Leadership’s role in Social selling

The latest buzz in the marketing world is social selling—the process of using social media channels to position yourself as an expert. You engage followers by providing valuable insight and answers to questions while building relationships, eventually closing sales.

This strategy requires sharing what you know. How much expertise are you willing to give away? Does your firm’s leadership team support this approach? Can potential clients validate your expertise by visiting your website, blog, or social channels?

Why Is Sharing Important?
Google makes “owning expertise” obsolete. Your best strategy is to start sharing. The Internet offers instant information through online resources, social media, and blogs. As clients research solutions, you want to be their source of information. In a recent Forbes article, “The Role of Influence in the New Buyer’s Journey,” Daniel Newman says 70 to 90 percent of the buyer’s journey is completed prior to engaging a company. He notes research by Forrester saying a “consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase.” Firms that answer questions and provide valuable insight will make the cut.

By sharing your knowledge, you allow potential clients to validate your expertise and sense what it will be like to work with you. Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal for sharing educational content; they are the right platforms for social selling in a business-to-business marketplace. Your firm’s leaders need to be active in these spaces. People want to connect with your CEO, principals, and subject matter experts.

Social networking is similar to business networking. If you attend a networking event and begin bombarding attendees with promotions of your products or services, most people will do their best to avoid you. If you work the room and show interest in the other attendees and offer valuable, personalized insight, your success rate will be much higher.

Apply this networking philosophy to your social media strategy. You need a healthy balance of education, entertainment, and promotion. Always include why you are sharing particular content. Participate in online discussion groups, share your ideas and opinions on a blog, and share content of other sites that you believe your followers should read.

Why Engage Leadership?
All of your employees contribute to the overall marketing effort, but the CEO and principals of your organization must model the way. They are the face of the company, the connection point to customers and the community.

When your leadership is engaged, people perceive your organization as more accessible. Trust grows with potential clients as you share expertise. Yes, competitors will learn too, but you will be the market leader.

With leadership engaged, employees will emulate the behavior. Provide social media guidelines and education to encourage compliance with your company’s personnel policies, respect for confidentiality and exercise of good judgment. Set an example and teach best practices to create a critical mass of social selling.

Social selling is similar to good old-fashioned networking at conferences and community events. By creating awareness about your company, you have an opportunity to build personal relationships. These relationships with potential buyers are the foundation for driving increased sales and future success.

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This article was written in collaboration with Greg Kanz with Shive Hattery. Greg is the marketing director at Shive-Hattery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Responsible for the strategic marketing program at the 400-person architectural and engineering firm, Greg manages the corporate marketing team and provides high-level sales support, training, and strategic and tactical support to Shive-Hattery’s nine offices in the Midwest.

Image: Shive Hattery Iowa City office - AJ Brown Photography
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