Social selling

Social Selling Explained: How to Win Customers via Social Media

The social web can be a good way to draw attention to yourself and attract new customers. There are a few points to consider so that you don't come across as pushy in social selling, but as trustworthy and helpful. In this article, I explain the basics and the most important steps.

As a freelancer or agency, you need a reliable stream of new orders. This is true even if you make your money mainly from maintenance contracts and similar recurring income. It would be perfect if there was a place where you could casually present yourself to your potential clientele so that they would automatically take notice of you.

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And, yes: this place does exist and it is called the social web or social media. In this respect, this article could already be over: Open Facebook, offer your services and bang, business success. Meanwhile, you can sit back and relax and ...
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that easily. There's a catch: it's called "social" media for a reason, not "sales" media. Your potential customers are on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find out more about you.

  • Keeping up to date on interesting topics and people
  • Not to let boredom arise or
  • To distract themselves from more important tasks

A sales pitch doesn't really fit into the concept. Nevertheless, the balancing act known in professional circles as "social selling" can succeed. I'll explain to you now how this works.

What is Social Selling?

With social selling, you use your presence in social networks to increase your profile and show yourself as trustworthy. Only in the longer term do sales come from this. If you are still looking for the right social media platforms for your business, then first read my postsSocial Media for Business and Social Media Platforms in Comparison. There you can find out more about who really benefits from LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & Co.

In this respect, social selling is similar to content marketing: among other things, it also serves to draw the attention of potential new customers to you and to gradually bring about a positive change in their minds. In both disciplines, it is also important to understand and adopt the perspective of your customers.

And just as content marketing is not about marketing, social selling is not about selling. This is confusing, but unfortunately we have to live with these terms.

Social Selling explained step by step

Step 1: Decide on the right platform

When it comes to social selling, the business network LinkedIn and special LinkedIn marketing are usually not far away. This seems very logical, after all, it's all about business. In addition, LinkedIn offers you many opportunities to become active: These range from simple posts and detailed articles to groups, videos and livestreams and, most recently, newsletters.

LinkedIn has also introduced a "Social Selling Index": Here you can find out how well you use the network on a scale from 0 to 100. If you are registered, you will get the evaluation here. From my point of view, you should not regard the result as absolute truth. But it is suitable as a suggestion for your activities.

At the same time, social selling does not automatically mean "LinkedIn". As indicated above, the customer perspective is very important. And that means at this point:

  1. Where can you find your potential customers?
  2. Where is she open to (also) getting to know your professional site ?

Depending on the business field and target group, the answer may even be TikTok. By the way, you can often tell which platforms and networks come into question from social media monitoring: Here you can see where people are talking about you and your offers. It can be a good idea to be active there yourself - not only for the purpose of social selling.

LinkedIn Profiles
Not only LinkedIn is suitable for B2B

And another thought: people prefer to deal with people. This is also true in the B2B sector. Therefore, depending on the target group and business field, it can be a good thing if potential new customers also see your private sitefrom time to time. This is another argument for not only thinking about LinkedIn when it comes to social selling, or for posting personal things at LinkedIn from time to time.

Step 2: Build an appealing profile

Before you start with your social selling content, you should optimally develop your profile in the social network of your choice. Because as soon as you gain attention, more and more people will look here to see who they are dealing with. So make sure that such interested parties get a good impression of your services or the offers of your agency.

Here, too, LinkedIn has advantages, of course, because it gives you so many options to present yourself: Not only do you show your CV here, but you can also highlight certain content and customise many other things.

On most other platforms, you only have a few lines of "bio" and a link. It can be a major hurdle to clearly present yourself and your offers with these limited means. After all, you want your target group to feel addressed and you want to stand out positively from your competitors.

So you have to invest a little effort here. In my opinion, it's worth it because your entire external image will benefit from this clarity. Once this has been achieved, you also need a good profile picture and a supporting cover photo. Then you are well prepared for the time being.

Step 3: Create an idea and theme plan

Now it's about answering the question, "What should I post about?" Some people just shake topics out of their sleeves in between posts. That's great, but it doesn't work for everyone. You might also produce a lot of waste.

Especially if you are not used to publishing regularly on professional topics, you should create an initial list of ideas. It should be about things like:

  • What questions do your customers ask?
  • What problems do you solve for them?
  • Which requests are you mostly confronted with (and which of them would you like to have more often than before)?

It is important that you keep the interests and needs of your potential clients in mind. Because I'm sure that if you know your field well, you will quickly come up with many ideas for topics. But which of them are relevant for your clients and which are only relevant for you?

