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What is Social Selling and How Do You Do It?

April 6, 2022

It’s no secret that the way people find, research and buy the products or services they need has changed. The great consumer shift to online shopping has been ramping up for years and all of the world’s biggest brands have adapted to it with their own methods, knowing their continued viability depends on their ability to maintain digital transformation.

To illustrate the importance of this space, consider that 54 percent of U.S. consumers now prefer to shop online. 

So, how can sales representatives, account managers and other business development professionals adapt to a world that no longer prefers face-to-face interaction? What strategies or new approaches are available to close the gap?

There are a handful of different options, but social selling is arguably the most effective and worthwhile. We know 90 percent of top-performing sellers use social media in their sales strategy and that customers spend 20 percent to 40 percent more money on brands they’ve interacted with on social media, which provides a compelling argument for why businesses need to embrace this approach. 

But before you log into your social platform of choice to begin pitching your connections, it’s critical to have a strong foundational knowledge of what social selling is, what practices make it most impactful, and how to determine whether your efforts are paying off.

We’re here to help you start selling on social media the right way and avoid many of the common pitfalls that put sales representatives in precarious situations. Keep scrolling for our complete guide on social selling, why you need it, and how to sell on social media successfully.

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What is social selling?

Social selling is the practice of leveraging your social media network, via providing value and forming genuine relationships, with the ultimate goal of converting your connections into paying customers.

You may have heard myths that social selling is aggressive or involves sending unsolicited spam pitches to all your followers, but these are simply common misconceptions. Truly effective social media selling takes time and happens organically, after trust has been established.

 

The 4 pillars of social selling

There are four key elements that must be communicated when answering the question “What is social selling?” These pillars include:

1. Establishing a consistent and purposeful brand identity

Before you can convince your social media connections to buy from you, they need to be familiar with your brand and trust you enough to invest in the product or service you’re offering. Maintaining a consistent presence on social media and ensuring your brand is communicated powerfully through both design and content is the best way to achieve this.

2. Accurately identifying ideal customers

Ask anyone who knows how to sell on social media and they’ll tell you knowing who you’re selling to is as equally important as knowing how to sell to them. The age, gender, interests, purchase behaviors, occupations and unique buying motives of your target audience will all determine what value you can provide and how you build your online relationships.

3. Gathering insights and data

Every strategy has to be based on verifiable measurements and metrics in order to yield maximum results. Social selling strategies are no different. With the right analytical data, you can adjust your strategy as you go, further strengthening your social connections and making it easier to achieve your desired results. 

4. Building lasting, long-term relationships

There’s no such thing as “get rich quick” when it comes to social selling. You need to commit to an ongoing strategy and remain consistent in your efforts over time. Engaging with your followers by commenting on their posts, asking them questions, offering a free giveaway, or speaking to them directly via a live video broadcast are all excellent ways to build a bond with your followers and ensure your connections stand the test of time.

 

What is the Social Selling Index?

If you’re considering trying out social selling strategies for your brand, chances are you’ve heard of the Social Selling Index. The Social Selling Index is a tool offered by LinkedIn that places a numerical value on a person’s ability to build their personal professional brand. The score ranges from 0-100, with 100 being the top indication of success.

LinkedIn’s algorithm determines your score by ranking your results in four different categories:

1. Profile

Having an optimized, well-branded, active and engaging LinkedIn profile is a must if you want to increase your SSI score. Profiles that are missing vital information, have a run-of-the-mill summary, or haven’t received a recommendation, for instance, will struggle to maintain a favorable SSI score—making it more difficult to build a strong personal brand or generate significant social sales.

2. Search

LinkedIn’s algorithm, much like Google’s, uses keywords to determine what a profile is about, what industry its content is related to, and where the profile should appear in search results. If your headline, profile summary and job descriptions aren’t optimized with relevant keywords, people will have a more difficult time finding you on the platform, and those who do view your profile may not find it as captivating or relevant as your competitors’ profiles.

3. Sharing

LinkedIn notices when you share original content that relates to your industry or the target market you are trying to reach. Its algorithm rewards long-form content like articles or thought leadership posts, in particular, as well as when you share relevant news or updates from other industry movers and shakers.

4. Networking

Anybody interested in selling on social media needs to be a networking star, which is why LinkedIn also takes your connections into consideration when calculating your SSI score. And remember, this isn’t just about how many connections you have, but whether or not your connections engage with you frequently, have legitimate profiles themselves, and align with your target audience.

The Social Selling Index is a valuable tool for measuring your success, which is a crucial part of successfully selling on social media platforms. 

 

Why is social selling important?

So, what is social selling’s purpose and why is it so important for businesses? In order to truly grasp the importance of social selling, you need to understand its value. This is where things really get interesting!

Utilizing social media for sales isn’t just a matter of adapting to a digital world. It actually produces results and streamlines the selling process

The benefits of social selling

1. Shorter sales cycles

One of the greatest grievances sales professionals have about their job is the amount of time it can take to establish and nurture a lead before closing the deal. It’s a problem that’s particularly concerning in specific industries, such as enterprise tech or financial services, where sales cycles can last up to a year or more.

The good news is that social selling addresses this problem. In fact, 39 percent of sales professionals say social media reduces their contact time with potential customers, and 14 percent say it shortens their sales cycle overall. So, if you’re looking for ways to expedite your selling process, it’s likely time to invest in some high-quality social selling strategies.

2. Improved lead generation

Did you know 51 percent of B2B marketers reported social media improved lead generation and sales growth in 2020? Or that LinkedIn is responsible for generating around 80 percent of all social media leads for B2B products and services?

Businesses that want to increase brand awareness and attract more prospects need to understand that LinkedIn is more than a platform for online resumes—it’s a powerful sales tool that’s capable of boosting bottom lines and yielding lasting results.

