It’s Time We Talked About the Use of Social Media in Business…
Over 70% of businesses today use some form of Social Media. The average business-to-Business purchase is more than 70% complete before a buyer engages with a sales rep. Clearly we have hit a tipping point in the digital transformation of B2B sales and marketing and social networking has become a key tool in developing business relationships. What hasn’t kept pace with this digital transformation however, are the basic sales and communication techniques required to establish strong, mutually beneficial business relationships.
The problem? There is close to zero friction involved in reaching out to virtually any potential business contact today. As a result untrained, or poorly trained, sales reps and marketers are simply hitting “send” without stopping to really think about the recipient, their needs or in many cases the logic of the message being sent. And when misguided and poorly worded business requests are combined with the power of marketing automation, the negative impact simply gets worse.
A brief list of direct requests we’ve received over the last year tells the story:
- “I just stumbled across your profile and thought we should connect”. This maybe my personal favorite. Whenever I see this one, roughly 10–15 times a week, I wonder whether the person sending it thinks that “stumble” is the right verb to be using when describing their business approach? Perhaps not their “ best foot forward”?
- “Since we’re both in the ( fill in the blank with the wrong answer) Industry, I thought we should connect”. Ummm, so by now you realize that the same remarkable power social media gives you to find, reach and contact people also provides you with the super power of researching the company before you reach out. Right?
- “I’m looking to add CEO’s to my Network”. Cool! Is this like a contest? Does the person with the most CEO’s win a prize? How specifically does the fact that YOU’RE looking to add CEO’s to your network help me or my company?
- “Are you looking to generate more appointments? Let’s schedule a 15 minute call”. Look I get it. We’re all selling something and selling lead generation is no different. If this is the way you generate leads however, it clearly gives the impression your company doesn’t have a very advanced or sophisticated process. Also the odds of getting an appointment with an executive who has never heard of your company and has no frame of reference for why you’re requesting one, are the equivalent of winning the lottery. You’re better off buying Lotto tickets.
- “Are you ready to claim your personal power?”. I’m as into self-improvement as the next person, but random spam on social media is not traditionally where I find my best sources of inspiration or information.
- “Let’s connect and see how we can help each other”. So let me get this straight. You would like to connect to then see if we can help each other? Aren’t you able to see the business I’m in? I can see the business you’re in. And it kinda looks like you’re trying to sell me something without any understanding of my business.
I could go on and on. Here’s the truth though. We are all guilty of giving in to the speed and ease of reaching out to business decision makers via social media and email. Before these tools were available, you had to stop and really think about what you should say before you left a voicemail, or got through to an executive’s assistant or heaven forbid, actually reached a prospect live on the phone or at an event!
One of our goals for 2020 is to do a better job of social selling. We want to use the various social networks and digital tools in ways that best respect our prospects and customers interests. This is the key to generating positive, valuable business relationships.
Here are 7 best practices for the business use of social media.
- Research first. Evaluate your prospective customer by first understanding your current customer. What are the industries, size of company, titles, functions, regions and attributes that make up your existing customer base? Use this information as a guide to help you define what type of companies and who within those companies you should be looking to reach and engage.
- Focus on the right person. Not the top person. Don’t buy into the myth that bad or inexperienced sales or marketing managers will tell you that you should “Always get to the CEO”. Business is a team sport and even in smaller companies, there are key people in various functions that make decisions on behalf of the company. No CEO worth their salt makes all the decisions. They rely on the expertise of the leaders of the individual business functions. Make sure you’re focussing on the right person for the product or service you’re selling.
- Understand your prospects “Jobs-to-be-Done”. Everyone in business has a series of jobs that they’re trying to get done. Some are obvious some are far less obvious. Make sure that when you’re requesting a connection with someone you demonstrate a basic understanding of at least one of their jobs to be done. Another way to think about this is to answer the question “What’s in it for Me?”, for your prospect. If you don’t have a clear answer to this question, don’t hit send.
- Write the way you speak. If you cold called one of your prospects you would never say; “I’m looking to add CEO’s to my network”, or “I stumbled across your profile and thought we should connect”. Take the time to write out a request that is in your voice and is how you would actually speak if you were to meet them.
- Be careful with unsolicited email. It’s not hard to get someone’s email these days. Unless it’s permission based however, you need to be very careful how you use it. Data-privacy laws are rapidly making unsolicited email spamming a crime. In most business-to-business markets, overuse of unsolicited email can also position your company poorly, making you look out of touch and not up to date with best practices. Make sure you have a clear “unsubscribe” feature in your unsolicited email communication and DO NOT ramp up your demands to non-responsive contacts with repeated requests.
- Share first. Ask second. It’s easier today than ever to see what would be helpful to your prospects. Sharing information in the form of research, a white paper, or a blog post, allows you to demonstrate you understand their needs. This also allows them to engage in the early stages of their process, think of this as the 70%, before they are ready to engage in person.
- When in doubt, follow the Golden Rule. Under the pressure to gain more customers, connect with elusive prospects or meet sales quota’s we can all fall prey to ham-fisted communication techniques that in retrospect we can clearly see were wrong. While it can be hard, before hitting send, ask yourself a simple question: “If I were in the recipient’s position, would I respond”.
Here’s to better social selling in 2020 and beyond. For all of us!