For Professional Services, Social Selling Is the Future of New Business

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For professional services firms, social selling is the future of gaining new business.

Accountants, attorneys and other professionals who bring in clients are facing a different sales reality than in the past. Today’s buying process begins with Google. If you don’t show up in a search and offer engaging content, your services will go unnoticed. Research from The Harvard Business Review shows prospects complete 57 percent of the sales process before talking to a sales representative, while Nielsen research shows trust in advertising is continuing to plummet.

Word of mouth has largely given way to online research. Professionals and professional services firms need this new approach to connect with prospects: social selling.

There’s a New Sales Pipeline

Last year’s digital marketing tactics are less effective with today’s busy audiences. Leads enter the pipeline from digital sources: Google searches, websites and social media. They’re consuming content on the go and seeing less promotional content on their digital devices thanks to ad blockers, spam filters and clutter folders.

Effective salespeople understand their prospects and know what information they’re looking for. They have a plan to seamlessly provide insights at just the right moment in the sales process.

Social selling provides the opportunity to gather intelligence on your prospects, offer highly targeted information to build trust and authority and roll out sophisticated digital sales strategies at scale without ever making a prospect feel “interrupted.”

Launching a Strategy

Despite the growth opportunities, two-thirds of professional services firms have no social media selling strategy in play. Social business-to-business (B2B) selling uses social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn, to interact directly with target buyers. An effective strategy helps you reach those digitally-driven buyers to build relationships with and educate them.

Prospects find information with just a few clicks. Social media selling helps you meet customers where they gather intelligence, positioning your insights front and center. By creating and sharing content buyers find relevant, you establish yourself as a trusted industry authority. Over time, you’ll build strong personal and company brands.

The key is to be an influencer, not to make a hard sell. Build trust by engaging in genuine conversations that focus on your prospects’ needs. Create and share original content that showcases your unique point of view and speaks to issues your prospects care about.

As you establish your expertise and educate prospects on what they need to know, you’ll become their brand of choice when it’s time to make a purchase. Discerning buyers rely on digital interactions to “credentialize” thought leaders and firms. A strong brand helps prospects determine that you and your firm have the expertise they need before they initiate the sales conversation.

Four Strategies for Going Deeper

  1. Create a LinkedIn strategy: With more than 500 million active users, LinkedIn is the most important network for professional services firms. Creating a LinkedIn strategy is essential to building strong firm and executive relationships. Build a corporate page and update it daily with fresh content, curated articles, community outreach and awards and recognition. Our page at Aprio gets updated one to two times per day. Firms should encourage their associates to publish content at least once a week. To amp it up, target users on LinkedIn that you can share content with as a way of building relationships and their propensity to buy from you.
  2. Gather info and measure success: Targeting individual buyers is a cornerstone of social sales. LinkedIn Sales Navigator uses LinkedIn’s data to target key decision-makers at specific companies. It maps connections your firm already has and identifies additional prospects that fit your target client profile. Also on LinkedIn, the Social Selling Index (SSI) evaluates four criteria: having a professional brand, finding the right prospects, engaging with insights and building relationships. It highlights where you’re doing well and opportunities for improvement. On Twitter, create separate lists for clients, prospects, competitors and thought leaders you follow. That will help you see what they’re interested in and what they’re sharing.
  3. Increase the impact of your executive team’s personal profiles: Prospects visit personal pages across all the social channels to assess backgrounds and original thought leadership. Teach your team best practices to help them stand out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, if appropriate for your needs, Google Plus and Instagram. Focus on the importance of completed profiles and professional headshots. Display client endorsements and regularly share articles and new content, including multimedia, such as presentations they’ve given. Ensure your team uses titles that communicate how you help clients and the types of clients you work with. At Aprio, we use titles like “partner serving international technology and biosciences clients.”
  4. Amplify your content marketing efforts: Get your team engaged and regularly sharing company content on social channels to amplify your impact. They should post original content, repost articles from other channels and share teasers with their social networks. Include updates of your latest content in marketing bulletins or the company’s intranet. Truly engage on all social platforms to build relationships – ask questions, share insights, retweet, like, etc. Dig into prospects’ contacts lists and bios to see who and what you have in common. It’s a great way to start a conversation.

Summary

The evolving digital landscape has taken lead generation online. Social media selling positions your company and executive team as go-to industry leaders and builds relationships with prospective clients early in the sales cycle.

The next article in this series will explore how content has become a key driver of the buyer journey and sales conversions — and why adopting a publisher mindset is essential to successful marketing in 2018 and beyond.

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