The world of buying has changed in fundamental ways. Research shows that most buyers are between 57 and 70 percent of the way through the buying process before they even reach out to a salesperson. As they become increasingly empowered by unlimited access to information, many are moving toward making orders entirely online, never even interacting with a salesperson.

The reality is this: they’ve decided they don’t really need you.

That’s not to say, however, that you’re not needed. The best salespeople know the job was never about selling in the first place. It’s always been about relationships. And while the core of being a sales rep doesn’t change, the way you do the job is constantly evolving.

Social selling is all about leveraging online social networks to build buyer relationships in new ways. Chances are strong, as buying behaviors change, that salespeople will spend more time on social networks in the coming years, maybe even more than they spend on email. As business relationships become more personal in nature, social selling becomes critical for continued sales success.

You Are What You Tweet

Buyers are online. They’re digitally driven, socially connected, and they’re learning and networking all the time. If you’re aren’t doing the same, you may as well not exist.

According to PeopleLinx’s CMO, Michael Idinopulos, “sales reps who are not active on social media today will be out of work in three years.” Yet, despite this dire warning, just 24 percent of B2B sales reps feel they know how to use social media effectively as part of the sales process.

Networks and publishing sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium give you opportunities to present yourself, your personal brand, and the company’s brand in the best possible light. When you’re able to curate a complete representation of yourself and your company through social networks, you’ll show up when consumers are ready. And that’s the whole goal.

Making the Time

Social selling succeeds when it becomes part of the client outreach process. Embedding it in your culture requires individual sales reps to go online – on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Facebook – to have real conversations with people in their network every day.

Networking, socializing, and looking for people’s deep networks and contact points is a worthwhile endeavor, yet most reps don’t go into the office thinking about what they’re going to tweet or what they’ll say online. This change in mindset and behavior is critical to the success of social selling.

So, how do you fit it into your day?

You simply commit to making it a part of daily routines, habits, and processes. You remind yourself to use social networks anytime you’re doing work. Block out time committed to connecting online. If it’s something separate, something that’s outside what you see as your core job, you will surely fail.

This is a big shift for a lot of people. It takes an understanding that social selling isn’t just social media for social’s sake. It’s not about sharing what you had for lunch or tweeting random thoughts. It’s about expertise, being relevant, and ultimately, driving revenue through the relationships that will be formed.

Four Pillars of Building a Social Presence

Understandably, people who have been selling by traditional means and have been successful in the past are hesitant to stop doing those things. No one wants to abandon what works to try something unproven. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?

But, it’s important to understand that no one is asking you to stop doing what works. The things that work today still are the traditional things. Being genuine and being good, interpersonally, will come through loud and clear on social media – if you approach it that way. Sales has always been about one person making a sale to another. These online platforms are just the newest interactions in human contact.

Here are the four pillars of social selling, according to social selling evangelist, Jill Rowley:

Optimize

Optimize your social profile for the buyer, not the recruiter. Put it in language that benefits the customer.

Connect

Not just with the buyer, but with the buyer’s sphere of influence. Your social capital increases when you’re connected to people with high social capital.

Curate

Marketing should curate content for sales reps. Likewise, sales reps should be sharing great content across social networks. Make it a goal to share OPC (other people’s content) more than your own company’s. It deepens trust.

Listen

Find out where buyers are engaging and listen to the social conversation that’s happening around you. Then, reflect those words and content back to them.

Traditional Methods with a Twist

You know you can’t fake your way in sales. And don’t write this off as a young person’s game (or think you have an advantage because you’re young). Being digitally savvy or a digital native doesn’t make you a better salesperson.

Wherever you’re at in your sales career, you should be your authentic self, online and offline. That’s never going to change. But when it comes to social selling, your skills, values, passion, and personality online must match who you are offline.

Selling has always been – and still is – about making authentic connections. About delivering genuine value, educating customers, and helping them make the right decisions. Social selling isn’t some kind of modern trickery. It’s finding ways to use new tools that leverage exactly what’s attractive about you to other people in the first place.

Meet Them Where They Are

Social selling is a long-game. It’s going to take time to figure out how to strike the right blend of personal and business. And, of course, there are other things to worry about too, like sales targets, numbers, and goals. But it’s important to remind yourself that, while important, those short-term goals don’t build trust and value.

Sure, customers have changed the way they buy. So now it’s your job to change the way you reach out and sell to them. At the end of the day, people still need you, not on your terms, but on theirs.

For more insights about social selling, check out ABCs of Social Selling and Building Your Global Brand.

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