The Science of Social Selling: 16 Online Influencers Weigh In

Social selling has become a powerful force in a marketer’s toolkit. It refers to when a marketer or salesperson builds a relationship with potential customers on social media, answers any questions with top customer service, and continues to offer helpful information about a product or service until potential customers become current customers. Social sellers then build on that relationship and nurture current customers into lifelong clients.

Our team at Hubstaff understands this and knows that social selling requires dedication, good time management, and a complete understanding of your brand to be successful. That’s why we have compiled a list of examples from 16 online influencers who have mastered the science of converting online audiences into paying customers. We have also included useful links with each of these expert social sellers to follow if you want to learn more.

We recently wrote a post about how we grew our social traffic by 350% and shared the strategies and results behind it.

1. Jill Rowley

“The best sales professional is not merely present in social; she has used social to position herself as credible, highly knowledgeable, and well connected. She is an information concierge, and a content connoisseur. She knows what to share with whom. She is viewed as an expert and highly trustworthy.” – Jill Rowley

Jill-Rowley-1024x428

Jill’s approach to social selling is to give-to-give versus give-to-get. She believes in authenticity when gaining trust online and states that when you use social media just for sales, you won’t get them. In order to “sell without selling,” utilize social media to gather information about your target audience and provide content that is useful to them.

Social selling entails learning about the right customers (the people who can use your product or service) and then looking for opportunities to serve them. For example, you wouldn’t try to sell baby formula to a childless couple. You need to find and reach out to young couples and individuals who recently had babies, then put your product (which they need) in front of them.

Learn more: Read Jill’s series of LinkedIn articles that cover the pillars of social selling.

The ABCs of Social Selling = Always Be Connecting… & Curating Content. -Jill Rowley [Tweet]

2. Kathi Kruse

“Leveraging Social Selling tools means you never make cold calls; you only deal with buyers who are ready to buy and want help in their purchase process.” – Kathi Kruse

Kathi Kruse

Kathi’s suggestion for getting started in social selling is to begin with the social media channel that scares you the least and spend at least 30 minutes a day working with this platform. Describe yourself and your business accurately and truthfully, and discover where your target audience is spending their time. Find their influencers and build a network of loyal customers who want to know more about your product…then provide them with that information.

In order to be a successful social seller, you need to be an expert in your field, a resource of knowledge, enthusiastic about your brand and a good networker. Kathi also recommends starting a blog to display your expertise and have content to point to when customers have questions. Having quality content not only shows influence, but also builds authenticity and inspires trust (read how high-quality content can increase your sales and leads). She states that since you are answering questions from clients anyways, gather 200-250 words from your answer for a quick blog post to help other potential customers with the same questions.

Learn more: Read Kathi’s post on Sales and Social Selling: Are They The Same?

“All Social Selling starts with a customer-centric mindset.” -Kathi Kruse [Tweet] 

3. Tim Hughes

“In devising a ‘game’ you work out the particular behaviors you want and then give points when people exhibit those behaviors.” – Tim Hughes

Tim Hughes talks about using “gamification” in social selling to incentivize social media followers into performing certain behaviors. By turning certain aspects of a purchase into a game, it motivates potential customers into becoming current customers through engaging rewards. These rewards could be as simple as recognition on Twitter, or it could be a grand prize in a social media contest.

Gamification can also create a sense of community on social media. If a company offers points to buyers who leave feedback, they could display a leaderboard of clients with the most points. Tim gives the example of a social selling leaderboard that he is a part of and states “I am in contact with all the people on it. We follow each other on Twitter and I try and contribute to debate in a subject matter area such as Social Selling, a subject I am passionate about.”

Learn more: Read Tim’s article on Using Gamification to Build Community and Create Leads.

