The way we connect with people has changed, not only in our every day lives but in our professional lives as well. The way we research our upcoming holiday with friends via Facebook or read reviews on the new restaurant in town has become common daily practice. Every marketer knows that word of mouth is an incredibly powerful selling tool for any product. Buyers are now socially empowered consumers.
When it comes to purchasing a product or service we are now presented with more options and more peer information than ever before, with the traditional sales approach of phone calls and email blasts often seen as a useless distraction. This is becoming more apparent in business to business sales as well as consumer sales.
A recent CEB study reports “60% of the B2B buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live salesperson”. According to the one Chief Sales Officer in the CEB Study “our customers are coming to the table armed to the teeth with a deep understanding of their problem and a well-scoped RFP for the solution. It's turning many of our sales conversations into fulfilment conversations”.
So how are buyers getting all this information? Through company websites, blogs, forums and feedback from existing customers via social media channels. B2B vendors now need to engage with these buyers via new technology and new approaches more than ever before.
So how do we do this? Welcome to the world of “social selling”.
Over 60% of marketers use social media for lead generation however only a few have started leveraging social selling in their sales process and integrating this concept with their overarching sales and marketing strategy. Aberdeen Research Group released a study on social selling in which they revealed that sales reps who have used social selling in their sales process are 79% more likely to attain their quota than those who don’t use social selling in their sales process.
IBM is a great case study, assisted by consulting group Mason Zimbler they were able to implement a social selling program for their inside sales team resulting in a 400% increase in sales. Once they had identified their target audience they were able to monitor social channels based on hot topics within their category, IBM then trained their sales team on how to join in the online conversation on these topics, engage with potential buyers (early in the process) and drive prospective buyers to their personal digital profiles. Check out the video, it’s pretty impressive!
Of course not every business has the budget or resources of IBM, however the concept is still the same. At the very least, the Marketing department should be collaborating with Sales on upcoming campaigns or any industry related content that can be shared via social channels.
To be a successful social seller you must start with the basics of having an up to date LinkedIn profile and an active Twitter account, including relevant links to your company website. Once you’re up and running you should aim to implement some of the following strategies into your working day:
- Researching industry trends and hot topics (feedly.com is a great tool for this).
- Sharing relevant articles with your followers via LinkedIn & Twitter. Do not spam though!
- Actively comment and join in on discussions via industry related blogs or LinkedIn forums (where you’re prospects are active)
- Follow potential prospects on Twitter, re-tweeting or favourite any of their articles.
- Following potential prospects company pages for updates and company information.
- Leverage your LinkedIn mutual connections with potential prospects in order to gain valuable referrals
- Set up a social media monitoring tool like BuzzNumbers to actively listen into conversations about industry topics, learn more about your customers and engage with potential influencers
- Consider starting your own blog. Check out Joe Pulizzi recent blog on how Marcus Sheridan took his business from No5 in his category to industry leader!
Using these methods will differentiate you from the reps that take the spray and pray attitude of sending generic emails and stay at the “stranger status”. Ultimately your objective during this 60% research phase is to build trust with your potential buyer and position yourself as an industry expert. Social selling takes time, patience and dedication but if you’re willing to put in the effort the extra 40% will flow and rewards will be huge.
Good luck and happy selling!