August 5th, 2012
excerpted from Harvard Business Review (Jul-Aug 2012 edition) article on Social Selling titled “Tweet Me, Friend Me, Make Me Buy”
Social Networks are important to sales people, that’s where the customers are.. Social Media selling has risks, but the biggest risk is sitting on the sidelines while your competitors grab customers on social networks. It makes sense for businesses today, of all kinds, to explore selling on social media. This can be achieved via structured training the sales team. Interestingly, there is scant training programs catering to Social Media selling. This activity, so far, remains in the perview of a smattering of a few leading Social Media consultants who are trying to creat awareness in this area.
The world is moving from push to pull marketing tactics. Subject matter expertise delivered via white papers and tweets is part of sales strategy now. The coorelation between such high quality SME content to actual sales achieved is difficult to measure, but the fact remains that customer engagement, brand recognition and buying decisions are dependent on content posted on such social networks. The sales executives from Online Teleconference services provider PGi use their company blog to broadcast useful content to their audience and followers, helping create a brand recognition and awareness of PGi portfolio.
It’s where the customers are
Studies conducted by Experian Marketing Services indicate that social networking now accounts for 15% of internet visits in the USA. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, now boasts 100 million users, most corporate folks who are at various levels of potential customer firms.Twitter has more than 100 million active users and Facebook has almost close to 1 billion users, 14% of global population.
How Social selling helps
a) Prospecting : Cold Calling and email blasts are being fast replaced by prospecting potential customers on social networks. It seems the customers are more responsive to short messages sent via social networks from friends and contacts. Often the sales reps do not have to start the conversation, but rather can insert into an existing problem or situation being discussed on Social networks. Eg a client executive could be complaining about phone services, phone company sales reps can pick up such conversation and approach that customers with telco solutions and offerings. “A lead today can be a complaint on Twitter, a question on LinkedIn, or a discussion on a Facebook page.” Social monitoring tools like HootSuite allow such lead generation to be automated and integrated into a firm’s CRM system.
b) Qualifying leads : Using data intelligence tools like InsideView, salespeople can gain relevant, real-time insights about the companies and buyers they’ve targeted. “Follow”, trigger alerts, direct messaging are compelling tools on social networks which allow sales reps to research their prospects and be prepared for the sales presentations or sales calls. The key decision makers can be researched and targeted as direct contacts on social networks.
(CellStrat experience : LinkedIn is surprisingly powerful to make contacts and penetrate firms at senior level as per our experience)
c) Managing relationships : Sales remains a relationship-driven activity, but “who you know” is now trumped by “what you know about who you know”. Social networks are being used by sales reps to “know their customers” and what their customers are discussion online or in tweets. This helps empower the sales reps with valuable knowledge about prospects when making contact with them.
As to governance and credential risks associated with using social networks, firms can have in place policies and training for sales teams, to ensure that the employees do not end up causing trouble for their firm via inappropriate or questionable activities online.
It would not be a stretch to say that not participating in social selling puts a firm at a competitive disadvantage compared to it’s competitors, as the latter are certainly leveraging the social selling paradigm already.
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