Social Selling: Definition, Purpose & Example

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Social selling is more than a one-off sales opportunity. It's all about relationships! In this lesson you'll learn more about what social selling is, its purpose in the sales landscape, and how it benefits brands.

What is Social Selling?

When technology company Pitney Bowes started looking for ways to gain an edge against its competition, it turned to LinkedIn. The professional networking site became the foundation of Pitney Bowes' new plan, allowing the company's sales professionals to share customer success stories and the results the company was achieving for its clients right on the social site. By providing this type of information, Pitney Bowes' sales professionals were able to establish their expertise and build better relationships, resulting in greater sales, with its audience.

It's a marketing strategy known as social selling.

Social selling relies on the use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to find and connect with prospects, understand their pain points, build relationships, and ultimately convert them into clients. Social selling gives sales professionals and businesses a platform where they can establish themselves as experts and problem solvers, deliver value through relevant content, and stay top-of-mind when a prospect is making a purchasing decision.

Social selling is about making connections with prospects on social media.
social, media, networking, marketing, selling

The social selling strategy is much more focused on building trust and relationships. For example, a sales professional engaged in social selling who's in your network may comment on a post you make looking for recommendations or provide detailed content such a study behind a particular product. They will not hard sell, using forceful sales tactics, to get you to make a purchase. Instead, they focus their efforts on lead nurturing, creating a relationship with a prospect throughout the buyer journey.

Social selling is not social marketing or advertising because the goal is different. Social marketing and advertising are designed to create fast sales and conversions, a type of ''Buy Now!'' version of selling with a quick purchase option. Social selling, on the other hand, is about establishing connections throughout the sales process. Rather than expecting someone to click a link and buy, social selling relies on answering questions, solving customers' problems and being a point of contact from first awareness until the sale is made. In that way, social selling is much more of a one-to-one strategy (one seller connecting with individual prospects) as opposed to social marketing's one-to-many (one seller communicating with a mass audience) model.

The Purpose of Social Selling

Social selling can accomplish many goals that companies set. Here are a few:

Understanding Prospects

First, it allows sales professionals to better understand prospects. Many people use social media to search out recommendations or to talk about challenges they're facing with some product or service. By putting yourself in the right place at the right time, a company representative can present his or her products or services as the solution to the prospect's challenges. Because there is a focus on relationship-building, there is greater opportunity to get to know your buyers.

Gaining Insight

Second, social selling allows companies to gather market insights. As part of social selling, social listening, or paying attention to what consumers are saying about your company and your competitors, can be an effective tool for gauging what customers really want. By gathering market insights you can also figure out more about the attitudes and behaviors of consumers so you can deliver meaningful content that will help solve their problems.

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