prefer personalized, custom messages (generic messaging errs on creepy)

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As long as social signaling is kept light, it's not viewed as creepy

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Generally speaking, Facebook is not the best platform for social selling

The bottom line: Inbound social selling works. 72.6 % of salespeople who use social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers. Cold calling only has a 2.5% appointment rate. And non-social media sellers missed their quota 15% more often than their sales peers who use social media. The game has changed and so, too, must the playbook. Get in on more of the action with an inbound social selling strategy.

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David Houston

Written by David Houston

David’s 30 years of marketing experience bring valuable insight into every aspect of a company’s marketing approach. He naturally sees the bigger picture and has a strategic approach to marketing that is laser-focused on measurably growing his clients’ businesses.

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