12 May 2016 13:24:25 IST

The art of social selling

How can sales people hack into growth? By leveraging social media, says a new book on social selling

What are the four Ps of selling? Saying Please, Please, Please, Please!

Jokes apart, selling may be the oldest profession in the world (yes, it is the oldest and not that other one) but it’s also a tough job. Getting a foot in the door is an art in itself. But today, social media presents a key that can open that door. In the age of digital, social selling has unlocked doors to big sales and has become an important channel for any organisation.

Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with prospective buyers. According to Social Centered Selling, 72.6 per cent of salespeople who incorporated social media into their outreach process outperformed their colleagues. And they met their targets 23 per cent more often.

Guided Tour

Social selling is a whole new way of thinking and working, write authors Apurva Chamaria and Gaurav Kakkar in their instructive book You are the Key: Unlocking Doors Through Social Selling published by Bloomsbury. Chamaria is Vice-President and head of global brand, digital, content marketing for HCL Technologies while his co-author Gaurav Kakkar heads Digital Marketing for the company.

Companies like IBM and HCL have incorporated social selling in their strategy and the book is peppered with case studies. Essentially, it is a how-to manual on social selling, mostly in the B2B space, giving you step-by-step instructions. As the authors point out, social selling is quite different from social media marketing and purely focused on sales professionals — it’s more about one-to-one messaging and relationship building than about disseminating mass messages.

Finding The Platform

The first step is to obviously have a presence on social media, where you can make connections with your target customers. Professional platform LinkedIn is the preferred choice of social sellers, followed by Twitter. According to a recent study by Feedback Systems 84.1 per cent of social sellers use LinkedIn and 48.6 per cent use Twitter.

Chamaria and Kakkar also highlight the importance of using other channels like SlideSarem, Facebook Pages, Google Plus and so on.

The authors say personal branding too helps in social selling. And the route to good personal branding on social platforms is by putting out great content. Share blogposts, great content, news and trends — and always use your company name in social profiles. The book also tells you how to gather and use analytics from these platforms.

Content is the fuel

Social selling is fuelled by content, say the authors. So the content has to be thought out and aligned to the sales funnel. Create awareness, curate a lot of engaging content, listen and respond. The book then gets into the nitty-gritties of what sort of content works on which platform. On Facebook, images and videos work better, and content should be light-hearted. On Twitter, it should be more text oriented while knowledge sharing and research papers work on LinkedIn.

There is a lot of useful and interesting information in the book about identifying prospects on social media, prioritising them, gauging their influence levels, and understanding their personalities. Finally, it is about listening to the views of the prospects, approaching them and engaging with them.

A lot of people are already doing social selling intuitively without any formal training. The study by Feedback Systems shows that 69 per cent of sales professionals are self-taught when it comes to social selling. In the absence of a training programme or course, this book is a good way to negotiate this emerging area.