Like most sales leaders, I began my career in B2B software sales prior to the digital age. Concepts such as social media for sales professionals simply didn’t exist. The sales prospecting tools and processes during those times were very different than they are today. Now more than ever before sales and marketing leaders are not just talking about sales prospecting tools but social selling tools as a category has arisen.
Not knowing where it would lead to in 2020, this tech veteran took to digital like a fish in the water. I embraced social media around 2007. As the digital sales transformation has unfolded over the past five-plus years and more so in the last year, every sales leader has realized that being proficient in social channels is a necessary skill for a B2B salesforce of the modern age. I’ve never once resisted this evolution. To me, it’s just natural… After all, modern communication began with the telephone, then email, now social media as primary communication and engagement tools.
But, not all B2B sales managers are on the same page, regardless of years of experience on how and how much should social media be leveraged for their sales reps. And because of today’s remote selling environment, sales leaders are trying to ensure that their sales professionals are not wasting time playing on social media or sharing content in vain.
There is much discussion about the evolution of the B2B buyer’s journey. While it varies from industry to industry, one thing for sure is that most B2B decision-makers are leveraging social media channels to conduct research on products and services they need for their business. Thus IDC reported that 75% of B2B buyers conduct research for products and services in social channels.
Make no mistake, the fundamental premise hasn’t changed. B2B buyers are looking to solve business problems and to get an ROI on their investment. But, unlike sales in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, the way to influence the modern B2B buyer is largely accomplished through digital channels.
Making social media for sales professionals a key cornerstone activity for prospecting in today’s modern selling world. But there is a difference between social media marketing vs. social selling. We desire none of our students or sellers to be social media marketers. Rather a modern seller for the 21st century must be sufficiently equipped to engage with their buyers.
B2B buyers are influenced by people and content
The B2B buyer is online studying product features, pricing, and reviews through blog posts, white papers, webcasts, podcasts, case studies, and social media profiles of the people who make up a potential vendor organization. They are influenced by anyone online who credibly supplies answers to their questions.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The B2B buyer is looking at U & UR competitors online because they can. @bernieborges #socialselling” quote=”The B2B buyer is looking at you and your competitors online, because they can. @bernieborges #socialselling”]
However, many B2B sales professionals underestimate how much they can influence buyers through a LinkedIn profile that serves as a resource 24/7. Moreover, sales professionals can influence buyers by providing useful information through social channels that help them answer questions during their journey. Thus, the need for marketing organizations to launch employee advocacy solutions to help their sellers provide the right content consistently and correctly.
67% of B2B buyers’ evaluation process is completed online
The B2B buyer’s journey is not linear and the Global Performance Group reported that 67% of B2B buyers’ evaluation process is completed online.
In fact, there are most often committees formed to evaluate products and services, with each committee member engaged in their own unique aspect of the online research process to determine if a product/service fits their needs. It’s imperative to provide relevant content to help each committee member move through each stage of their journey.
Each member of the committee – aka persona – can include people whose focus may include vendor reputation, technical evaluators, financial evaluators, etc. The B2B sales professional should be connecting on LinkedIn, recognize these personas, and seek to engage with each persona through relevant content as provided by the marketing team or curated on their own if necessary and distributed through social media.
For example, an executive seeks to learn how other companies have used your products successfully. The technical evaluator wants to know that your product has the necessary features, and the financial evaluator needs to know how to achieve an ROI with your product.
Your sales rep should provide content through social media channels that assist all members of the decision-making committee on their journey toward their ultimate decision. This does in fact require, you as a sales leader to hold your marketing team accountable to deliver content for each of these social media engagement use cases.
So says HubSpot. Thus, integrating social media engagement in your selling process is table stakes. Not doing so is foolish for the simple reason that your buyer is there. And, while the buyer isn’t always open to engaging with a salesperson during the research phase, inserting yourself into their research as a useful resource, is an effective way to influence the buyer and build your sales pipeline. If your product is a good fit, and you are a helpful resource, those buyers can become an inbound lead.
[clickToTweet tweet=”How can b2b salespeople insert themselves @ the start of a #buyersjourney? @bernieborges here w tips!” quote=”How can b2b salespeople insert themselves at the start of a #buyersjourney? @bernieborges here w tips!”]
