For as long as there have been buyers and sellers, selling has revolved around relationships: who you know.
There are, however, new challenges. Your prospects and customers are busier than ever, actively ignoring and blocking your marketing messages. They’re resistant and resentful when being “sold to.” And they have unlimited access to information about you, your company, your products, and those of your competition. What’s more, they’re turning to people they know, like, and trust to educate themselves, diagnose problems, and, ultimately, make a buying decision.
In a recent Forrester survey, 74% of business buyers said they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. These invisible sales stages, in which buyers initiate the selling process without calling on sales, gives them tremendous freedom to browse, learn, and compare without influence from sales. This online sales cycle is happening more and more frequently on social media: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, and has given rise to “social selling.”
The concept of social selling is a response to these fundamental changes in customer behavior and in customers’ buying processes. It’s also about directly engaging prospects on their terms, as well as learning their marketing, buying, and communication preferences. Just think about all the social media updates people make everyday. They are telling us their wants, needs, and frustrations.
With social referrals becoming increasingly crucial to the buyer’s online research process, and buyers almost expecting to be sold to on their terms, if you’re not social selling, you’re a dinosaur. Think about it – we’ve gone from selling features and benefits, to selling on value, to selling solutions, and have now reached the pinnacle with selling to specific needs at specific times.
But social selling doesn’t replace the old way of doing business. It just makes selling easier. For example, marketing departments can trigger the release of email communication based on visits to specific pages on their website, and sales can provide pre- and post-sale service via social media.
Jay Abraham once said, “People are silently begging to be led. They are crying out to know more about a business’ product or service. When you educate your customers, you’ll see your profits soar.”
So practice social selling and meet your customers online, interact with them on social media and give them the information they want, and watch your sales grow!