B2B Social Selling Demystified – Five Strategic Pillars

We live in the age of personal brands. This article will provide you with a framework for creating your own personal social strategy in the world of complex business-to-business (B2B) selling.

It’s important because the vast majority of buyers do research before a meeting. What will they see when they look at your LinkedIn profile or blog? We all need to show our value online before we’re invited to have a conversation.

This is the first of a series of posts where I define strategic social selling and the 5 pillars that enable the best results.


Understand that the term ‘Social Selling’ is a misnomer. Those who spam, push, annoy, narcissistically drone or aggressively sell are unfollowed and disconnected as quick as a click. Here’s my definition of ‘Social Selling’ for B2B:

The strategy and process of building quality networks online that accelerate the speed of business and efficiency of selling. It is achieved with human engagement through social listeningsocial publishingsocial researchsocial engagement, and social collaboration.

In this definition, technology is merely an enabler but can be leveraged to create truly incredible results with the right strategy. As an example, here is my own case study with the results from just 90 days of intelligent effort. Obviously, social engagement is supported by technology and social platforms but it’s really all about human interaction and providing real value through insight or assistance with relevant content.

Social platforms, especially LinkedIn have driven the era of personal brands and the reality that we now sell naked. The days of being able to project a manufactured persona are gone… people can quickly uncover the reality of who you are, how you operate, how well you’re connected, and the value you offer… all before you ever get to say a single word on the phone or face-to-face. Social proximity is a real factor that enhances or undermines potential connection, often without the seller ever discovering how their network (or lack thereof) helped or hindered their efforts.

Your social strategy will depend on what you’re seeking to achieve and where your market is but don't fall into the trap of becoming busy in social without having a strategy for both connection and content. As an example, think about the reasons for posting in LinkedIn Publisher. Are you seeking to attract and build an audience platform? Are you wanting to provide insights and credibility to support your new business meeting requests? Are you wanting to proactively deal with potential objections you could encounter? Are you seeking to associate yourself with admired brands and thought leaders? Are you perhaps chipping away at commonly held myths about your disruptive solution set to cause a sea change? 

Social selling is a strategy, not a set of technologies. Once you know what you’re seeking to achieve and have defined goals and metrics, then you can design your strategy and action plan to cascade down to the five pillars. I will cover these in detail with subsequent posts but here’s an overview.

Social Listening: The process of proactively searching and monitoring for trigger events that provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitors' customers, or engage potential clients early in their own buying process. Hootsuite and TweetDeck are just two examples of tools that could be used. Salesforce Radian6 is an excellent tool for Analysis in enterprise environments. Oracle and others also have excellent tools.

Social Publishing: Publishing insights, opinions and valuable information to attract audience or evidence credibility and value. Here is a brutal truth for sellers today: If you can't write, then you can’t sell. You need to impress with both your business value (what you do for your clients) and the values by which you operate (your ethos and the way you engage and deliver). LinkedIn Publisher is the number one blogging platform on the planet based on mathematical network effects, propensity for virality and it integrates with your personal brand. Some pundits have named this "networked blogging." Twitter can be used to amplify your publishing efforts as the spokes to your LinkedIn economic graph hub. What are your potential customers looking for online before they look for you? You need to publish in a way that leverages search engines (SEO) so they find you as a source of insight and education early in their buying cycle. It's rare that a single meeting occurs in the software technology space, without a thorough scouting of LinkedIn profiles. Aren't you employing this type of research? 

Social Research: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who initiates contact or arrives at a meeting having failed to do their homework is an amateur. Social research allows you to identify social proximity, background, financial performance, industry trends, competitor relationships, common interests and much more. The amount of information freely available online to research individuals, corporations and industries is staggering.

Social Engagement: By listening for relevance, attracting interest and establishing credibility through publishing, and by doing your research – you’re now ready to engage. Social enables you to be where your clients are in forums, blogs and special interest groups. The best social sellers engage with context and relevance and their success rate being above 90% for securing meetings. LinkedIn’s own research has found that those who use their platform extensively before initiating contact are 50% more likely to achieve their sales targets/quotas.

Social Collaboration: We live in a world of mash-ups for creating best of breed solutions for sales, marketing and project management. The best sales people execute flexibly and collaborate online using tools such as Skype, go-to-meeting, Drop Box, Google Docs and many others. They also utilize their own CRM software and other tools to rally internal resources and manage expectations. The very best sellers are engineers of outcomes rather than mere warriors of persuasion. Research from the Rain Group unearthed that "collaboration" is one of the rarest experiences for executive buyers. They crave this and social allows you to do it. Further, it transfers the psychology of ownership of the ideas to buy from seller to buyer. 

Have a strategy for engaging in a personal, human way before you jump into social media platforms and technologies. Where are your customers online and what are they looking for before they search for you? Forget push marketing and interrupt selling; instead engage buyers early in their online journey by attracting them to you with useful information, insights and value.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

Main image photo by Flickr: Brian, Revelation in Blue