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Social Selling: A Sales Reps Guide to Social Media Success

Social selling

Post summary:

  • Keeping up with new sales strategies is challenging - especially today. Yet, the latest strategy - social selling - is more than a buzzword and has been proven to increase company revenue by 16%! But, what is it and how does it work?
  • Sales reps that use social selling sell more and reach their targets faster. Yet, 75% of sales reps do not use it as part of their overall sales strategy. Why is it that only a few sales reps are using social selling?
  • The reason - they don't know how to get started. You see, social selling is more than just sharing content on LinkedIn and hoping for the leads to pour in. Here, we share 8 social selling tips that you can use today.

It’s no secret.

Sales people struggle with generating new leads.

Long gone are the days when you could pick up the phone, make a few cold calls to reach a new prospect and land a meeting or demo.

If you try cold calling today, it takes, on average, at least 8 phone calls.

And when you reach them, do you know what happens?

They don’t want to talk to you!

In fact, more than 90% of executives never respond to or buy from cold calls.

It’s safe to say that as sales people, we have our work cut out.

Given these challenges, how can we stand out? How can we generate more leads?

We do this through social selling.

What is social selling?

Social selling is when sales people use social media to find and engage with new prospects. Sales people use social media to provide value to prospects by answering open-ended questions, responding to comments and by sharing content throughout the buying process – from awareness to consideration, until a prospect is ready to buy.

Social selling is the new sales model or sales 2.0.

social selling 2.0

While the old sales model used to be about cold calling, sales demos and qualifying leads, the new way of B2B sales means using social media networks to reach new prospects, educate them on how your company can help them grow their business, and nurture them through content.

The growth of social media usage has been a huge factor in why social selling has been adopted and several studies point toward the B2B buyer using social media as an important part of their research process.

Accenture’s State of B2B Procurement Study finds that 94% of B2B buyers conduct some degree of research online before making a business purchase, with 55% conducting online research for at least half of their purchases.

And what channels do B2B buyers use for research?

Yes, you guessed it. It's social media.

Research by IDC has found that;

  • 91% of B2B buyers are now active and involved in social media
  • 84% of senior executives use social media to support purchase decisions
  • 75% of B2B buyers are significantly influenced by social media

It’s not just a shift in the B2B buying process that has changed.

The age B2B buyers, and more importantly decision makers, has changed too.

A study by Google and Millward Brown Digital found that 46% of decision makers are now aged between 18 and 34 years old (up from 27% in 2012), which coincidentally, is the largest social media user demographic.

B2B decision makers by age

We can expect this pace to continue and that decision-making millennials (buyers aged between 18 and 34) will count for the majority share in the near future.

So what are the benefits of social selling?

How social selling can grow your business

Jamie Shanks from Sales for Life shared his key findings in a social selling study of more than 45,000 sales reps and 200 companies. What he found was this:

For every $1 invested in social selling, the ROI is $5.

That’s right!

Every dollar invested in social selling resulted in a five dollar return.

Furthermore, Aberdeen Group released a study on the impact of social selling.

The study found that when you look at all sales KPIs (key performance indicators) – quota attainment, renewal rate and forecast accuracy - all these metrics are better when sales reps used social media (as show below).

reps sell more with social selling

The research also found that sales reps who use social selling find on average 45% more opportunities. In addition, social selling helps best-in-class companies achieve a 16% gain in year-over-year revenue.

That’s four times better than companies that don’t use social selling!

The key findings are clear: Sales reps sell more when they use social networks.

And this is why social selling is the third most important priority for sales teams this year.

Further benefits of social selling include an increased number of leads, improved conversion rate and shorter sales cycles.

social selling benefits

But, here's the thing:

Only 1 in 4 sales reps know how to use social media for sales.

So, how can your business adopt a social selling strategy?

Fear not!

We’ve got you covered with 8 actionable social selling tips!

Best of all, these 8 tips are all in line with GDPR.

8 Ways to get started with social selling

Social selling is ultimately about building relationships. But, before you build them, you need to make sure you choose the right network. Then, you can build new relationships, provide value to prospects and nurture leads.

