Social sells - The mini-guide to social selling from Salesforce.com

 
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All selling is social. Always has been. Always will be.

Before Facebook, before LinkedIn, before the web in fact, people bought from people in social ways. They asked for advice from friends, they gave their opinions over the garden fence and they wrote strident letters to manufacturers when products failed to live up to their promises.

Of course today, social has gone into overdrive. It is now so easy for customers to find out anything they want about your products and service – both the good and the bad. They don’t need to simply rely on what’s on your site (in fact, increasingly, that’ll be the last place they look). There’s a wealth of blogs and forums and networks where they can get an unedited take on what it’s like to buy from you.

Customers are more vocal than ever (especially about the bad stuff). They have the power to enact sweet revenge for any perceived failing. (As an experiment, stop reading this and search on Twitter for ‘#FAIL’ – see what we mean?)

While much has been made about the threat of social media, used right, the opportunities are enormous. 

“There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.”
- The Cluetrain Manifesto

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The guide is split into 7 key areas:

 

Welcome to the age of social selling

Right now, there are buyers the world over who want what you’ve got to sell. They have a need, they have a timeframe for purchase, they even have budget. If only you could get in front of them, they’d buy from you right now. If only.

Of course, to get in front of them you need to find out who they are, where they are and how to contact them. Traditionally, this has been anything but easy. Fortunately, in our online socially connected world, this has now become simpler than ever before.  

To date, much of the conversation around social media has been focused on marketing – the process of loading the sales funnel at the top end. Rather less has been about how to use social techniques in actually making the sale. Yet, of course, without realising tangible revenue from social activity, it is just a waste of time and effort.

Are you ready for social selling?

While some parts of social selling aren’t new, others certainly are. Although most are not complex and do not require specialist skills, they do represent a different way of working. More than this, they demand a different way of thinking about the entire sales process.

Unsurprisingly, many salespeople don’t feel ready yet.

Research conducted this year by advertising agency OgilvyOne found that in the UK alone:

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(You can download the full report here.)  

The key is to identify some relatively simple, easy to implement first steps. In the following sections, we’ll focus on some of the key areas to consider and provide suggestions for actions you can take to begin realising the benefits of social selling.

Discovering sales opportunities with social media

social-selling-im1As mentioned above, before we can sell to a buyer, we’ve got to find them first. One of the great things about social media is that buyers are far more open about their intentions than in the pre-social age. They signal them by posting comments on forums, asking their followers on Twitter and updating their status on LinkedIn.

Of course, to gain opportunities this way, you will need to already be listening to your prospects. Using tools such as Tweetdeck, Google Alerts and our own Sales Cloud, you can gain real time insight into what your customers are discussing online. You’ll be able to understand their needs (both individually and more broadly across the market). And you’ll be able to engage them with useful, timely information to help.

Example:

James is a head of sales for a company selling business consulting to professional services firms. From experience, he knows that he wins business when firms face significant changes – sudden expansion or contraction, a merger or consolidation.

Because he is social savvy, James sets up a series of ongoing searches to look for trigger phrases in social media. He follows key target companies on LinkedIn and looks for new job postings and breaking news. And he comments on industry blogs when he has insight to offer.

It means James is far more likely to be in the right place at the right time when a sales opportunity does come up. He is already hooked in to the conversation and demonstrating value. Plus he will not be starting with a cold lead, giving him a head-start over his competitors.

Importantly, as our example above shows, getting started in social selling needn’t be a complex or overly time-consuming exercise.

How we do things at Salesforce.com

Social is deeply embedded into how Salesforce.com sells. Here’s a brief overview of how we do it:

  • We make extensive use of Facebook and Twitter to see what our customers and prospects are saying and to find those looking for customer service and sales help.
  • We run our own Social Media Command Center. This constantly monitors what people are saying about our brand through radian6, our social media monitoring, analysis and engagement platform. It enables us to reply with comments, record sentiment (both good and bad) and try to help wherever we can, as well as route to other colleagues for follow up.
  • We tie what we learn into our Sales Cloud CRM. This supports a social customer profile, allowing us to capture Twitter handles, tweets, LinkedIn profile picture and details of customers that a user is connected to and anything that’s public on Facebook. 
  • This gives us a single, multi-dimensional view of the customer that’s available to anyone involved in sales.
  • When an opportunity is identified, we use Chatter, our employee social network, to marshal resources and keep everyone up to date.

Get to know your prospects better (before you meet)

Sales is as much about insight and empathy as it is about having a strong product set. That’s why every good salesperson researches their prospects before meeting them for the first time. Before social media, this could be a challenge. Certainly you could check out their website, download their annual report and check for mentions on trade websites. The problem was that this would simply deliver surface-level information, not the kind of hooks a salesperson could use to tailor their pitch to the customer’s precise needs.

While it’s likely that salespeople will still do this kind of rudimentary research today, they can now go so much deeper. With relatively little effort, they can discover:

  • Who the key individuals are within the organisation
  • Who the salesperson knows who’s in contact with them
  • What’s happening in near real-time
  • The level of engagement they have with their own customers
  • What those same customers are looking for from the business
  • What their prospect’s customers are complaining about 

Armed with this information, your salespeople can move from a pitch that’s all me, me, me to one that’s all you, you, you. They can show how their products and services directly solve the issues their prospect is facing. And they’ll have a far clearer picture of whose buy-in is critical in making the sale.

