“Selling” is a word that invokes images of 1950s ad men, illicit practices of coercion and manipulation, but selling is not something to fear, everyone sells whether they realise or not. Today sales has changed, salespeople can’t afford to be viewed as manipulators or not be trusted as there’s so many options available. With the growth of social media, people will research not just companies but the contacts they’re working with. This means your online presence is an essential part of your sales process, giving rise to the phenomenon of social selling.

What exactly is social selling?

Social selling is the process of using your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and resources.

There’s many definitions of social selling but perhaps my favourite is the one on the right hand side:

Note that the words sale, buy, salesperson, prospect and any other words that describe the sales process are involved in this definition. This is a direct corollary of the changing face of sales. Today salespeople are expected to provide value from their first interaction all the way to the aftercare process. This has left little to no room for the old style sales methods.

How do I measure my social selling ability?

Social selling is all a matter of trust, trust in your ability, in your profile and in the insights you provide. In this vein, LinkedIn have developed their social selling index to help you discover your social selling capability. The index is based off these four key components:

1. Establishing your professional brand.

To start out, do the simple things correctly. Complete your LinkedIn profile, fill in your blanks. Establish your expertise by including key responsibilities and positive results from previous jobs in the experience section.

A great step in establishing your professional brand is to create meaningful long form posts which give insights into your work, experiences and give you an opportunity to become a thought leader.  

2. Finding the right people.

Who are the people who should be in your network? If you can answer this question in the affirmative, you’re already two steps ahead of your competition. When it comes to digital networking, a lot of people believe to be connected at all is the best option.

When it comes to building a network, this approach can actually be a punishment. Identify the people from your industry and other industries who can help you develop your career, mentor you and you can add value to them. This will build trust in your online presence.

3. Engaging with insights.

This factor is calculated by looking at the posts you share and the posts you interact with. For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at the example of a salesperson working in the enterprise sector. On LinkedIn they share articles about startups, how startups can get off the ground. Their most recent activity is a comment on an article about why startups fail and they’ve recently followed 3 startups with less than 50 employees.

How would a prospect interpret this activity? Would they look at it as someone who is really interested in working with a company of 1,000+ employees? This is why engaging with insights can be a factor in someone trusting you in and doing business with you.

4. Building relationships.

This is the value of regularly interacting with your network. Sharing thoughts by messages, comments and simply liking your connection’s post. The more you interact with your network, the stronger the relationship grows. Developing these relationships with more senior connections can help you increase your score and social selling potential.

How do I get started with social selling?

You’re already doing it! Now that you know the breakdown, start leveraging that knowledge. Build those connections, read, share insights and most importantly reach out to potential mentors. Check out this list of sales blogs worth reading by the HubSpot Sales Blog. Sales is changing but it still relies on you being a trustworthy source at core.