As social media has grown to occupy a central place in the lives of consumers, with an estimated 30% of online time spent on social media, according to GlobalWebIndex, many activities that once took place offline, or only through specialized web portals, have now moved fully online and into social media. As consumers shift both their online habits and consumption patterns, companies and salespeople have had to adjust how they build their funnels and connect with potential customers.
Social selling allows salespeople and companies to directly interact with prospects and customers on social media platforms. As Marie Wiese talks about in her article “Death of A Salesman: the Rise of Social Selling” in Forbes, social selling is all about creating trust. “During their buying journey, people want to believe that someone cares about their problems and needs,” she writes. Social selling allows salespeople to address consumers directly, provide support, and answer questions as those consumers move through the decision-making process.
Social media networks are starting to take notice of the rise of social selling and are working to make those interactions simpler.
Facebook introduced Marketplace in 2016 as a way to encourage social transactions and Instagram has recently included shopping functionality in Instagram Stories. Brabble, a startup based in New York City, is a social networking app that integrates audio, video, images, and text. In addition, one of the network’s most prominent features is *StarTags, a special link that can be embedded in posts and shared throughout other social networks. Beyond their shareability, *StarTags also collect data about the users who click on the links, providing valuable information for companies and salespeople to use in refining their campaigns. Brabble’s *StarTags have such proven utility for sales and lead generation that the company is launching *StarTags in a software-as-a-service form in 2019.
Salesforce recently published an article on their blog called “A Mini-Guide to Social Selling” that provides some statistics and information about the state of social selling. As Regis Crawford, the author of the article, writes, “You can’t afford to live in the past.” 61% of organizations that employed social selling report an increase in revenue growth, 79% of sales reps who use social media outsell those who don’t use it, and a lead developed via social media is seven times more likely to close.
As both Wiese says in her Forbes article and Crawford says on the Salesforce blog, social selling is an important tool for salespeople and companies, but it’s not all about relentless promotion of products and services. There is, of course, some element of promotion, but social selling just as often involves listening and community engagement. As Wiese mentions, the primary goal for sales reps should be “earning trust and building a relationship.”
Social selling will only grow in importance in the future. As Statista estimates, the number of digital shoppers in the U.S. could grow to as many as 230.5 million by 2021.