In today’s increasingly connected world, it’s more important than ever for sales reps to adapt to the evolving B2B environment. Buyers are more connected, more informed, and more susceptible to peer influence on their purchase decisions.
The power of social media can help sales forces relate to and engage more intelligently with buyers. But social selling isn’t the aimless use of social media. Rather, it’s the use of social media to support and enhance smart sales processes. It requires strategy to effectively uncover opportunities, build relationships, and guide prospects through the pipeline. Social media isn’t just a marketing function, though communication and alignment between sales and marketing is key.
Read ahead to learn why social selling is no longer an option for today’s sales reps and how to use social media in the sales process to drive revenue.
Social selling is a hot topic in the world of B2B sales, but is it a meaningful sales process or just a fad?
Social selling represents a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Traditional means of selling, such as via phone call and email, are no longer as effective as they once were, with 90% of C-level executives claiming to never respond to these tactics. These strategies alone won’t cut it in the digital era. Further, Gen Y is projected to account for ¾ of the workforce by 2025, and this generation demands socially-prepared vendors who can offer valuable insights and immediate access to information. And compared to non-social sellers, sales reps are 40% more likely to hit their revenue goals and can expect 57% higher ROI, according to a recent 2017 Sales for Life study.
According to IDC, the social B2B buyer is more senior, has a larger budget, makes more frequent purchases, and has greater control over the final buying decision. For the sales rep, that means shorter selling cycles and larger deal sizes. In fact, Sales for Life found that sales teams that use social selling fill their pipeline faster (18% more pipeline 28% faster) and accelerate pipeline conversion by 15%. And with over 2.5 billion social media users in 2017 and 53% of buyers using social media to assess new tools and technologies, it should go without saying that sales reps should be online as well.
Having social selling skills helps reps to better understand their audience so that they can engage in a relevant and meaningful way. But social selling is not restricted to just top-of-funnel activities – it can be used to add value to the conversation and guide the selling process all the way through to post-purchase.
The first step is to target the right market. Consider the demographics, psychographics, and geographics of your ideal audience. Once you have this information, you can figure out which channels are best to contact them and use search functions to find those prospects that best meet your criteria. Social media provides access to unique behavioral data and buying signals and sentiments that can be very helpful, including where prospects encounter pain points, what’s happening at their company or in their industry, and their responsibilities at work. This information will also help reps to target potential buyers with relevant and meaningful content later on in the sales process.
Social media offers an excellent opportunity to make connections and build a network of prospects that could turn into new customers. Once you know who you should be targeting, start a conversation, ask questions, and share posts from your prospects. Every time you engage with buyers’ posts, such as with a like or comment, you will get their attention. Interact frequently enough and you will generate brand awareness and start to build a relationship, at which point you can request to connect. Reps can also connect with the other decision-makers across departments, as is the case with most complex deals.
Despite other changes in the B2B sales space, content still plays an important role in the buying process. And though buyers may have increased access to information, that does not necessarily mean that they are better informed. Nurture prospects with value-add content, relevant insights, and thought-provoking questions. This strategy enables reps to leverage social selling in building trust and credibility, nurturing relationships, and staying top-of-mind.
Social media can provide helpful insights about customer feedback on your organization and product. Buyers will likely use this channel to share their opinions and express their frustrations. The more that reps listen to what is going on, the better equipped they are to take the necessary measures to reduce churn. It’s also important to continue interacting with your customers on social media, as it subtly reminds them to use your product or solution without adding pressure to the relationship.
Social selling helps reps to both build and manage their pipeline. Look to the data to gain insights about the buyer journey and to identify what worked and what didn’t so that you can make your process more efficient and successful in the future. Tooling in the sales stack can be leveraged to make your social selling process scalable, enabling reps to engage more effectively and advance prospects faster through the pipeline. You can also encourage customers to review your product, make referrals for you, or connect you with other key companies. In fact, a 2016 Harvard Business Review article states that 84% of B2B buyers begin the buying process with a referral, and over 90% of purchase decisions are influenced by peer recommendations.
The social selling revolution is here! The evolving B2B space demands new sales strategies and more modern sales processes. And sales reps must rise to the challenge to effectively win in the digital era. See you on social!
Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager for KnowledgeTree.