The competition for customers in today’s B2B marketplace is fierce, as budgets shrink, the number of players increase, and it becomes more difficult for brands to rise above the din of product and service pitches.
According to an article in Harvard Business Review, outbound B2B sales are becoming less and less effective. A survey by the TOPO Sales Development practice revealed that connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls. Callback rates are below one percent, and only 24 percent of outbound sales emails are ever opened.
Interestingly, 84 percent of B2B buyers are launching the purchasing process with referrals. And, Salesforce notes that peer recommendations are influencing more than 90 percent of B2B buying decisions.
Forrester Research explains that increasingly, buyers are avoiding salespeople during the buying process because sales reps tend to focus on selling rather than solving a customer problem. It warns that, unless organizations start creating effective sales models aligned with today’s digital world, 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.
Social selling, the strategy of using social media to sell, can help buck this tide. It is unlike social media marketing where a brand engages a much larger audience to increase brand awareness or promote a specific product or service by creating content users will share with their network. Instead, social selling utilizes social media as a more intimate relationship-building tool. With social selling, salespeople use social platforms to research, prospect, and network with potential prospects by sharing educational content and answering questions. The goal is to build relationships with prospects until they’re ready to buy.
Monica Zent, Founder and CEO of Foxwordy, has identified three steps to leverage the power of social selling:
- Do your homework – Take time to understand your prospective customer, starting with getting to know who they are.
- Be authentic – Once you’ve identified your prospect, begin engaging with them. As an entry point, find common ground you can use to initiate a dialogue and establish a connection.
- Nurture your relationships – People want to do business with professionals they know and trust, so forge relationships rather than seek transactions. Provide suggestions and answer questions rather than trying to build an affinity for your brand.
Social selling is not time-intensive. In fact, sales people only need to invest between five and 10 percent of their time with social to be successful. And, like fostering any relationship, patience is key. Interacting regularly with a prospect may not lead to a direct sale in a week or even a quarter, but could result in a significant win within a year, according to Harvard Business Review.
Get Your Marketing Team Involved
To maximize social media efforts, sales people should collaborate with their organization’s social marketing team. Sales and Marketing can work together by:
- Training salespeople in social media systems, processes and best practices. According to a study by A Sales Guy Consulting and Social Centered, 75 percent of B2B salespeople indicated they were trained in the effective use of social media. Training can include: working in specific social media channels; utilizing corporate social media software; understanding an organization’s social media guidelines, and aligning social media content with customer needs and interests rather than brand features, benefits and prices.
- Collaborating on information-sharing to ensure that the efforts of both teams are aligned, and common goals and metrics that both teams support are identified.
- Having sales people inform Marketing about things such as customer successes and concerns, changing customer needs, customer questions, and industry updates, since sales reps are the ones who develop the relationship with a prospect.
Underscoring the importance of improved communications between sales and marketing are the results of a study between App Data Room and Marketo, which found that sales and marketing alignment can close deals by 67 percent and help marketing generate 209 percent more value from their efforts.
Taking the time to develop and nurture relationships with prospects in the digital world we conduct business in can reap big pay-offs and significantly improve an organization’s bottom line. When sales and marketing teams work together for successful social selling, the benefit to the brand will follow.