According to Wikipedia, social selling is “the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process. Today, this often takes place via social networks, such as LinkedIn®, Twitter®, and Facebook®, and Pinterest®, but can take place either online or offline.”
However, the reality is that social selling existed long before social media came on the scene. Back in the day, social selling meant going to networking groups or events that you sponsored through marketing, and generally just getting out into social settings. And this is still relevant today. What carries over into the digital world is a personal, one-to-one activity rather than something that focuses on the masses, which is social marketing.
The power of social media lies in its ability to give you access to more people with whom you can have a personal conversation. Although the two people do not have to be in the same place at the same time, remember that the more personal the interaction, the greater effect it will have.
So why should you leverage social selling as a managed service provider (MSP)? If you ask any successful service provider, they will tell you that word of mouth has been a major factor in their growth. Word-of-mouth works for two main reasons: trust and authority. Both of these can be transferred via referrals from an existing customer to a prospect and both are critical to convincing prospects to hand over their IT systems to an MSP.
Without a referral, MSPs must find other ways to convey and build both trust and authority. Relationships build trust and social selling is all about building relationships. Authority is built on exposure and education. In order to be seen as an expert in your space, people must see you, and when they do see you, they must walk away with a sense that you imparted expert knowledge.
I believe this accounts for the relatively new success I am seeing with live video. Video is a powerful format as it allows your prospects to see you. It also enables you to effectively communicate your expertise. Live video takes that a step further, and makes it even more personal because it’s less rehearsed and therefore feels more genuine. Getting started with live video is easy. Social media accounts are free and most of us already have a laptop with a webcam and/or a mobile phone with a video camera built in.
One of the things I have noticed is there is also room for error in social media. People do not expect your videos to be broadcast quality or your tweets to be grammatically correct. Although with video, decent audio quality is essential. If people cannot hear you, they will tune out. There are inexpensive microphones that plug directly into your phone or laptop that will dramatically increase the quality of your audio.
This tolerance does not mean we shouldn’t try to get it right, but it does mean we should not worry about being perfect. As I tweeted recently, “Don’t wait to do it perfect, do it until you get perfect.” You will get more results sooner if you start now rather than waiting.
What do I do about content? Simply put, anything that somehow relates to your company or product. You are not trying to push a product, you are building connections and relationships. Talk about security news, there is plenty of that. Do an office walk-around, introduce members of your team or provide a simple how-to video. Whatever you do, get creative and make it fun.
What about old school social selling? Absolutely do it. Nothing beats the value of face-to-face interaction. The return-per-contact is greater because of the personal interaction. Events like networking groups, chamber of commerce lunches, and community events are excellent opportunities to get in front of potential customers in a meaningful way and build relationships. The only draw back to in-person social selling is that you can’t reach as many people in the same amount of time or as conveniently as you can on social media.
Social selling is an important part of building trust and authority as an IT services provider. I have had a good deal of fun building relationships with both customers and other people in the industry over social media. Leverage the power of relationships in your selling and you will find you keep your pipeline full and your business growing.
Eric Anthony is Director of Customer Experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter® at @EricAnthonyMSP
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