Social selling has existed for almost as long as social networks. Give someone a network of contacts and they’ll inevitably try and sell them something.
While social selling is generally used in B2B industries, especially in sectors with long and complex sales cycles, more and more B2C salespeople are giving it a go.
In the last few years, for example, the financial sector has really bought into social selling. And with that in mind, I thought it was about time to lift the curtain and show you what this sales tactic is all about.
What is social selling?
First things first, social selling is not social media marketing. Social media marketing is the process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites by broadcasting to the public.
Social selling, on the other hand, is about using your social network to identify individual prospects, build relationships with them and ultimately convert them into customers.
If social media marketing is standing on a platform and shouting a message to a crowd, social selling is finding a specific person and having a genuine conversation.
In the next few sections, I’ll look at how social selling works and what it can offer your business.
How does social selling work?
Now you know what social selling is at a super general level, it’s time to talk about how it works in practice.
Establish yourself as an expert
Consumers typically gravitate towards experts. They trust experts. They buy from experts. Just think about how everyone treats Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert. His word is gospel. He says a mortgage is a good deal and it’s a good deal. He says a credit card is a rip-off and it’s a rip-off.
If you want to build trust with new prospects, you’ve got to look like an expert.
Share relevant content in your industry, comment on news, write original articles, have discussions online and engage with other influencers
When a prospect looks at your profile on a social network, they should see a leader in your industry and not some chancer.
Narrow your search
Social selling only works if you go after the right prospects. Start by building up buyer personas of your ideal customer, including details about their job, industry, age, income, industry and do on.
Use those buyer personas to narrow your audience and identify particular prospects who may be interested.
Start building relationships
When you’ve got a list of prospects, it’s time to start building those relationships. Start by engaging with their content, share information that solves their pain point and position yourself as a useful contact.
Have genuine conversations that focus on their specific needs. Once you’ve established that relationship, you can move on to introducing and then selling your own service.
Why does social selling work in the financial sector?
So, that’s how social selling works in theory but can you really apply it to the financial sector? Can you really pitch a mortgage on Twitter and a defined benefit transfer on LinkedIn?
You betcha! Social selling is a great fit for finance. Here’s why.
First, social networks are great for refining your audience. Do you want CEOs? Great search for CEOs on LinkedIn. Do you want to muscle in on a competitor’s turf? Go check out who follows them on Twitter. Do you want to talk to entrepreneurs? Go find startup groups on Facebook.
Second, financial sector sales cycles tend to be fairly long because the decisions your clients are making are big, complex and life altering. Social media lets you build and nurture long-term relationships in a natural way.
Third, it just works. In an article published by Fortune, Heather Clancy takes a whistlestop tour through social media and sales.
She tells us that over 70 percent of financial sector salespeople use LinkedIn. When you narrow that to the top performers, usage rises to 90 percent.
As a proof point, she recalls one financial adviser who found an existing customer on LinkedIn, copied his address book and instantly generated 35 new leads.
A study done a couple years earlier by American Century Investment claimed 43 percent of financial service professionals say using social media has led to a return on investment.
Do you have any social selling tips?
Convinced about social selling? Fantastic! Now it’s time to share some tips to make sure your efforts actually generate sales and not just annoyed contacts.
My single most important tip is to make your conversations personal. If someone thinks you’re just rolling out canned responses, you’ll get blocked faster than you can say “Hey, can I tell you about this super awesome deal we’ve just launched?”
Always remember that your personal social media profiles are a space to be yourself. Drop that overly corporate brand voice and put a bit of you into your conversation. Give your opinions and your thoughts. Make jokes and talk about life. Thread your conversation in and out of the professional sphere and engage on a personal, not just a professional, level.
Social selling is all about encouraging your prospects to get you know you rather than the company your work for.
Strong relationships are built on mutually beneficial foundations where both parties actually get something out of their interactions. If you’re bombarding your prospects with irrelevant articles and garbage conversation, don’t expect them to bite your hand off when you eventually pitch them your service.
If someone is thinking about buying their first property, don’t send them content about downsizing or remortgaging. Send them first time buyer guides and property viewing checklists.
Yes, it sounds simple but you’d be surprised at how many stressed salespeople fire off unrelated articles to their entire address book.
Even better than sending them third-party content is answering their questions, queries and problems yourself. Not only does this build rapport and trust with your prospect but it helps demonstrate your expertise to anyone else who reads your conversation.
Three tips in and we’ve not even mentioned compliance once. Well, that’s about to change.
As you well know, finance is one of the most heavily regulated industries out there and that regulation now explicitly extends to social media.
The FCA published a 20-page guidance document, which, even though it’s a bit dry, is essential reading for all marketing and sales staff in the financial sector.
Check out ‘FG15/4: Social media and customer communications‘ here. (Catchy title, I know!)
When in doubt, check with your compliance team. Taking an extra hour to reply to a prospect is much better than falling foul of the FCA.
When you’re dealing with social media, consistency is key. Jumping online whenever you have a free half hour might generate some sporadic results but it won’t produce a consistent stream of leads.
With social selling, you’re marketing yourself as a resource for the public. You’ve got to check your profiles regularly and respond to any interactions as soon as you can. And as for outgoing content, set a schedule and stick to it.
What networks should I use?
One of the trickiest decisions you have to make when dabbling with social selling is selecting what social networks to use.
The best advice I can give you is to ignore your preconceptions, ditch personal preferences and let your current customers guide you to the right networks.
Ask them what social networks they use and how they use them. Do they look for financial advice on Facebook or do they keep it firmly personal. Are they active in any LinkedIn groups? What influencers do they follow on Twitter?
Your customers are your greatest asset so make use of them and listen to what they say.
Below I’ve quickly summarised the three most common platforms for social selling in the financial sector: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
LinkedIn is the professional network and the obvious choice for anyone in a B2B role. However, don’t discount LinkedIn just because it’s targeted towards businesses.
LinkedIn is great for qualifying leads as users have typically included information about their age, place of work, role and so on. When it comes to refining your audience, that sort of information is unbelievably helpful.
- 467 million users
- 1.5 million groups
- Professional focus
- Microblogging platform
Facebook is a common choice for salespeople with its huge multi-billion strong user base.
Don’t get lured in by huge audience numbers, though. First and foremost, Facebook is a personal network but personal relationships and a lot of people want to keep it that way. People who try and use Facebook for business selling purposes often come across as unwanted and creepy.
- 1.9 billion users
- Aging user base
- Personal focus
- Average session is20 minutes
Twitter is one of the best networks for listening because you don’t have to be connected with someone to see what they’re saying. If you want to keep tabs on someone, just add them to a list and check back every few days.
Also, unlike most other networks, Twitter allows you to directly contact people regardless of whether they are following you or not.
- 1.3 billion accounts
- 120 million MAUs
- Dominated by millennials
- Used by people on the go