Digital has disrupted the traditional ways of conducting business, especially so for sales.
In the pre-digital age, a salesman would come by selling the latest product with a sales brochure, armed with a good sales pitch and counter arguments, with the goal of convincing the buyer and closing the sale. Typically, this would involve a decision-maker within the company, and if all goes well, the salesman would be successful and close the sale.
Today, thanks to digital and social media, buyers can gather information much faster. They know what they want and why. When today’s buyers have questions, they search for answers online instead of relying purely on information from a salesperson.
This theme is also taking centre-stage in Singapore, where the internet penetration rate is the highest (80%) among all SE Asian countries. Almost all internet users in Singapore own at least one social media account and 42% use the internet to compare choices before making purchases. In the professional context, more than one million professionals in Singapore or seven out of every 10 professionals are LinkedIn members.
The abundance of information and the growth in social media have added to the complexity of decision-making. The single-threaded approach—a salesperson forming a relationship with one decision-maker—is becoming less effective. Helping buyers reach a decision requires multiple points of contact in the company. If you're a technology vendor, it isn't just about the CTO anymore – influencing the heads of digital, compliance, marketing, and even legal will become just as important as convincing the CTO.
How should sales professionals in Singapore embrace this disruption and use it to their advantage? The answer: go back to basics.
Because the buying process has changed for most companies, it is important that sales professionals in Singapore meet the buyers where they are – on social media. Simply put, social selling is about leveraging your professional social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals.
The good news is, professionals in Singapore are leading the way in social selling as defined by the Social Selling Index (SSI), compared to their counterparts in Asia. The SSI measures how effective one is at establishing his/her professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships. The SSI for professionals in Singapore is 7 percentage points higher than the average across Asia. That said, there's always room to improve and stay ahead.
Doing it right is as easy as ABC – Audience, Brand, and Communication.
1. Audience: Knowing your audience
The fundamentals of any business process stay the same in the digital world: People buy from people, not companies; online research is the norm these days before people meet for the first time; this is where they can discover common connections and interests.
With 5.4 people involved in the average B2B buying decision, instead of following through with only one prospect, sales professionals must go deeper into the buying team's structure, creating and building many relationships. Social selling enables you to leverage extended networks to find those multiple contact points. In short, it allows you to reach more prospects faster.
It is crucial to first understand who your audience is, who in your network knows them and what’s important to them. The more you know about your audience, the better you are able to make your sales pitch resonate. Where there are commonalities, such as common connections, a warm introduction always helps make the first interaction significantly friendlier than a cold call.
2. Brand: Building a professional brand online
Today's B2B buyers are very selective and will only work with vendors they trust. A strong professional brand shows you are an active participant in your industry, which in turn leads to a better response to your communications and more inquiries from prospects. As your LinkedIn profile is usually the first result that turns up in an online search, making a good first impression through your profile is essential.
Having a strong professional brand is important as it is what potential partners and customers see when they click on your name. It is more than your online resume. Your profile should communicate not just who you are but also what you're about. Craft a summary that clearly explains how you help potential buyers with solutions and meet their goals, while highlighting your experience and expertise, demonstrating credibility and establishing confidence in your abilities to deliver value.
In addition to building up your profile, you should share a point of view or start a discussion that relates to your industry on your professional social network. Identifying opportunities to initiate helpful discussions can help increase your credibility online and draw positive attention to yourself as someone who understands the industry.
3. Communication: Engage and build trust over time
Once you're introduced to and connected with your prospect, it is important to recognise that you need to engage with your potential buyers to build trust over time. The way to engage with buyers today is about creating future advocates by socially surrounding the buying decision-makers and their sphere of influence with content. Share relevant content that help you become a trusted source of insights and engage with insights from others. Nearly 64% of B2B buyers say they appreciate hearing from a salesperson who provides knowledge or insight about their business, so demonstrating your knowledge is critical in getting that first sales call.
Monitoring the profiles of your prospects on your professional social network is an effective way to engage with them when they change jobs, have work anniversaries, post updates, take part in discussions, or make new connections.
To sum up, social selling requires you to use your expertise, passion, knowledge, and insight, turning them into solutions to customers' problems. It's about using the data and information available to create deeper relationships. As consumers and businesses in Singapore continue to become more connected, more savvy, and more demanding, this will be the key to success in sales in Singapore. After all, it's not just who you know, but what you know about who you know.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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