It’s safe to say that for the foreseeable future, social selling isn’t going anywhere. As we move deeper into the age of extreme personalization, and relationship-based marketing takes precedence over the shotgun blast of semi-targeted lead-gen efforts, social selling seems a perfect fit.
Unfortunately, the reality of actually doing it – and doing it in an organized, reproducible way – is still a bit of a mystery. Right now, social selling works like the tech for self-driving cars: On a case-by-case basis, it’s beautiful, seamless even. It’s when you try to scale it or integrate it into existing processes that problems arise.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. After all, if we’re not the people to figure it out, who is? Rather than waiting for the Hubspots of the world to issue an authoritative guide or suite of tools, we’ve got to do what we do best: Get to work.
Here’s a good place to start.
Leverage social listening tools to bring the conversation to you.
You could spend forever and a day diving deep into blog culture and LinkedIn to find the right groups, the right conversations within the the right groups, and then try to identify and understand who within those groups is worthy of your time and effort. Or, you could choose to bring those relevant conversations to you. If that approach sounds easier, it’s because it is.
Chances are that some element of your marketing team already has licenses for one of the top social listening tools, and getting them to add you will allow you to track keyword and key phrase mentions across social and the web, making it super simple to discover people in need of your product/service.
Stalk your competitors’ social accounts like there’s no tomorrow.
A great place to find and connect with people who have an obvious desire to buy is on the social accounts of your competitors. It’s a place where people go to support brands, sure, but let’s be honest… it’s also a place people go to vent about this or that dissatisfaction with a product.
That’s where you come in. Add these folks to a specific Twitter list or social stream and kick your relationship-building efforts into high gear. If done right, these people are low-hanging fruit.
Add valuable and potentially valuable people to your personal networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and track their progress across time.
Not everyone you connect with during these efforts is going to be ready to go. But whether they’re not quite ready to buy or not in a decision-making position, it doesn’t mean your efforts are wasted. Using a self-updating contact manager, you’ll get clarity and be alerted as people you’re connected to change positions and jobs. Then, armed with the intel you need, you’ll know when and how to apply the hard sell and when to just keep it light and chatty.
Use relationship management tools to offer personal attention to a wide variety of people.
There are all sorts of relationship management tools that essentially allow you to maintain what appears to be regular, personal contact with a whole bunch of people simultaneously. Each have their advantages and disadvantages (and a CRM like Salesforce might be a bit overkill for a 1-2 person social selling effort), but having information and reminders like this at your fingertips is always helpful.
The kind that seem to work best for social selling are those that track the strength of the relationships you have and then recommend individualized strategies for strengthening them. These tools combine a CRM component with data analysis to recommend conversation topics and content as a means of connecting more closely with the people you want to.
Become a content expert.
Developing expertise in a large body of content gives you a series of advantages. But just having great content lying around isn’t good enough–you should also keep an organized list of all relevant pieces that might even sort of touch your ideal buyers’ pain points. It makes it easier to share relevant, seemingly personalized content with your prospects as a way of leading them through the buyer’s journey you’ve designed, yes, but that’s not all.
Content expertise, especially when you take the time to either curate it on social media or blog yourself, has the potential to actually draw potential social sales to you. They’ll engage with you for their purposes, and you can engage back for yours.
What I’m talking about here is not a cure-all for the complexities of social selling. It will still take effort, and we’re likely a ways off from seeing any kind of meaningful automation. But the proven methods I’ve discussed above make bringing it to scale easier and more efficient. Yes, prospects will still need personal attention, decision-making on your part, etc. But with larger systems of discovering, connecting with, and maintaining relationships already in place, you’ll find your whole social selling effort a lot more rewarding.