Does Social Selling Really Work in B2B?
Today`s big buzzwords are anything to do with social media. It was only a matter of time before “Social Selling” become the next hottest term. However, just because something is trendy does not mean it will help your bottom line. History is filled with systems, tools, and processes that were trendy at one time but have since proven to be worthless. Therefore, the pertinent question becomes “Does Social Selling Really Work?”
To answer that question you need to take a hard t look at what it takes to be successful in sales in the 21st century. 21st century sales people need to have insight, collaboration, engagement, and agility. All of these aspects work hand in hand and play a key role in your day-to-day sales process. It has always been the case that you need to know as much about your customers and competitors as possible. Before the internet and social media that meant by working your contact network and reading the records for whatever limited information you have in your CRM.
With the internet and social media, the resource both outside and within most company’s internal systems is much richer and much more readily available. No the problem reverses itself. Not too little information but actually the exact opposite. There is so much data about your customers, competitors, and your market, that now the challenge is being able to filter through the data and, finally, identify which has value to you. There are some great tools, such as Insideview that help filter through the noise.
In a CSO Insights 2011 Sales Performance Optimization Study, 22% of more than two thousand responding firms reported that it took 10+ calls to close a deal with new customers. Even with existing customers, 20% reported that it takes 6+ calls to get to a buying decision. In this environment of deeper research, consensus decision-making, and risk aversion, sales people need to be as prepared as possible.
The rapid adoption of the social web by business people is drastically changing the way B2B buying and selling is done. Within person meetings being replaced by phone calls and web conferences, B2B sales people need to find new ways to engage customers and prospects. LinkedIn profiles have become the new way to get to know a prospect or a competitor. Your prospects, competitors, and even current customers are conversing on the social web all the time. The insights from these conversations can be a sales person’s best friend. However, it must be used carefully, for when used poorly, it could bite you in the butt.
Used effectively, social intelligence can ensure sales teams put all their focus on engaging the right people at the right time with the right message. Replacing cold calls and email blasts to people who are not interested or with the wrong message at the wrong time has a dramatic impact on productivity and profitability. Recently CSO Insights found that effective use of sales intelligence increases revenue productivity per sales rep by 17%.
Let’s take a closer look at how social selling can help improve B2B sales people’s productivity and overall profitability:
- Lead Generation and Prospecting
Generating new leads and prospecting is all about discovering new prospects who would be in a position to purchase your product or service. Through social intelligence you cannot only find out the who, but also the when. This provides your sales people the ability to call at the right time, with the right message to the right person. What more could your sales people ask for?
- Lead Qualification
Name, title, and email address does not make a qualified lead. You need to have much more insight into the prospect. The use of social intelligence provides this. By being able to see what challenges your prospect and/or their company are going through, your sales people can get straight to the prospect’s pain, or also identify those that are maybe not worth calling. These opportunities greatly improve efficiency and profitability.
- Opportunity/Client Management
No one knows everything about their prospects or customers at every given moment. Time is needed to stay up-to-date on what is going on with their prospects, customers, and competitors, so that you can be on top of any changes and be proactive, before potentially unknowingly lose a deal. Social intelligence helps you do this.
Social selling can have a dramatic impact on B2B sales throughout the sales process. Ultimately, the success of social selling requires not only what you know about your prospects, but also how you use that information. This information, once collected from multiple new avenues, requires a fundamentally different selling process. How that data is aggregated, transformed into intelligence, and integrated into the sales process will be the major factors in determining the success of your sales organization going social.