Insights- How to use Social Selling to take your B2B sales to a higher level

Can you answer these three questions?

1. Do you think social media influences B2B buying decisions?

2. When Customers reach out to a Salesperson, how much help do they need in reaching a purchase decision? Has dependence on the Salesperson increased or decreased over last 10 years?

3. Is it possible to find and nurture Customers on social media platforms?

Can you solve the following three problems?

1. Rishab is a sales veteran with 25 years in heavy engineering solutions. He has built a portfolio of fiercely loyal OEM Customers whose relationships he has been managing with great aplomb. His Sales Director is concerned that Rishab’s new acquisitions have reduced drastically...  He is encouraging Rishab to take to LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with Customers. “With your deep understanding of heavy engineering, Rishab, you can add a lot of value to Customers. It will also add power to your sales efforts” But Rishab is sceptical. “Nothing like face to face contacts. This social media thing is just a fad. These new jargons like Virtual Selling and Remote Selling will not sustain" he says. Who do you think is right?

2. Aman is a 27-year-old relationship manager in a leading bank, handling transaction banking relationships. He is active both personally and professionally on the social media. He is present on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He spends close to 2 hours every day following discussion threads and posting responses. His Team Lead is of the view that Aman is not effective enough, in getting leads to through social media. “There is something not quite right with the way you are looking for people to connect and nurture. Aman, you should make more effective use of search engines, search tools and social channels” is his advice. How can Aman improve?

3. “I know what Social Selling is all about” says Dominic, Manager Institutional Relationships with Epsilon Autoparts. “Get active on all social media platforms and when people connect with you, pitch to them. That’s all there is to it” Do you agree with Dominic? What would be your advice to Dominic?

Social Media is a powerful new sales tool

It is now official. Social Media is the new virtual marketplace. Right from Prospecting, almost the entire Sales Process has now shifted online, to various Social Media Platforms.

Over the past few years, as companies, world over, rushed to embrace social media, sceptics wondered if all that posting, tweeting and retweeting, were worth anything in sales. Marketers in companies had a hunch all along that social media was an effective tool, and research supported that hunch.

An MIT Sloan Management expert post, even as early as in July 2015 cited research by Juanjuan Zhang, Associate Professor of Marketing to show that posts on social media do have a positive impact on sales.

And then there are the now famous statistics, the staple of sales conference presentations:

  • 70 percent of B2B buying processes are executed without the involvement of a sales rep (Source: Customerthink)
  • 88 percent of decision makers start their buying journey in the web (Source: Google)
  • 50 percent of deals are won by the sales rep who identifies FIRST the buying signal (Source: SalesInsight)

All that should be enough to convert Salespeople into social media acolytes.  Not that all this shift is sudden...  the lure of digital has been tracked for almost a decade.  A 2014 study by Google and Millward Brown Digital found that 46% of decision makers are aged between 18 and 34 years old (up from 27% in 2012), which coincidentally, is the largest social media user demographic. And the future is entirely that of these buyers! Selling without in some way using social media is no more an option for salespeople

Digitization drives dramatic changes in buying behaviour

In the not-too-distant past, the best way to get some product information was to chat up a sales person. Now the web supplies you most of it. Customers get their information early on and via social media. A Google CEB Study uncovered a statistic that’s become passe, being cited endlessly. It found that 56 percent of the buying journey  (From Need Identification to Purchase Evaluation in the picture below) passes by without the Customer engaging in a serious conversation with any Sales Rep.

Clearly, all of this points to 3 mega trends:

  • More and more Customers are on social media
  • A bigger share of purchase decisions is being made earlier in the sales process
  • Salespeople should become available to Customers early in the buying journey

So, it is now imperative for salespeople to master the use of social media in selling

Mercuri View of Social Selling

Social Selling is about building relationships, about using technologies and social platforms to facilitate real human interaction before the Buyer and Seller meet face to face - or - screen to screen, and also later. The mantra is to ‘Give’. Giving builds trust. When you use social platforms to offer value - something that enriches lives, Customers will find you when they are ready. Your job is to locate the customer on his/her journey and become a part of that journey.

In other words, social selling can be seen as leveraging your own professional brand and social network to gather insights, make connections, then use that intelligence to discover new opportunities, sell, and do business

Mercuri’s 4S Model for Social Selling Success

The Mercuri model for Social Selling Success is made up of 4 steps:

1. SHOWCASE your expertise – Define and create your social brand persona. To do this you would need to choose appropriate social platforms, review your social image, craft a compelling summary, use multiple media, become searchable and create a valuable social network

2. SEARCH out key people – Where can you find Customers? The answer to this is in a 3S social equipment kit – (i) Search Engines, (ii) Social Channels and (iii) Search Tools. Use the 3S social equipment kit to figure out where your Customers are and whether you are on the right platform to find them. Steps will include

  • Map Customers by their social media preferences, using Search Engine Results
  • Master elements of the search syntax and Boolean search.
  • Incorporate the insights from your search exercise into a final Social Selling Selection Matrix. This will serve as a guide post for your social selling initiatives

Within a social media platform, people can be hard to find. So, it would be a good idea to spend time in the groups where your customers are. Otherwise, you could risk missing your Customers. Following companies which are reported to be evaluating your product line, posting content likely to helpful in procurement decisions and staying active in exchanges with key decision makers and influencers are other action points that could be helpful.

3. SHARE engaging insights - This should include posting own and original articles and content which are helpful and of value to the target groups. People want to communicate with ‘people’, rather than a ‘company’. No surprise that postings of real people get more response than company / brand accounts in social media. But it is good to remember that “Social Selling” is not the same as “Selling on Social. Attempts to sell on social turns off Customers. Before posting content or offering your views in an online thread, it might be good to check where your content belongs in the Content Matrix. You can test it against two important criteria - Social Shareability and Brand Alignment

That would help you decide if the shareable content or view is a piece of

  • Sweet spot
  • Hard work
  • Waste of time or
  • Spam

4.SUSTAIN relationships - What does it mean to build a relationship on social media? Share of mind, driven by a desire to add value, is all it takes. However, some caveats:

  • Social relationships are not conventional or casual
  • Purpose should be to help the Customer to achieve her/his goal
  • Recognise the thin line between being seen as supportive and intrusive
  • Support the Customer on buying journey
  • Engage in active Social Listening to spot Customer concerns

The 3 rules for sustaining social relationships are:

a) Share consistently

b) Recover quickly when there are slip ups. Learn the art of social recovery

c) Switch to off-line at the earliest

Social Selling can turbo charge your B2B Sales

Mercuri International’s own research, as early as in the Sales Excellence Survey 2017,  found that top performing companies who excel in sales reported significantly higher levels of leveraging social media for Customer communication. Regardless of industry,  Social Media is the new preferred tool for Customer communication.

And the good news is that with the right training and effort Social Selling can be easily mastered!

- End of Document -

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