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8 Reasons B2B Sales Professionals Must Use Social Media

by Bernie Borges on November 7, 2016
8 Reasons B2B Sales Professionals Must Use Social Media

I began my career in B2B software sales prior to the digital age. The sales tools and processes during those times were very different than they are today.

For some reason, this 50-something tech veteran has taken to digital like a fish in water. I embraced social media around 2007. As digital transformation has unfolded over the past five-plus years, I’ve realized that being proficient in social channels is a necessary skill in B2B sales. I’ve never once resisted this evolution. To me, it’s just natural…After all, industry began with the telephone, then email, now social media as primary communication and engagement tools. But, not all B2B sales professionals are on the same page, regardless of years of experience.

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75% of B2B buyers conduct research for products and services in social channels. Source IDC.

There is much discussion about the evolution of the B2B buyer’s journey. While it varies from industry to industry, one thing for sure is that most B2B decision-makers are leveraging social media channels to conduct research on products and services they need for their business.

Make no mistake, the fundamental premise hasn’t changed. B2B buyers are looking to solve business problems and to get an ROI on their investment. But, unlike my sales days in the 80s and 90s, the way to influence the modern B2B buyer is largely accomplished through digital channels.

B2B buyers are influenced by people and content.

The B2B buyer is online studying product features, pricing and reviews through blog posts, white papers, webcasts, podcasts, case studies and social media profiles of the people who make up a potential vendor organization. They are influenced by anyone online who credibly supplies answers to their questions.

The B2B buyer is looking at you and your competitors online, because they can. #socialselling Tweet This.

However, many B2B sales professionals underestimate how much they can influence buyers through a social profile that serves as a sales asset 24/7. Moreover, sales professionals can influence buyers by providing useful information through social channels that helps them answer questions during their journey.

67% of B2B buyers’ evaluation process is completed online. Source: Global Performance Group

The B2B buyer’s journey is not linear. Often, there are committees formed to evaluate products and services, with each committee member engaged in their own unique aspect of the online research process to determine if a product/service fits their needs. It’s imperative to provide relevant content to help each committee member move through each stage of their journey. Each member of the committee – aka persona – can include people whose focus may include vendor reputation, technical evaluators, financial evaluators, etc. The B2B sales person should recognize these personas and seek to engage with each persona through relevant content as provided by the marketing team, or curated on their own if necessary.

content inventory for B2B buyer personas

For example, an executive seeks to learn how other companies have used your products successfully. The technical evaluator wants to know that your product has the necessary features, and the financial evaluator needs to know how to achieve an ROI with your product. 

You should provide content through social media channels that assist all members of the decision-making committee on their journey toward their ultimate decision.

78% of sales people who use social media perform better than those who don’t. Source: HubSpot

Integrating social media engagement in your selling process is table stakes. Not doing so is foolish for the simple reason that your buyer is there. And, while the buyer isn’t always open to engaging with a sales person during the research phase, inserting yourself into their research as a useful resource, is an effective way to be influential to the buyer and build your sales pipeline. If your product is a good fit, and you are a helpful resource, those buyers can become an inbound lead.

64% of sales people that use inbound social selling reach their quotas. Source: HubSpot

A sales person’s ability to meet quotas increases substantially when they integrate social selling into their sales process. Effective social media engagement expands your reach and boosts your sales potential.

In fact, effective social selling can create competitive advantage. Remember that most B2B buyers use social media to find information when they start their evaluation process. When you integrate social selling into your sales process, you can engage with the buyer sooner in their journey and potentially enjoy competitive advantage.

98% of sales people with at least 5,000 LinkedIn contacts reach their quota. Source: HubSpot

The more exposure you have within your industry segment, the greater the chance that you will be able to meet or surpass your sales quota. You should always be striving to expand your network. Your connections give you credibility and can also open up new opportunities for you through their network. Incidentally, you should do the same for people in your network.

