What is Social Selling?
In this digital age, social networks have transformed the way people buy. – 67% of the buyers’ journey is done online and 94% of business-to-business buyers conduct online research before purchasing. Many believe that cold-calling is dead, but I am here to assure you that this is not true. The landscape of selling has evolved to keep up with the new digital world; therefore, social selling has quickly become the most effective sales technique and has modernized the traditional sales strategy.
In simple terms, social selling is when a sales representative uses their personal LinkedIn or Twitter (rather than the company’s) to find and engage with new prospects. In the B2B world, LinkedIn and Twitter are the platforms where social selling is the most effective.
Instinctively, most salespeople focus on selling their products rather than nurturing relationships. Social selling is an approach focused on providing subject-matter expertise to prospects which builds credibility. It does not involve spamming and sending cookie-cutter messages through social media; it focuses on creating genuine, one-on-one relationships that, in time, can be taken offline.
Sales representatives should view social selling as a rapidly-emerging and complementary way to engage customers – a tool equally important as the current norms of calling and emailing. Social media is not a replacement for outbound prospecting efforts, it is merely a medium, and if used correctly can enhance and elevate your prospecting efforts.
The bottom line is social selling works. 78% of salespeople who use social selling outsell their peers. Additionally, the best in class companies who use social selling see a 16% gain in year over year revenue. 
Today, buyers are deleting emails and ignoring phone calls. 90% of decision-makers say they never respond to cold calls.  Social sellers are able to listen in on conversations happening online, find their prospects discussing their pain points, and reach out to prospects with useful information when the time is right.
Steps to Optimize Your Personal LinkedIn account for Social Selling
1 Look up your Social Selling Index on LinkedIn.
This index will provide you with a score based on four pillars:
- How well you’ve established your professional brand
- The quality of people you connect with
- How much you engage with insights
- How well you build relationships
It’s a good starting point to see how you can start improving your social media efforts as a sales representative.
2 Create a customer-centric online brand for yourself.
Ask yourself “Does my online brand support my reputation as a sales professional who solves problems and can be trusted?”
When meeting someone in person, you may get a couple of chances to leave a good impression on them. However, online, you get one chance. If a customer goes to your profile and doesn’t like what they see, they’ll just move on. Your online persona is a direct reflection of your personal brand. That’s why it’s worth investing time in developing and perfecting your social profiles.
3 Edit your title and “about me” section to be buyer-oriented.
Describe to the customer why they should trust you and how you can solve their problems for them. Write in the first person, make it conversational, and well-written.
4 Leave your contact information on your profile – the very best thing that can happen is a prospect calls you and wants more information.
5 Upload a professional LinkedIn photo. Profiles with photos receive 21 times more profile views.
6 Start connecting to your customers and clients, your competitors’ customers and clients, your target accounts, influencers, and thought leaders.
7 Create a search alert on Linkedin for your ideal customer profile and connect with those people when they join LinkedIn.
8 Search Linkedin for relevant keywords such as CRM software suggestions and contribute to these conversations.
For example, this person asked ‘what is a good CRM software we can look at for small businesses? Any suggestions?” These are the types of signals you want to look for and engage with.
9 Join LinkedIn groups. If your ideal customer profile is a small business owner, then search for groups relating to small businesses and start connecting with them.
10 Connect with people who view your profile.
If they’re viewing your profile, they probably have an interest in what you do, so shoot them a warm and non-salesy connection request. Also connect with people after meeting them in person, especially if they have the potential to become customers.
11 Start engaging! What does engagement look like?
Share and publish content, answer questions in groups, post thoughtful comments
Reach out to your network on LinkedIn, target 10 – 15 solid leads, and simply try to establish that foundation of basic human connection, ask them how they’re doing without discussing products or services. Be open to being vulnerable and acknowledge the fact that this is an uncertain time. Doing so, you might ignite a spark for a friendship/relationship that’s outside the realm of just a sales representative. By planting the seed and developing an online relationship with them now, you will be top of mind when the world returns to normal.
Dasha Trakhimets leads the social practice at Mercato Partners
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.