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Social selling 101: How to build trust and grow sales

Social Selling
Topics
What is social selling?
The benefits of social selling
Selling social: Which channels are suitable?
How to engage with buyers on social media
11 social selling best practices: How to bolster your sales pipeline
5 social selling tools you need right now
Social selling FAQs
Final thoughts

Chances are your ideal customers use at least one social media platform frequently, which is why social selling can be such a powerful sales technique for your business.

In this article, you’ll learn how social selling works, why it deserves your time and where to find your target audience. We’ll also explore social selling best practices and show you which social selling tools to add to your tech stack.


What is social selling?

Social selling is a sales tactic that involves using social media channels to find, engage and nurture potential buyers. It aims to forge relationships, build trust and ultimately close more deals.

Social Selling Sales Model

The mass adoption of platforms like LinkedIn means social selling is key to many modern sales strategies. It allows companies of all sizes to reach global buyers at little cost.

Effective social selling helps at all stages of the sales cycle, as it can help you…

  • Understand audiences and competitors. Gather insights on target audiences’ preferences, behaviors and pain points and learn where other businesses excel and fall short.

  • Discover and nurture new leads. Initiate meaningful interactions with potential clients and help them along the sales funnel toward conversion.

  • Build relationships. Develop meaningful relationships with new prospects and existing customers through personalized interactions, fostering trust, rapport and brand loyalty.

Rather than replace other sales tactics, social selling complements them to create smoother buying journeys for your customers.

For example, a social seller may use LinkedIn content to solve common buyer problems and encourage potential customers to get in touch. The seller can then deliver their sales pitch to anyone who calls via the content’s call to action (CTA).

Note: Social selling isn’t the same as social media marketing. Social media marketing focuses on promoting specific products or services, building brand awareness and reaching broad audiences through targeted advertising and content strategies. However, both can help you achieve your sales goals.


The benefits of social selling

According to LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index, 78% of social sellers outperform peers who don’t use social media. Moreover, top-performing social sellers are 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas.

LinkedIn Social Selling Index


So, how exactly does social selling help businesses grow revenue? Here are four reasons to embark on your own social selling journey.

Meet audiences on their level

Social selling allows you to connect with potential customers where they already spend time: on social media.

As per DataReportal, there are more than five billion social media user identities worldwide (one person may have multiple identities).

The average social media user also spends two hours and 23 minutes on social networks daily, giving social sellers a significant opportunity to attract and influence them.

DataReportal Social Selling


Engaging with prospects in familiar environments – such as in posts on X, LinkedIn and Facebook groups – can help sales professionals start meaningful conversations about needs, preferences and pain points, which leads to more personalized interactions and higher chances of conversion.

Better understand your customers with our Buyer Persona Templates

Use these templates to ensure your solution always aligns with your customers' interests and needs

Humanize your brand to grow trust

Social sellers typically use their own social profiles rather than professional brand accounts when interacting with potential customers.

A “personal brand” approach involves showing the human face behind your company’s products. It lets you build credibility with audiences wary of more overt selling tactics like cold calling.

Authenticity like this is powerful. In a Forrester study, 70% of US consumers said authentic brands gave them a “stronger feeling of confidence” (i.e., make them more likely to buy).

Meanwhile, only 8% of respondents to an Edelman survey said they automatically trust advertising messages.

For example, if you spend time building relationships with people online before you mention your product, they’ll see you’re there to help rather than just sell to them. It’s a type of authenticity you don’t get from calling someone out of the blue.

Build authority and strengthen your reputation

By sharing helpful pieces of content and engaging your audience in meaningful discussions, you’ll build a reputation as a go-to resource for insights and advice.

To do this, offer genuine views, opinions and recommendations and ultimately help people overcome problems, rather than just try to find deals.

Building authority isn’t just good for lead generation. It also helps you retain existing customers and encourage sales referrals, strengthening your position as an industry thought leader.

Consider what your users value most when sharing content to drum up new business. It’ll help you choose relevant topics that address your ideal customers’ problems.

For example, you could check a website analytics tool to see which articles on your website generate the most traffic. It’ll give you a great indication of what people want to read more about.

