Social selling should be to professional services firms what peas are to carrots – a match made in heaven.
Given that many professionals dislike the word sales and its connotations, social selling, in contrast, fits well with the approach of those in professional practice.
Hubspot defines social selling as:
“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”
In a professional services context I prefer to think of it as “the process of generating work from existing and prospective clients by sharing content they want to consume via social networks and in so doing build your personal profile and stay top of mind.”
Social selling in professional services firms
Essentially it’s using another set of tools where these clients and prospects are active to do what you’ve always done:
Unlike traditional “selling”, social selling shouldn’t push you too far out of your comfort zone because its principles of building credibility and trust will be familiar to you.
The fundamentals don’t change – you still need to identify people’s pain points and make them aware of legal and other changes that require them to take action (or could require them to do so down the track).
Your content still needs to create more questions in their minds so that they want to find out more.
How do you go about social selling?
In order to successfully socially sell, you need a laser focus – it’s not about taking a scattergun approach but about building relationships one by one.
- Know who you’re looking to build relationships with and how you want to be perceived. Put together your buyer personas as doing so will help you develop your plan.
- Make sure your social profiles clearly position you and, where possible, EVIDENCE your expertise. For example, you can publish to LinkedIn and your three most recent posts will appear towards the top of your profile, you can upload documents or link to pages on your website/blog, you can include social proof in the form of recommendations and endorsements (if permitted in your jurisdiction), and you can highlight projects, cases or matters on which you’ve worked.
- Connect with those you wish to build relationships with – including existing and prospective clients, influencers, referrers, journalists and colleagues.
- Engage: position yourself as a go-to source of information by doing people’s reading for them. Have a clear content plan that talks to people at different stages of the buying cycle and then use social networks to get this seen by more of the right people. For example within LinkedIn you can use tags, groups, direct sponsored content, sponsored updates and ads to get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. Link this to point 5!
- Seek to move people beyond LinkedIn into your lead nurturing system – i.e. targeted email lists. If your content is useful but is creating more questions than answers then people will want more. You can create a really useful how-to or White Paper that gives them what they’re looking for and they can access it simply by signing up to a targeted list you’ve set up (i.e. within your initial content you’d highlight this as a way to get more answers in exchange for their email address). It’s then a case of nurturing them through your system.
- Create more face-to-face opportunities as a result of doing the legwork online.
Social selling is not about overtly promoting yourself. It’s about being a resource to your target audience and using your content, including conversations, to start to build a relationship with them that you can then move beyond the social platform.
Today’s consumer is savvy and well researched, with a wealth of information at his/her fingertips. By being front of mind and creating a trusted, credible presence via social networks you are, by default, social selling.
Thoughts? What does the term “social selling” mean to you?