Social Selling Has Penetrated the B2B Arena: Here are the Rules

Today it is no longer possible to keep the spheres of our lives compartmentalized. From your smartphone which reminds you of work when you are at dinner, to the company which hires you over Facebook — the walls separating personal, social, and professional are crumbling. So it comes as no surprise that sales is harnessing the power of digital connectivity and social media. What is perhaps more unexpected is that fact that even high ticket sales are taking place across channels which were once deemed personal.

Selling via social media does not demand a complete overhaul of your sales methodology. The traditional channels are being replaced by cheaper, more informative, and more convenient ones — but at its core demand assessment, lead generation, and other primary aspects of sales remain the same. Social media just boosts the efficacy of these processes. For instance, a lead generated via social media is seven times more likely to end in sale compared to its traditional counterpart.

Although the key practices remain the same, your customer has evolved. A global management firm recently conducted a survey across 370 sales and marketing executives of large scale organizations. 50% of this group said that digital channels have significantly influenced customer behavior, though only 12% feel they are capable of meeting this challenge. While social media brings transparency to customer behaviors and buying patterns, it also brings transparency to your operations, products, and indeed, flaws. In this era of digital connectivity, the B2B buyer is always one step ahead — familiar with your product, familiar with the competition, and familiar with your existing customer pool. All that is left to do, is take your product to them.

But unfortunately, it is not always that simple.

According to a 2014 report on web usability, 38% respondents said that blog posts, articles, and similar collaterals are essential to the online sales process. Yet 54% vendor websites lack such content. Social media has raised the selling bar so high that marketing teams must pull out all the stops to reach it. With only 1 out of 4 sales representatives actively incorporating social media into their marketing strategy, identifying the pain-points (and how they can be addressed) is a smart way to begin.

Who is your customer?

The B2B customer is not the same as the traditional marketing head who schedules meetings and does business lunches. In fact, as many as 90% C-level executives actively block calls and ignore emails. This is not because they don’t need the product, but because they already have convenient access to it even if it is not coming from you. So the first step is to make your presence felt through social media — be it via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, depending on your target demographic. Sales demands a well-established context of expertise and brand value. The traditional word of mouth approach is rapidly being replaced by a quantifiable practices — reviews, comments, shares, and likes.

Leverage these metrics to evaluate your customer: are they industry influencers? Or do they have actual buying power? Or can they significantly affect the buying decision? Given that 75% B2B decision makers use social media to inform their decisions, the answer to this question is key to solving the next one.

What does your customer want?

The easiest way of knowing this is via direct communication — something that has become extremely convenient these days. According to reports, 54% of those using social selling have closed a deal directly because of social media. Advertising your product portfolio online or even simply communicating through leadership content, will attract attention from your target audience. Personal engagement with this response on social platforms adds value that traditional strategies cannot.

The transparency facilitated by digital networks can be leveraged by both the customer and the seller — the B2B customer puts his own digital agenda out there for the world to see. This information garners crucial insights into the needs of the client, and how they can be met.

Are they getting what they need?

The gap between inquiry and contact must be kept as short as possible. The longer you take to respond, the less likely you are to close the deal — with the social marketplace at the client’s fingertips, if you do not address their needs someone else will.

Therefore, the marketing pipeline must be streamlined and restructured keeping social selling in mind. In a survey of 3270 marketers, it was found that over 30% spend just 1 to 5 hours a week on social media, with less than 10% spending 16 to 20 hours. Resources — both digital and manual — must be redirected to bridge this gap between marketing, and sale.

Are they happy with what they get?

Following up a sale serves two purposes: firstly, it addresses the customer’s concern and enhances satisfaction. Second, it prevents the same flaw from creeping into your next transaction. Follow-up can take two directions, either a direct approach where you ask the client for feedback, or following their social media activity can also provide insights into post-sales challenges. Addressing such activity at source will bolster your brand image.

Some measures which ensure a social strategy that is geared towards sales are:

  • Employing automated tools that can judge qualified leads
  • Nurturing nascent leads till they reach ready-to-buy state
  • Creating a social profile that strikes a balance between personal and business
  • Supplementing the company voice with employee-specific responses
  • Making product information (pricing, availability, and likewise) available over digital channels

When it comes to sales, the role of social media is being a marketing tool on one hand, and a selling channel on another. Selling via social media brings the two together into one coherent chain, one which cannot be reduced to an easily digestible formula, given its constantly shifting landscape.

Take Maersk for example: it is the world’s largest container shipping company. After the Baltic Sea completely froze, they launched a campaign called #wintermaersk to show the world how they helped maintain the cargo flow with photographs and posts across social media channels. The campaign led to 150 unique sales leads for Maersk — clearly, the potential of digital networks must not be underestimated.

Is your sales ecosystem in sync with today’s modern buyer who’s digitally-driven, socially connected and empowered with unlimited access to information? Sales reps are more taxed than ever before to be thought leaders, business advisors and human connectors — and your partners’ reps are not immune to this demand.

This rockstar panel of social selling and content marketing experts — Jill Rowley, Evangelist & Startup Advisor #SocialSelling; Mike Weir, Vertical Director — Technology Industry at LinkedIn; Dan Tyre, Sales Director at HubSpot and Jack Kosakowski, Global Head of B2B Social Sales Execution Creation Agency & Moderator Bubba Page, Founder of OUTRO will share best practices for empowering entire sales ecosystems to meet the needs of your 2016 buyers on November 2 in the Session: ‘Connected Selling in Your Modern Sales Ecosystem’ at CO:LLABORATE 2016, Phoenix.

CO:LLABORATE provides inspired business leaders with the education, digital best practices, and networking opportunities needed to say goodbye to yesteryear’s channel sales and marketing strategies and hello to the next generation of connected selling.

This article was originally published on MarTech Advisor

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