Using social media to drive revenue
Technology has transformed the way many parts of your business operates – and sales is no exception. By using social media tools and channels to support your sales team, ‘social selling’ is changing the way we build relationships with customers in a digital age.
Simon Keast, Macquarie Head of Small Business Design and Solutions, says in the Australian market there are potentially just three degrees of separation between you and the people you want to connect with. And this may be why Australia has the third highest LinkedIn usage per capita in the world – ahead of the UK.
Keast observes “a lot of our clients, particularly in professional services, are actively using social media to drive their business results.”
He describes three key applications of social media in sales. “First, it lets you open up your professional networks. You can broaden your reach, not just within your own network, but your network’s network as well.”
“It’s also about knowing prospective clients as individuals, including your shared relationships and interests, to build rapport. You can deepen your understanding of a prospect’s problems and opportunities.”
Finally, it will enhance your credibility if you can position yourself as a thought leader or expert within your network. “Many businesses use LinkedIn as a reference check just before they commit, so this can also help you close that deal by giving them confidence in your expertise.”
Is there return on investment in social selling?
A social strategy can require significant time and resources. So how do you measure the outcome?
“We see a lot of businesses doing things on social media without having a clear plan,” says Jeremy Bolt, CEO of Resolution Media. His firm develops social strategies for clients, and handles social community management.
“It’s seldom we’d find a business that isn't engaging in social in some way, but the ones who do it well have a focused strategy rather than a scattergun approach, and they’re seeing results.”
Social channels can help you generate leads through your networks – the online equivalent of word of mouth. “You can educate the prospect so they become familiar with who you are and what you do at the very start of a relationship,” says Bolt.
A consistent approach to sharing valuable, relevant content on social channels can also help with retention. “Social media is a two-way street,” Keast comments. “It’s also about building your clients’ networks. That strengthens relationships and trust.”
“We are looking at how people are actually growing their network from an initial discussion at an event, and what new business-related activity they are then generating from social.”
Five steps to social selling success
1. Set your strategy
As Bolt emphasises, goal setting is an important starting point. You may want to start by focusing on increased awareness, expanding your professional network, or ensuring you’re part of the consideration set in a buyer’s journey.
2. Choose your channel
“Go where your clients are,” says Keast. For professional services, that typically means LinkedIn, while Facebook is a good consumer-based platform.
“LinkedIn and Facebook are the main ones,” comments Bolt. “But there’s also Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and YouTube. Twitter is more of a real-time response channel for your company news.”
Bear in mind that even though your clients spend time on Facebook or Instagram, these may not be the channels where they’ll be most receptive to your message.
“People may think, why are you here? Get off my feed!” says Bolt. But he also says visual engagement can work for a range of businesses, including Maersk on Instagram and Volvo’s viral YouTube video with Jean-Claude Van Damme. And you don’t need a Volvo budget to make video work for you – Bolt suggests capturing your own stories on your phone and outsourcing some simple editing and music.
3. Create your profile
It’s essential to build a professional individual profile and a company profile. “Your company page is a good place to promote your people and your firm’s expertise, so it is important your team engages with it as well,” says Keast.
Bolt recommends making sure everyone in the business has a consistent message about your value proposition. “It needs to articulate very clearly what you do, and how you support your clients, and use the keywords people might use to find you.”
4. Start connecting
Start by connecting with everyone you know professionally and personally. After each event you attend, connect with the people you just met. Use LinkedIn’s search functionality to target specific individuals or markets. Ask your network to follow or like your company pages.
Keast says it’s important to balance quality connections with quantity. “Quantity will give you the ability to reach out across different networks and get insights into key contacts at other businesses. Quality is the essence of a good relationship where you’ll have more opportunity to do business together.”
Bolt suggests also following influencers in your industry, and connecting with relevant groups.
5. Share insights and expertise
Social media also gives you the opportunity to build credibility and thought leadership by sharing relevant content that adds value to your network. Keast suggests setting aside five to ten minutes a day as part of your daily routine to make this manageable.
He adds the key to success is getting your staff engaged. "That starts from the top – you need the principal or owner on board actively posting and building their networks to give your people confidence. It’s also important to remember social channels will not solve everything – they’re just one tool to help you build your networks and relationships."
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