While scrolling through my Twitter feed lately, I’ve come across posts from friendly, unfamiliar people offering free advice.
No, I’m not getting solicited by fortune tellers or fly-by-night financial advisors.
Instead, these are subject matter experts who have purchased social media ads to promote their blogs so current and potential customers will follow them for insights. Much more useful than a cold phone call or a pesky email, these ads are yet another sign that social selling is growing into a strong B2B trend.
Social media offers untapped sales opportunities.
While attending the Digital Summit in Chicago recently, one of the most interesting presentations was by Mary Shea, a principal analyst at Forrester. She spoke about “B2B Buyers Mandate a New Charter for Marketing and Sales,” based in part on a recently released report titled “Social Selling: A New B2B Imperative” that the consulting firm commissioned with Hootsuite.
Some takeaways from the study:
- While most companies are engaging in social selling, only half have a formal program in place and just 20 percent of individual sellers are taking a programmatic approach, which includes developing a platform, listening, connecting, engaging and tracking leads.
- Sellers are missing opportunities to establish their personal brands – for example, only 42 percent “share relevant content that boosts their credibility as a consultative partner.”
- Marketers are more active in social media listening, engagement and thought leadership than sellers.
Also, Shea had some insight from the buyers’ perspectives – 68 percent of B2B buyers polled in 2017 said they found online research superior to interacting with a salesperson, a 15-percent increase from two years earlier.
Start improving your social selling strategy.
B2B companies need to be prepared for customer interaction at all times. As Shea said, it’s now a buying process, not a sales process. A few tips on how to get started or optimize your social selling:
- Start with an online listening program, which will let you know where your customers are talking about your industry and products, what they’re saying, and how your competitors are presenting themselves.
- Adopt social media best practices, whether you are optimizing current platforms or starting fresh.
- Build your corporate platforms organically to start, but realize you’ll likely need to boost your presence and engagement through social media advertising.
- Create a plan – complete with training, check-ins and goals/measurement – for your sales and marketing teams. It’s vital that all salespeople understand the value of social media as a sales tool – not just to add numbers to their LinkedIn contact list, but also to exhibit thought leadership through strategic sharing of content, including their own.
As Shea noted, buyers ignore phone calls and are getting fatigued by emails. Your digital presence allows you to find and engage with these customers and, more importantly, helps them find and engage with you.