Now doesn’t that sound like a serious advantage?

Get the right help to make the sale

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Some sales are simple. A customer comes onto your site or into your store, they buy a book, a CD or item of clothing and you’re done. Most sales, however, are more complex. If you sell to other businesses, chances are that a sale takes time and involves multiple contacts. (The same is true for high value items – a car, house, new fitted kitchen etc.)

Complex sales can involve any number of people. They’ll be multiple buyers, each with a different role to play. And, on your side, you will need to bring together a range of expertise and knowledge to deliver a compelling response to a customer’s needs.

Social tools can help here too.

Using social collaboration tools (like Chatter), employees can get the information they need and connect to in-house experts quickly and easily. They can ask questions, publish insights and create documents in real-time. It means your people can work together more effectively, bringing their unique skills and knowledge to bear on making the sale.

They can even ‘socialise’ the opportunity, so everyone who follows it will get instant status updates to their desktop.

3 key tools for collaborative selling

  • Social CRM – such as the social connectors for our own Sales Cloud, helping you get through to the right person (armed with the right information)
  • Social Monitoring – to keep an eye on all relevant social activites (See our Radian6) 
  • Social collaboration tools - tools like Chatter let everyone contribute to a sale (check out the side bar)

Collaborative selling with Chatter

Chatter makes social selling easier than ever before. It‘s built from the ground up to help you collaborate with colleagues and build actionable social profiles of your customers and prospects. With Chatter you can:

  • Gather insights from people, groups, and business records in the real-time feed
  • Find expertise within your own company
  • Create groups to collaborate on sales opportunities
  • Publish status updates so your colleagues know what you’re up working on (and what they could help with)
  • Share critical documents quickly and easily

Simply, Chatter offers an entirely new way for your people to work together to help salespeople sell. Learn more at http://www.salesforce.com/uk/chatter/

Spot competitive moves early

Everyone wants to know what their competitors are up to. In many sales situations, the competitive differentiators are so small that any advantage can make the difference between success and failure. Traditionally, you wouldn’t become aware of a competitor’s strategy until seeing their new advertising or public relations campaign.

The reality is that these initiatives are generally the result of months of planning. The core themes will be trailed in presentations and conference speeches. And they are often tested out on segments of the market first.

Social business tools can give you advanced notice in these shifts in positioning. By monitoring what your competitors are saying – especially what individuals within the company are saying and the comments of those they’ve spoken to – you can spot competitive movement earlier and have an opportunity to react earlier.

5 ways to monitor competitors with social media

  1. Set up Google Alerts for competitor terms (brand names, products, key people) – see www.google.com/alerts
  2. Join key customer groups on LinkedIn and begin monitoring what they are saying
  3. Monitor Slideshare and Scribd for any new presentations or documents created by them, their partners and by events they may be attending 
  4. Follow customers, competitors and thought leaders on Twitter to see what they are saying (also look at Q&A sites such as Quora for additional insight)
  5. Use the connectors in the Salesforce.com App Exchange to integrate all of these into your social profiles.

Prevent customer defections

On average, companies lose half their customers every five years. But few customers leave on a whim – moving your business to another supplier costs time and money. Typically, any loss (especially in B2B sales) will be marked by weeks or months of debate about what’s going wrong and research into a better solution.

At one time, an imminent customer defection would, at best, be the subject of a few rumours. But rarely would these be anything a supplier could act upon with any degree of certainty. Now, of course, everything is a lot more public (if you know where to look).

Peer recommendations are the number one trusted source of information for any business decision (and always have been). Today, however, the definition of ‘peers’ has widened considerably. It’s no longer simply those we work with or have worked with in the past (though even this has grown exponentially with the likes of LinkedIn and Xing). Today, peers cover a vast range of people connected in a wide variety of ways.

Social networks have become the binding force that holds these connections together. They make it easier than ever for people to share information and solicit recommendations about services and suppliers. And they’re public.

While monitoring what competitors are saying and doing is, perhaps, an obvious thing to do, monitoring your own customers is often overlooked. Yet, using the same tools can offer precious insights into issues you may be failing to spot by other means. From there, it is a relatively small step to take action to address these issues before they lead to a costly break-up.

Going a step further with sentiment tracking 

While you can learn a lot simply by watching and listening to what customers say online, that’s just the beginning. Using solutions such as our own Radian6, you can delve deeper. You can discover not just what people are saying but also begin to automatically analyse what sentiment of those discussions – is it positive, negative or neutral? From here, it is a short step to mining the discussions for opportunities (either to gain a new customer or retain an existing one). Learn more »

The time to begin social selling is now

While many worry about the threat of social media, if you’re in sales, it’s time to look more closely at the opportunities. There has never been a better time to embrace these tools to find new customers, craft pitches that meet their specific needs and bring the right people together to make the sale.

We hope you’ve found this mini-guide useful. If you have any thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear from you in our Facebook comments below.

You can also check out our mini-guide for social customer service

You can, of course, find more information and resources at our Social Success site

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