Creating Community is now seen as an imperative in Social Media. – Tim Hughes [Tweet] 

4. Koka Sexton

“Social selling is bigger than optimizing your LinkedIn profile. It’s the ability to leverage social networks in a way that builds and leverages your connections to get the job done.” – Koka Sexton

Koka mentions three different ways to look at social selling, linking them to “The Quickie Deal,” “The Big Deal” and “The Super Deal.” The quickie deal helps build relationships with prospects; it consists of building and maintaining a professional profile, sharing insights with key communities, connecting with key people and generally building the brand image. The big deal has three key facets; authenticity, research and storytelling. In order to close a deal with social selling, your online persona must be customer-focused, direct and well-informed about your customers.

The super deal represents a sales dilemma of whether to proceed alone or to bring a team in to close a deal. If your team doesn’t work together seamlessly, a customer relationship could be damaged, but the reward for a cohesive and effective team is a closed deal and enhanced customer relationship.

Learn more: Read Koka’s LinkedIn article on Social Selling Tips: Sync Your Strategy with These 11 New Insights.

“Social selling offers unique opportunities…directly related to the buyer’s journey.” -Koka Sexton [Tweet] 

5. Meghan M. Biro

“In order to humanize a brand, you must first assess your ‘trust quotient’ before turning to social communities to promote or socialize your brand.” – Meghan M Biro

Meghan Biro, founder of TalentCulture, is a Yale graduate and expert in social media and building brands online. She is a globally recognized digital influencer who teaches that the key to humanizing your brand on social media is trust. Trust is valuable because it can attract your target audience to your brand, whereas the lack of trust can make social selling almost impossible.

According to Meghan, social interaction drives action. It aids with buying decisions and helps a brand converse with potential customers in real-time. Social media also allows people to share their stories about your brand, a somewhat double-edged sword. Be sure your brand experience is engaging and authentic, so the stories that are shared reflect well on your company. Finally, Meghan reminds social sellers that simply being present on a social media network by having a profile is not the same thing as social interaction. In order to be a successful social seller, you must dig into the conversation traffic and participate in real discussions.

Learn more: Read Meghan’s LinkedIn articles for more about social media branding.

“Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not. This rule also applies to social media.” -Meghan Biro [Tweet] 

6. Gerry Moran

“The sales process focuses on how to push the customer to get them to buy from you. While the buyer’s journey presents the client’s questions and needs that need to be answered and met. They need content and contacts to help them through their journey – at their own pace.” – Gerry Moran

Gerry Moran has more than 30 years of marketing experience and has helped numerous companies multiply their social media reach. He emphasizes the difference between the “seller’s process” and “buyer’s journey” in social selling. Instead of trying to sell your product, position it as the solution to a problem your target audience has. Curate key content and give your audience the information they need to invest in your product or service.

The majority of the buyer’s journey is complete by the time customers engage with a vendor, which means decision makers are researching their choices before making a purchase. In order to be a successful social seller, you need to provide informational, relevant and authoritative content that potential customers can find on their buyer’s journey. Focus on content development, deliver that content to your customers (or to areas where potential customers congregate), and leverage your brand ambassadors (such as employees or loyal customers) to be the gatekeepers of content. The bottom line for social selling is to put yourself in the shoes of your customers; Understand what questions they will ask on their buyer’s journey and position your answers to be easily found.

Learn more: Check out Gerry’s social selling articles on Marketingthink.com.

Content marketing is the key to open the door to your social selling success. -Gerry Moran [Tweet]

7. Kim Garst

“The main goal of social media should be to build relationships with your customers and prospects! Through building authentic relationships, you get to know what your prospects need, and your prospects get to know and trust you.” – Kim Garst

Kim Garst says that relationships built with social media are what propels sales, but there are other ways to sell directly through social media. A few of her tips for direct social selling include using images, promo codes, infographics, image-based contests and highlighting product features in a visual way.

Kim mentions selling directly on Instagram, asking influential figures in social media to share your product with their followers, and using videos for your products and services. Engaging with customers and providing useful information about your product will help you become a resource for your customers, which will build trust and enable your company to become the top-of-mind brand when a follower wants to make a purchase.

Learn more: Read about 5 Big Social Selling Ideas for Small Businesses on Kim’s website.

