social sellingSocial selling is a hot buzzword being thrown around today. What is social selling and how do tomorrow’s top sales people use social selling to become top performers?

Social selling is not just about starting the sales process with social tools like Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter. Social selling is about sales people building a strong personal brand. It is about understanding the role of content and how content can be used to tell a powerful and emotional story. And it is about growing your social connections.

I even predicted that social, content and personal branding would drive the future of business in 2013.

What is Social Selling?

To me, social selling is simply the process of helping social buyers become customers. We are still trying to get our potential customers to know, like and trust us. In order to do this, sales people need to learn new ways to reach prospects through their own social networks, to create and share valuable content and ultimately, to grow their personal brand.

Social Selling is an extension of the Social Business imperative. Social Businesses are transforming their view of the world and their entire operation from an inward focus to a customer focus. Empathy is the key ingredient to the success of business in this increasingly social world.

What is Personal Branding?

To get the best answer, I turned to personal branding expert Dan Schawbel. Dan defines personal branding as:

Those characteristics that make you unique and how you communicate that to the world. The objective of personal branding is  professional success and is directly linked to the success of the company we serve.

Personal branding means you are not wasting your time because you are on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin during company time. It means that your time spent on social networks is helping you to find and nurture your next customers and grow the business.

Social + Content = Personal Branding Success

To be successful in social selling, sales people need to build a strong personal brand. This starts with putting a stop to the overly-promotional content marketing echo chamber. It means our sales people start to grow strong social connections and become effective storytellers. It means they start to pay attention to the factors that help them raise their social influence on platforms like Klout.

5 Steps To Social Selling Success

Social selling success is comprised of both making new connections and sharing great content. You start by identifying your target audience and connecting with their network of influencers. With content, you seek to surround your target audience and those who influence them with content they want to consume.

Social selling success does not need to take hours a day. You can find time for social media by cutting out activities that do not grow help you help your social network. Recently I was asked by one of our sales leaders to define a “day in the life” of a successful social sales person. Here’s my 5 steps to social selling success:

  1. Define and “touch” key influencers in your space. Set a goal to engage with a certain number of influencers every day. Create an influencer twitter list, subscribe to their blog or company RSS feeds, comment on and share influencer blogs. Use social platforms to “talk” to your connections. Ask questions like “can you recommend the best websites you go to for helpful information? Or what conferences are you attending this year?
  2. Add new connections. Set a goal of adding a specific number of connections every day. On Linkedin, always use personalized email introductions based on something personal. Use Klout to tell you who influences your target and their influencers
  3. Check your social inbox: Twitter mentions, Linkedin, RSS feeds.
  4. Add RSS feeds to email you share-able content for your network. Go here for a full list.
  5. Share at least one story from the sources above with your network on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.

Social + Content = Your Personal Brand from Michael Brenner

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

28 Comments

  1. Kasie Hilburn said…

    Great article, took away the Klout piece as a new great tool for my toolbox.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Oh thanks Kasie. There’s really no tricks to it. Create great content, gather a “tribe” of social connections who are interested in sharing it. Your personal brand and your influence will grow. I am so glad it helps.

  2. kenny said…

    social smarketing :)

  3. Sabrina said…

    I like what you wrote about content and storytelling. My friend posted this article on LinkedIn Thanks! Sabrina

  4. Troy Amyett said…

    Great definition of social selling and great advise on strategy, Michael. Definitely worth sharing.

  5. Yaritza said…

    Great article. It helps keep things in perspective and to get clearer idea on the steps to take.

  6. LeadGenix said…

    Great article. Important to remember that social selling is foremost about gaining trust from and engaging with potential consumers. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Chen said…

    Hi Michael,

    I took your advice to heart and started implementing immediately.

    but what of the privacy limitations?
    for instance, linkedin doesn’t allow invitations without actually knowing the contacts. this makes networking very difficult (even if I write a personal invitation).

    Loved the article.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Chen, I think the reason that limitation exists is to prevent spamming. So I would suggest working within the confines of your existing network to reach those outside it. I realize that’s harder than it sounds but ultimately should produce stronger connections.

  8. Michael said…

    Nice article, Michael! Content is key here. The better, more interesting content you put out, the more likely others will share it. As they share it, this will bring in an entirely new audience to your business.

  9. Mohit Garg said…

    Any suggestions how to encourage team members to take up social selling?

    • Michael Brenner said…

      I have this conversation almost every day. It takes consistent delivery of the message that the world has changed and the old methods are becoming less effective. Eventually, they will not be able to pay the bills. And that is why your colleagues need to look to the way people want to interact with the business.

  10. Andrew Kobylarz said…

    Hi Michael,

    Great article, as usual, had to ask:

    When you’re building your brand as a social sales person – two things come to mind.

    1. Your ability to sell which you can easily demonstrate via suggestions in your article.

    2. Your credibility to your customers, again which you can easily demonstrate.

    But with regards to #2 – how to do you maintain that credibility with sales people constantly shifting into new roles – how would you approach remaining credible when shifting into a new role with a new product or different industry, etc.?

    Let me know if you need me to clarify my question further or if you can take it from there!

    Thanks

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hi Andrew. Great points and questions. I think with regards to #2 I think that credibility is not dependent upon someone’s role. I think credibility comes down to how much you become a trustworthy and likable source of information. So as long as you keep your customer’s needs in mind, and you curate and share information with your audience that is helpful to them, and you engage with the audience regularly, then I think a social sales person can stay relevant no matter what they are selling.

  11. Koka Sexton said…

    Michael, great post!

  12. Rob Parker said…

    Great article! I think this type of social selling will soon become the norm as small businesses learn to engage frequently with their new and potential customers online and through social media.

  13. Sajeel Qureshi said…

    Great article Michael.

    One thing we’ve noticed with our SMB customers is they get put-off by ‘social-selling’ and think going to Twitter, LinkedIn to get leads or target potential customers etc is a waste of time.

    We frame it in a real world context for them. I wrote a post about it here

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sajeel-qureshi/get-anyone-to-return-your-call_b_5463827.html

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