Deepen your knowledge with social listening

Social selling isn’t all about active engagement. Social listening is a passive technique that teaches you about your audience and market.

Monitoring social media conversations improves your decision-making and sales strategies as it’ll help you better understand buyer sentiments and trends.

Pipedrive Social Selling Sentiment


Say you spot a growing trend for one product type. You could build this into your marketing strategy by posting about it on LinkedIn or writing topical blog posts, putting relevant content in front of your audience and getting more attention as a result.

You need the right tools to do social listening effectively. Rather than repeatedly searching for your brand, product and other relevant terms manually, you can use social media monitoring software to track online activity and alert you to new mentions in real time.

There are many social monitoring tools available. Some of the most popular to consider are Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Meltwater.


Selling social: Which channels are suitable?

The best channels to build into your social selling strategy depend on where your customers spend their time.

For example, business-to-business (B2B) buyers and decision-makers use LinkedIn most, while TikTok and Instagram are better for engaging younger consumers.

Here are the top platforms to consider with typical user summaries (age and gender data sourced from Pew Research Center):

LinkedIn

Primarily used by professionals and businesses for networking, job searching and industry-related content. It’s popular among white-collar workers, executives and B2B audiences.

  • Most common age group: 30–49

  • Gender split*: 48.3% female vs. 51.7% male

X (formerly Twitter)

Known for real-time updates, news and short-form content. It attracts a diverse user base including journalists, influencers and consumers interested in current affairs and trends.

  • Most common age group: 18–29

  • Gender split*: 42.2% female vs. 57.8% male

Facebook

One of the largest platforms, appealing to a wide range of demographics including adults of all ages, families and businesses. It focuses on connecting and sharing content with friends, family and communities.

  • Most common age group: 30–49

  • Gender split*: 56.3% female vs. 43.7% male

Instagram

Popular among younger demographics, particularly millennials and Gen Z, and known for visual content such as photos and videos. It focuses on lifestyle, fashion, travel and creativity.

  • Most common age group: 18–29

  • Gender split*: 58.1% female vs. 41.9% male

TikTok

Dominated by Gen Z and younger millennials, it’s known for short-form video content, challenges and trends. Its diverse user base is generally interested in entertainment, humor and creativity.

  • Most common age group: 18–29

  • Gender split*: 61.5% female vs. 38.5% male

The table above offers a general idea of where broad user groups spend the most time online but is not exhaustive. First-hand research via customer surveys and website analytics will create the clearest picture of your audience’s social preferences.

(*Gender splits based only on data from users who identify as male or female.)


How to engage with buyers on social media

There are five main ways to interact with buyers on social media. Use a mix of the following to keep your social activity authentic (i.e., natural like a regular social media user) and engaging.

Sharing

Share content relevant to your ideal customers. Market trends, company updates and how-to guides can engage users and build authority if they speak to your target audience’s interests and challenges.

For example, Asana posted this update on X about its partnership with AI platform Anthropic:

social selling Asana post


The content is relevant to Asana’s audience because it improves the tool’s functionality and user-friendliness to provide more value.

On our Medium engineering blog, we have a post on how improving your website performance lowers your carbon footprint. The post taps into current environmental concerns, shows our company values and builds the personal brands of the post’s authors.

To add variety to your feed, share a mix of original and third-party content.

If you exclusively share your own content, it’ll look like you only care about your brand and aren’t aware of what’s happening in your industry, ultimately hindering your brand authority.

If you only share third-party content, it could come across as though you have nothing interesting to say and they may not learn enough about your products. As a result, you lose interest or even followers, so your brand won’t grow.

When sharing other publishers’ content, don’t be afraid to add your thoughts to the post or comment. It’s a simple and efficient way to express your views and demonstrate thought leadership.

Commenting

Contributing to popular social media threads and conversations can drive traffic to your profile and attract new followers.

Avoid sales pitches and instead offer original, thought-provoking responses. Like business development representative (BDR) Arjun Singh did on a recent Pipedrive post:

Pipedrive Social Selling Example


If someone replies to your comment, even better. On some platforms (like LinkedIn), this means your post will show up in their followers’ feeds too, further increasing your post’s reach.