“Images are…the best way to get engagement on social media.” -Kim Garst [Tweet] 

8. Jon Ferrara

“A relationship is built by listening. Ultimately, if you’re a good listener, you can identify people that matter and identify ways you can serve their needs.” – Jon Ferrara

Jon Ferrara is the CEO of Nimble, a social CRM (customer relationship management) software that enables you to attract and retain the right customers and turn your social communities into customers for life. It integrates social media with powerful monitoring tools so you can implement social listening, contact management and more, with one cohesive social marketing tool.

Jon believes that the focus should not be B2C or B2B, but P2P (people to people). Social selling is all about your relationships with people. Jon states that by empowering people to achieve their dreams with your product, you position you and your company for success. Do this by first building your personal brand, then developing your professional network. Inspire and educate your network daily about how your product can help them in some way.

Learn more: Watch this interview with Jon Ferrara as he talks about social selling.

“Teach them to fish, don’t tell them you have great fishing poles.” -Jon Ferrara [Tweet] 

9. Brian Fanzo

“The great social businesses of the future will invest, empower and utilize employee advocacy programs, focusing on creating a collaborative, social and transparent culture that create new community experiences.” -Brian Fanzo

Brian Fanzo states that the secret to social business success is employee advocacy. One of the key, yet often overlooked, audiences of a company is their own employees–who are likely to lead active social lives. Social businesses become great because of their social employees, who understand the intricacies of networking and building online reputations.

Employee advocacy is important to social selling for many different reasons; they can strengthen personal brands, establish themselves and the company as thought leaders, develop relationships and answer questions that the community may have from a community perspective. Social media engagement is also multiplied when your employees act as brand ambassadors and help build your brand online–just make sure they represent your brand the way you want it portrayed.

Learn more: Listen to some of Brian’s FOMOFanz podcasts here.

“Great companies are great because of great employees.” -Brian Fanzo [Tweet] 

10. Bryan Kramer

“The process of social selling is a strange concept, simply because social media channels are a personal, intimate and familiar “no-selling” zone. However, if we can turn active listening into ways we can solve a problem, that changes the game.” – Bryan Kramer

Bryan Kramer’s approach to social selling is to leverage your community and make everyone a marketer. Bryan states that the best marketers go beyond just adding value to gain customers; they help their customers feel like they are a part of something bigger. By creating a space for people to come together and share their stories and experiences, social media creates a unique tool for marketers to find and gather their target audience.

In order to be a successful marketer and sell with social media, you need to have real-time conversations, transparency, employee advocates, and streamlined communications. Actively listen to find out what your audience’s needs are, respond quickly to your customers in real time, and tell stories that are authentic, trustworthy and reflective of the brand.

Learn more: Watch some learning videos on Bryan Kramer’s website.

Marketers are connecting with customers and allowing them to connect with one another. -Bryan Kramer [Tweet]

11. Melonie Dodaro

“Social selling is a sales technique that focuses on building relationships with your market and utilizes social networking sites… By engaging your customers and connecting with them, you are providing them an opportunity to be educated, to feel a part of your company culture and to make informed purchasing decisions.” – Melonie Dodaro

Melonie Dodaro

Melonie advocates using social selling to improve sales and customer engagement. Social sellers must begin with a plan, identify their target market, use the right tools (software, social media platforms), deliver brand-consistent messages, and measure results.

Melonie recommends doing five things daily to increase your social selling success. 1) Post content that is relevant, engaging and useful to your target audience; 2) personalize all your communication (whether to prospective clients or casual contacts); 3) respond in a timely manner; 4) monitor your competitors to learn from them; and 5) provide value to your connections.

Learn more: Check out Melonie’s 5 Steps to Succeed with Social Selling and other articles on Top Dog Social Media.

Reply to comments on your social media platforms to engage with your connections. -Melonie Dodaro [Tweet] 

12. Barb Giamanco

“Working in a socially connected world requires a complete shift in your mindset. You have to think differently about the way that you connect and approach people.” – Barb Giamanco

There are times when social selling may not work, not because of social selling itself but because of a number of other factors that were overlooked. According to Barb, social selling can fail in particular cases when there is a lack of; strategy, understanding of social media, consistency, training or measurement. In order to be a successful social seller, you must have a driving strategy behind each tactic. You need to know how, when are where to engage prospective buyers using social media, and consistently produce relevant and useful content.

