At our February #SmallandMightySummit, we were lucky to host Ted Nikolakakos, VP of Sales at Salesforce, where he mentioned what the biggest change has been for B2B sales in recent years: that customers don’t want to talk to sales professionals anymore. Thanks to the internet, customers now have access to information so that they’re more informed than ever before. As a result, salespeople come much later in the sales cycle and more so, the sales cycle is no longer in tune with the buying cycle.
As sales professionals, how do we reach our customers when they don’t want to interact with us? The answer is through social media. Although it’s often viewed as a B2C platform, social media can also benefit B2B companies. However, for sales professionals to effectively leverage social media, they need to do 3 things:
They have to think like a marketer.
They must build a rock-solid reputation online.
And lastly, they need to focus on engagement.
Think Like a Marketer
Nowadays, B2B sales is all about consultative selling: when the salesperson becomes an expert consultant for their prospects. As customers start to educate themselves with their own research and salespeople enter the pipeline at later stages, we need to up our game. How? By thinking like a marketer. By merging sales and marketing through social media, it helps to make consultative selling work in 2 ways:
1. Work with the buying process. The buying cycle of a customer is never a straightforward journey. Sometimes a salesperson may need to take the customer a couple of steps back to re-educate them. Or the customer is not ready to buy when the salesperson is introduced to them by the marketing team, so the salesperson ‘returns’ the customer to them. No matter what stage the customer is at, salespeople should understand them like marketers and nurture leads throughout the cycle, not just at the end. When the salesperson is involved in their own marketing and owns the entire customer experience, it’s better for the customer relationship and leads to selling more.
2. Use data science to learn about your customers. You have to learn about your own accounts before you meet them. You are your own analyst. So when your close rates are going up or down, you’ll know exactly why. These days, there are many available tools you can use: Salesforce, apps, social media like LinkedIn. If you better understand your customers, the better you can sell to them.
Build a rock-solid reputation online
Reputation is everything. And these days, we have to ensure that our online reputation like on social media is as solid as our offline reputation. In a marketplace where customers like to educate themselves, we can engage with them by providing content. And by providing reliable, varied, and engaging content, we become a reputable source. Content is a key component to building a reputation in 2 ways:
1. Different audiences, different types of content. B2B content comes in many forms such as video, audio, and visual. If we’re only providing one type of content, we’re only reaching one type of audience. By varying our content, we can reach more customers and be seen as a more reliable source because of our vast knowledge.
2. Relationship building. Build relationships with your customers before you start selling to them. You have to gain their trust before you can convince them to buy from you. And that trust starts at the moment when customers see your positive online reputation. So, your content acts as the starting point of building your relationship with your customers.
Focus on engagement
To us, social media looks and feels like the perfect sales platform. But it’s much more than that and we have to remember that it actually isn’t a sales platform. Social media is a place for engaging with customers, not selling to them. You need to drive engagement with your prospects before you ever get to the buying stage. So when it comes to social media, focus on engaging with your prospects in these 4 ways:
1. Creating a pain-free process. Customers are looking for an effortless and seamless experience across all touchpoints and interactions, particularly in the customer service department. To meet this need, companies need to streamline their processes to deliver quality customer support and leverage social media to be a pain-free touch point with their prospects.
2. Being proactive. Customers are looking to engage with proactive companies. They’re looking for companies that know what consumers want even before consumers know what they want. For instance, like when companies provide product recommendations based on profiles or past transactions. To do so, B2B companies need to gather the insights to continuously improve their customer support and engagement processes, which then leads to increased sales. And social media is a great tool in gaining these insights.
3. Personalize their experience. Customers love personalized experiences. Deliver the right experience and you have a happy, loyal, and buying customer. To meet this expectation, companies need to leverage their data of past interactions to provide a better customer experience and service.
4. Optimize customer service. Companies need to provide differentiated experiences across all levels and always be improving those experiences. But how do we do that on all levels? By empowering our teams with the right tools such as automated scripts and sales and marketing data. Our teams will be able to get a full profile of their prospects to better optimize their experience, which then leads to actual sales.
At the end of the day, social media is an opportunity for any company to interact with their customers. If you think like a marketer, establish a solid online reputation, and focus on engagement, you can leverage social media to its full potential for your B2B sales. Through this medium, you can create your brand, build authority, and improve your customer relationships. Social media isn’t a platform for B2B companies to ignore, it gives B2B companies the chance to engage with their customers and ultimately, drive sales.
Need help with your social media? Contact Change Connect to ask about our training program. We can help make social media work for you.