Content Planning Tool
A Theme Plan in Asana

Think of the infamous "added value": What you publish should be valuable and useful for the recipients. As mentioned above, your sales goal takes a back seat - just like with content marketing.

At the same time, you should make sure that your ideas fit your goals. For example, if you want to position yourself as a WooCommerce specialist, focus on that, even if you know a lot about other e-commerce systems.

From all these reflections, you will come up with an initially loose list of ideas, from which you will finally draw up your topic plan. Write down the issues you want to address and categorise your ideas accordingly. This is helpful so that in a few months you will still know with which plan you approached the matter.

Step 4: Implement your themes appropriately

With the topic plan, you now know what you would like to post about, but not yet how. This question is mainly about the right content format: should it be a short post, a longer article, a video? The following points determine your choice:

  1. What isrealistically feasible, in other words: what you are confident of, what the budget is sufficient for and what you feel like doing. For example, livestreams may be all the rage, but if you don't like them and don't want to learn the ropes, don't do them. Or: Videos are great, but you would have to divert the resources for them elsewhere.
  2. Which is a good way to present the topic. If you want to give instructions, a screencast or a series of photos is sometimes much more concise than a lengthy text. A complex topic, on the other hand, might be better explained in an article than in a video.
  3. What your target group likes and expects. This can vary greatly depending on the age group and group of people. Look around in your subject area: What successful examples do you see? But also: What potentially successful format are your competitors overlooking so far?
  4. What's hot on the platform. If you want to achieve something on the social web, you should always look at what formats the providers themselves are currently promoting. When LinkedIn introduced the article function, for example, it was initially possible to reach many readers. In the meantime, this has become much less. Instead, photos and videos are more in the foreground.

One final note: the question of content format is not an either/or decision. You can implement a topic in several formats to reach different people and be present on more than one platform. The only important thing here is point 1 from before: What is realistically feasible? Often it works better to focus on one thing rather than getting bogged down and spreading limited resources too thinly.

Step 5: Make regular appearances

After all the preliminary work, it's now a matter of actually putting your ideas into practice. In larger organisations, the topics and formats flow into an editorial plan. See also my tips on content strategy. The editorial plan is especially helpful when different people, departments and possibly external service providers need to be coordinated. The plan itself specifies who posts what, when, how it is to be implemented, what is still needed for this, etc.

If you are doing social selling for yourself or in a small team, this is clearly oversized. In this case, you should still determine for yourself or for the team how often you want to be active. Set it as a reminder, a recurring to-do or a regular calendar entry - however you organise yourself. If you don't do this, it will quickly get lost in the daily routine. Because day-to-day business usually seems more important than a client project that you might win via social selling in a few months - until you could really use one in a few months ...

By the way, appearing regularly does not mean only publishing something yourself. You should also get into the habit of participating in discussions in relevant groups and leaving comments on other posts. Use the social network actively and be a positive, helpful member. This increases the chances that you will be seen and discovered.

Step 6: Find elegant ways to sales

As mentioned above, you should put flat sales tactics on the back burner when social selling. At the same time, this does not mean that you leave it entirely to chance whether you generate new leads. See the series of articles on customer acquisition or the matching e-book here in the magazine.

Among other things, a good transition to the next phases of your sales funnel is important. This is where the aforementioned content marketing can come into play again: Hopefully, this will result in good and relevant content on a regular basis that you can refer to. Besides articles on your website, this could be whitepapers and other useful downloads or a (free) webinar.

Another possibility is direct contact with people who have already shown interest in you or your agency. Here, for example, you can use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator - another reason why the business network is regularly named the No. 1 place to go for social selling. This paid service is basically an upgraded version of the search with additional functions such as a lead list, saved searches and much more.

Ideally, a relationship already exists with a potentially interested person through your activities on the social web. This is where the terms "social" and "selling" finally come together.

More reach with helpful contributions

As always on the social web, the potential reach is especially tempting. After all, interesting and helpful postscan become a viral hit in a social network like LinkedIn . How many people you reach does not depend on your financial investment, as is the case with advertisements. At the same time, there is no guarantee for such success and only vague recommendations.

The steps mentioned here are not a sprint. Take time to evaluate and optimise your activities. Don't forget to listen. And keep in mind that your insights from the social web can have a positive impact on other areas: You will learn more about your potential customers and can adapt products and offers accordingly.

Your questions about Social Selling

What questions do you have for Jan? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about new postson the topic of online marketing? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

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