How B2B sales can benefit from social selling

linkedin sales social selling
How B2B sales can benefit from social selling

In this article, we’ll look at How B2B sales can benefit from social selling.

The quick takeaways are:

  1. Prospecting priming
  2. Inbound sales enquiries
  3. Increasing referral business
  4. Being known in a vertical

Over the last 5 years the effectiveness of outreach to prospects has fallen. Despite outreach volumes increasing 70%, the response rate is down 30%. The pandemic and the acceleration of remote working plays a part in this, but, the sales industry has created the biggest problem.

Legitimate sellers have adopted tech that has accelerated their outreach but watered down their message. Companies have scaled by recruiting inexperienced salespeople that have flooded the airwaves with sales outreach. That’s before we talk about the millions of irrelevant, untargeted outreach that we all get on a daily basis.

We’ve collectively hammered our buyers phones and inboxes so they have switched off. They triage their WhatsApp, Voicemails, Emails and social media inboxes. Added to this, GDPR has meant that many companies' CRMs are clogged up with contacts that have opted out of email communications.

Our buyers are tuning out because there is too much noise coming at them.


LinkedIn and Social Selling isn’t just another channel

For too many companies, they see social selling as another way to reach prospects and simply bolt it into their existing cadences and activity. Others use LinkedIn when the phone and email activity fails to achieve a result - another bite of the cherry so to speak.

But is that really what social selling is?

Is it just an opportunity to pitch people?

Well, no. That is how many approach it and quickly complain “LinkedIn doesn’t work”. As technology has come into the sales industry, we have quickly forgotten that the tech is supposed to help sellers perform better. In reality, it has, in my view, turned many sellers into order–takers. It’s encouraged us to only pursue low hanging fruit, the folks who reply to our automated emails and messages. When did sales become so transactional? When did we forget the reason we need salespeople? 

A seller is more than an order-taker, they are more than a finder of low hanging fruit. Salespeople are skilled experts in fostering relationships and finding opportunity. 

Let’s look at how social selling can help true sellers. Let's look at How B2B sales can benefit from social selling:


Prospecting priming

Imagine you walk into a networking event and you bump into a prospect. You’ve had them on your radar for months, but not reached out yet. Do you pitch them cold there and then? 

Of course you don’t. That’s just weird and counter to how humans work. You know your job at that moment is to exchange pleasantries and build some rapport to help you open dialogue with them at a later point.

So, why do we think the ‘direct approach’ will work on LinkedIn? One of the major advantages of social selling is that you can prime your prospects to build that rapport before you send any outreach messages.

As an example, I worked with a group of senior sellers in a large tech firm. I spent 12 weeks working with them to build their social selling process. We focused on building awareness not just on the product, but familiarity with the seller. After all, how a prospect connects with the seller is critical to closing a deal.

Our process was simple:

  • Connect with the prospects
  • Share a mix of product, industry and more personal content
  • Engage with prospects to build rapport 
  • Call or outreach them after 5 touchpoints.

The result?

Their email open rates and call booking rates more than tripled. That little dose of familiarity, name recognition and relationship building made the difference in the email inbox.

Social Selling is both social (relational) and selling, this has been true for centuries and social selling allows you to build relationships digitally.

Prospect priming is a practice most sales leaders can’t track, can’t measure easily and so in many very target driven departments, it falls by the wayside, yet, those you practice prospect priming through social selling close more business.


Inbound sales enquiries

Sellers who are active on the platform both in the feed and engaging in relationships naturally get more inbound sales enquiries.

If a seller is truly practising social selling, not only are they getting their name out there, they are educating their network on the benefits of your product or service. They extend the marketing reach of the business. When sellers focus on relationships, content and outreach, they find not only do they start more conversations with prospects, they get messages from their prospects asking to talk.

Typically, it takes up to 21 touchpoints with a prospect to secure a sale, what many fail to appreciate is that a prospect exposed to content via a seller, can aid that journey and prompt prospects to engage the seller.

More than ever, buyers are doing research before they speak to a salesperson. This means sellers are being engaged later in the buying journey. Being active in building relationships and sharing helpful content across LinkedIn as part of your social selling will drive more leads into the seller directly.

Yes - Sellers can generate their own leads by investing in social selling, they can become a hybrid seller and marketer. Sellers who grab hold of this and run with this idea smash their targets because instead of focusing on hunting and converting quickly, they can play both a short and long term approach to prospects. 

They can nurture prospects at scale, whilst developing immediate opportunities.


Increasing referral business

When you build relationships, you get referrals. Of course, you can get referrals from existing customers, but one underestimated element of social selling on LinkedIn is the long term benefit of referrals. When you become known, when you invest in relationships, they recommend you to their contacts.

You’ll have seen how you can tag people on LinkedIn. I know many sellers who pick up 2-3 quoting opportunities per month, simply because they were recommended by someone in their network. Relationships developed on LinkedIn can unlock introductions and referrals into companies.They invest the time to ensure their connections are not just a number, but someone they get to know. That relationship can quickly become a means of getting referred into your network's network.

We often think referrals need to come from clients but they can come from contacts who you’ve fostered a relationship with. Many find this confusing, why would a complete stranger refer to business? Well, in 2024, digital relationships might not be as ‘real’ as people we’ve met in person, but for many they trust the people they meet online. We massively underestimate the power of building digital relationships.

Recently, I advised a company to go through all of their old contacts that are their customers' business. They brought me a list of 400 people who no longer work in their existing customers' business. A number of the team were connected to some of the list. Very quickly we built a re-connect campaign, to re energise the relationships. They generated 84 sales meetings where the contact had moved to a company they could offer their services to. Inside 30 days, 17 had gone to the proposal stage.


Being known in a vertical

We often hear how social media is an echo chamber. We’ve all had that experience of showing interest in a topic or product and suddenly our feeds are populated with those topics and interests. Social media often confirms our biases. We see more of what we spend time on or engage with.

This of course, in a bigger societal picture, this has serious harms. It distorts our view of the world. It fuels conspiracy theories, polarises people's views. In a social selling context, this echo chamber effect can be very powerful for a B2B seller. 

Growing your network, sharing content and building relationships in a vertical can quickly get you widely known as the go-to person for that product or solution. Robert Zajonc, a polish psychologist coined the term “Mere Exposure Effect” to crystallise his research into human social dynamics. He found that the more we are exposed to a message, person or brand, the more we prefer it. Whilst this might seem like a marketing concept, it gives sellers a great opportunity to be preferred in their network.

Let’s play this out. A seller is looking to engage with CFOs in the tech sector. Let’s say they have some gadget which makes their life easier. Now what do you think the impact would be if the seller did this:

  • Connected with 30 CFOs in the tech sector every week.
  • Shared practical and helpful content for those CFOs
  • Engaged with other voices in the same vertical
  • Built relationships across the vertical

How do you think they’ll be perceived in 60-90 days? 

Well, we did this experiment. The seller in question was invited onto podcasts, to speak at events, secured inbound leads and picked up 5 large opportunities in a 3 month period.

Being known in a vertical might feel like a long game and compared to cold pitching it is, but it’s surprising how quickly using social selling principles on LinkedIn you can build a name in a vertical.

I could write a long list of benefits that B2B sellers can gain from social selling. I could be much more tactical, but the long term benefit which yields the biggest rewards is that you are networked and known.

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