Barb also points out that measuring the wrong things is just as bad as not measuring ROI at all; you need to look at the quality of connections you have instead of the quantity of them. You should be making high-quality connections by becoming a valued and trusted resource. Finally, social sellers must be trained to understand how buyer behavior has changed and how to leverage your social media networks to achieve your objectives.

Learn more: Read Barb’s 7 Reasons Social Selling May Have Stalled Out.

“Buyers start the decision making process without salespeople.” -Barbara Giamanco [Tweet] 

13. Ken Krogue

“Social media offers tools and access to people like never before in the history of the world.” – Ken Krogue

Ken shares the ACQUIRE method for “social nurturing,” the step before lead nurturing. In this model, successful social sellers connect with online influencers via social media in order to build awareness of a brand and turn that awareness into curiosity.

The steps to ACQUIRE are; awareness, curiosity, qualify, understanding, interest, relevance and engage. Social sellers must make their audience aware of their brand, incite curiosity, qualify as a time-worthy relationship, help them understand what your company does, be interesting, mutually beneficial, and be engaging. The last step, “engage,” is where an active commitment truly begins.

Learn more: Learn how to acquire influential social relationships in Ken’s article on Social Nurturing.

“Be consistent, be relevant, be real.” -Ken Krogue [Tweet] 

14. Susan Gilbert

“Social selling is not an exact formula for sales, but instead an end result from strong interactions with your business or brand’s community.” – Susan Gilbert

According to Susan, there are four essential things every social seller should do. These include creating a sales page, posting a steady stream of quality content, participating in conversations and sharing helpful information and tips. A sales page can be a simple landing page that you can point your social media followers to. It moves sales one step away from social media, so you can avoid selling directly in your community. This page can have additional company information, event registration options, or it can be programmed so visitors can make a purchase right on that page.

Social sellers must continuously listen to their audiences to find out what they want to know. Create quality content that is relevant and useful to your target audience, which offers value and builds trust. Be aware of the trends in your communities and actively participate in conversations surrounding your brand. Finally, be sure to respond in a timely manner, especially for customer service issues.

Learn more: Read Become a Social Selling Success with These 4 Tips on Susan’s blog.

“When marketing and community come together brand ambassadors are born.” -Susan Gilbert [Tweet] 

15. Julio Viskovich

“Social selling will eventually become just selling. But until that happens, social selling involves salespeople using social media as a layer over top of their existing sales process.” – Julio Viskovich

Julio states that the art of social selling is not trying to sell directly, but using social media to understand your prospective client so you can meet his or her needs and become a trusted consultant. He says to personalize your message and use data reports to enhance your communications with your audience.

Using social media insights will help marketers grab the attention of their audiences by being relevant. It will help sellers connect to their audience and communities in order to provide them with quality content.

Learn more: Check out Julio’s social selling video resources online.

Social is not a place for a hard sell, it’s a place to build trust and credibility. -Julio Viskovich [Tweet]

16. Mark Schaefer

“If you believe your customers aren’t on social media today, they’re coming. I do believe there is a first-movers advantage in this space. Why not get out there and build that advantage now?” – Mark Schaefer

According to Mark Schaefer, social selling requires a combination of meaningful content, targeted connections and authentic helpfulness. He recommends thinking of it as “social helping,” by putting meaningful content in front of your connections in order to help them in one way or another. Discover your target audience’s needs with social media monitoring, then use social media to become a resource for when they need it.

Mark points out that the true value in social selling is the connections you make, much like at a live networking event. These connections take time to grow and nurture, and ultimately provides the base of your social selling network to build upon.

Learn more: Read Mark’s free eBook, 3 Fundamentals of a Successful Social Selling Strategy.

“Social media is the most powerful personal networking opportunity ever created.” -Mark Schaefer [Tweet]

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