The first book that we are featuring on our blog this year is “Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers” by Tim Hughes and Matt Reynolds.
Tim and Matt wrote this book as a manual to outline the changes that have taken place in as business has gone digital. Buyer behavior has changed and salespeople need to develop processes to reach customers early in their decision-making journey. In order to be successful, salespeople need to be on social media because it’s where prospects and customers make their buying decisions.
This book offers a step-by-step guide for everybody who wants to start developing and utilizing the skills and techniques necessary to achieve success in the digital age.
Social Selling is a Different Way of Buying
What is social selling? And what has changed? At the opening chapter of this book, we learn that “sales has traditionally worked by having the salesperson ‘interrupt’ a C-level executive. The salesperson would traditionally have to fight the gatekeeper (personal assistant), secretary or voice mail) to eventually have a conversation with the C-level executive”.
The way things have changed is that businesses are now finding out that they can achieve better results by asking their employees to use social media to research solutions to problems. The result of this is that the salesperson is being pushed out of the buying process — or rather being pushed further down the process until they have to be included.
According to the authors, this book “is a reaction to this change in buyer behavior. It proposes a way of getting the salesperson back into the buying process so that they can once again take control and influence the buying decisions of the business.”
This definition points out a very important fact. It tells us that social selling isn’t a reaction to social media creating a new way to sell. Social selling came about because social media created a different way to buy. The authors explain that “social media offers better, more efficient, and less biased information than would have come directly from a sales person.”
The Importance of Community
Don’t, under any circumstance, skip the chapter about community as it explains everything we need to know. We learn that community will bring people that don’t even know about our products and services to us. “Done right, the result provides branding, awareness, thought leadership, reputation, demand generation and lead nurturing”, says Tim Hughes.
Community is not about the amount of followers. It’s all about the engagement and conversations. Companies need to focus on their own communities to drive their message and share content that adds value to their community.
“Engaging prospects early and often in the decision cycle is now a prerequisite of modern business, and the battle for attention is fought through subject matter expertise and thought leadership in a non-promotional format.”
The way to establishing yourself as a thought leader leads through being on the lookout for ways to help people. This can be done in a form of answering questions, making introductions or amplification of their work.
Communities can be built with current customers, employees but also with your industry influencers. Here’s how the authors of this book explain why we should add influencers to our outreach strategy. “The highest level of maturity is to find influencers to discuss and amplify your message. If you can get other ‘lords of the manor’ to positively discuss and share items about your brand then you will grow your community as they give you access to their communities.”
Networking on Social Media
Networking on social media can seem scary to some people. The fact is that it is not much different from meeting people in real life. “In the world of sales, when we go for a first meeting with a client, we quickly need to create a connection between people as prospective customers and ourselves. That connection can be made from rapport, trust, mutual understanding and respect, and that all has to be built or created in a matter of minutes”, says Tim.
Today, we have to be able to do this in the online world because this is where our buyers are. Before we start interacting and connecting with people, we have to make sure that all our social identities are set up well and help to position us as thought leaders and not spammers. Tim and Matt go into great detail on how to set up your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles in a way so they attract people and encourage them to reach out to you and seek your services.
Having presentable social identity on social media itself won’t bring us new customers. What will bring us new customers is a community. This is why we need to be active and engaging in conversations with our connections and strive to turn them into relationships.
Another super important point that the authors discuss in this book is the need for being a good listener. “When we are in a conversation with somebody we often hear what they are saying, but I’m not sure we actually listen to what they say. Why?
In any conversation, while somebody talks we are thinking about what we are going to say next – we may even be trying to work out a way to move the subject away from certain areas. Our mind is in another place. That is the difference between hearing and listening. Listening is where we hear and maybe even note down what the person is saying”, Tim and Matt explain.
We learn that in order to be successful in turning contacts into relationships, we need to be practicing a technique called “active listening”. It’s not about repeating back to the person what they just said, but rather building on what they said and adding value.
This applies to starting conversations on social media as well. We all have to be in the social river and listening to what our prospects and customers are saying on both company and individual levels. It can help us answer some of the most important questions such as “what is really important to them?”.
