Eighty-four percent of C-Suite executives and 70 percent of B2B decision-makers now look to social media when making a purchasing decision. Cold-calling and blowing up inboxes will no longer cut it, so if you want to keep selling successfully, you need to adapt. Building a social selling strategy and incorporating it into your playbook can help you reach a new generation of buyers on their own terms and build the trust you need to win a sale—if you know the right decision-makers to target.

A strong social selling strategy isn’t complicated, but it does take the right kind of insight, and flooding a prospect’s feed with cat pics and memes won’t get you very far. You need smart content and a plan of action. Here’s how to find the right kind of insight to inform your social selling strategy—and the best way to deploy it.

What is social selling?

Social selling is the use of social media to generate leads and approach prospects with relevant content with the goal of landing a meeting in real life. Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own a smartphone, and 69 percent of them consider themselves to be social media users—and it’s safe to say that for decision-makers who might buy a MarTech or IT solution, those numbers are both 100 percent. That, coupled with the fact that today’s buyers prefer to do their own research on vendors and then approach a salesperson later when they’re ready to talk, make it clear that the benefits of getting smarter about social make it well worth the effort.

While sellers of generations past once dutifully dusted off their golf clubs and hit the links or suited-up for a swanky cocktail in a smoke-filled lounge to woo their prospects, today’s buyers are wooed and won online. It’s where prospects are spending time, and if you don’t show up, your competitor will.

If you can establish a thoughtful and active presence on social, the place where prospects are turning in greater numbers to vet their own vendors, then you stand a better chance of becoming the Chosen One when it’s all said and done.

Why do so many people get it so wrong?

Social selling isn’t advertising. You’re not broadcasting your solution across social media, then sitting back and calling it a day. It requires active, ongoing participation from you, who as a concerned peer in your prospects’ space, has embarked on the same quest for knowledge as your buyers and just happens to cross paths with them online. Unfortunately, far too few sellers understand this.

A social selling strategy is strongest when there’s little to no actual selling going on. You should be using channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and to a lesser extent, Facebook to engage in thought-provoking dialogue or bringing new insight to the table via links to relevant content.

The problem that many salespeople run into when trying to leverage these channels for greater gain (aside from those who fall back on traditional straight-sell spamming) is that the content they share isn’t actually interesting to their targets—or worse—they don’t have any targets at all.

Sixty-two percent of B2B buyers said they respond favorably to sellers that can connect them with relevant insight, and providing that value should be the main focus of your social selling strategy. Put yourself in position to provide useful information to your prospects that directly addresses their pain points, and they’ll be much more likely to continue the relationship.

Online introductions are just like real-life ones—a bad first impression can be hard to shake. So before you start engaging buyers on the web, make sure you get the scoop on their current needs. Look to your network to see if you have any connections that may be familiar with your prospect’s organization, or even worked there themselves. Any insight you can glean from someone familiar with your buyers’ business will help inform your next online move and prevent you from wasting time by clarifying who the right decision-makers are and what kind of content they care about. 

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Sharpen your strategy with inside insight

As G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.” So, once you’ve worked with an insider to help unmask the right decision-makers, it’s time to target them. Now that you know what their current needs and pain points are, it’s time to scour the web for content that addresses them. Examine your buyer’s social profiles, follow industry thought leaders they follow, join groups they’ve joined, and get up-to-speed on the kind of conversations they care about.

After absorbing all the information that passes through these channels, you should have a better idea of the topics that aren’t being adequately addressed. That’s an opportunity for you to swoop in, provide content, and get a conversation going around a subject you know will be of relevant interest to your buyer.

Accumulate as much collateral as you can to help your prospect address their current needs. Find and link to ebooks, white papers, blog posts, and newspaper articles, then proceed with a light touch. Share often, but don’t spam. Consider setting a goal of tweeting one link per day, and make it a link worth your prospects’ time. And since ninety-two percent of B2B buyers are eager to work with a sales person that is a known industry thought leader, the bulk of your online efforts should go to establishing yourself as a thoughtful member of the industry’s online community, always ready to lend a helping hand and enrich the larger conversation.

If you’ve done the work, buyers will come to you. The public nature of these platforms will put your interactions with other clients on display and strengthen your reputation. And by establishing yourself as a knowledgeable vendor at the center of the conversation, buyers will be drawn to you, for fear of missing out on all the value you—and your solution—can provide.

Executive Insights

In today’s connected world, a social selling strategy is key if you want to keep up and continue to sell. But it’s useless if you don’t know the right decision-makers to target or what kind of information is most important to them. Leverage what insight you can gather from former buyers or contacts inside your prospect’s organization to tailor your strategy. Frequent the same online spaces your prospect frequents and provide value through content that’s relevant to their pain points. Establish yourself as a helpful, knowledgeable online resource, and the real-life wins will flow in.