It is 7:30-8am, you are on a train to work or enjoying your first cup of coffee and you begin your day in your habitual form – check your LinkedIn feed. Before your workday starts you have already liked a couple of posts, maybe even shared an interesting post that adds value to your target audience.
During your office time, you prepare to post more and partake in some more social engagement. In the case of those who work in the sales world, you need to be on the lookout for prospects, always sharing updates with relevant content. It sounds like a time-consuming task, right? So, I asked myself to what extent is social media deserving of our time to really make an impact on our sales? Is social selling on LinkedIn giving a good return on our time investment or is it overrated?
I asked six experts in the field what their thoughts are on the impact of social media in B2B sales and below is what they had to say.
“There is no “standard” answer or policy on how social media might contribute to sales. It really depends on the business situation. However, in many cases, especially B2B sales, social media can have a very powerful impact on sales. There is a new sales methodology known as “social selling.” This combines the free and easy-to-use tools of social media tools with traditional selling methods. This has several advantages: 1) it provides access to new people you might not have been aware of before; 2) It allows you to build relationships remotely; 3) it allows you to “listen” to customer conversations and needs; 4) it allows you to provide meaningful content about your products and services. While this can provide a powerful return in terms of relationship-building, it does take time, which is a frustration for many companies that manage toward quarterly sales numbers.”
Social selling is changing how sales reps are interacting with their prospects. Prospecting has evolved from a cold approach to a warmer introduction, which is especially relevant to B2B environments that require building rapport and relationships with potential buyers by offering advice and expertise. This demands quite some time like Mark said. Some sales reps who are under pressure to meet quota might feel like giving up before even seeing results.
Social Selling expert and CEO @ Sales for Life, Jamie Shanks, consider that “Social Media for sales & marketing professionals is currently seen as a separate sales motion called “Social Selling or Digital Selling”, but within a few years, this will just be called “Selling”. The reality is that whether a seller likes it or not, the buyer is going to learn through digital platforms (like social media), with or without them. The role of the seller to meet the buyer along that buyers’ journey and help arm that buyer with information to make informed decisions. An effective digital seller uses the available triggers, insights and referral capabilities that social media offers to accelerate their speed-to-conversation.”
Therefore, if B2B buying habits have transformed, we inevitability must do the same with our sales strategies. With the digital evolution, eventually, the social media platforms would be our only option to sell. Which brings me to wonder, how can we maximize our marketing and sales efforts on social media?
Marketing Influencer, Keynote Speaker, Author and Educator, Wendy Guess believes that “in a B2B environment, social media may be more effective when you take time to get to know your customers. Understanding where andhow your current and potential customers engage in social media of their own allows you to better engage with them. This practice provides for better metrics and stronger ROI.” Indeed, listening to your clients is the new prospecting according to John Jantsch.
Social Media Manager for Memorial Healthcare System, Carla Rivera agrees. She says that “Although the number of potential customers is smaller when it comes to using social media for B2B, the return can be transformative if done properly. Because the customer base is narrower, the relevance of the content is even more imperative. Listening to your potential clients and learning about them through social media can help you create long-lasting relationships”.
So far, I have learned that to boost sales in the B2B digital world we have to build lifelong relationships with our customers by learning which social media platform they prefer to use, how they use it, what kind of content they are interested in and the digital information they are looking for to make informed buying decisions. We know this process takes time, but can we measure our sales team’s performance?
As a fan of concrete data, I wanted to go deeper and discover what numerical results to expect when following the social selling approach. Jamie Shanks described that “The result is empirical – according to Forrester, the modern, digital seller creates (on average) 20% more sales pipeline in 6 months over the traditional, analog seller.”
Marketing influencer, Best Selling Author, Speaker and Social Selling “Pioneer and Innovator” Tim Hughes also pointed me out that “The ROI for using social media to sell, over legacy methods was proven out some 3 years ago. In 2017 it became the de facto vehicle for selling. But social selling is not selling over social or writing content and hoping. It’s a completely different mindset and it is that mindset that people struggle with. In terms of ROI we are seeing people sell multi-million $ deals through social and companies making incremental revenue gains of 30%.”
Then it hit me. My “aha” moment! It is all about changing our sales mindset.
So what’s next?
Perry van Beek, LinkedIn & Social Selling Expert, explains that “the foundation for successful social selling is a strong LinkedIn profile and a strong network… in that order!
Perry advises that “once you’ve created a strong profile, we can start adding valuable people to our network by actually engaging with them.” He actually has a very interesting way to remember how your brand should be positioned in your audience’s mind. According to Perry, we have to “engage with them in such a way that you become ATOMIC, or Always Top Of Mind In your Community, which basically means that whenever they meet someone that has a need for your product or service, they’ll think of you first. If you do that well, you’ll never have to sell again as the people in your network are already actively selling you. That’s why the slogan “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is incorrect. The slogan should be “it’s not what you know, it’s who knows you“.
Social selling is evidently here to stay. There is no negotiation or ways around this fact. With the digital buying trends in the B2B environment, we just have to adapt our sales mindset to “listen to our customers” and become strong relationship builders. For those beginning to learn the best practices, start by crafting a solid LinkedIn profile and grow your network with valuable contacts. Then, actively engage with your digital community, positioning yourself as the “Go To” person when it comes to your product or service. It will take time, but sales will blossom. And these experts get it.