During the COVID-19 lockdowns, LinkedIn, the world’s preeminent social network for professionals, has seen ongoing growth in both total members and engagement. As of April 30th 2020, LinkedIn had 690 million total members, increasing from 675 million back in January, according to Social Media Today. Professionals watched nearly 4 million hours of content on LinkedIn Learning in March, a nearly fifty percent increase month-over-month. LinkedIn Live streams are up 158% since February.
LinkedIn now has more users than ever before – and they’re growing more and more active as they embrace new customer engagement and social selling strategies. According to LinkedIn’s B2B blog, 90 million LinkedIn users are senior-level influencers – four out of five decision-makers are on the platform. More than two new members join LinkedIn every second.
The Evolution of Social Selling
Social selling, often mistaken for social media marketing, is a distinct tactic that enables you to connect with, understand, and cultivate prospect relationships on THEIR preferred platforms – whether it’s LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok or something else. This gives your buyer a chance to learn more about you – as well as your company – and internalize how your products/services help, why it matters, and why you’re the right business choice for THEM. Building these relationships generates a sense of trust – in turn you become the first person/brand/organization that comes to mind when it’s time to buy.
Chances are your target audience already engages in social buying, and at least some of your competitors engage in social selling. An IDC white paper determined that roughly 75% of B2B buyers use social media networks as a part of their purchasing process, and another study found that customers are typically halfway done their buying process before they reach out to a salesperson.
Social selling allows you to be present during the critical first half of the buyer journey – as you position who you help, how you help and why it matters now.
Cold-calling and face-to-face meetings are rooted into every sales department’s DNA. But they all but vanished in the wake of COVID, forcing seasoned pros to seek new sales engagement tactics – and compete against a new generation of digital-savvy hunters. One LinkedIn study showed that over 70% of all sales people have adopted social selling – if you’re a millennial salesperson, the adoption rate is nearly 80%.
Continually expanding your social network and connecting with new people helps boost your profile recognition, puts you in the spotlight and helps you attract even more prospects. Social Selling leaders like Gary Varnychuk, Shay Rowbottom, Brian Golod and Sir Richard Branson know how to grow their reach, leads and sales. Curated and released weekly by David Rosendahl, co-founder and President of MindFire, the LinkedIn “Movers and Shakers” list for the Print and Marketing industries benchmarks those who have achieved the highest follower growth, and fosters social selling tips, strategies and engagement.
How to Get Started
While it takes work, providing meaningful and useful information to your buying audience is the cornerstone to successful social selling. Here are 4 tips to help you get started.
- Engage. Authenticity is key. Though you may be tempted to automate with liking and sharing tools, it can do more harm than good in long run. Instead, explain WHY you’re sharing, liking, or commenting – whether it’s your own, your company’s or third-party content.
- Listen. Your prospects essentially describe what they want and need in their social buying process, so pay attention! Monitor what they say about you, your industry, and your competitors – whether that be feedback, requests etc. This will not only position you to serve them better, but also to become their problem solver.
- Provide Value. Contrary to what the name implies, Social Selling is not about pitching your products/services. It’s about helping your prospect transition from “I’m just looking” to “I’m ready to talk to a salesperson”. This leads us to the next tip.
- Build Relationships. Stay in touch and keep listening. Remember that building a human connection increases the likelihood that you – and your company – will be top of mind when it’s time to buy.
One of the biggest challenges facing today’s sales teams is the need to deliver the right customer experience at the right time – and how to figure out when that is – throughout the buyer journey. Whether it’s you – or your competitors – whoever makes their way into the first half of your prospects’ buying process, will find it easier to win them over and close the sale.