by Jeff Kalter
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” — Aristotle
While inside sales has been around for many years, it’s now experiencing tremendous growth. InsideSales.com conducted a study with sales and marketing managers in 30 non-retail industries. It showed that inside sales was growing 300% faster than field sales. Social selling, on the other hand, is the bright, shiny new tool. When you meld inside sales and social selling together, you form a strong bond and a solid strategy for setting appointments with your target audience.
What Is Social Selling?
Most are familiar with social media marketing which has been used to build relationships for many years now. But many are less familiar with social selling. Both tactics use the same channels to develop relationships with prospects and customers through content and conversations. They have the same goal of delivering ROI to the business. So, what’s the difference?
The responsibility for social media marketing rests squarely on the shoulders of the marketing department. They communicate en masse. On the other hand, while marketing contributes to social selling by providing the content and messaging, sales leads the way. Salespeople distribute content and use personalized messages to communicate one-on-one with prospects.
Essentially, social media marketing attracts followers, builds engagement and the brand. Social selling then closes the loop, turning awareness and interest into leads. Now that both sales and marketing are sharing the use of social media, it has become more successful in delivering sales results.
How Inside Sales Can Use Social Selling
It’s great to build relationships online, but you also need to have a process that moves prospects through the buying process offline. Social selling is step one, but the goal is to get prospects on the phone. Here are some tactics you can use.
- Pre-Call Research and Outreach
Today, there is no reason to call someone blindly. Inside sales people can use social media to do their pre-call research, checking out LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds. You should have an idea of who a prospect is, what his or her company does and even the challenges the business may be facing.
But reps can go further. With one of LinkedIn’s premiums packages, they can reach out to individuals using InMails. According to LinkedIn, this communication channel achieves open rates seven times greater than typical emails.
A sales person should personalize messages based on what they learn through their research. In this way, it starts to build a connection and open the door to a warm telephone call. For example, “We work with businesses similar to yours in the information technology industry. We’ve helped many of them who are experiencing difficulties with lead and demand generation to achieve a 47% return on their marketing investment. Is this something that interests you?”
The added benefit is that the recipient can quickly check out your profile, get a sense of who you are and whether they want to talk to you. As long as you’ve optimized your profile, you can build credibility without saying a word.
- Join the Online Discussion
Inside salespeople should chime in on online conversations about their prospect’s hot topics, offering their insights. This is an excellent way to engage with prospects, often early in the buying process. For example, look for industry groups on LinkedIn where people are actively participating in discussions. (Be careful here because many groups have become forums for spam and not active conversations.) Another advantage of joining groups is that you get free messages to the members.
Also, to remain visible on social networks, inside sales reps can start a conversation themselves by curating content and sharing content their marketing team has created. A good rule of thumb is to mix 80% curated content with 20% of your own content.
If salespeople have hot targets with whom they want to engage on LinkedIn, there are a couple of ways to see their updates on LinkedIn in the same way that you see updates from your first connections. They can follow up to 5,000 people on LinkedIn. Alternatively, they can sign up for LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, and classify targeted individuals as leads. When they see a relevant update, they can comment on it, share it and get noticed.
- Transition to a Live Conversation
Social selling does not make any sense, however, unless it leads to a phone call where salespeople can deepen their relationships and help move prospects through the buying cycle.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the phone appointments came to them? They can. Simply offer a phone consultation to leads. Make sure it’s something they will find valuable, not a sales pitch. Then schedule a phone conversation.
Because social selling can translate into phone calls, it makes sense to marry the two tactics. It’s an efficient way to connect sales people one-on-one with the people to whom they want to talk, eliminating the need for cold calls.
Jeff Kalter is CEO of 3D2B, a global business-to-business telemarketing company that bridges the divide between marketing and sales. He leads customer acquisition programs for Fortune 500 companies and is passionate about building strong business relationships through professional phone conversations.