The cold call is officially dead. You’ve heard it before. It’s official. Data proves it. 97% of cold calls are ineffective. The modern B2B sales professional uses social media to find and engage prospects and customers.
Our Social Business Engine channel has partnered with Dell to publish original research commissioned by Dell and conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. The research findings are available in Social Business Journal Volume 3: Digital Transformation: Social Selling Research Insights and Best Practices.
I have three reactions to this original research. They are:
During the past five years, many B2B organizations have been slow to adopt social selling practices. Although, the research input is from IT solution providers, the data in this report provides compelling insights that, quite frankly, cannot be ignored by any B2B organization in any market sector.
Those of us who have embraced content marketing strategies have practiced analysis of the B2B customer buyer’s journey with attention given to the personas involved in the evaluation and decision process, and producing content that is relevant to each persona in each stage of the buyer’s journey. This report validates that B2B buyers seek out relevant content during their journey. 57% of research respondents browsed discussions in social media during their decision journey. 23% connected with thought leaders in social media to ask their opinions about products.
A thought leader ranges from a well-known author, speaker and consultant to an employee who is adept at “social helping.” Several contributors offered their insights into the research findings. Bryan Kramer suggests changing our vernacular from social selling to social helping. Kramer points out that the most successful sales professionals have always been helpful.
In my book, Marketing 2.0, published in 2009 (the stone ages of social media) I spoke of the need for businesses to undergo a mindset shift to use social media to drive business results. Six years later, we see considerable evidence that the shift is well underway. The research points out that 75% of the buyer’s journey is influenced by information discovered in social media, and 57% of the buyer’s journey is completed digitally.
It’s natural to witness the maturation of the mindset shift for two reasons. More senior managers responsible for driving business strategy have become engaged in social media and therefore experience first hand what it takes to engage in digital communications. Additionally, more use-cases have emerged enabling slower-to-adopt businesses to take notice and take action, especially when direct competitors have demonstrated prowess as “social sellers.”
Evolution of Business
No one remembers the mindset shift that took place to put a telephone on every employee’s desk. Just imagine the conversations in the executive suite when telephone technology was in its infancy. It probably sounded something like this: “We can’t give a telephone to each employee! We won’t be in control of their conversations with customers. Additionally, they might abuse the telephone and call friends. It’s just too risky. We’re not going to do it.” It sounds comical doesn’t it?
Some of us remember when email was introduced as a communication tool. Similar conversations took place in the executive suite. Yet, email has become the most pervasive digital communication tool in the modern era.
The new modern era – the connected era – is comprised of digital communication tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And, as we see in this research, these three social channels are the three most used by B2B organizations to reach and engage prospective customers.
The modern B2B organization must embrace social selling to survive and thrive. As the report highlights, customers are engaging in these channels. The culture shift to support social selling must be supported in a cross-functional manner. Sales professionals who engage through social media channels with their colleagues across the enterprise become more knowledgeable and more useful to their prospects and customers. The “social helping” mindset is the secret sauce to this digital transformation.