David Petherick is known as Doctor LinkedIn. He has helped individuals and organizations to be visible, legible, and credible on LinkedIn since 2006. Connect with David on LinkedIn, follow @petherick on Twitter, or visit his website here.

What is social selling?

Let’s try to define what social selling is. Hubspot has tried to explain it in under 100 words.

“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”

In my view, there’s a simpler, shorter definition. Social selling is developing and nurturing relationships with prospects through social media. This process is not restricted to your sales team. The more people who are involved with interacting with prospects socially, the greater the potential benefits for you and them.

1. How do I start with social selling?

Firstly, you should make sure your social profiles are aligned with your professional objectives. Once that is done, start getting into relevant conversations.

Step 1: Establish a Professional Brand

Conduct an audit of your own social media channels, and ensure that your messages are clear. It’s also important to ensure that all of your staff’s LinkedIn profiles are a good reflection of your brand. They should all look professional, and ideally have a header image with your brand. They could also have an agreed text in place for consistency. Your LinkedIn Company Page is an important channel. Make sure it is professional and consistently presented.

Step 2: Listen with Social Media

It’s tempting to jump in and start talking about yourself. But remember, it’s always better to listen before you open your mouth. There are several tools available on the market to aid social listening. However, conducting advanced searches and tuning in to specific hashtags can also be done manually.

Step 3: Engage on Social Media

Use what you have learned about how your prospects are describing their issues to guide your interaction. The key is to show up regularly. A content schedule or diary can help with this. Always strive to add value. Produce guides that answer frequently asked questions or offer advice on solving common problems. They are useful assets to create and share.

Unless you have unlimited resources, don’t try to be everywhere. Look at your existing customers and prospects. Work out where they spend the most time. TikTok may seem alluring as all the cool kids are making noise there. However, if your customers and prospects are not active in a particular social channel, you may be wasting resources and time.

2. What tools and techniques will help?

Hootsuite is a good example of a tool you can use for listening and for managing teams responding to prospects’ social interactions, and also offers the ability to schedule social updates.

You can also use tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which, in essence, gives you more tools to track prospects and keep notes about them. But don’t try to automate too much – you don’t want to come across as a corporate monolith, but rather as a group of helpful individuals.

I use Turtl docs as part of my social selling strategy, where I create stories that add real value with tips, how-to guides, and insights. Plus, I can see from analytics which issues are of most concern to prospects to inform updates and create new information.

You can also use #hashtags strategically to help others surface your ideas – I recommend having one ‘branded’ hashtag to tie together all of your updates and use one or two others relevant to the conversation you are engaging with.

3. How can I measure success?

Ultimately, you’ll want to measure conversions and actual sales, so you need to be systematic in attributing social selling efforts through a CRM or tracking system. Again, there are several commercial tools available to aid this process.

However, your success may also include the issue of brand awareness and engagement with your teams, so your listening tools can aid in this process.

You also may wish to define what success looks like – measuring interaction with your social activities is also valuable, as sales cycles can be lengthy and complicated – and the role of social selling should, after all, be to assist you in your sales activity, not to replace it. Growth in followers, growth in engagement, and growth in the number of conversations you take part in are worth monitoring and studying to see what strategies are most successful.

4. What should I avoid doing?

In one word, you want to avoid selling. Nobody wants to be sold to in a social media context. It’s more a focus on education, answering questions honestly, and selectively using relevant collateral such as white papers, testimonials, and customer success stories where they are adding value and offering insights. Serve before you sell.

It’s also good to share content and point to useful resources that you may not have created yourself. Being helpful and informed about your area of expertise includes sharing your knowledge from wider afield, and being agnostic in your recommendations.

5. Remember to nurture existing customers

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that your existing customers also need to feel you’re paying attention to them. They are, of course, the most important people in your business, so don’t neglect them in the headlong pursuit of new customers through social channels.

Make sure your teams working on social selling know precisely who these customers are, and are using appropriate tools to make their interactions with them efficient and easy to measure.

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