4 steps to social selling for financial professionals
By Julie Smith
Universal Insurance Services
Selling has always been social. Always will be. So, when many financial professionals hear the term "social selling," they might think to themselves, "I'm already doing that." But the practice of social selling is just that, a practice of selling through social channels.
A recent study conducted by "Life Insurance Selling" showed that 70 percent of insurance professionals surveyed said prospecting is the most challenging aspect of their business. So, how do you use social media to make or create more sales opportunities?
Successful insurance agents and financial professionals realize that getting to know your prospects, creating relationships and developing trust is essential before you start any sales conversation. Developing relationships today is more important and valuable than developing leads, especially in the financial services industry. If you are authentic in your efforts, these trusted relationships will eventually turn into leads.
According to Scott Stratten, author of "UnMarketing" and a recent platform speaker at the MDRT annual meeting, "a lot of people who sell insurance understand face-to-face networking but they somehow miss something when it comes to virtual networking."
In reality, it's pretty much the same thing. You seek out opportunities to get in front of people and get to know them; you connect with them and look for ways to share your knowledge and insight and they begin to trust you. Over time, you have created this top-of-mind awareness for yourself and when they need someone of your expertise, you are the first person they call. The process is fundamentally the same; you're just using a different platform to do it.
Stratten also notes that this industry is in the business of relationships. "Relationships build trust and, without trust, you don't have any clients."
Social media is such a perfect tool to initiate and cultivate these relationships and build the desired trust among your prospects and network, and that's essentially how social selling works.
So, where do you start? Recent studies have shown that 80 percent of consumers conduct preliminary online research when shopping for life insurance and investment products. If they were to search for you online, what would they find?
Creating a strong personal brand and establishing yourself as a valuable resource should be your first step, but certainly not the last. Here are four essential steps to get you on the way to social selling success:
1. Create a great profile.
Take the time to build a strong professional profile, add a current photo and relevant experience and skills that effectively tell the story of you. It's important to make sure your profile isn't just a resume, but rather a powerful resource for your prospects and customers to gather information and thoughtful communication. Your personal brand, much like your reputation, encompasses the total relationship experience of who you are and what you represent, and it's something you must live and breathe every day. 2. Build relationships.
When you're just getting started on social, it's easiest to connect with people you already know — business colleagues and co-workers, friends, family and former classmates are a good place to start. Most social networks have tools to help you increase your connections. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have a "people you might know" feature that offers suggestions for adding connections.
3. Develop your network.
Social networks are all about connecting, discovering the connections of others, and then leveraging those connections into introductions to expand your personal network. Connect with those people with whom you already have trusted relationships and turn them into a powerful network that can help support your professional objectives. It's important to note that social media should always be a two-way street. It is just as important to give as to receive, so make sure you are offering your connections the same professional support that you expect.
4. Engage in conversation.
The key to attracting and growing the right audience lies in sharing news, articles and insights that are relevant to your connections. Keep in mind that when you share something that members of your network comment on, you’re gaining exposure to their network as well. And you don’t have to stick exclusively to financial content. Feel free to let your personality show; just remember to keep it professional.
Social media allows you to create a situation where your prospects already know who you are and care about you before you even pick up the phone. That's where the power of social media becomes a competitive advantage. Financial professionals who use social media to prospect and build out their networks are three times more successful that their non-social-media counterparts when it comes to gaining new clients.
*A note of caution: Before you begin, please review your compliance guidelines and make sure you adhere to the guidance provided by your broker/dealer, state and/or FINRA, which may dictate how you can utilize social media.