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Remember the big content marketing boom that happened several years ago? Every entrepreneur and marketer was hyped into thinking that content marketing was the hottest thing since sliced bread.

Today, “social selling” is the hot new sales and marketing term.

What most don’t realize is that “social selling” and “content marketing” are just marketing buzzwords. If you really think about it, all marketing is technically content marketing. And social selling is no different — all sales activities are social in nature.

However, just because the term “social selling” includes the word “selling,” it doesn’t meangoing on social media and blatantly selling to all of your contacts. LinkedIn social selling is a much more artful approach than most people realize just based on the catchy words.

So, what is social selling, really?

Social selling is the perfect marriage of sales and marketing. It uses your company’s brand as the channel to leverage social media platforms through personal branding. Whereas most companies over the years have siloed out sales and marketing as separate functions of the business, social selling requires these two important departments to be in total sync.

Social selling involves a cycle of sales and marketing systems:

  • Sales reps or company ambassadors generate sales conversations through their personal social media profiles.
  • They share the insights and feedback they get in the sales process with their marketing team.
  • Marketing turns this insight into content that funnels back through social channels to generate sales leads.
  • And the cycle begins again.

Neat process, right? And damn effective — especially considering all the sales and marketing noise out there from the big content marketing explosion.

Leveraging brand ambassadors from within your company separates you from all of your competitors. Remember, B2B sales are highly relationship driven (1:1) to start — and that hasn’t changed.

Why social selling?

I’m tired of hearing all the talk from marketers out there that “sales and marketing have changed drastically because of social media!” It’s just not true.

In fact, all components of sales and marketing are the same as they’ve been for decades. The biggest difference now is that the buyer has changed.

Today’s buyers are:

  • More distracted than ever, because technology is constantly distracting all of us
  • Bombarded by salespeople calling, emailing, and hitting them up nonstop for the short sales opportunity
  • Consuming much more information than in the past to find the right vendor, spending more time qualifying vendors in the buying process, and pulling more influencers into the decision-making process

Contrary to what you might have heard, cold calling isn’t dead — nor are trade shows, conferences, SEO, PPC, email, or traditional mail. You name it, and sales/marketing teams are still doing it to great effect! All of these approaches still have their place.

However, social selling is the most effective way to close the gap on your former/current marketing initiatives — and it brings much more reach and consistency to your efforts.

Save time and money with effective social selling

It’s easy to spend a lot of energy and resources on “social selling” but end up just spinning in circles. Many people start with random actions; they throw social sales pitches left and right and spam their newsfeeds with irrelevant content and activities, then call it social selling. The effect? Lots of frustration and a lack of results.

Sooner or later, you’re going to need to implement social selling in your business. You might as well make the move before your competitors, and you might as well do it right. Your bottom line (and CFO) will thank you!

Follow these steps to implement effective social selling:

  1. Start the right way by developing a specific plan, with set goals. Include every single person on your team relevant to sales, marketing, business development, and client services. Make sure everyone is in it for the long haul — this isn’t a quickie, fly-by-night marketing scheme.
  2. Invest in systems that work! It took us years to develop the right system for B2B social selling that works for us and our clients — because one didn’t exist before. Find the trusted sources with reliable systems for your industry and sales type, and use them with your own team rather than guessing what to do — even down to daily activities.
  3. Make sure you have the infrastructure in place to handle the uptick of opportunity that will result from the increase in eyeballs on your site and content. Sales leads from social are different and must be followed up with differently to convert them to paying clients. From website, to leads, to social media profiles, make sure no areas are overlooked where you’ll potentially lose a sales opportunity.

Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been trying to embrace social selling but haven’t been seeing results, keep these three steps handy as a guide.

Social selling is hot now, but it’s also here to stay for the long term — and that’s a positive thing! You can now be an influencer in your industry and the #1 go-to resource for clients and potential prospects, without a lot of additional monetary investment. There used to be so many barriers preventing you from taking advantage of this opportunity. Don’t take the opportunity for granted!

We’ve spent over 18 years helping companies with B2B sales and marketing. If you’re struggling to get your LinkedIn social-selling efforts to drive consistent, high-dollar sales, reach out to us for a no-cost LinkedIn Social Selling strategy session:

This blog was reposted from Active Blogs’ Director of Sales and Marketing, Connor Dube’s LinkedIn. See the original article here.