HubSpot research shows a salesperson’s ability to meet quota increases substantially when they integrate social selling into their sales process. Effective social media engagement expands your reach and boosts your sales potential.
In fact, effective social selling can create a competitive advantage. Remember that most B2B buyers use social media to find information when they start their evaluation process. When you integrate a social selling strategy into your sales process, you can engage with the buyer sooner in their journey and potentially enjoy competitive advantages.
98% of salespeople with at least 5,000 LinkedIn contacts reach their quota
The more exposure you have within your industry segment, the greater the chance that you will be able to meet or surpass your sales quota. You should always be striving to expand your network. Your connections give you credibility and can also open up new opportunities for you through their network. Incidentally, you should do the same for people in your network.
[clickToTweet tweet=”How did a B2B Sales Pro got invited into an opportunity through #SocialSelling? @bernieborges answers” quote=”How did a B2B Sales Pro got invited into an opportunity through #SocialSelling? @bernieborges answers”]
One of our clients had a salesperson who was monitoring conversations on LinkedIn and tweets from prospective companies, as well as from her competitors. She observed an online exchange between a competitor’s salesperson and a person at a company representing a prospective customer. The exchange was clear about the intent of the prospect inquiring into product features of the competitor.
Sidenote: a public inquiry such as this may be unavoidable, but do your best to keep such an inquiry private through Twitter DMs, text, email or phone conversations.
In this case, the salesperson at our client reached out to the prospect to insert herself into the conversation. Her outreach was direct and to the point about the prospect’s inquiry. A sales conversation ensued and eventually, our client’s salesperson won the business.
77% of B2B buyers are unwilling to speak to a salesperson before completing research online
The B2B buyer is intentionally conducting research online. Providing useful content to your prospective buyer on social media is a great way to start a sales conversation. If you’re not sharing information that addresses the problems your prospects face, then you’re probably missing out on sales opportunities.
The typical B2B buyer is in search of relevant information. You should be a source of that information. So, it’s important that you’re providing the information they need through social media to influence their willingness to have a sales conversation with you.
57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before a salesperson talks with them
Ensure you’re keeping prospects engaged on social media by sharing content that will help them take the next step in their buying journey.
Most of the time your buyers don’t want to speak with a sales representative until they have conducted enough research to validate that vendor as a contender. Buyers engage in content found through blog posts and discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, product reviews, etc. So, make sure that you’re visible to your prospects and give them what they need, or you risk missing out on the chance to have a sales conversation with them.
How a Social Media Sales Profile Can Make You or Break You
Your buyer will check you out online because they can. Imagine if the prospect in this story visited the sales person’s LinkedIn profile prior to agreeing to engage and was not impressed with the profile. Chances are that prospect would not have engaged with that salesperson’s outreach, even if the brand she represents is an authoritative vendor.
In that case, it’s possible the prospect might search out a different salesperson from that authoritative vendor. It’s imperative (table stakes) for a salesperson to have a social profile that serves as a sales asset comprised of a strong LinkedIn headline, proper LinkedIn banner, a well-written LinkedIn about that’s customer-centric and relevant experience that’s also customer-centric. Such a social profile will attract inbound sales conversations.
How a Salesperson Used Social Media to Sell Out a Seminar
This client’s salesperson is located in a territory with many companies in the oil and gas industry. His company scheduled a half-day seminar to present solutions to the oil and gas industry. Less than two months before the seminar, no one was signed up to attend the event.
The salesperson used Twitter to identify people in the oil and gas industry in and near this geographic location. In addition to discovering people to invite to the event, he discovered a local chapter of an industry association. He contacted the association to inform them of the planned seminar. The association agreed to share information about the event with their membership through their Twitter account. In short, the association partnered with this salesperson to promote the event, and the event ‘sold out.’ More importantly, the event produced a rich pipeline of new opportunities for this salesperson.
Lessons Learned from Sales Professionals Using Social Media
Both examples above have common threads. In both cases, the salesperson embraced social selling strategies as a contemporary means of reaching and engaging people for sales conversations.
Also, in both cases, the salesperson invested time to conduct research in social channels, notably LinkedIn and Twitter. I mention this because it takes time to “listen” on social channels. When it’s done purposefully and with an efficient process, the payoff can be huge.
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