Now, I like to practice what I preach, so I've used all of the tactics below and they really work.

Earlier this year, I made a full comittment to social selling and have been actively testing strategies, analyzing data and monitoring trends in how people connect with, learn from and buy from people who are considered experts in their industry. It's fascintating to watch, and even more fasctinating to see it work in action. 

I highly recommend you try this yourself. Commit to being active for at least 6 months without any expectations and you too, will see how effective social selling can be for your business.

Ready? Let’s get started!

1. Choose the most relevant social network

It’s easy to get caught up in the next big social network, but the true winners of social selling are sales people that are active on the same platform as their potential customers. This is the foundation to social selling success.

It’s why sales people in fashion excel on Pinterest and why B2B sales reps generate leads from LinkedIn.

So where do you start?

You start by identifying the social networks that match your potential customer:

oSocial media usage, by demographic groupWhile YouTube and Facebook have the lion share of all age groups, Forrester Research has found that decision makers primarily use Twitter and LinkedIn.

So if you’re selling products that appeal to teenagers, you should use Facebook and Instagram. And if you sell products or services aimed towards businesses and decision makers, then use LinkedIn or Twitter.

With a user base of more than 750 million members, many of your customers will already have an account on LinkedIn, so it's worth exploring LinkedIn as one of your social platforms.

2. Follow the right Twitter users

To build your network, use a tool like Followerwonk.

Followerwonk allows you to search Twitter profiles by topic or keyword and that provides you with a list in order of top rated Twitter users. For example, you can begin your search with “CRM”, “Sales” and “Marketing”.

Find prospects on Twitter

By using Followerwonk, you can follow multiple Twitter users quickly rather than visiting and requesting to follow on each individual profile, which can be time consuming. Or, you can export the list of users and then filter through to the more relevant profiles.

3. Create a wish list of companies and follow them

Do you ever dream about signing a mega-brand as a new client?

I know I do.

Well, it doesn’t have to be just a dream.

Small businesses to large corporations can be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn through company profiles or accounts. By following these companies, you can keep up to date on company news, such as when they win an award (you can send them a “Congrats!” message) or when they ask for product recommendations (you can send them an invite to a demo).

If you're a marketer, this is pretty much the same approach you would take with your account-based marketing strategy.

Here's what you can do:

Create a wish list of 10-20 dream companies that are active on social media and start following them today. Like, retweet and engage with their status updates whenever possible. It might not be a dream for much longer!

4. Get instant notifications when prospects join LinkedIn

By using LinkedIn’s Saved Search feature, you can create a search based on your ideal customer profile, and then LinkedIn will notify you each time a new sign up matches that profile.

To do this, perform a search using the LinkedIn search field found at the top of LinkedIn when you login, enter the criteria that matches your ideal customer profile, such as job title, or industry and then click the search button.

LinkedIn search function

At this point, you will find that the results will return people who you are already connected to. To remove your first level connections, click the "Connections" tab underneath the search function, check the box, "2nd" and click "Apply".

Finding second degree connections

Second level connections mean that you know someone in common, which makes it much easier to get introduced to a prospect.

Next, move the cursor the right hand side of the page and click "Create a Search Alert".

Saved Search Alert

LinkedIn will then ask you to select how often you wish to receive notifications (weekly) and in what format (email).

Inviting second degree connections is something I've been doing more of lately and it's a really great way to grow my network, fast.

But, rather than send the typical "Can you please refer me to this person" email, I send the template below.

And it works every single time.

Referral template for LinkedIn

5. Join and participate in LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn has more than 650 million users.

As a platform, LinkedIn provides you with advantages to network, ask for referrals and tons more opportunities!

One of the biggest advantages on LinkedIn lies within groups.

There's a lot of groups on LinkedIn and currently, there's more than 1.8 million groups.

According to LinkedIn expert Wayne Breitbarth, only 16% of all LinkedIn users have joined 100 groups.

To find a group, search for a topic of your expertise. Remember, you're not looking to mingle with sales people here, as their job is to sell their product. What you want to do is share knowledge and expertise with potential customers.

