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Customers have never been savvier. Greater connectivity and access to information has made it possible for them to instantly compare products and services, read reviews and specifications, and confer with friends or family on just about every purchase. As a result, modern customers have become less receptive to marketing pitches and more prone to shopping around. What does this mean for salespeople?

While interruptive mass advertising may be on the way out, some aspects of the sales landscape haven’t changed. Buyers still place a high value on relationships. In fact, as we continue to move more of our activities online, it’s becoming more important to establish trustworthy connections. For sellers, this means you now need to connect with individual customers at their level, rather than trying to speak to broad market segments.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by using social networks to find and engage with prospects, learn about their needs, and create an ongoing dialogue. This strategy—called social selling—allows businesses to develop much more intelligent and responsive sales strategies that map closely to the modern customer journey. Done correctly, social selling can make your sales process more efficient and profitable.

Here are three ways social selling can benefit both your sales team and your customers.

Understand your customers better

Armed with insights from their own research, customers now regularly ask detailed questions that aren’t going to be satisfied by broad-based sales strategies. Instead, you have to understand the specific needs of each prospect so your sales team can provide answers tailored precisely to where they are in their buying journey.

Social selling allows salespeople to do this by taking advantage of the same resources that customers are using to become informed. For instance, sellers can learn a lot about potential customers’ needs and pain points based on their social media activity. By paying attention to what customers are saying, salespeople can craft relevant, personalized messages that create immediate value and trust. What’s more, social media channels can also point sellers to other prospects with similar problems or needs, creating a natural network of leads. Tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator make it easy to discover and target buyers filtered by a variety of data (for example, keywords, credentials, companies), helping salespeople further refine their social selling strategy.

Create a seamless customer experience

Social media has made it possible for customers to ask questions, make requests, and engage directly with brands before they ever talk with sales. This makes building value-added, long-term relationships with customers even more crucial. Your team’s job extends beyond understanding buyer needs and making that first sale; now you must create a holistic, seamless experience.

Using social selling techniques, your team can interact with and nurture customers and prospects from initial contact through purchase and beyond. This allows you to keep up with individual customers’ needs, address problems and concerns, and enrich your relationships with them. Your team can also use social listening to gain insights into what competitors are saying, address rumors, and proactively share relevant information. Organizing customer data in a central repository such as Dynamics 365 for Sales can even help sellers solve customers’ problems by connecting them with partners who have specialized knowledge. This adds value to the relationship and builds your clients’ trust in your solutions.

Focus on the best sales opportunities

Customers who share more information about themselves and participate more deeply in the buying process expect a more personal buying experience. They want sellers to not only be familiar with who they are and what they need, but when the best time to contact them is.

In fact, with access to a greater amount of data than ever before, salespeople can’t afford not to take a more personal approach to contacting potential customers. To do this, a social selling strategy can be utilized to both amass detailed profiles of customers and their needs, as well as determine intelligent strategies for identifying likely buyers. This may include singling out decision-makers within a business, or may involve gathering other relevant information that signals when a customer is ready to make a purchase. Using the Microsoft Relationship Sales solution, sellers can access machine-learning tools that evaluate incoming leads and find those that will most likely result in a sale. All this streamlines the sales process, freeing up sellers to focus more on activities that truly add value to the customer relationship.

Today’s customers are changing the way the sales process works. With the availability of more information, and the ability to instantly connect with sellers and other buyers, they now expect a more personal sales relationship. With social selling, salespeople can adapt to this new reality by using the very tools and processes of their customers to build better relationships.

Learn how the Inside Sales team at Microsoft is helping businesses benefit from these techniques and transform their sales strategies. For more news and updates on how Microsoft is helping businesses benefit from the cloud, head over to the Cloud Perspectives blog.