The art of social selling: why you need to get out of your comfort zone as a freelancer

Jean-François Bodart

Many freelancers prefer to focus on the creative core of their work. Networking seems like a necessary evil, a way to market that work. But thanks to social selling, you highlight your product or service without taking on the role of a salesperson. “People don’t want to feel like you’re trying to sell them something,” says Jean-François Bodart, coach and expert on social selling for freelancers.

What exactly is social selling?
Jean-François Bodart : “The trick is to get customers to come to you through social interaction. Social selling does not replace the old-fashioned networking pitch, but it strengthens it. In social selling, you, the freelancer, take center stage as a personal brand. You share your knowledge through social media channels and interact with your followers. You arouse their curiosity, for example by sharing value for free: post useful tips, write articles, record videos or give webinars. Your prospect is triggered by that info and will respond more receptively when you send them a message.”

The slick sales pitch can be easily circumvented that way?
Bodart: “You sell your service or product without behaving like an annoying salesperson. So that also means no more ‘cold calling’ fears: you don’t have to come up with excuses to contact people, nor do you get piqued responses. That technique just doesn’t work anymore. People no longer just want to be bothered or feel like someone is trying to sell them something.” “With social selling, your prospects feel like they are being approached by someone who can impart valuable knowledge to them. So the conversation starts from a completely different perspective than the traditional sales process. I sometimes hear freelancers say that social selling probably isn’t for them. “I can’t sell. But that’s just the point: social selling is not the same as standing in the market on Sunday morning shouting that your vacuum cleaners are the best.”

That interest you show in the other person must be authentic?
Bodart: “True. Your interest should be as genuine as possible. The more personal, the better. But of course the idea is not to wear out hours of long chats. For example, you can send them that you saw that they post interesting things on LinkedIn and that you hope they get the results they envision. Or if someone hasn’t posted anything new for six months, you mention that it’s been a while since they’ve been active. Then, of course, you can perfectly ask how they are doing. Social selling is mostly touch and feel. There is no set scenario or established tactics.”

You have to maintain balance.
Bodart: “Exactly. No golden rule has yet been invented to make social selling a foolproof process. You can’t look at it purely as a conversation that you necessarily have to keep going. You can’t keep asking questions. It should not look like a job interview or a quiz. Try to keep it casual: ‘I’m organizing a webinar on social selling for freelancers soon. Would that interest you? That way you don’t come across as pushery and you are again offering value.”
“Social selling has to be authentic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outsource it. Appoint some people from the marketing team. That works, too. Once your company is a certain size, you just can’t answer every message yourself.”

Social selling is primarily done through social media channels. What are the areas of concern there?
Bodart :
“Freelancers regularly tell me that they focus on their LinkedIn profile and don’t lose sleep over Facebook or Instagram. But it’s a bit naive to think that clients only seek you out through LinkedIn. It can be dangerous if you have an old Instagram profile or your adolescent photos are public on Facebook. That gives the impression that you are a little all over the place. You need to structure your socials better and be aware of your presence online. You don’t have to be an active Twitterer, but make sure you have a profile and that your profile picture has a similar look to the one on your other social media. It doesn’t do much good if you look like a charlatan on Twitter, a playboy on Facebook and a business manager on LinkedIn.”

Is it best to consult a coach?
Bodart: “On Youtube, you can find plenty of tutorials to teach yourself the basics. A full-fledged coaching program is only appropriate when you realize: “This works for me. In what way can I get everything out of it?

What are the most common mistakes in social selling?
Bodart: “You cannot assume that you will see measurable results after just a few months. A turnaround usually comes after six months. By then you may feel that you have set a number of things in motion, but it is still too early for a noticeable difference in turnover. So don’t harbor unrealistic expectations and give yourself and your business time to grow.”
“You also have to keep in mind that social selling is an and-and story. If you post 10 posts and think you will get results, you are wrong. You have to actively engage potential customers as well. It’s just that interplay of communication techniques that makes social selling successful.”

Need more tips on social selling? Make sure to follow Jean-François on LinkedIn!

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