If your ideal customer is a small business owner, then search for groups relating to small businesses.

If you sell customer service software, search and join groups that dedicated to customer service managers.

Searching for groups on LinkedIn

6. Connect with potential customers on LinkedIn

When you begin to contribute to groups, you will find that more people will view your profile.

When someone views your profile, send them an invitation to connect.

But, whatever you do, don't send them one of these - the default, and impersonal, standard invitation:

Default LinkedIn invite

Instead, try something simple like “Hi, thanks for viewing my profile. Would you like to connect on LinkedIn?”.

This is a great way to start a conversation with a potential customer that has shown an interest in what you do.

Another way to connect with potential customers is to reach out to people in the same group. Here’s a template I use for connection requests.

Personalized LinkedIn invite


7. Contribute to existing conversations about your brand

Corporate Visions found that 74% of buyers choose the sales rep who first adds value during the buying process.

This is where you come in - adding value.

To add value, implement a social listening strategy and start responding to what people are saying about your brand.

You can do this using searching Twitter to find conversations and to see who is talking about you.

Search for a keyword and then scroll through the feed and start engaging with users simply by retweeting or “liking” their posts, or by responding to suggestions and questions they ask.

In the example below, I searched for "CRM software suggestions" and found hundreds of Tweets!


By contributing to these conversations, you add value to a prospects network and get your name on their radar.

8. Provide value by sharing relevant content

More than 50% of B2B buyers seek out information on products and services on social media.

Therefore, you have a great opportunity to create new content based on what people are already searching for.

What’s the most popular type of content they seek out?

The answer is white papers -  as 49% of B2B buyers consume white papers when evaluating a technology purchase.

types of content consumed by tech buyers

However, this doesn't mean you cannot share any other type of content if you have yet to create a white paper.

Today, 60-70% of content in B2B organizations is not being used. If the conversations you engage in ask for information on best practices, share a blog post from your company blog. If a LinkedIn group is discussing product recommendations, you can share a webcast or product demo video.

This a great opportunity to finally get sales and marketing teams aligned. Together, you can create and share content based on questions, comments and topics that are being posted within your own social network.

Now, there's no limit on what you can share providing the content adds value to the conversation.

But, there’s no faster way to lose interest from a prospect than sharing irrelevant and self-promotional content.

SuperOffice social selling case study

In 2016, the SuperOffice Dutch sales team hired Jan Willem Alphenaar to train and educate them in the art of social selling.

Prior to the training, social media was used to share marketing content from branded profiles. But, they knew that if used correctly, social could be a powerful lead generation tool. During the training, Jan Willem shared strategies on what type of content to post online, how often and how to use social media to target prospects and turn connections into leads.

Of course, social selling is a long term sales strategy, but during the last several months, we're starting to see some fantastic results, including:

  • Stronger alignment between sales and marketing
  • A 61% increase in visits from social media channels to our websites
  • An increase from 1,000 impressions to 50,000 impressions to our branded profiles
  • A 168% increase in business leads from social media channels

More importantly, we’ve seen a 24% increase in new business revenue.

social selling impact on revenue


There’s no doubt; social selling will help you sell more.

These 8 social selling tips will help you find and connect with prospects on LinkedIn and Twitter, the platforms where decision makers can be found, but the best results from social selling come when you make it your primary goal to provide value to prospects and build relationships.

Social selling is not a one-time activity and something that should be used alongside existing sales prospecting techniques. While it might be difficult to get started, especially if you're new to social media, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

One thing is clear: Prospects, customers and competitors all use social media for business. Embrace it and watch your sales grow or ignore it and get left behind. It's that simple.

What do you think about social selling? Are you interested in giving social selling a try?

Let me know below.

P.S. If you got something valuable from this blog post, remember to tweet about it here!

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Jatin Bhalla

6 years ago

Very thoughtful. Learns a lot....

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Emenike Emmanuel

6 years ago

This is impressive! Social selling is a great way to market one's products and services.