Be sure to respond promptly to keep the conversation going and maximize engagement on your posts.

LinkedIn (like other social platforms) loves posts with high engagement. When someone comments on your post, that post gets shared to their timeline too, meaning their followers may also see it and your post could get more reach.

Reacting or “liking”

Clicking “like” or “favorite” is the fastest way to put your name or brand on someone else’s radar.

It works well for acknowledging posts when you’re short on time or have nothing substantial to add in a comment.

While you can quickly react to posts on most platforms, Facebook and LinkedIn let you choose from various reactions when you hover over the “Like” button:

Pipedrive Like Button social selling


On LinkedIn, for example, there are options for “like”, “celebrate”, “support”, “love”, “insightful” and “funny” – perfect for showing some extra character in minimal time.

Connecting

Becoming someone’s friend, follower or connection on social media is an easy way to start a relationship. It shows you value their content and want to see more, which suggests you share interests and may be able to benefit each other.

Target new connections carefully and use personalized messages to explain your requests on platforms that allow you to.

Personalizing connection requests shows you’ve put some effort into it and haven’t just randomly hit the “Connect” button. It’ll help you start your relationships on the right foot, especially on LinkedIn where the focus is on business and professional development.

Note: Sending thoughtless requests to anyone and everyone is counterproductive. Either you’ll waste time being ignored or users with no interest in your business or product will blindly accept, flooding your feed with irrelevant posts and meaning it’s harder for you to connect with the right people and for the right people to find you.


11 social selling best practices: How to bolster your sales pipeline

Not sure where to start with social selling? Here are 11 best practices to help you hit the ground running and surpass your competitors.

1. Target relevant channels

Focus your social selling efforts on the networks your target customers use most. It’ll ensure you use your time wisely rather than trying to engage people with little interest in your product.

You can refer to our earlier table for a broad idea but you’ll be much more effective if you collect detailed information on preferences. Do that by:

  • Interviewing or surveying customers

  • Checking website analytics data

  • Monitoring competitors’ social activity

Check where other salespeople in your company find success, too. If your sales team’s top performer is highly active on LinkedIn, it’s likely because they’re busy nurturing deals there.

2. Optimize your social profiles

Your social media profiles are akin to digital storefronts. They give prospects valuable information about you and your business.

Fully optimize yours with accurate and up-to-date information, including:

  • A professional profile picture

  • Your job title

  • A clear and compelling bio

  • Relevant contact details (e.g., other social handles, email, phone)

Dominic Allon LinkedIn Profile Social Selling


Use industry-relevant keywords and hashtags in your profile to improve visibility and attract your buyers.

For example, if you want to achieve social selling success for a tech firm, a hashtag relevant to software businesses (like “#SaaS”) will improve visibility among users with the same interests.

Note: Paying for a Premium LinkedIn profile can make you more visible to potential customers and lend extra credibility to your outreach efforts.


3. Personalize your outreach

Avoid generic, mass-messaging tactics and instead tailor your outreach messages to each prospect. A personalized interaction shows you value the relationship and increases the chances of a positive response.

Reference details from users’ profiles, posts or previous interactions to prove you've done your homework and care about their interests.

For example, if you notice a prospect attended a recent industry event, ask them how it went. Simple ice-breakers like this can open the door to more valuable conversations.

4. Join relevant groups and communities

Become part of relevant social media communities to connect with prospects who share interests and challenges.

First, look for active groups related to your industry, niche or target audience. Here’s one for small business IT professionals interested in cloud computing:

LinkedIn Group Social Selling


Just beware of dormant groups, even if they have lots of members. An admin may accept your join request if they use the platform regularly, but you’ll struggle to strike up, or join, any useful conversations.

When you click on the profile of an active group, you should see some helpful activity metrics, like “posts a week” and new members:

LinkedIn Group Social Selling Activity


Participate by sharing experience-backed insights, answering questions and contributing to discussions.

