Social media is more than a way to connect with friends and family, it’s also a vehicle for companies to engage with current (and future) customers.
A LinkedIn analysis found that half of the generated revenue in 14 major industries, including eLearning and software, is influenced by social selling. That’s over 50% of sales directly tied to social media. Why? Social media offers informal opportunities to connect with prospects. These networks are another avenue to extend your brand’s message and reinforce its value proposition. To ensure your team is prepared to leverage your impressive marketing content, sales reps need to be on social media, need to be active on their channels, and most importantly, they need to leverage social media to establish relationships that will benefit your brand both immediately and in the long run.
To identify some insider tips, we consulted with John Dodson, digital marketing director at Cengage. Together, we outlined five recommendations to prepare your education sales team to generate sales results by using social media.
TIP ONE: LEVERAGE ALL YOUR COMPANY SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS
The ability to reach customers in multiple places with varied messages is a huge advantage of using social media in your marketing and sales strategy. You get to connect with prospects online, and your social outreach generates a wealth of valuable data. Your team can glean buying patterns, customer challenges, relevant news, real-user insights and demographic profiles from your social media channels. It’s all about awareness and outreach on these channels, and being willing to engage with your customers where they prefer to communicate. And to this point, Dodson agreed.
“We want people to see content that is relevant to them – it’s our priority to make sure that whatever channel we’re using gives a prospect enough resources to explore and understand a product before diving any deeper,” Dodson said. “Our biggest goal is to nurture the consumer before they get to an actual product page.”
We strongly agree with Dodson about nurturing your customers on social media. Social pages for companies are ideal for sharing news and detailing what your brand is all about. Highlighting the warm and fuzzy moments is easy on social media, so make sure you’re connecting with your audience. Professional pages for sales staff are an excellent way to nurture leads. Used in tandem, company and personal outreach make social media a powerful marketing tool for generating and closing deals.
TIP TWO: DEVELOP A STRATEGY FOR YOUR SALES TEAM
Your sales team will need a plan, but you probably already knew that. It’s a simple fact: learning social media skills requires persistence. The only thing worse than not having a social presence is having a half-hearted one. While we encourage each team member to make a profile, there can be exceptions. A forgotten social media page will be perceived as unresponsive or out-of-date. Social media requires constant maintenance, but the benefits are worth the time investment.
The next step to social media success is straightforward: detail out an organized strategy (on paper).
- Who are the targets in your primary audience?
- What types of content will you create and share?
- What other sources can provide information?
- When will you share content?
- How often will your company post per month?
- How often will each salesperson share content?
- Which channels will you prioritize?
- Which social media influencers could you work with?
It may seem self-evident, but it’s important for your team to populate personal sales pages with content that reflects brand messaging standards. If you haven’t looked at them in a while, start with your brand marketing documents. Share these with your team, and encourage them to be creative within your standards. By giving the sales staff encouragement and guidance, you’re setting your business up for success.
And for you sales folks: remember to always include a call to action (CTA) featuring at least a couple of ways for customers to get in touch. This is about selling more stuff to more people, after all.
TIP THREE: NURTURE YOUR AUDIENCE WITH ENGAGED CONVERSATION
Your sales team will need to understand your brand from top to bottom. Social media will continue to evolve, but for most companies, it’s directly tied to customer service. When your sales team is closing deals with prospective users, they are on the front line of customer service. Responding to a customer with a prompt, genuine message is an effective way to move a lead through the sales funnel, from awareness to consideration to purchase.
Many brands craft talking points or key messages for salespeople to use in these one-off responses. By pre-planning your social media strategy, your team can provide the perfect answers to help prospects feel comfortable with your business. And, your sales team can sprinkle in their own flair and personality to really connect with customers on a human level.
“If there’s one piece of advice that I can give, it’s to stay as relevant to your audience as humanly possible,” said Dodson. “Social channels shouldn’t seem like a wall to customers, it should be a platform for having a two-way conversation.”
Dodson makes another great point here. You can learn as much from your customers as they seek to learn from you. Ask follow-up questions. You never know when you’re going to turn over a stone and discover a treasure chest of insight.
REAL CONVERSATIONS BUILD TRUST
Meaningful conversations cultivate brand spokespersons. Word-of-mouth marketing is always a piece of the puzzle, and generating positive sentiment is as straightforward as being candid and helpful with your social media relationships. When your business successfully helps a customer, hint that a positive review can go a long way. These connections establish positive word-of-mouth and help your customers feel more confident in your brand.
“I can’t express enough how important it is for field sales teams to use social, especially LinkedIn,” said Dodson. “Putting your profile out there is key to becoming a familiar face to prospects, and helping them feel more comfortable.”
A professional social page should reflect the brand, especially for sales pros who are performing social media for sales outreach. But personal and company pages must also paint a picture of your team as humans. What does a salesperson care about and what news do they follow? Where can they apply those interests to the sales process? Which articles are they reading that customers also are reading? The goal is to become a reliable and valuable source of information for your prospects, but also a member of their digital community. When they celebrate life moments, a simple like or retweet can make all the difference.