3. Instant customer insights

Social media platforms offer a broad spectrum of analytical tools that provide real-time data on how your connections interact with your content, what their interests are, which of your competitors they follow, and much more.

All of these insights can inform your social selling strategies over time, allowing you to personalize your campaigns and more accurately address the concerns or pain points your connections are experiencing. Remember, 66 percent of consumers expect brands to understand their individual needs: Social selling gives you the opportunity to meet those expectations.

4. Stronger client retention

Studies show social media as part of your customer relationship management strategy can improve retention by as much as 27 percent. And since increasing customer retention by just 5 percent boosts profits by 25 percent to 95 percent, that’s definitely not a statistic business owners or sales professionals should take lightly.

Having an active and engaging social media presence allows you to build trust with your online connections, increasing familiarity and strengthening your credibility—all of which keep you top of mind and ensure your followers come to you when they are ready to make a purchase.

5. Sharper competitive edge

Let’s cut to the chase—your competitors are utilizing social media, and if you don’t make the same effort, they are going to increase their market share and nudge you out of the picture.

Remember, 77 percent of consumers say they stayed loyal to specific brands for 10 years or more, which means if your competition captures them, it’s going to be extremely challenging to convince them to come back. The best way to remain competitive is to be proactive in maintaining a strong online presence.

 

How to sell on social media: The best platforms to use

Getting started with social selling is the hard part. After you get comfortable with social media platforms and begin seeing the impact they can have on revenue generation, you’ll forget how intimidating it all was when you first started. Plus, there are many social selling tips and best practices you can rely on to help you see results. 

Here are the three social platforms we recommend using and our top sales tips for each:

1. Social selling strategies for Meta (Facebook)

Facebook Live Events

One of the most successful ways to sell on Facebook is to host a Facebook Live event where you talk specifically about a special offer, product or service. Facebook Live streams generate 10x more engagement than standard videos, making them an excellent way to connect with potential customers and educate them about how you can help them or offer them value.

Some of our favorite social selling examples come from Facebook Live events. Birchbox, a monthly makeup subscription service, for instance, regularly hosts live tutorials in which they use the products that will be featured in their upcoming mail-out. This is an excellent way to get customers excited about the product while simultaneously providing them with educational value.

Facebook Shops

Facebook is currently in the process of rolling out its latest feature, Facebook Shops. It’s a virtual storefront that exists within the Facebook platform itself, but that can be customized to look like a standalone website. 

Essentially, Facebook Shops allows brands to display products and promote them to an already existing audience: their social media followers. It’s also incredibly easy to promote products, since Facebook will automatically pull information from your Facebook Shop when you use its built-in ads management system. 

Last but not least, you can tag items in your Facebook Shop in your Facebook Live videos, creating a seamless shopping experience to your audience members.

 

2. Social selling strategies for LinkedIn

LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn groups are a highly effective way of generating leads when they are utilized properly. You can start a LinkedIn group for just about any purpose imaginable, from networking groups, to local meetups, job boards, or discussion forums.

To maximize engagement it’s best to stick with a specific intention for the group and to prioritize genuine connection as opposed to promotional content. 

Many business owners have generated significant revenue from LinkedIn groups, including Eric Blumthal, a tech company owner, who attributes 50 percent of his company’s earnings to the LinkedIn group he owns.

Content retargeting

This is another explosive way to expand your online presence and skyrocket your social media selling results. Simply put, content retargeting is the practice of identifying people who have interacted with a post you’ve commented on or reacted to, reaching out to them to acknowledge you share similar interests, and inviting them to connect.

The reason content retargeting is so effective is because the content you’ve mutually responded to serves as an icebreaker, giving you a reason to request them to join your network and ultimately increase the likelihood they’ll accept.

 

3. Social selling strategies for Instagram

Story ads

A whopping 50 percent of Instagram users say they’ll visit a website after seeing it in their stories. If you want to create ads that convert, running Story ads is definitely a worthwhile strategy. Instagram offers powerful targeting capabilities, allowing you to show your ads based on gender, geographic location, language, interests and more. 

If you’re still hesitant, don’t overlook the fact that Instagram Story ads receive 78 percent more clicks than ads shown in the timeline feed. Now is the time to invest in creating compelling ad content for this medium! 

Saved replies

Many users have no idea they can set automatic responses within Instagram. If you’re one of them, allow us to blow your mind! You can increase your response rates and maintain your connections without allocating time and resources to manual responses. 

With quick replies, you can identify your followers commonly asked questions and save canned responses to these questions. The next time you receive the question, simply tap the three dots at the bottom of your screen, select your canned response, and hit send. This is an ideal feature for sales professionals and busy business owners who want to remain engaged with their audience but who also want to avoid typing out the same conversation over and over again.

Remember, 79 percent of social media users expect a response in the first 24 hours. Being able to quickly reply to Instagram messages and provide your followers with the information they need is an essential part of the sales process. 

 

Close more deals with Crunchbase

Crunchbase makes social selling a breeze with automated prospecting, personalized insights, and key integrations with sales tools like Salesforce to save you valuable time and boost your pipeline. And, with Crunchbase’s new Chrome extension, you can bring the power of Crunchbase to your workflow with access to best-in-class company data and millions of contacts on key web surfaces such as LinkedIn and company websites, and sales tools like Sales Navigator and Salesforce. 

 

Here are just a few of the ways our all-in-one prospecting solution simplifies the sales workflow:

For sales professionals, account managers and business owners who value accuracy and in-depth insights, Crunchbase is the ultimate sales prospecting tool

If you’re ready to power up your sales performance and fully tap into the revenue-generating power of social media, Crunchbase can equip you with the best-in-class data you’ll need to make it happen. It’s time to stop missing out on sales opportunities. Start your free trial today.