Be where your market is
This is a basic sales learning everyone should be aware of, enterprise companies as well. Customers right now are online, regardless of the industry. Big corporations cannot longer ignore this communication channel.
Of the 7.3 billion global population as of July 2015, more than 3 billion use the Internet. Of these, more than 60% are on Social Media. Facebook has more than 1.7 billion users; LinkedIn has 450 million. Moreover, about 90 percent of brands are on at least two social media platforms.
The fact that consumers are on social media is not the only reason why companies should adopt social selling. According to a May 2017 Forrester Consulting survey (done for Hootsuite), managers are in general unhappy with the typical sales process.
The majority of the survey respondents believe most salespeople come to the meeting with a strict agenda, regardless of whether it applies to the prospect or not. The Internet, and social media with it empower buyers to something about it. Prospects, today, are doing their own research and sometimes make up their mind even before speaking with a sales rep.
Traditional sales strategies have become less effective in recent years due to this drastic change. Callback rates are down, dipping to below 1 percent; while only 24 percent of sales emails are opened.
Social selling has become a fundamental part of every sales strategy. It is a crucial component of every sales team toolbox and no one can escape, including big enterprises.
What Is Social Selling?
Social selling expert Koka Sexton describes social selling as: “Leveraging your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships…. But at a very base level, it’s how a salesperson uses social media to listen and engage with decision makers that are on these networks, asking questions and looking for help.”
It’s important to understand that social selling has nothing or very little to do with social media marketing. Social selling is about your messaging and how you build brand awareness on social media. The idea behind social selling is very much the same as traditional selling – engage and build relationships!
The difference here is on how you engage and build those relationships. You do it online through focused content and active participation in social media conversation.
B2B Enterprises & Social Selling
It has been observed that there are tangible benefits for B2B enterprises to adopt social selling. A “Social Centered Selling” and “A Sales Guy” research claim that 72% of sales reps who implement social selling, perform better than their colleagues who don’t.
Social Sales Reps are more likely to hit their quota by 23%.
In an exclusive interview on TenFold with Neal Schaffer, one of Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer, he confirms this clear trend: “What elements of social media can we add to make our sales process more effective? To generate more leads, to shorten the sales cycle, to close more leads and to generate more revenue… The distinguishing fact in B2B is that you are selling to a large organization and social media helps you map out those organizations. It also gives you advice on how to engage… and, allows you to engage with a broad number of people…. B2C does not need that one-to-many approach, so I would argue that social selling is more appropriate to B2B for that reason.”
Enterprises cannot ignore this trend. Competition is fierce and smaller companies have adopted social selling for some time already. Those who fail at engaging will lose the battle.
Social Selling Adoption In Enterprises
The same Forrester study shows that there is a decreasing resistance to social selling. Most of the companies surveyed see both a long- and short-term value in such type of sales approach. Almost half of these have a social selling program in place, with an additional 28% developing one. Interestingly enough, 36% believe the future of sales is in social selling.
Despite the apparent resistance, enterprise companies are getting in social media. The main obstacle moving forward will be only the implementation of this strategy against traditional ways.
Why Social Selling?
Digital innovation has empowered the buyers to go on a “self-guided journey” to the purchase. SiriusDecisions points out that 67% of the buyer’s journey is nowadays digital. A buyer’s mind is 57% made up before they even meet a salesperson.
Needless to say that this situation leaves your sales and marketing team with an immense challenge. How do you reach out to the digitally empowered buyer?
An IDC study done in 2014 shows that the majority of B2B buyers, across all age groups, rely on social media. More specifically, 75% of B2B buyers and 80% of executive buyers use social media when making purchase decisions. The study also points out that these people are more frequent and influential buyers who have larger budgets.
Aligning Content Engagement with Sales and Marketing
Your content strategy plays an important role in reaching out to the digital buyer. This is how you can educate and influence their behaviors before they even meet your sales team. In another Forrester study in 2017, it was shown that 82% of B2B buyers found their top vendors to offer helpful content. This is also supported by a LinkedIn study, which claims that buyers are 5 times more engaged when you offer educated insights on the industry.
Word of Mouth
It has become common practice to go online and seek recommendations and referrals. 84% of surveyed companies said that their start their buyer journey with referrals. By not having a social media presence your company is missing out on potential referral business that comes to you through brand advocates.
It’s Really Easy To Start
It’s not that hard to kick off things on social selling. Your sales team needs to start devoting at least 5-10% of their time to social media activities that support their current sales strategy. It can be as simple as checking professional connections on LinkedIn, before making a call or just researching your target company’s current pain points.
It’s important to keep in mind that there will not be an immediate result. It is an investment in social engagement, and as such, it will take some time.
Social Selling 101
A strategy should be at the basis of social selling in enterprises. “Many sales executives who would never go without a common sales methodology or CRM system have yet to establish a common social selling methodology and set of tools. The result is a wide variety of individual skills and processes that cannot be managed effectively.” – Kurt Shaver, Founder of The Sales Foundry
Remember that being online as part of social networks and using social channels for sales are two different things. Here you can find a simple template to follow. Measure what works and what doesn’t. Tweak as you need to fit your business.
Get Management Buy-in
A social selling strategy should have the full buy-in of the top management. If your sales team spends time online, engaging with potential prospects, time for measurable sales effort will decrease. Social selling is an investment, not a waste of time.
It might take longer than expected, but once results arrive, also the top management will see its value. And no, you don’t need to be a millennial to do this right.
Your Professional Brand Is The Focus
Your brand is something that is part of you since you start working with a specific company. However, as seen with other companies, sometimes things can get a bit out of control when it comes to social media and real-time conversation. Remember to keep personal opinions on your personal social media accounts (or even better, offline).
For organizations, it’s important to consider that even though a salesperson can be highly trained in identifying and engaging with prospects on social media if her professional brand is off, then she will have troubles establishing herself as an authority.
Visibility creates opportunities. Staying visible can be challenging when it comes to social selling. How do you become the “voice of the industry”? How will you make those buyers listen to you?
It all starts with content. Offering relevant content to your connections will elevate you among your peers. Be available to discuss with your audience. Get involved in business groups. On top of just participating, make sure to offer value and help others. It’s not about endorsing your brand, it’s about creating your professional brand.
Do The Background Work
Social media will help your sales team gathering a lot of information about your target market. This new channel allows your reps to connect with them and start conversations. It might also give you insights on what type of person your target decision maker is.
It’s important, however, to remember that although the amount of information available is enormous, you will still need to do some work. Social media won’t just give you a lead out of the blue. It won’t guide you on how to engage them effectively. You are still in the driver seat.
Listen To The Market Sentiments
In a Forrester survey, we saw that more than 50% of B2B companies use social media to generate leads. However, very few of them use social media to listen to the market. You are missing a big opportunity.
The same survey showed how sales teams are not taking advantage of these tools.
Keep Learning and Learning
75% of surveyed B2B sales reps said that they were trained on how to use social media for selling. The training was around basic guidelines in online engagement. This is not enough though, considering how many times big corporates have failed in social media communication. Continuously asses your social media engagements. Provide further training to your sales team. The internet provides quite a few resources for those willing to learn, take advantage of them.
What steps are you currently taking to keep your sales team up to date with social selling activities? Do you have ongoing training and processes for your sales reps? How do you use social channels to leverage your position against your competition? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.