Establishing yourself as a helpful and knowledgeable community member builds trust, credibility and relationships that may eventually lead to sales opportunities.

5. Engage authentically and be patient

Social selling isn’t for spamming prospects with sales pitches.

Instead, focus on building genuine relationships through authentic engagement and meaningful conversations.

Take time to:

  • Listen to your audience

  • Understand their needs

  • Help without expecting immediate returns

Building rapport takes time, so be patient and consistent in your efforts. Authentically engaging with your audience over time means you’ll lay the foundation for long-term relationships and hopefully sustainable sales success.

6. Share relevant, helpful content

Sharing relevant, insightful content is a powerful way to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

It demonstrates that you know your subject area well, giving people confidence that their buying decisions are correct. After all, your buyers need to know they’re interacting with a legitimate seller who understands and can solve their problems.

Create and curate content that addresses common pain points, answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) and offer insights into industry trends and best practices. You can also share customer stories in the form of case studies to reassure apprehensive buyers.

Use support tickets, sales conversations and online research to learn your audience’s interests.

You could start by typing your industry or product category into AlsoAsked, a free research tool that shows you what questions people are asking on relevant topics:

People also ask


Our example for “book publishing” shows that people interested in this topic want information on Amazon’s self-publishing costs. They also want to know about authors’ typical earnings and copyright procedures. For a book publisher, creating and sharing content that addresses these topics is an easy way to deliver value to (and impress) prospects.

7. Split your time between customers and competitors

While potential customers are social selling’s focus, you can also optimize the sales process by monitoring your competitors’ activities.

Observing conversations and interactions in your competitors’ networks will give you insights into their strategies. It may even uncover potential leads or referral sources.

Start simple by “following” other companies in your industry. Then dig deeper and watch how their sales reps and marketers interact with your shared target audience. See which products and features they cover most and how they address common challenges.

You might see other reps successfully overcoming buyers’ objections by offering extended free trials. You could use the same tactic to increase trial sign-ups with a manager’s approval.


8. Set up social monitoring alerts

Social monitoring alerts keep you informed about relevant conversations or activities online, such as mentions of your brand or a specific product.

Real-time notifications for relevant keywords let you join conversations faster, so you can demonstrate your helpfulness and knowledge to people who need it.

Terms to consider adding to your social monitoring software include:

  • Your company name

  • A product type, name or model

  • A competitor’s name

You could set up alerts on a competitor’s name to look out for users showing frustrations with their product. Stepping in to offer advice, even if it’s not immediately linked to your solution, could open up a sales conversation.

9. Check for referral opportunities

Social selling isn’t all about directly selling to prospects. It’s also about leveraging your network to generate referrals and introductions.

Look out for opportunities to connect with individuals who can refer you to potential customers or partners. Customers who publicly praise your product have the best referral potential, so be sure to respond to their posts and comments.

Forge valuable relationships with industry peers and influencers who share your target audience as their advocacy will help expand your reach.

To build rapport with these people, you could help them overcome their own challenges, offer deals to get them to use your product or simply praise some of their work that you admire.

10. Measure and refine your social selling strategy

Track and analyze key sales metrics to measure the effectiveness of your social selling activity.

If it’s bolstering your pipeline, increasing sign-ups or helping you achieve other goals, do more of the same while still looking for improvement opportunities. If you’re not getting the desired results, refine your tactics and go again.

sales forecasting for social selling


There are lots of metrics to use as social selling key performance indicators (KPIs).

Your strategy and priorities should inform the ones you measure, but three of the most telling are:

  • Engagement rates. Likes, comments, shares and clicks indicate that your content encourages meaningful interactions. These lead to more awareness, trust and sales opportunities.

  • Lead velocity. The rate at which new leads enter your sales pipeline as a result of your social selling activities is a strong indicator of your future revenue from social sales.

  • Conversion rate. The percentage of social interactions that result in a desired action, like a webinar registration, lead magnet download or purchase.

Knowing your KPIs from the start will help keep your social selling plan on track.

11. Embrace social selling technology

Use technology to streamline your processes, increase efficiency and boost your effectiveness. It’ll help you get more done in less time while making better-informed decisions.

