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Social media has forever changed the game of sales. Gone are the days of unsolicited phone calls and shrewd attempts at business from a potential customer you’ve had no prior contact with. The connected customer knows what she wants and is looking beyond the established brand presence to get to know the people behind it.

Customers want to know who works for the organization, what those employees look like, and even what they do or don’t like. They are engaging with them on social channels and asking them questions about your brand’s products and services. This is why employee advocacy, brand ambassadors, and H2H (Human to Human) are such buzz words today.

Operationalizing Social Selling

This is great news for brands moving away from the traditional sales model and leveraging social media to reach new buyers. Successfully establishing your brand today means getting your sales professionals to become the brand through social selling. Who is more qualified than your sales reps to share quality content about your products and services? Who better than your sales team to identify key decision-makers online and gain insights from social conversations to personalize pitches?

It’s what Linkedin refers to as “operationalizing” social selling. In Chapter 4 of the e-book “Getting Started With Social Selling,” LinkedIn highlights the importance of transforming your team’s online brand noting that 87% of customers had a favorable impression of a salesperson who was introduced to them through their network. Additionally, 81% of buyers are more likely to engage with a strong, professional (personal) brand.

No one can argue that getting your sales team to directly interact with prospects online is a good idea (and probably no longer an option). According to LinkedIn, social selling leaders are 51% more likely to reach quota. But how easy is it to get them onboard? Let’s take a look at three steps that can get your brand started on social selling:

1. Help Your Sales Team Build Their Online Persona

Just like you’ve taken the time to build and maintain your organization’s online presence, your sales team needs to be given the time, tools, guidelines, and training to build and lead a robust, professional online brand of their own and effectively represent your company.

It is important for them to understand the why as well as the how of having an online presence so they can show up as a thought leader and trusted adviser. Providing your sales team with a set of online branding tools that tie back to your organization’s business strategy will successfully begin the social selling integration. The organization should hand-hold the sales teams through this process to ensure quality online profiles are posted throughout all social channels and that they are all telling the same story for your brand.

2. Create a Strategy Around Social Selling Index (SSI)

In 2014, LinkedIn introduced their Sales Navigator social selling tool consisting of four main steps:

  • Establishing a presence on social networks
  • Finding the right people
  • Engaging with those people
  • Building trust

The Social Selling Index (SSI) is LinkedIn’s way to measure how well a brand is doing in each of these areas. While SSI shouldn’t be considered the one and only way to measure effective social selling, it does provide insight as to the strength of a sales person’s online presence. Brands should think about creating a strategy around these four pillars to ensure a good social selling approach is established. Knowing your teams’ SSI and addressing opportunities in each of these steps can get your sales team thinking more and more about their individual reach and how successful they are in engaging potential customers in their network.

3. Arm Them with Great Content

According to DemandGen’s Buyer Behavior Survey, 65% of buyers agree that a vendor’s content has significant impact on buying decisions. Content continues to be king and it is the best way to establish good relationships with potential customers. If you want your sales teams to transform your online brand through their online brand, you have to give them quality storytelling assets so they can have meaningful conversations with their prospects.

Your sales team will only be seen as a field expert if they show up as one. Giving them deep insights into the industry, competitors, products, and services will not only position them as qualified professionals but also get them engaged with people that are already having conversations around your brand and industry. This not only builds trust with potential clients but eliminates the cold calling approach which customers hate.

Social selling is about properly equipping your sales team and setting them up for success in the online world so they can accurately represent your brand and tell your brand’s story. Their online presence is key now more than ever as inquisitive customers reach to find someone, anyone, from your brand to connect and build a relationship with. Get them ready and get them selling!

Have you found success with social selling in your organization? Share your experiences in the comments below.