A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND AS YOU COMPILE A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY TO BOOST SALES:
- Social users remember usernames. Maintaining a consistent handle across social profiles will heighten your visibility.
- Take advantage of your LinkedIn network to build thought leadership and improve brand recognition. Share relevant news and contribute to groups that support your brand’s goals and mission.
- Though we love a great pet selfie or vacation pic, having a professional profile photo goes a long way in building trust. That doesn’t mean you can’t share those cute photos – just be sure a profile picture is representative of your best, professional self.
- Be strategic in who you follow. Think prospects, brand loyalists and influencers. Twitter has a list function that is especially handy for organizing key sales targets into one feed.
- Share useful content! Whether it’s a blog from your company’s site or a useful article, sharing builds credibility.
- Encourage your sales team to share your content. Social media shares are big SEO boosts, so when they push their names online, your site receives a nice backend bonus.
TIP FOUR: POPULATE CONTENT ON CHANNELS YOUR PROSPECTS USE
While these tips will go a long way to creating success, you also must hunt where there is prey. In the B2B world, LinkedIn is king. For general awareness and the most detailed ads, Facebook may be your preference. And, if you’re looking to reach a younger audience, consider venturing away from the traditional LinkedIn avenue to a more personal, evolving channel like Instagram. No matter the channel you choose, you must populate it with valuable content.
“I’m an advocate for sales folks having a professional Instagram account,” shared Dodson. “It’s not only a great way to share relatable content but also gives you an additional platform for building a relationship with customers and prospects.”
This is especially true for brands trying to reach the hundreds of teacher influencers on Instagram, many of whom will want to try your product. Partner with a few educators on an influencer campaign, and they’ll become your best brand advocates. While it’s important to have an online presence, be careful with your time. Prioritize outreach for the channels your target audience uses most, and devote your time and effort where you have a stronger ROI. And remember, this will be different for each brand, so do a little A/B testing on different channels until you find the one that works for you.
BECOME A SOCIAL MEDIA ANTHROPOLOGIST
When using social media for sales, it’s important to study the behavioral patterns of your online audience. Channel your inner Jane Goodall and observe your prospects online in a practice called social listening.
Social listening can be used to secure invaluable customer insights and inform sales mapping efforts. Social media also presents an opportunity to track real-time conversations about products and services, competitors and industry trends, using a variety of tools that make social monitoring a breeze. TweetDeck and HubSpot are a couple of CB&A favorites.
When selecting an appropriate target for a sales pitch, it’s important to understand who are the key players in purchasing decisions, and what they care about. Social platforms facilitate research into top decision-makers at the school and district levels. With this info in your back pocket, tailoring your approach and anticipating questions or concerns is a straightforward process.
Of course, just as you’re keeping an eye on sales targets, they’ll likely be keeping an eye on you.
“We’re living in an age where consumers are using the internet to explore,” Dodson said. “Having established profiles makes you discoverable, and helps build credibility for sales professionals and their companies.”
TIP FIVE: ENGAGE WITH YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS REGULARLY
Once you (and your sales team) have your social channels up and running, it’s important to engage consistently. Keep an eye on notifications, and make it a goal to respond within two business days or less. As we mentioned above, a genuine response is valuable, so we don’t recommend automating your community management. People can spot a bot from a mile away.
EMBRACE FOLLOW-UP SOCIAL OUTREACH
While a lot of energy goes into closing deals, engaging with customers afterward can lead to repeat business, upsells and referrals. Remember, leveraging social media for sales is more than a one-step process.
Stay in contact with existing customers by engaging with them on social. Offering giveaways to repeat purchasers is another proven way to spread your message via word-of-mouth. Ultimately, celebrating your customers’ successes will strengthen your relationships and reinforce the value of your brand.
With a little TLC, social media channels can be transformed into the ultimate nurturing tool to close deals and build relationships. When targeted correctly, followers become more than just fans – they become customers.
FOR MORE ON WHAT’S TRENDING IN SOCIAL MEDIA, TAKE A LOOK AT OTHER BLOG CONTENT FROM OUR SOCIAL MEDIA LIBRARY:
- Best Practices for Collaborating with Social Media Influencers: Marketers are reaching out to influencers to generate awareness and establish credibility. We talk with 5 experts and break down the tips for your business.
- Four Ways to Leverage Social Media Advertising in 2019: Social media advertising can help raise awareness, promote content and drive new leads.
- Spread the Message: How to Build Employee Advocacy on Social Media: An effective social media strategy recognizes the importance of employee advocacy.
- Six Easy Ways to Integrate Social Media into Your Company’s Sales Efforts: Social media is one of the most effective and affordable sales tools available, and a key asset to any education marketing strategy.
- How To Use Influencers In Your Education Marketing Strategy: Including a prominent education influencer in your education marketing strategy can ignite viewership, giving your brand a boost.
About the author
Emily Embry is Vice President at CB&A | Education Marketing Communications.