How to create a strong beginner social selling program
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Social selling has become an essential strategy for businesses looking to expand their reach and increase their sales in today’s B2B market. By leveraging social media platforms, companies can connect with potential customers, establish trust, and ultimately close more deals. But how do you get on this road to success?
We get it! Starting a social selling program can seem intimidating – especially if your team is new to the idea of social selling. But no worries. In this article, we’ll explore how you can quickly start a social selling program for B2B and provide tips on how to make it successful.
To-do’s before you get your social selling program up and running.
But before you buckle down and focus on your business’s social selling approach, you must ask yourself three critical questions: Are your relevant decision-makers on social media? How big is your potential to reach your audience on social? And what are your competitors doing on LinkedIn?
A handy tool to evaluate this is the LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It helps you map out your target market and your competitors’ activity. If you don’t feel up for the task, we at ReadyForSocial can help. We don’t charge for this service since we see it as a part of our business development. If interested, you can expect a management-ready one-pager, including our “Social Selling Power Audit” and “Social Selling Heatmap.”
Seven steps to your social selling program started.
Let’s return to our tutorial on how to start your first social selling program. Once you answered the three previously mentioned questions and feel comfortable with the data you selected, you can begin the planning and incorporation process, which contains seven individual steps.
Step 1: Define your objectives.
Defining your objectives in social selling is crucial for achieving success in your social selling efforts. But before determining your goals, you must clearly understand what you want to achieve. Asking yourself the following questions will enable you to get a clear vision:
⦁ What are your objectives for bringing your salespeople on social media (awareness, lead generation, a specific campaign)?
⦁ What are your KPIs? How are you going to measure them?
⦁ Who is your audience? (What segment do you focus on? Who are your key decision makers and decision influencers?)
Step 2: Define a pilot group.
The next step is to test your social selling efforts with a specific business or sales unit, also known as a pilot group. This phased approach helps you to first build a working program around this limited team, collect data and feedback, and improve the program before rolling it out further. Now, what does your ideal pilot group look like? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
⦁ From our experience at ReadyForSocial, it is best if your pilot group is coherent, such as a sales team addressing a specific market (e.g., the pharmaceutical industry in the UK).
⦁ The leadership of that team should be in support of this idea and get involved however they can. That can make a real difference!
⦁ Have users opt into the pilot group – do not impose it on anyone. And don’t just ask, “Who wants to participate in social selling?” Set up an info session for the entire team, and explain what it’s all about and what commitment you expect from them. Important note: Your pilot group should be tracking the success of their new activities and be ready to share them with you. Nothing is more potent for further implementation than reported leads – ideally with mini case studies – that your sales team has generated through LinkedIn.
⦁ Concerning the composition of your pilot group, we recommend going a bit broader than just sales. Inviting your product, technology, project management, or marketing colleagues to participate is great. These people often have in-depth expertise and can – because they are not ‘sales’ – credibly – build an audience around their topic.
⦁ Pilot participants should have a particular affinity or interest in social media and, ideally, some firsthand experience and a modest network (more than a couple of hundred contacts) to build on.
Step 3: Define your content strategy.
Content is one of the critical factors in social selling. Social selling relies on building thought leadership and adding value to your network. How do you do that? With content. Think about:
⦁ What content interests your target audience? What topics is your audience most interested in? Which formats work best? The options range from case studies and customer references to white papers, interviews, and one-pagers.
⦁ Which of these content pieces do you already have available in your organization? What content could you produce with a reasonable amount of effort?
⦁ What messages and tone of voice should you use on social media?
⦁ What external content sources are you aware of that talk about your topics of interest? Remember that only about 20% of your social media content should be your business’s content. The other 80% should be third-party content. You can use content from industry sources, like websites or blogs, that your salespeople or your target clients read.
Gather all this information in a document, a ‘content strategy,’ and align it with your sales team. Need a template? We are happy to share ours! It’s tried and tested with no strings attached.
Step 4: Define your KPIs.
KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are essential metrics used to measure the success and progress of a business or organization toward achieving its goals. Defining KPIs is critical in the performance management process as it sets expectations and defines success. KPIs can vary depending on the industry, organization, or department, but they should always align with the overall strategy and be communicated clearly to all stakeholders. Here are some ideas:
⦁ Find your ‘social sellers’ activity level: You want your pilot participants to be active. A good indicator is the activity level of your social sellers: do they regularly share content? Do they grow their networks?
⦁ Do they get engaged in the content they share? This question means: Does their audience like and comment on their posts? Do they get responded to their direct outreach with messages?
⦁ Do you get more traffic to your website or specific landing pages based on the posts your social sellers share?
⦁ Do they generate new leads and close new business because of their social selling activities? Now, this may not be as straightforward as it initially seems. Lead generation and business development are multi-faceted exercises, especially in B2B. It involved different channels like email campaigns, outreach by phone, (virtual) events and meetings, and social media. To find out what contribution social selling had to generate a new lead or winning business, you can track the lead source or attribution of social selling in your CRM tool. If you still need to set up your CRM that way, you can ask your social sellers via a survey.
Communicate your KPIs to your social sellers, and have realistic expectations concerning results: It can easily take 6 – 9 months to see concrete results regarding solid leads. That’s normal and part of building your personal brand, networks, relationships, and thought leadership.
Step 5: Choose the tools you need wisely.
We prefer to keep things simple. There are many social media, social selling, content aggregation, and distribution tools, some of which are great!
However, you can start your social selling program with basic (free) LinkedIn accounts of your social sellers. One thing that you do need is a way of getting content to your social sellers, though. You cannot expect them to find that on their own. If you want to wait to invest in a tool, you could put together a simple email newsletter, put the content on a shared drive or co-working tool like Asana or Trello, or make it available via a specific intranet group.
Whichever way you prefer, choose something easy and efficient for your sales team. You can always upgrade your toolkit once you see what your team needs.
Step 6: Train and support your team.
Kick off your social selling pilot with group training for the social sellers. Teach them the principles of social selling and the basics of personal branding, social networking and engagement, and sharing content. While you’re at it, we even recommend inviting a larger group than just your pilot group, so more people in your organization can benefit from your ideas and help your sales team drive engagement on social media.
Make sure to have regular touchpoints and further training throughout the pilot period. Social Selling training is not a one-off; it’s more like a change-management process. People will have questions, need motivation, exchange best practices, provide feedback, and acquire more in-depth knowledge. You will want to have someone ready in your (marketing) team to ‘hold the hand’ of your pilot group for the first few months.
Of course, you can also bring in external experts, but depending on your geography, we recommend using someone local. If you have a social media or social selling-savvy colleague in your organization, who can dedicate time to this, you can do this on your own.
Step 7: Measure, improve, close, roll out.
With everything described above, you’re ready to implement your social selling program. During the pilot, you will want to measure results regularly (we recommend weekly on a broad level and monthly in more depth). After the first month, communicate preliminary results to your social sellers and ask for their feedback. Then make the necessary improvements.
Keep your management posted about the progress and results you see. At the end of the pilot program, create a management report and share it with other business units that might be interested. This way, you can find additional units in the organization interested in your program.
Set your social sellers up for success!
Are you excited to get your beginner social selling program off the ground and set your social sellers and business up for success? It’s in your hands now!
Let us know in the comment section if this step-by-step guide was helpful or if you need additional help on your way to social selling greatness.
Photos by Maxim Ilyahov, Chad Madden, Francisco Venâncio, and Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash