Not that long ago, people didn’t have information at their fingertips, and businesses were successful in using outbound sales and marketing methods such as cold calling and email blasts to close sales.
Today, the buyer’s journey has changed thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and other advancements in technology. Now, 57% of the purchase journey is completed before a customer has contacted a business (according to CEB), and 67% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally (SiriusDecisions).
The rise of social media has encouraged organizations to look into ways that they can use the technology, which has led to the development of social selling.
What are the benefits that social selling offers?
1. It appeals to the modern buyer
B2B buyers have 12 to 18 non-human and human interactions along their buyer’s journey (Sirius Decisions), and 68% of buyers prefer to research products and services online (Forrester). It’s essential that you develop and push information and content on social channels that resonate with your target audience and provide the solution to their problems.
This will enable you to influence their choices and position your business as front of mind.
2. It allows you to build “real” relationships
How many cold calls do you actually answer, listen to and respond to?
It’s time for businesses to break down the barriers around selling and get on the same page as their customers. Social selling supports this as, through social media listening tools, you’re able to listen to topics and conversations that are relevant to the insurance and risk management industry.
Added to this, a survey from IBM revealed that only 43% of consumers trust the insurance industry, and the lack of trust in insurance providers has remained above 50% since 2007. Social selling helps you build trust among your audiences by giving you insight into what’s important to your prospects and presenting new opportunities and leads.
3. Your competitors are already using social selling
71% of all sales professionals are already using social selling tools, so if you aren’t you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage (LinkedIn). A report by ITDS revealed that 100% of insurance firms are active on LinkedIn.
According to a study by Capgemini, 22% of insurance policyholders cite social media conversations and interactions as having the highest impact on their purchasing processes. This ranks above the influence of the advice of friends and family, which only 17% of policyholders indicated as most important.
4. The Mere Exposure Effect
The Mere Exposure Effect was first spoken about in 1968 by social psychologist Robert Zajonc. This social phenomenon states that the more a person is exposed to something, the more the person will develop a preference toward that thing over time.
Social media lets businesses tap into this theory through regular and consistent posting and updates. When you’ve created and put into action a dedicated strategy, you can begin to use social media channels to your advantage and ensure that you have messages trickling through all the channels that your audiences use, creating multiple touch points with them.
If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail…
To successfully leverage social selling, you need to optimize your social channels to showcase your expertise. For example, research from LinkedIn revealed that members with a photo receive 21X more profile views and nine times more connection requests compared with those that don’t.
So, what do you need to do to give a positive first impression on your social channels?
Here are my top tips:
- Post a professional head and shoulders image of yourself
- Write your bio/summary to highlight your expertise and what you do on a professional level
- Include links to your website and other social channels to encourage visits
- Use hashtags that your prospects follow
- Create lists on Twitter to monitor content from specific accounts
- On LinkedIn, include your job title and keywords in your headline, ask for recommendations to boost your credibility and join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry and begin networking in them
Social selling best practices
Once your profiles are ready to be rolled out, it’s time to kick off your social selling strategy.
Start by creating a plan and setting aside time to dedicate yourself to building your social presence. Being present on multiple social channels can be time-consuming, but if you spend 30 minutes every day monitoring your channels, engaging with others and posting content it’ll help ease the pressures and ensure your feeds are always up to date.
Create and stick to a content plan
The purpose of a content plan is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging and sustainable content that engages, resonates and attracts your target audience. In today’s social web environment, getting the right message to the right customer at the right time is crucial. To stay front of mind, build rapport and trust and position yourself as an expert, you’ll need to have a solid content plan in place.
Take advantage of social listening
Create and use social lists and monitoring streams to collate what people are saying about you, your company, your industry and competitors, and identify what questions they’re asking and topics they are talking about.
Maintain relationships once you’ve created them
Once you’ve made connections, it’s important to stay engaged with them. So, comment on and like the content that is posted by your prospects.
Be sure to offer advice and guidance to them and contribute to their conversations in a meaningful way if they ask questions.
Success stories from other customers have a lot of weight, and research from Pretty Links suggests 92% of buyers trust recommendations from peers, and 70% trust recommendations from strangers.
By gaining and sharing third-party testimonials, you’ll start to build your credibility with prospects, and it’s more likely that they’ll begin to trust your business.
See also: Business Models, Moats and Startups
Tracking metrics such as likes, comments and shares will allow you to identify the types of content that resonates the most with your audience. And, it’ll enable you to determine if your social selling activities are paying off.
Understand when to take your connections offline
To land a sale, you’ll need to escalate the connection with a prospect by offering a call to continue the conversation offline and on a deeper level. It’s important not to push a call before prospects are ready.
Research revealed that the dollar value of the opportunities for insurance companies to drive results through social media is over $15 million a month (Marketing Tech).