Have you heard the story of that B2C salesperson who could sell a ski jacket to a salt miner from the Danakil Desert in Ethiopia? Does not happen anymore, right? For long, B2B sellers relied on a hit-and-miss rule of the thumb — making ‘n’ number of phone calls from a directory and sitting idle on cold calls for eons. Then came Marketing Automation and a bunch of CRMs that helped achieve better results in customer targeting and acquisition. With a surfeit of technologies to converse with customers across any platform of their choice, looking back now feels odd. With the big bang of social media and online marketing, marketers never looked as savvy as they do now. Everything they want to know about their customers is just at their fingertips! Courtesy, social media monitoring, and a ripe assortment of social selling tools.
What is Social Selling?
HubSpot defines social selling as:
Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering a prospect’s questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy
Why marketers should focus on Social Selling
Comprehending the immense power of social selling:
- 90% of salespersons now consider social media integral to sales strategy (LinkedIn)
- 78% of salespersons active on social media outperform their peers (Forbes)
- 84% of C-Suite executives and 70% of B2B decision makers rely on social media for purchase decisions (IDC)
- IBM raked 400% increase in sales when it incorporated inbound social selling (IBM)
- Organizations that are consistent with their social selling are 40% likelier to meet revenue targets than those who don’t (Sales for Life)
- Social selling delivers approximately 5x ROI (Sales for Life)
Social selling is a long-term strategy and the results are not instant. It’s like nurturing a plant right from the planting of seeds to watering it regularly. Conventional sales process was about cold calls and like it or not, it’s extinct now. Social selling is about building relations that last.
- 90% of decision-makers never answer cold calls (InsideView)
Social selling, when teamed with the right contextual content, is an impeccable differentiator for your business. Here’re some ways for B2Bs to up the ante on their social selling.
Adopting the Transformation in Buyer Journeys
People are online. They’re active on social platforms. Their buyer journeys have undergone a sea change and so has customer lifecycle value (CLV).
- 67% of buyer journeys are now fully-digital (SiriusDecisions)
- At least 5 pieces of relevant content get consumed before a purchase decision is made (CMO Council)
The digital buyer journeys of today can be categorized into three phases:
Phase 1 – Involves plenty of research to identify a solution and its worth to address the business challenges. This is the phase where a decision maker also seeks alternative solutions.
Phase 2 – Shortlisting products and vendors. This is when recommendations, referrals, and expert opinions make a deep impression on the buyer’s psyche.
- 84% of decision-makers commence their buying journey with a referral (Sales Benchmark Index)
Phase 3 – The buyer seeks all the right answers to the relevant questions and looks at social media as the most valuable source.
All the three phases are important in social selling and are interlinked. However, the third phase can be your ‘sweet spot’. It’s quite obvious that if decision makers are leveraging social media in their purchase process, your sales reps and leaders need to be on social. If you don’t, someone else will, and you lose business.
The Art of Social Listening
Listening is an art in itself and as far as social listening goes; it’s something that B2Bs need to master to prosper. Only then is there any scope for your content to generate ROI. There’s no point in social selling without social listening.
- By 2020, 12% of all B2B sales will take place online (Forrester)
Take a cue from Cisco. The company actively listens to more than 5000 mentions per day across social platforms. It has trained its B2B sales unit on how to listen and respond to these mentions. Result – a 281% ROI for Cisco on its digital marketing investment within a span of 5 months.
Get To the Right Prospects and Be Knowledgeable
A gentle reminder – cold calling is extinct. However, the approach is not. It means targeting the right businesses. Back then, it was about sinking into directories to identify prospects. Now, you have LinkedIn. The amount of info the Microsoft-owned professional network has is impeccable.
- 98% of sales reps with 5000+ LinkedIn connections meet or exceed their targets (Sales Benchmark Index)
Once you’ve identified your prospects, the next crucial step is to create a positive image of your brand and its offering. This can only happen when sales reps have end-to-end expertise and knowledge about what they’re selling.
- 77% of B2B buyers refuse to talk to sales reps unless they’ve done their own primary research (CBE Global, now Gartner)
Personalization is again a no-brainer here. It’s rudimentary in any kind of customer engagement. Templates are good but that extra effort to tweak your message can make all the difference. Once you’ve connected with a prospect, don’t get off their radar. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s time for your sales pitch. Rather, generate warmth by sharing useful, meaningful content. This is where patience is the key. Don’t over engage at this stage and pepper the prospect constantly. Once they acknowledge their details, time to contact. Many won’t provide their phone number straight away. Email is the game here. Your email becomes your avenue for phone call and subsequent conversions.
See how HubSpot engaged with interested prospects over email. It helped them acquire 16 B2B customers.
The Tech Stack: Social Analytics
You’ve done all the hard yards to implement your social selling strategy. Yet, it could all turn to rags without social analytics. Social analytics is the collection of data from various social platforms that inform and are the vanguard of marketing strategies.
There’re analytics tools and dashboards that are directly offered by the leading social media platforms:
- Facebook Insights
- Instagram Insights
- Twitter analytics
- Pinterest analytics
- LinkedIn analytics (for individuals and business)
- Google+ Influence
Then there are website tracking tools like Leadfeeder than can integrate with Google Analytics. Some of the other effective free social analytics tools are:
For those with a budget, some paid social analytics options are:
- SimplyMeasured (acquired by Sprout Social)
- Social Report
- Rival IQ
Social Selling: A Marketing & Sales JV
A dedicated social listening team, social analytics, intelligent marketing automation systems, and a dexterous sales team are the core ingredients for successful social selling. B2Bs need to stay nimble and watchful. Social selling in the B2B ecosystem is about the right calibration of marketing and sales. That’s how you get the right insights in the right place. B2Bs with better sales automation will march ahead with social selling in times to come.