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Social Selling in B2B Sales, Part 4: The Salesperson’s New Role

By Matt Foulger | 2 years ago | 7 Comments

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“The Salesperson’s New Role” is an excerpt from the white paper, “Social Selling in B2B Sales”. In this segment, we explore how sales professionals can use social media to provide value to sophisticated purchasers. To view the paper in its entirety, download below.

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The Salesperson’s New Role

Ironically, it’s the sheer volume of online data that gives sellers an opportunity to create value for buyers. Buyers may be incredibly well informed, but they’re desperate to shorten their purchasing cycles. The more data they have to process, and the more stakeholders they must consult, the longer it takes for them to make a buying decision.

Although enterprise social networks have had a noticeable impact on interdepartmental collaboration and information sharing, most companies haven’t used them speed up decision making. Therefore, information-drenched buyers continue to dip their toes in and out of numerous vendors’ sales funnels, testing the waters, while sellers wonder when they’ll be ready to take the plunge.

If salespeople could deliver insights to buyers at the right times, they could bring purchasing times down and make everybody happy. But if the statistics show that customers aren’t interested in picking up the phone until after they’ve scoped solutions, how can salespeople reach them early and then keep their attention?

The Answer is Social Selling

  • Sellers can use social media to relate to customers and identify opportunities for engagement at the right time: while they’re still conceptualizing their needs.
  • Social media is asynchronous and non-interruptive, which makes it perfect for reaching buyers who are still kicking tires.
  • Social networks help salespeople establish authenticity and credibility online, so customers consult with them instead of deleting their voicemails.
  • Continuous participation within relevant social groups allows salespeople to stay visible and valuable throughout their customers’ winding, non-linear buying journeys.
Chart: Social influence on IT buyers by decision-making stage
Source: LinkedIn, Forrester & ResearchNow

In a LinkedIn-commissioned study in August 2012, Forrester found that social networks are a critical source of influence on decision makers in every phase of the IT purchase process. In each of the five phases of decision making, social networks influence nearly half of all IT decision makers involved in that phase.

Forrester discovered that decision makers participate on social networks for business in large part because they can learn from a broad network trusted peers and find information quickly. On LinkedIn, for example, groups of decision makers organize around particular industries and professions to discuss the business issues that matter to them. These conversations are highly influential on their purchasing choices.

The opportunity for sellers is not in hijacking these peer groups for sales pitches, but in being insightful and helpful to buyers at the right time and place. Forrester’s respondents cited “Relevant context to connect with vendors” as one of the top reasons they use social networks for business, and 73% of them have engaged with a vendor on a social network.

Providing relevant, well-targeted content is the best thing a sales representative can do when reaching out to a prospect. During the pre-purchase phases of their decision making, buyers value consumption of vendor content more than they value sales calls. They feel the most motivation to return a reach out when “The rep has provided me with some type of value in return for my interaction with them”, such as a webcast or whitepaper.

In Part 5, we’ll examine how widely social selling is being practiced today, and what sales organizations can do to get ahead of the curve. But you don’t have to wait. Download “Social Selling in B2B Sales” in its entirety right now.

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6 comments
Mike Montali
Mike Montali

Matt,

You're right that well timed content is the key. As a salesperson, I find that I'm most successful when I talk about the potential client's needs and providing valuable insights to them without directly selling my services. As a marketer, I find the most effective approach is to promote valuable content and build authority that way. Rand Fishkin said at one point "pimp your content not your products" and I think that statement is proving to be true in more contexts.

I'm looking forward to reading the whitepaper over the weekend.

Mike Montali

Mike Collins
Mike Collins

I'm new to social media but even with my limited knowledge I have to agree that self promotion is not the reason to get involved. My mentor (@pennine_publishing) has strongly advised me to create useful content, spend some time walking in your customers shoes and then create great content for them.

Alice
Alice

I know the experts recommend to writers, one of whom I happen to be, to create a presence on social media but not to be blatantly into self-promo. Unfortunately, some writers apparently have not yet stumbled upon that message. I'm thinking of one in particular who was hogging so much of Twitter space that I ended up unfollowing her. Her really blatant self-promo was extremely intrusive and irritating, which can be said of anyone else trying to connect with potential customers if they overdo it.

Anyone hoping to use social media for the ultimate purpose of marketing needs to use a little common sense (which isn't really all that common) and a lot of self-restraint to avoid tumbling into the same pitfall.

Matt Foulger
Matt Foulger

You're right, Alice. Excessive self-promotion gets really old, really fast. I would recommend that all professionals trying to build a reputation on social media take a close look at how well their messages are resonating with followers. If nobody is clicking on your links, you're probably not providing much value, and just plugging up their timelines. Quality is almost always better than quantity, so people should focus on WHAT they tweet and WHEN their tweets make the most impact instead of just blasting content through a fire hose. Alice, if you're a HootSuite user, check out the built-in reporting in your dashboard -- you might find some very useful data there that will help you optimize your posting schedule. Autoschedule is also an excellent way to space your tweets out (to avoid overloading timelines) and publish them at the best possible times (when your tweets have historically achieved the most impact).

Sam Martinez
Sam Martinez

Hello Matt!

Yes, I think that Social Selling does help engage consumers much more effectively rather than the old way of leaving a voice mail that will likely be deleted. Social Networks provide an excellent way for a person or business to establish credibility with their customer. If you can also place video on your Social Network site, you are even more golden when it comes to connecting with your buyer.

Thank you Matt.

Matt Foulger
Matt Foulger

Thanks for your comment, Sam. If content is king, good videos are the crown jewels. Nothing conveys an idea as effectively and concisely as a well-produced video. For sellers who want to challenge buyers to see things differently, a video can work wonders.

If you're interested in learning more tactical social selling practices, check out the social selling webinar on Tuesday, co-hosted by HootSuite's social selling guru, Julio Viskovitch. Julio will join an all-star social selling team, including LinkedIn's Ralf VonSosen, for a webinar aimed at practitioners who want to crush their quota. I hope you find this valuable!