There are various types of social selling platforms, as we’ll discuss shortly. The best ones can:

  • Automate routine tasks, freeing time to spend with customers

  • Organize your lead and performance data

  • Provide templates for more effective customer interactions

A tool with reports and dashboard features will also help you measure your social selling efforts. Look out for intuitive data visualizations and customizable fields.


5 social selling tools you need right now

Whether you’re starting from scratch or filling gaps in an existing sales tech stack, ensure you have the following tools supporting your social selling efforts.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system

A CRM system centralizes customer data and interactions, allowing you to track and manage relationships with prospects and customers across various touch points including social media.

CRM Management


Keeping social media data in your CRM means you and your sales force can gain valuable insights into prospect engagement, preferences and behaviors on social platforms.

The results are more personalized and targeted interactions, improved customer experiences and ultimately more sales.

An employee advocacy tool

Employees sharing high-quality brand-related content with their social networks can boost your company’s profile, attract leads and foster trust from prospects.

An employee advocacy solution organizes and centralizes your team’s social selling efforts.

As a result, you’ll keep messaging consistent and find more opportunities for staff to promote products naturally to their peers.

Haiilo Social Selling


Tools like Sociabble, Haiilo and EveryoneSocial allow you to:

  • Publish company updates for promotion on social channels

  • Craft and distribute expert content for employees to share

  • Gamify online advocacy by assigning reward points to various types of social activity

  • Build a library of existing sales enablement content, competitor posts and social proof

  • Track the impact of your employees’ social activity

It can also benefit collaboration as team members can discuss social selling ideas, wins and opportunities within the employee advocacy tool rather than in siloed communication channels.

Third-party social media integrations

Not all sales and marketing software will be social selling-ready. However, the best tools let you connect your favorite social networking and analytics apps to let social data flow seamlessly across your business.

For example, the Pipedrive Marketplace houses more than 400 third-party apps and integrations, allowing you to connect and share data with social tools like:

Other helpful integrations in the Pipedrive Marketplace include project management, lead generation and accounting tools.

When researching social selling platforms, check what integrations are available to ensure you can continue using your favorite software without any disruption.

Zapier

Zapier is an automation app that connects different tools and automates workflows between them without requiring coding skills.

Pipedrive Social Selling Zapier


In social selling, you can use Zapier to create automated workflows (called “Zaps”) that trigger actions based on social media activities or CRM events.

For example, you could set one up to automatically create new leads in your CRM when someone engages with certain social posts, or send personalized follow-up emails to prospects interacting with your content.

By integrating data between your CRM (or other software) and social media platforms, Zapier helps streamline your social selling process and increase productivity.

If you want to share information between Pipedrive and other apps you use, you can our Zapier App integration to connect Zapier to Pipedrive.

Supercharge Your Sales with This Zapier and Pipedrive Guide

Learn how to combine Zapier and Pipedrive to automate hours worth of annoying manual tasks and spend more of your time selling

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps sales professionals identify and engage with leads on LinkedIn.

It promises to help you find the right decision-makers and shorten your sales cycle with:

  • Advanced search capabilities

  • Tailored lead recommendations

  • Insights into prospect activity and engagement on the platform

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is also great at measuring B2B social selling effectiveness.

Its proprietary Social Selling Index (SSI) metric tracks professional branding, engagement and relationship signals to determine how you compare to others in your network and industry. You can check your SSI without purchasing the tool.

Pipedrive social selling LinkedIn


According to LinkedIn, social selling leaders create 45% more sales opportunities than peers with lower SSI scores.

Social selling FAQs

  • Which platforms work for social selling?
  • Does social selling replace other sales tactics?
  • Is social selling the same as multi-level marketing (MLM)?
  • How do I track social selling?


Final thoughts

Social selling is a laser-targeted way to build profitable relationships and grow your customer base. Use the tips and tools in this guide to stand out from other reps and excel in the social sales arena.

If you apply the basics and keep tweaking your approach, you’ll soon understand your market in more detail, shorten your sales cycle and see revenue rise.

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