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Finding a business solution a century ago was simple — you’d ask around, gather recommendations, and then make a decision. Today the process isn’t that much different. There is one significant change, however: The playing field is rapidly expanding through social media.

Marketers have been communicating with their customers for years through social media. As this channel has “grown up,” its younger and more impactful little brother has come of age: social selling.

You may have heard stories such as the one about Sander Biehn, an experienced account rep charged with taking over an account for a Fortune 500 company with 80,000 employees. The problem? His company had a tiny sliver of the business and wasn’t maximizing the relationship to the fullest.

But Biehn had a secret weapon: social selling. He used this tool to grow that little account up to $47 million in sales. And marketers can use the same strategies to connect with prospects in new and more impactful ways. But first, let’s start with the basics.

What Is Social Selling?

The foundation of social selling is relationships, and not just any relationships, but one-to-one relationships. Consider that the majority of B2B buyers, 84 percent, start the purchase process with a referral. In fact, peer recommendations influence more than 90 percent of all B2B buying decisions. What’s more, a large percentage of B2B buyers — three out of four — rely on social media to engage with peers about potential purchases.

It’s undeniable that prospects are turning en masse to social media to find recommendations about which products and services are right for their businesses. Social selling is about finding out what your customers are talking about and then starting a personalized, one-to-one conversation with each of those people.

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Social selling is not about broadcasting useful information to many people at one time, as traditional social media outreach does. Instead, the goal is to provide useful and relevant information at the right place, at the exact moment of relevance, to nurture relationships with prospects. But where should you start?

Powerful Strategies to Jump-start Social Selling

Let’s return to Sander Biehn, who grew his little account into a value in the multi-millions. He started with some basic social-selling strategies that focused on providing people with the right content at the right moment. You can do the same thing by deploying strategies focused on better timing as well. Here are a few to inspire your efforts.

  1. Spend time in the right location. When shopping for real estate, you hear, “It’s all about location, location, location.” Social selling is no different. You want to be where your prospects are spending time. For the B2B market, it might be LinkedIn groups or Twitter. In fact, Forrester Research found that decision makers primarily use those two services. You can even get more specific and drill down your targeting. For example, what is the “big fish” your B2B company would love to land? Do a little research and find out what social media channels that specific company uses. Social selling uses a laser-focused approach rather than attempting to reach the masses.
  2. Jump into the conversation. Social selling is all about being useful in the online space, so get involved in existing conversations about topics that relate to your brand. For example, you can use Twitter’s search function by typing in a keyword related to your product or customer pain point. Who is talking about that topic? Jump into the conversation, comment, and share helpful information. You’ll be truly useful.
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