Social Selling: Your guide to understanding and utilising it for your business

Social selling. You may have come across this term before, but not be entirely sure what it means. To put it simply, social selling is about cultivating and engaging possible sales prospects through social media. It is a technological approach to sales in which businesses use social media to find, connect, understand and nurture future sales prospects.

The reason why this is a valuable method, that will help to grow your company’s global outreach, is because consumers rely on the internet to help them to make a purchasing decision. Think for a moment, when you are considering buying a product or service, where do you go for research? My guess is you often go online. You perhaps check Google or the comments on a company’s Facebook page. Consumers want to know what they are paying for and so it is important for a business to convey the value of what it can offer on social media.

Now that we’ve established what social selling is, it is time to put the theory into action.

First, you need to find the right prospects for you and to do that, you must listen strategically. By searching on your social media platforms for keywords relating to pain points, your competitors, or your industry, you can identify potential customers and opportunities for you to interact with them.

Once you have established a pool of prospects, you need to show up. Even though you aren’t engaging with the customer via a phone call, you should still make use of your personal touch. Consumers prefer to know that they are engaging with a physical human being who cares about helping them make the right purchasing decision. For this reason, avoid using automated messages when replying to a client and instead take the time to write out a custom response. A personalised message will leave a positive lasting impression on a prospect. This means that they are more likely to trust you and trust is what can turn a prospect into a client, particularly in the context of developing rapport with more remote overseas customers.

Sending a message or responding to a comment is a good starting point, but you should continue to put effort into actively building a relationship with them. Staying in touch is easy, especially on platforms such as LinkedIn which are designed for the purpose of networking. You don’t have to constantly respond with a personalised message on every one of your prospect’s posts, but rather pay attention and jump in from time to time with a like, share or casual comment.

As you start to develop an audience, the final thing to do is ensure that you are providing value. The audience you build on social media isn’t going to continue to follow you just because you’re there. You need to repeatedly provide value to them until they come to know, like and trust you, and are willing to engage with you. You can become a useful resource for your audience by sharing your expertise in the form of hints and tips or inspirational content that fits in with your consumers lifestyle. These are little things which add up in the eyes of a prospective customer. They show that you aren’t just trying to push your product or service upon them, but rather care about establishing rapport with them. It’s also much harder to gain new customers than to retain the ones you already have so providing continuous value via social media is essential.

The opportunity that social media provides for businesses to connect with their customers worldwide is invaluable, yet severely under-utlised by most businesses today. Give your business an unfair advantage against competitors by capitalising on social selling and the benefits it can bring. You can learn more about social selling during the Department for International Trade’s Selling Online Overseas Accelerator Programme. This is a six-week opportunity available to businesses in Yorkshire, free of charge, where I and other industry experts will show you how to use online channels to deliver your products or services to overseas customers. Apply at bit.ly/sellingonlineprogramme.

Enterprise Growth Solutions, in partnership with the Department for International Trade, is delivering the contract for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which provides £7.1 million of support for first time, but also experienced exporters as part of the Exporting for Growth Programme.