Find Your Customers’ Digital Footprint
In the chapter about networking on social media, Tim uses a real life example of how he got to know our Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara. Here’s how Tim tells the story: “Jon set up a call with me a few years ago, which was where he was going to pitch his product to me.
Some recent research showed that people were 40 percent more likely to prefer going to the dentist than to receive a supplier pitch. I was sure Jon would be different, but I was knocked out by how different he was.
Jon is based in California. Usually what happens when I have a call with people on the US west coast (which is eight hours behind me in the UK) is a conversation about the weather and what time it is.
Jon was different; he had done his research about me and his first question was, ‘What’s your favorite vinyl record?’ We then spent the first 15 minutes of the call talking about vinyl and the bands we had seen. This level of rapport knocked me out and if we are ever in vinyl shops we send each other photos.
This for me is such a great example of somebody that took the time to research me and found out that I collect vinyl records. In the first 15 minutes Jon build rapport (he also collects vinyl) and we got to know and trust each other better through our own respect of rock music.
Jon ‘nurtures’ our relationship through that mutual interest by sending me photos of record shops or rare copies he has obtained. He and his product are then front of mind.”
The information about our prospects and customers is out there and it’s up to us to find it. Spending the extra time on doing our research can really help to break the ice and can have some great results. The story about Tim and Jon is a great example of that!
Influence The Influencers
Salespeople can influence people to buy from them by going out and meeting with them. They are influencing people’s behavior away from choosing a competitor towards choosing them. In the digital era, sales people can build their personal brands all the way to being considered an influencer in their industry, a sort of a celebrity.
The great advantage of this is that the celebrity status allows the salesperson to reach and influence prospects’ and customers’ decisions without having to actually meet up with them and therefore achieve better results on a large scale and create inbound.
Working on our personal brand and influence is not enough. Simultaneously, we also have to be focusing our energy into building relationships with other influencers. “You need influencers in your community as it helps you validate your brand and will bring you amplification and growth.
You always need to talk to strangers but you should also see organic growth, just like when you go to a networking event. The group that is laughing the most is the group people want to be part of. Successful communities will breed success”, says Tim Hughes.
You might be thinking something along the lines of “great, but how do I develop a relationship with an influencer?”. Great question! Tim advice is one that he has already given us: “When reaching out to an influencer, use your best active listening techniques. Read the material they write and when you connect with them, sell them the parts you like best of all”.
Traditional Sales versus Social Selling
In this book, we learn that social selling and traditional selling are not that different from each other. The fundamentals are the same, we are just using new tools.
Tim explains this on the example of traditional B2B telesales “which typically works by a salesperson having a list of people to call and then working through that list methodically. Some proportion of calls will turn into conversations. Some conversations turn into meetings. Some meetings turn into leads. Some leads turn into opportunities. Ultimately, some opportunities turn into sales.”
The important thing here is that in order for it to work you have to do something. If you don’t make phone calls, you don’t get meetings. If you don’t interact on social networks, you don’t get meetings. Essentially, what we are doing is replacing the list building and interruption aspects of the traditional sales process with social networking activities.
“What are people on a social network therefor if it’s not to buy and sell? Well, the clue is in the name: they are there to be ‘social’. This is why we have stressed that you have to be perceived as being useful to people on the network. You do this by being a supplier of timely information, which in itself delivers value, as opposed to just a supplier of goods and services. By building up a community and building up authority around the ‘domain’ of that community, you are able to create value.”
Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers is a step-by-step guide that teaches salespeople, sales leaders and marketers how to use social media to develop relationships with decision-makers and reach them early in the decision making process.
What Tim and Matt teach us is that in social selling, the salesperson’s primary job is to build trust relationships and authority, and not to sell. They teach us that in order to achieve real success with social selling, we have to be actively engaging in public conversations. Public conversations are important because they are the last stage before private conversations and we all need private conversations to grow our business.
Sales and marketing professionals that are just getting started with social selling will find this book very helpful and enjoy the detailed instructions on how to develop their personal and company brands and start seeing success in the online world. The advanced social sellers will also benefit from reading it as the authoers go deep into how organizations should implement social selling and track results.
Let us know if this post inspired you to give ‘Social Selling’ a read.
PS: Feel free to watch webinar we did few months ago with Tim Hughes about social selling skills to influence buyers.