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Sonia Klemore

5 years ago

Unfortunately there is too much noise on social media today. It has become almost impossible to get attention and sell anything. This is what happens when channels get saturated. It pushes people to try and get more and more creative which only leads to higher costs in terms of time and money for a smaller and smaller reward. The most effective way and the only way that has held true for thousands of years is direct communication with the prospect. The only valuable aspect of Social Media is the ability to connect to your prospect and start a conversion via chat. For this LinkedIn is the best platform. The system is simple. Send an invitation to connect and once accepted, introduce yourself to the prospect via chat. Then, try and move the prospect to continue communication via email or phone as soon as possible. Here is how I work and I get results: 1. I send out 50 invites a day. Out of these 10-20 will accept which equals to 200-400 new prospects a month. 2. I will then send a short intro message to the prospect introducing myself and my company 3. As soon as I feel the prospect is interested enough to continue the conversion, I try and get him to continue on email or phone. It is simple, free and most importantly an effective way of social selling!

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Steven MacDonald

5 years ago

Thanks Sonia! That's a great approach to social selling!

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Brooke Harper

5 years ago

Thanks for sharing this great article, Steven. Social selling is becoming more and more popular and a lot of companies are incorporating it to their sales strategy. Since we now live in a digitally-driven world, most consumers are actively engaging on social media platforms, which is why we must adapt to it and take advantage of this trend. Social selling is not about making a sale, but rather, it's about creating meaningful relationships with prospects and customers and nurturing them in order to provide them with exceptional customer experience which ultimately enhance our sales effort.

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5 years ago

Thanks for sharing such a useful information with us. After reading this article I have a nice thought about how Social selling is important for any Business.There’s no doubt; social selling will help you sell more.

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4 years ago

This is, indeed, a great insight on how to make larger sales through the social media and social selling. Thanks for sharing

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4 years ago

As someone who is involved with social selling, I really enjoyed the content and tone of the article.

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4 years ago

Hey Steven, It was really helpful. Definitely, social media is creating a lot of buzz, but I feel methods like email marketing still plays an important role in online marketing and sales. If used effectively it can create great revenues.

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Steven MacDonald

4 years ago

Thanks, Priyanka! Social selling is new to many sales reps, but good old email marketing is still a great way to increase sales.

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Jennifer Fernando

4 years ago

Awesome post. Thank your for sharing such a nice article on social selling.

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Kenneth Wohl

4 years ago

I believe that social media helps gain more profits for businesses. In fact, that's why I invest in social selling for my own business - to grow profits.

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Jerome Collenbeck

4 years ago

Yes, I totally agree with what you said. I think that social media is very effective to gain more profits. Thanks for sharing these article. These is very helpful.

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4 years ago

Yes, the social media are past the point of saturation and continued growth will increase the difficulties we all face in trying to reach new prospects. I like the advice given by Sonia above. I am thinking this could also work for B2C's, in social media like Facebook or Twitter. We will use this and share the results soon.

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Steven MacDonald

4 years ago

Please do! Looking forward to seeing them!

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Alex Hamelin

4 years ago

Hi Steven, good article. I fail to understand, however, how people have commented on this recently posted article 1-2 years ago. What am I missing?

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Steven MacDonald

4 years ago

Hi Alex, this post was originally published more than a year ago, but we continue to update the content so it remains relevant.

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Tom Buckland

4 years ago

Having leads come to you instead of the other way around is hitting the jackpot when it comes to lead generation marketing. But how can you increase the number of inbound leads and ultimately take your business to the next level almost instantly? Start with the basics, lead generation strategies are built on knowledge and understanding of what the market is telling you. Content that has poor choice in keywords will not only mean you will be flooded with bad quality leads, your service will often be hidden away from the leads that are interested in what you have to offer. Avoid making decisions that you ‘think’ are correct and make choices that are backed by data-driven facts. Always make sure that you are using the right keywords to make your post highly ranking when customer searched. Also, when you create an enquiry form you need to make sure that it is better and stop using boring enquiry forms.

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Steven MacDonald

4 years ago

Thanks, Tom! Great comment!

