The social selling revolution is upon us. And as the B2B landscape evolves, strategies need to adapt accordingly. The social selling approach has been bouncing around the sales space for a while now, but what does it really mean?
In short, social selling refers to placing focus on building relationships and adding value to prospects selflessly. Sales increase because of genuine trust and personal capital. While not always, it often involves a sales rep’s use of social media throughout the sales process to engage and collaborate directly with prospects for the purpose of driving revenue.
Social selling doesn’t mean abandoning your traditional sales strategies; rather, it is an evolution that accommodates changing buyer behaviors and the technological advances in the sales space. Social selling – and along with it, the use of social media – is also not replacing the need for traditional tools and strategies – it can work in tandem with and enhance your more traditional sales processes. Let’s look into the use of social media as part of your social selling approach.
In today’s increasingly connected world, the power of social media can help sales teams relate to and engage more intelligently with buyers and enable them to build stronger relationships. B2B buyers have become more connected, socially empowered, and highly informed decision makers. Research from IDC reports that social buying is directly correlated with buying influence – the social B2B buyer is more senior, has a larger budget, makes more frequent purchases, and has greater control over the final decision. In fact, an IBM study shows that 75% of B2B decision makers and 84% of C-level and VP executives use social media to inform their decisions. Not to mention that second opinions are practically on-demand.
For the B2B seller, this means shorter selling cycles, larger deals, more productive sales teams, and increases in revenue. Indeed, the numbers don’t lie:
Despite these successes, only 1 in 4 sales reps knows how to integrate social media into their sales process. Imagine the impact (and effect on the bottom line) if reps knew how to use these tools effectively.
These tips will help sales reps start the new year with a solid social strategy that is ready to implement:
Social media gives reps access to unique behavioral data about their target customers that would otherwise be difficult to obtain, such as what they like, what they do, what’s happening at their company, what’s going on in their industry, and where they encounter pain points. These insights offer guidance for targeting prospects with relevant and meaningful content and help reps stay up-to-date on industry trends.
The use of social media in sales allows reps to engage with prospects without interrupting their daily lives with cold calls and hard sells. Buying behavior has changed drastically over the past few years. Traditional means of selling are no longer as effective as they once were, with as many as 90% of C-level executives blocking phone calls and ignoring emails.
A key prospecting rule is to go where your customers are, and today that means social media. If done well, social media offers a non-intrusive way to generate and contact leads, particularly with the advanced search criteria offered by engines such as in LinkedIn. Sales people are able to get involved with prospects while they are still in the early stages of information-gathering and from that point guide the selling process.
But remember that social media is not the same as social selling. Social media is one tool for social selling, which is why #3 is so important.
By getting involved in the conversation, sales reps have an idea of what their prospects are talking and asking about, and they are in the right place to help solve the problems at hand. Add value by contributing relevant, non-sales-oriented insights, answering questions, re-tweeting posts, and commenting on blog articles.
An added bonus is that reps are positioning themselves as subject matter experts and establishing themselves as a trustworthy resource, adding credibility to both their personal brand and their company. In fact, 92% of buyers are willing to engage with a sales rep who is known as an industry thought leader. Keep in mind that social selling is about building trust and credibility, nurturing relationships, and staying top-of-mind – it is not the time for a hard-sell.
Despite other changes in the B2B selling space, content still plays an important role in the buying process. In a 2015 Demand Gen report, almost 2/3 of buyers (and an overwhelming 82% of senior executives) indicated that the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their purchase decision, and over 80% of buyers reviewed a minimum of 5 pieces of content.
Prospects offer valuable insights on a daily basis – it’s more than likely that they are sharing their opinions and needs and expressing their frustrations. Sales reps just have to know where to look and then pay attention. What questions are prospects asking? Who are they asking (is it another vendor)? What pain points are they venting about? The more reps listen to what’s going on and being said, the more informed they are to offer a relevant value proposition.
Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager for KnowledgeTree.