Tweet Me, Friend Me, Make Me Buy
Where Social Makes Sense
Chances are that your salespeople are already on social media sites and are even using them in their work. But their activity is probably scattershot, with different people using different tools in various ways and no one person using them consistently. Like selling itself, social media can be approached idiosyncratically, but the highest-performing organizations have outlined a clear process and figured out how to execute on it in a disciplined way.
To bring that kind of order to your organization, start with the sales cycle your representatives are already familiar with. It typically runs from prospecting and qualifying leads all the way through implementing a solution and measuring results. One activity pervades the entire process: Managing relationships is vital to each stage and can lead from the end of one sales cycle to the beginning of a new one.
Your organization probably has detailed procedures to follow and metrics to track at each stage.
The question is, How do platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter fit in? How can they be integrated with other important activities, and how can they support better outcomes?
It quickly becomes clear that social media’s greatest potential is at the front end of the sales cycle during the prospecting, opportunity qualification, and pre-sales-call research that lead up to a face-to face meeting. But social platforms also offer a means of maintaining customer relationships and building brand loyalty throughout. Let’s take a close look at the key parts of the cycle in this regard.
Prospecting. Sales professionals know that in order to make their numbers month after month, they need to regularly look for new leads. In B2B settings, much of their prospecting has traditionally been done through cold calling. That might produce a higher return than other direct-marketing activities, such as direct mail and e-mail communications,
paid searches, and internet display ads, but the return on cold calling is dropping with every passing year. Indeed, in a recent survey by InsideView, an online provider of sales-relevant content, more than 90% of C-level executives said they “never” respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts. But salespeople frequently tell us that potential customers are surprisingly responsive to short messages sent via social media.
Even better, in a social network environment reps don’t always have to start the conversation. They can often find potential customers expressing hints of interest in the solutions they sell. Identifying these slightly warm prospects can save a rep from making many unwelcome calls. As the sales blogger Jim Keenan puts it, “A lead today can be a complaint on Twitter, a question on LinkedIn, or a discussion on a Facebook page.” This was the insight that guided
the PGi rep. Having noted the executive’s tweeted complaint about the poor quality of web conferencing, he treated it as a conversation already started and plunged in.
Could this sort of fortuitous find become routine?
Yes, thanks to social monitoring tools like HootSuite, which act as radar to pick up signals of need. A company geared for social selling would not only equip its salespeople to do such monitoring; it would map out pathways for guiding any resulting contacts toward richer exchanges by phone, e-mail, and even video chat.
According to the 2011 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization study, reps spend almost 25% of their time researching prospects. If your reps learn how to access the right intelligence quickly, some observers predict, they could spend as little as 1% of their time researching—freeing up virtually all their time for actual selling.