If you pay careful attention trends in sales, you’ve probably already heard quite a bit about social selling over the course of the last few years. But, you might not be fully privy to what it means, what it entails, and why it has become the go-to sales strategy for many of the world’s biggest enterprise B2B companies. Many confuse social selling with social media marketing, which is a completely different strategy, disconnected from social selling strategies.

Is social selling a fly-by-night trend that you should disregard? A buzzword that won’t be referenced five years from now, like so many other industry trends of the past? Unlikely. Social selling is a strategy that incorporates sales tactics that are as old as time and merges them with new age technologies to provide sales teams with a more effective way to build relationships with prospects and customers.

Data has shown that sales teams that incorporate social selling into their processes outperform those using more traditional tactics. According to a recent study by Hootsuite in 2017, 49% of B2B enterprises have developed a formal social selling product while another 28% are currently in the process of doing so. Further, one in three B2B professionals has said that social selling tools increased the number of leads that they generated.

To understand why social selling has made such an impact on enterprises, you have to understand what social selling is and why it is so effective.

What is Social Selling?

What is social selling? In short, social selling is the art of using social networks and online communities to find, connect with and nurture sales prospects through your sales pipeline. It is estimated that by 2021 there will be more than 3 billion people using social networks worldwide.

social selling tools

Social networks provide a modern way for sales teams to develop lasting relationships with potential customers and keep your brand and products on their mind. It’s a natural first point of contact that feels less invasive than a cold call or cold email.

With social selling, you position yourself as someone that can provide value. You listen to their problems, join the conversation at the right moment, and present yourself as a solution to those problems in a thoughtful way. You can address a need that prospects have without being invasive or annoying in your attempts to make comment. You have conversations, instead of just becoming another unsolicited pitch for those prospects to ignore and delete.

So — social selling is simply using online social networks and tools to engage prospects and build relationships. While there are some set strategies that are typical in social selling programs, there is also a lot of room for creativity and nuance in the strategies that you employ. Social selling can be custom-tailored to your own processes and products while securing better, more engaged customers in the process.

Why Businesses Should Engage in Social Selling with Intent Data

There are many benefits to adopting social selling practices and meshing them with more traditional sales methods. But all of those benefits boil down to one basic fact — social selling works.

Among sales reps that employ social selling tactics, 78% of them are outselling their peers. When you break down the actual nuts and bolts of what social selling is, you’ll find that many of the techniques employed in social selling are not dissimilar from more traditional sales tactics — the difference is in how those tactics are employed and the platforms used for delivering and engaging in communication.

Social Selling with Intent Data Builds Solid Relationships

Perhaps the biggest benefit of social selling is in the quality of the relationships that it is able to generate. Using social tools like LeadSift to monitor conversations within your industry puts your team in a position strike while the iron is hot and provide value exactly when the topic is top of mind.

Leadsift allows you to identify when would-be prospects are talking about your company, solution, or engaging with competitors. Then, your sales team can reach out to them in their time of need to help them solve the issue.

90% of executives never answer or return cold calls. However, a much higher percentage will respond to tweets and legitimate social interactions from a helpful source, even if that source is a sales rep. Cold sales don’t often result in solid relationships with prospects. With cold outreach, sales teams are just plucking the low-hanging fruit — companies that actively want their solution and ready to buy. Those strategies overlook companies that are at earlier stages in the buying process.

Because more B2B professionals are using social networks to share information about their pains and concerns, your reps can go into these interactions with a personalized approach for each client. No more substandard email templates that you blast out to a list of prospects that makes even interested parties leary of your value — you’re engaging in real conversations that actually deliver them value even when it doesn’t result in a sale.

Intent Data Prospects Are Already Engaged in Social Buying

When you use LeadSift’s business intelligence to identify prospects who are actively asking questions within your industry, they are excellent nurturing targets. Positioning yourself as a source of information and answer to their questions helps to lay the foundation for building trust. When you identify a cold prospect there is no guarantee that your product is top of mind. With intent data, you have the reassurance that there is relevancy, based on the discussions that you can observe.

A recent study from IDC found that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of B2B executives use contacts and public conversations on social networks as part of the B2B buying process. B2B companies that aren’t engaged in social selling are missing opportunities and aren’t a part of the conversations that they should be.

If You Don’t Adapt, You’ll Be Left in the Dust

If you brush off social selling as the latest trend or buzzword that will disappear in five years time, you’ll be left behind. Despite social selling being somewhat of a new phenomenon, 90% of the top salespeople are already using social selling tools to help them connect with prospects. Brands in every industry are embracing social selling as the preferred method for building long-lasting, steady relationships with prospects and intent data plays a key role in your ability to identify those prospects quickly and engage.

LeadSift is an excellent tool in the arsenal of any company that wants to engage in social selling. Our data helps sales reps to not only identify social selling opportunities more quickly and reliably, but gain a top-down understanding of their needs based on their public interactions across the spectrum of public social networks, forums, and communities.