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Ananthi Mathur

4 years ago

The average employee is capable of generating tons of content for you every day. This content is relatable and trustworthy can be harnessed to improve your brand visibility, spruce up sales, create more traffic, and generate more leads. Of course, most businesses aren’t seeing the value in such content, but several have already taken advantage of it by building some fantastic campaigns merging User Generated Content (UGC) and employee advocacy.

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Elaine E

3 years ago

Great in depth analysis, especially the demographic chart of different social media. I feel as though that Twitter and LinkedIn have the most mature audience. For LinkedIn this is understandable, I wonder why is it a case for Twitter though?

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Steven MacDonald

3 years ago

Great question, Elaine! I'll have to find out!

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Adriana V.

3 years ago

Very good, thanks for sharing your knowledge on social selling!

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Ryan Hall

3 years ago

Great article! Social media is very different that other ways of selling.

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Navin Mirania

3 years ago

Nice post! Technological advancements have the ability to transform any industry or job function overnight—including B2B sales. Although these changes are often exciting, keeping up with the evolving technological landscape can feel like a full-time job. If you fall behind on the latest and greatest in technology, you fall behind your competitors. Hence, it makes sense to stay aware and not let this happen to you. Social selling is one such technological advancement. The goal of B2B selling is to reach prospects and form meaningful connections with them — all in an effort to influence their purchase decisions. If you’ve worked in sales for any amount of time, you know the best way to do this is to reach your prospects where they’re most active.This growing trend refers to salespeople using social media to interact with prospects and customers. As social media continues to grow, so does social selling.

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Steven MacDonald

3 years ago

Fantastic comment, Navin. Thank you so much!

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Melissa Kohler

2 years ago

Hi Steven! Great article! As a career changer into sales, I am very interested in Social Selling. This was very helpful in breaking down the basics. Regarding, "The answer is white papers – as 49% of B2B buyers consume white papers when evaluating a technology purchase."- this is a great statistic! What is the source of it? I tried to follow the link but the page didn't load. Thanks for your help! Melissa

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Steven MacDonald

2 years ago

Hi Melissa. You're right, the page no longer loads. Thank you for pointing that out. Here's a link to the study that does work (I've also updated the link above, too)

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John T.

2 years ago

Thanks for this article on social selling. I found it really valuable!

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Selenium Ray

2 years ago

Thanks for sharing us. That's a great approach to selling in the digital marketing industry.

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Sheikh Sohaib

2 years ago

Thanks, Steven MacDonald for the excellent approach for social selling.

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2 years ago

Hey Steven, Happy Holidays! Your 8 point tips on social selling are really useful. Moreover, they are very easy to understand. Thank you!

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Donal McCrossan

2 years ago

Thank you for these helpful tips on how to become better at social selling.

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2 years ago

Yes, I totally agree with what you said. I also think that social selling will help you sell more. I also believe that social media is a big help to attract clients. Thanks for sharing this article.

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2 years ago

LinkedIn is a great tool for B2B prospecting and social selling.

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Shayur Maharaj

2 years ago

Even as a marketing analyst, I found this piece on social selling extremely insightful. Thanks

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Solomon K.

2 years ago

A really great article on social selling. Thanks for sharing.

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Gursimran Singh

one year ago

This is great. Thanks a lot for writing such a unique and informing piece on social selling. I'm excited to implement some of these strategies.

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Alina K.

one year ago

Great social selling strategies. Thanks Steven!

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Priya Sharma

one year ago

Hello Steven, I was quite confused that how can I use social media for selling but after reading your post I think I have learn lot and i think i need to implement my existing strategies.

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Caroline Corniello

one year ago

Hi Steven, Great insight and many excellent ideas that I want to take advantage of. This article has made it very easy for me to want to try out social selling in my lead generation activities. I’m hoping that I can obtain similar results as well!

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Ian Moyse

one year ago

Social selling is a methodology not a technology and one that supplements traditional sales skills. I have been a long time practioner and speaker/trainer on the subject. Many traditional sales leaders slam it as they dont want to understand it and see it cant get them instant gratification. It works, bit alongside traditional methods and anyone ignoring it enters the dinosaur sales club!