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. Instead of coming across as pushy in social selling, consider these few points to appear 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 earn money mostly through maintenance contracts and other, recurring income. Wouldn't it 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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Indeed, there is such a place. And it is called the social web, or social media. In this respect, this article could already be finished. Open Facebook, offer your services and bang, business success. You can sit back and relax, in the meantime Unfortunately, it doesn't work that easily. 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, in regards to:

  • keep up to date on interesting topics and people
  • not to let boredom arise or
  • to distract themselves from more important tasks

A sales pitch, therefore, 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?

In 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 create 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 for the right platform

When it comes to social selling, the business network LinkedIn and in particularLinkedIn Marketing are usually the most obvious solution. This seems very logical, after all, it's all about business. In addition, LinkedIn offers you many opportunities to become active. These can 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 take the results with a grain of salt. 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 customers' perspective is very important. And that means at this point:

  1. where can you find potential customers?
  2. where are they willing to (also) getting to know your professional site ?

Depending on the business field and target group, an 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

As another thought - people prefer dealing with people. This also applies to the B2B sector. Therefore, depending on the target group and business field, it can be a good thing if potential new customers also visit your private site from time to time. This is another argument for not only opting for LinkedIn when it comes to social selling, or for posting personal things at LinkedIn from time to time.

Step 2 - create an appealing profile

Before starting with your social selling content, you should optimize your profile in a 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 have a good impression of your services or the offers of your agency.

LinkedIn has some advantages in this regard as well, of course, because it gives you so many options to present yourself. Not only can you show your CV here, but you can also highlight certain content and customize many other things.

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

So you should put in a little effort here. But it's worth it, in my opinion. Because your entire external image will benefit from clarity. Once this has been achieved, you also need a good profile picture and a supporting cover photo. With this, 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 can come up with topics out of nowhere. That's great, but it doesn't work for everyone. You might also produce a lot of rubbish.

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

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

It is important that you keep the interests and needs of your potential clients in mind. Because I'm convinced 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 ensure 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 as well.

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 categorize 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 as the basis, 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 should determine your choice:

  1. what isrealistically feasible, in other words - what are you confident of, what does the budget cover for and what do you feel like doing?Livestreams, for example, may be the latest trend, but if you don't like them and don't want to learn get your head around them, don't do them. Videos are great, but you would have to divert the resources for them elsewhere.
  2. what is a good way to present the topic?When giving 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, which potentially successful format are your competitors overlooking so far?
  4. What's hot on the platform?  If you aim to achieve something on the social web, you should always look at the formats currently promoted by the providers themselves. When LinkedIn introduced the article function, for example, it was initially possible to reach many readers. This has become much less by now. Instead, photos and videos are more in the foreground.

On a final note, the question of content format is not an either/or decision. You can implement a topic in several formats to appeal to 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's better to focus on one thing rather than getting bogged down and spreading limited resources too thin.

Step 5 - make regular appearances

After all the preliminary work, it's now a matter of actually putting your ideas into practice. In larger organizations, 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, all of this is clearly oversized. In this case, you should still determine for yourself or for the team how frequent you want to be active. Set it as a reminder, a recurring to-do or a regular calendar entry - however you organize yourself. If you don't, 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 your chances of being 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 ebook here in the magazine.

A good transition to the next phases of your sales funnel is important, among other things. 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. Interesting and helpful posts can become a viral hit in a social network like LinkedIn, after all. 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.

There's no need to rush the aforementioned steps. Take your time to evaluate and optimize 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 hear about our latests online marketing posts? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

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