Business Transformation with Social Media Selling.

Marketing is not Selling

In the early stages of my career, I was always confronted with this query: How is Marketing different from Sales? While I never received any straight response to that, it was quite unsettling to prefer one over the other when it came to a career choice. One aspect that stood by my side was a deeper inclination to interact with marketing leaders, providing concepts that worked as a bridge to close ever widening gaps in manufacturing customers.

In the pursuit of new business growth, the learnings accrued from a stand point to help Marketers generate new customers through application of Digital Marketing has offered a huge advantage with the heightened adoption of Social Media as a potent tool to help Marketing clan with Attracting Strangers on their well-oiled engines of User Interfaces, extending superior Customer experience, with the business objective to empower Advocacy.

It stands to reason that sales, the most social of business activities, would make use of social media. Platforms for online collaboration are rapidly changing the way we work, offering new ways to engage with customers, colleagues, and the world at large. Sales reps now have the ability to participate in global conversations about their products, their field, and their expertise. But some companies are so worried about potential mistakes or loss of control that they don’t allow participation1.

Without doubt, a stint with Sales or Business Development enriched my skill sets; above all, a close liaison with Marketers provided with a unique exposure to help them achieve their targets, by achieving one’s own. Keeping a close watch on competition, sectoral trends & audience insight provided a combination of micro-macro perspectives in a bid to provide break through solutions, leading transformational initiatives in Digital Marketing, in the process.

Then, with the proliferation of Social/Professional Networking platform aka LinkedIn, there was a wave that helped Business Development professionals extract insights on prospective B2B customers, engaging in a collaborative practice. Honestly, LinkedIn became a de facto platform which has now transformed into a Twitter-cum-FB oriented Feed, losing out on the first mover advantage that it enjoyed, further drifting away into oblivion cluttered with “me-toos”.

Digital Transformation with Social Media Selling

When you read the statistics on the benefits of aligning marketing and sales for B2B organizations, you can’t help but sit up and take notice. Here are a few that are noticeable2:

Ø Companies with aligned sales and marketing generated 208% more revenue from marketing. (MarketingProfs)

Ø B2B organizations with tightly aligned marketing and sales achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period. (SiriusDecisions)

Ø According to International Data Corporation, B2B companies’ inability to align sales and marketing teams has cost them upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year.

Ø When sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies became 67% better at closing deals. (Marketo)

Knowing that marketing and sales alignment is crucial, leads to the question: What opportunities exist today to bring the two together in a way that will lead to higher sales and ROI?

According to Liz Gelb-O’Connor, VP of Inside Sales Strategy and Growth at ADP, “Reps who use social selling are 50 percent more likely to meet or exceed their sales quota.” In addition, “anywhere from 57 percent to 90 percent of B2B purchase decisions are made by the time the buyer reaches out to a specific vendor.” Buyers are finding information online before they reach out to vendors. If buyers are searching online, many doing so on social media,

Social Selling University defines social selling as using “the power of social media to understand your prospects’ needs, and actively seek the right person, with the right message at the right time.” This definition inherently involves the alignment of marketing and sales. Marketing creates the message and content based on their research on prospects’ needs and buyer data. Next, sales and marketing are both accountable for delivering the message on social media. Sales is then responsible for attracting and seeking out buyers on social networks who fit the buyer profile and developing relationships with them.

Using social media is a vital component of the success of many sales organizations3; the evidence is overwhelming. Salespeople who use social media to drive sales — also known as ‘social selling’ — have more opportunities, close more deals, and are more likely to make quota than others. Making the switch to social media is a big change for most organizations, and change requires leadership, time, and effort. It takes someone like you, a sales manager who knows social selling isn’t just a flash in the pan — it’s got staying power. Envisaged below are the steps involved in embarking on the path to Digital Transformation with Social Media Selling.

A> Set Goals

#1 — Understand your business need:

Ask yourself, what problem are you trying to solve:

• More quickly drive qualified leads?

• Build a bigger sales pipeline?

• Gather better sales intelligence?

Then draft a goal-defining plan that includes the following:

• A statement of purpose

• Steps each responsible party is expected to take

• How progress will be measured

• A clear definition of success

#2 — Determine Definition of Success:

As with any online business strategy, you need to measure the success of your social media initiatives to know you’re on the right track.

A> Create a Plan

#1 — Generate Awareness on Social Media

The reality is that by embracing social selling, you’re challenging traditional sales methods. And that always surfaces some resistance, particularly from those who don’t understand social media — let alone the concept of using social media for sales. So step back and develop a clear internal plan to get everyone on board.

#2 — Identify Influencers

Each domain e.g. Retail, Travel, Banking/ Insurance, CPG has a set of domain experts who are leaders in driving thought leadership, best practices & can be helpful to spread a communication that they can relate well with: a social cause, or a campaign that involves inspiring stories of failure to success. Endorse these key Influencers to help drive traction to your initiative.

#3 — Connect the dots between Marketing & Sales

While your sales and marketing teams might be doing a great job leveraging social networks, your organization won’t gain much if those efforts are not well aligned. Left to their own devices, salespeople will create and broadcast whatever messages they find interesting, which translates into dilution — and worse — mutation of brand and market messages. So, it’s extremely important to break down departmental silos and get both teams working in tandem.

Content should be an important part of your social strategy, but there is often a disparity between the content produced by marketing and the content needed by sales. In many cases, the marketing team prepares content that the sales team finds useless.

The key to creating effective content is getting input from salespeople at the very beginning. Salespeople are often the first to talk to prospects and understand their

needs. As a result, they can offer helpful insights that enable marketing to craft better, more impactful content.

B> Track Progress

In addition to deployment of Social Media Selling initiatives, each campaign undertaken requires due consideration and linked with the ROI that the campaign generated. Segmentation through Social Media selling is an important element that helps to target specific audience groups with their interest level that helps determine the communication objectives thereby: Awareness or Engagement or Retention.

According to a study by Social Centered Selling, 72.6 percent of salespeople who use social media as a core part of their sales process outperform those who don’t use social media. Salespeople who use social media are also 23 percent more likely to exceed their sales quotas by more than 10 percent. This makes sense considering the fact that 74 percent of buyers consult social media before making a purchase decision.

The major challenge among business-to-business brands, then, isn’t to be on social media — more than 90 percent of brands already are–but to turn their social media presence into sales engines. With almost 1.7 billion Facebook users and billions more on other social media platforms, there’s ample audience to tap into.

In essence, today’s self-service4 lead nurturing means that prospects are going to learn all about you and your products without ever directly connecting with you, so limiting your brand messaging to just your owned marketing channels is a big no-no. As part of a broader customer engagement strategy, social media can be an effective and cost-efficient marketing, sales, service, insight and retention tool.

Masthead: http://www.lovesocialmedia.com/five-top-tips-for-social-media-selling/

References:

1: Mitigate the Risk in Social Media Selling, https://hbr.org/2012/08/mitigate-the-risk-in-social-me

2: Social Selling: The Case For Marketing & Sales Alignment — http://www.business2community.com/brandviews/shelley-media-arts/social-selling-case-marketing-sales-alignment-01661295

3: The Sales Manager’s Guide to Driving Social Media Adoption and Revenue — http://salesmanagement.org/web/uploads/the-sales-managers-guide-to-driving-social-media-adoption-and-revenue-en-us%20(1).pdf

4: 7 Steps for Mastering Your B2B Social Selling Efforts, http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/harald-merckel-guest-post-7-steps-for-mastering-your-b2b-social-selling-efforts/641552