Why Building Relationships Is Key to Successful Social Selling In the UK
Social selling has emerged as one of the hot topics within sales over recent years and the benefits of an effective social selling strategy were made clear in the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, which revealed that formally aligned social selling strategies improved win rates by up to 16 percent.
With that being said, evidence also suggests that social selling in the United Kingdom differs from social selling in the United States in several key ways. In this article, we focus on the importance of fostering meaningful relationships with potential customers, in order to establish trust and influence.
One of the single biggest differences between social selling in the UK and in the US is centred around the fact that US buyers, in general, are more educated about a particular product before their first contact with sales staff. In the UK, however, buyers seek more than just the price and rely on a salesperson to provide information.
“In the UK, customers look to the salesperson for education,” Lee Bartlett explains in an interview with CSO Insights’ research director, Tamara Schenk. “The ‘relationship’ sale is of increased importance to the UK buyer…and sales training is focused on a more interpersonal approach.”
Barlett’s insight reveals a key difference in dynamic between the UK and US sales cultures, with interpersonal sales skills being more important in the UK. By contrast, in the US, where buyers are more knowledgeable about products in advance, negotiation training may be a bigger priority for sales managers.
Despite this reliance on salespeople to do the educating, it is important to stress that buyers in the United Kingdom are not naive. Indeed, UK buyers can be just as cynical as buyers in other parts of the world, which is another reason why building relationships is so important to social selling success.
Social selling provides a perfect platform for establishing trust between salespeople and potential buyers. Through sharing useful articles, videos and other online content, buyers are more likely to view social sellers as valuable sources of information and, therefore, more likely to trust them when engaged in sales discussions.
According to research from DemandGen, 47 percent of B2B buyers digest three to five pieces of content before communicating with a salesperson. This highlights the value of social selling and shows that there is an increasing cross-over between sales skills and marketing. In some ways, social selling is about selling your salespeople.
This link between sales and marketing speaks to an important concept within social selling, which is alignment between sales and marketing departments. This alignment is now more important than in the past and basic sales and negotiation training should be supplemented with some basic marketing knowledge.
More importantly, however, the two departments within sales organisations need to work closely together to ensure they are both staying ‘on message’ and working towards the same goal. Marketing professionals can help social sellers by producing useful video content, or content marketing, which can be shared to build better relationships.
“There must be an alignment of sales and marketing,” says Lee Bartlett. “The sales team must keep the marketing team up to date with the needs of the customers, and the marketing team must streamline the process of content creation. More than ever, selling is a team event.”
Social selling is seen as being increasingly important, but there are subtle differences between best practices in the United Kingdom and United States. For businesses targeting customers in the UK, relationship building is more important, because customers rely on salespeople to educate them about products and services, but a level of trust must be established in order for this to take place.