Drive Franchise Development Through LinkedIn Social Selling
Social selling begins and ends with listening.
By Nicole Hudson
As technology has advanced, social media has become a mainstream form of communication and education. Industry data has shown that more than 82 percent of the world’s online population is reached through social networking sites and 75 percent of business-to-business buyers claim social media would likely have an influence on a future purchase.
Franchise candidates are educating themselves much earlier in the decision process than in years past, no doubt in part because information has become so accessible through the Internet. FRANdata reports that 72 percent of a buyer’s journey is completed before he speaks to sales professional. This means your lead generation strategy must also include participation and training in social media for the brand’s franchise development teams.
With almost 300 million members, LinkedIn is thought to be the greatest source of business-to-business sales intelligence ever invented. Investis IQ Audience Insight Report has established that 64 percent of all corporate website traffic coming via social media channels is from LinkedIn.
Awarding a franchise opportunity is a unique hybrid of the businessto-customers and the B2B sales processes. Bryan Kramer, social media strategist and author of “It’s Human to Human #H2H,” sums it up this way: “There is no more B2B or B2C, it’s only H2H: Human to Human.” One’s professional network and community is the environment in which the relationships are built that will drive both the decisions to award and invest in a franchise system. The skill set development teams must master is building relationships through thought leadership and connecting with people within social platforms that are designed for professionals to enhance their networks and grow their careers.
Social media has fostered an environment where our target buyers, prospects and customers are actually publicly providing information about themselves in real time.
These behaviors can give us key indicators of financial stability or personality traits that can also be deciphered from online activity, and social media offers development professionals the ability to engage with future franchise owners directly without picking up the phone or interrupting the daily lives of prospective franchisees.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is the practice of leveraging social networks and the associated tools in the overall sales function, from lead generation to closed deal to account management. Social selling doesn’t replace the fundamentals. Instead, it enhances good franchise development professionals, making them more effective and efficient. The four major components of social selling are:
- Build a Personal Brand
Franchise candidates are making decisions about the relationships they develop with the franchise team at the same time they are evaluating the brand and franchise opportunity. The three key elements to building a personal brand are social profiles, contributions to relevant social communities and the content you share. This is the opportunity to build trust with your network and new prospects even before you meet.
I. Develop full LinkedIn Profiles for all executives and franchise development team members.
II. Use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to post and share uniquely developed content about being a small-business owner, the company or brand and the franchise opportunity.
III. Have a company page to showcase the parent company and brands, in addition have Showcase Pages support the franchise development opportunity.
- Grow a Deeper Network of Relationships
Social selling makes it possible to grow your network into the thousands. Unlike an old-fashioned Rolodex or online address book, you can now follow, communicate and engage the network continuously. Development teams growing a deep network of professionals connected through social media can identify connections with potential buyers and ask for referrals from customers, friends and fellow employees. We all know the value of a referral.
Scott Thompson, Premium Franchise Brands’ vice president of franchise development and recent speaker on this topic at the BIA/Kelsey Leading in Local Conference explains, “Social media and LinkedIn are key assets to our lead generation strategy. This is the first step in building a relationship with a future franchise owner.”
I. Download the LinkedIn App “CardMunch,” it will add them to your list of contact and send them an invitation to link.
II. Participate within LinkedIn Groups. You can join up to 50 groups for your niche or industry.
III. Start a blog. Make sure you share this unique content through email drip campaigns, social media channels and as a sponsored LinkedIn post on your Company Pages section.
- Use Sales and Lead Intelligence
The best business development organizations include call planning in their day-to-day activities. Social media should get the same treatment. Social media can help teams discover key decision-makers, influencers and potentially any competitors that candidates are researching. Having marketing automation software like HubSpot or Infusionsoft integrated into your customer relationship management system is a key component to gaining insight into the buying cycle and allowing a deeper look into the behaviors of prospects.
I. Use TeamLink, one of LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s features, to identify hidden work connections in your third-degree network. Use these new connections as referral requests to have a warm lead.
II. Use the 3×3 analysis for all inside sales professionals and lead qualifiers: Before a call is made to a prospect, spend three minutes and find three things on LinkedIn to talk about.
- Social Listening
Many tools exist for sales professionals to listen in on their market in real time and manage their social properties. These include free apps like Hootsuite and more advanced subscription platforms. Based on feedback from existing franchise clients, we looked at the evolution of social products including features like LinkedIn’s Company Pages and Groups API that support franchise development and consumer social media management already serviced by the platform.
Anthony Owen, Manalto CEO, explains: “Social media is such a powerful tool for franchise brands within all levels of the organization. It takes a lot of moving pieces to be done right. Having a well-developed strategy that includes content development, integration of other social channels and trained franchise sales professionals or franchisees in social media is a key component to brand engagement and lead generation success.”
Social selling begins and ends with listening. It is not about how much information your brand can push out, but about comprehending your buyers’ wants and needs and then providing solutions and guidance with unique support, content and education.
LinkedIn is a great social channel to establish your brand and those who are part of it as thought leaders by growing the online presence of executives, franchisees and employees. Sharing personal stories of the franchise brand, employees, vendor partners and franchisees is a powerful narrative, says leadership expert and “Start With Why” author Simon Sinek, coiner of the phrase “The Why.”
Those stories will ultimately resonate on all levels of the organization and amplify across all areas of business.
As we like to say at Inbound Leads Solutions, “What are you waiting for?” Start the conversation, but don’t forget to listen.
Nicole Hudson is founder and president of Inbound Lead Solutions, a marketing technology firm focused on integrated digital strategies in social media, content marketing, SEO and lead generation for franchising. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.