How a B2B Sales Pro Got Invited into an Opportunity through Social Selling

One of our technology clients had a sales person who was monitoring conversations in LinkedIn and tweets from prospective companies, as well as from her competitors. She observed an online exchange between a competitor’s sales person and a person at a company representing a prospective customer. The exchange was clear about the intent of the prospect inquiring into product features of the competitor. Sidenote: a public inquiry such as this may be unavoidable, but do your best to keep such an inquiry private through Twitter DMs, text, email or phone conversations.

In this case, the technology sales person at our client reached out to the prospect to insert herself into the conversation. Her outreach was direct and to the point about the prospect’s inquiry. A sales conversation ensued and eventually, our client’s sales person won the business, much to the dismay of the competitive sales person involved in the digital conversation.

How This Story Could’ve Gone South

Your buyer will check you out online because they can. Imagine if the prospect in this story visited the sales person’s LinkedIn profile prior to agreeing to engage and was not impressed with her profile. Chances are that prospect would not have engaged with that sales person’s outreach, even if the brand she represents is an authoritative vendor. In that case, it’s possible the prospect might search out a different sales person from that authoritative vendor. It’s imperative (table stakes) for a sales person to have a social profile that serves as a sales asset comprised of a strong headline, a well written summary that’s customer centric and relevant experience that’s also customer centric. Such a social profile will attract inbound sales conversations.

How a Sales Person Sold Out a Seminar

This client sales person is located in a territory with many companies in the oil and gas industry. His company scheduled a half day seminar to present solutions to the oil and gas industry. Less than two months before the seminar, no one was signed up to attend the event.

The sales person used Twitter to identify people in the oil and gas industry in and near this geographic location. In addition to discovering people to invite to the event, he discovered a local chapter of an industry association. He contacted the association to inform them of the planned seminar. The association agreed to share information about the event with their membership through their Twitter account. In short, the association partnered with this sales person to promote the event, and the event ‘sold out.’ More importantly, the event produced a rich pipeline of new opportunity for this sales person.

Lessons Learned from These Two Examples

Both examples above have common threads. In both cases, the sale person embraced social business strategies as contemporary means of reaching and engaging people for effective sales processes.

Also, in both cases the sales person invested time to conduct research in social channels, notably LinkedIn and Twitter. I mention this because it takes time to “listen” on social channels. When it’s done purposefully and with an efficient process, the payoff can be huge.

77% of B2B buyers are unwilling to speak to a salesperson before completing research online. Source: Global Performance Group.

The B2B buyer is intentionally conducting research online. Providing useful content to your prospective buyer on social media is a great way to start a sales conversation. If you’re not sharing information that addresses the problems your prospects face, then you’re probably missing out on sales opportunities. The typical B2B buyer is in search of relevant information. You should be a source of that information. So, it’s important that you’re providing the information they need through social media to influence their willingness to have a sales conversation with you.

57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before a sales person talks with them. Source: HubSpot.

Ensure you’re keeping prospects engaged on social media by sharing content that will help them take the next step in their buying journey. Most of the time your buyers don’t want to speak with a sales representative until they have conducted enough research to validate that vendor as a contender. Buyers engage in content found through blog posts and discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, product reviews, etc. So, make sure that you’re visible to your prospects and give them what they need, or you risk missing out on the chance to have a sales conversation with them.

Download our guide 8 Reasons Sales Professionals Must Use Social Media to Succeed.

8 reasons sales professionals must use social media to succeed

Image source: Pixabay.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Borges
Bernie Borges is CEO of Find and Convert, a content marketing agency serving B2B clients across the U.S. He is a frequent speaker at marketing conferences and is the author of Marketing 2.0, one of the earliest playbooks written on social media strategy. He is an IBM Futurist as well as host of the Social Business Engine podcast, a weekly show featuring brands and technology innovators in social strategy, social technology and social culture. Borges has been recognized by industry peers, including Marketing Insider’s 60 Best Marketing Speakers, TopRank’s Top 50 Content Marketing Influencers 2016, Cision’s Top 50 Content Marketers on Twitter and Brand Quarterly’s Top 50 over 50 Marketing Thought Leaders.
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