Most of us would probably agree that the average person does not want to be sold to. As much as we all buy products and services and experiences, we don’t want them to be sold to us. People don’t like to feel the pressure. When we recognize a need or a problem we look for a solution, and that’s when we traditionally reach out to Sales. Buyers have to contact Sales to inquire about a solution, get more info, and eventually make a purchase. This puts Sales in control: the buyer has to come to them.
But the modern buyer operates within a completely different environment, so the modern salesperson must fill a completely different role. With such free access to information, buyers can do their research without ever contacting a company. They can seek out reviews online, find testimonials on social media and find out the general public sentiment about a company before Sales has a chance to get involved. If the company has an e-commerce system, buyers can pretty well avoid every potential Sales interaction.
Social media provides a wonderful new environment for the modern buyer, but the modern seller is able to benefit too. Sales can see how prospects interact in the social environment as they volunteer information about themselves in real time. They can track what prospects are reading, who influences them, where they seek out information and so on. This gives Sales an opportunity to tap into the same networks and build trust within a community the prospect already belongs too. Now, when a prospect is ready to make a purchase, guess who they think of first?
Not only that, it facilitates customer-Sales interactions in a way that benefits both parties. Sales listens to prospects and customers in real time, meaning a better understanding of customer needs. Prospects hold Sales accountable to always provide engaging information rather than make constant sales pitches. Plus, this power-neutral relationship allows less formal and more immediate communications: Sales can reach out to new prospects or rekindle interest by old customers without ever picking up the phone.
Social Selling is defined in Eloqua’s Grande Guide as “the practice of leveraging social networks…in the overall sales function, from lead generation, to closed deal, to account management”. Social Selling is a way of responding to the changed buyer environment, and it works better for both parties. Sales is able to connect with potential buyers much earlier in the cycle and start building a relationship that can lead to more and bigger purchases. And buyers still have control over what information they provide and the degree to which they engage with Sales.
As much as the way the modern salesperson does her job is changing, the goal of Sales is still very much the same. Fundamentally, Sales is responsible for getting a buyer to the point where they can purchase. Buyers still start the cycle by seeking solutions to their problems. Branded thought leadership content is great during this information gathering stage. Then buyers narrow down the list and compare their best options. Sales can share internal and external content that touts the benefits of their solution. When the prospect is ready to buy she looks for social proof. Having an engaged social media following of current and past customers is exactly that kind of proof.
So Sales is still working towards the same objective, they’re just taking a different route through a new environment. Now, Sales accompanies the buyer throughout the whole purchase journey. “Selling to” a prospect means building a relationship over time, building trust with the buyer, and eventually making a transaction. And what better way to build that relationship than to engage “socially”, with Social Selling?