Social Selling – Part 1 – CAN WE AFFORD NOT TO BE ACTIVE?

By Malin Avalon Engquist, April 2013

Social media platforms can help salespeople to engage quickly with prospects and client worldwide. But what do (potential) customers expect from your social selling activities and what do they dislike?

Consumer habits have changed a lot since the rise in popularity of social media. As far as customers are concerned, it has never been easier to get information without stepping foot in a shop. The Customer 2.0 interfaces with friends and peers about products, services and vendors before making a purchase decision. The same applies to the B2B market. Social media can provide a lot of information about and personal insights into companies, products and services, some of it not necessarily always positive. What impact does this have on our sales efforts? How can we make use of social media, and can we still afford not to be active?

Professional networks on the increase

In the past five years, the perception of social selling has changed considerably. Globalisation and social media platforms have increased the size of our personal and professional networks. Facebook reports that it has over 1 billion active users, LinkedIn reaches more than 200 million users and Twitter has around 500 million registered users. Many B2B buying decisions start, progress and often even close online, without any prior face-to-face meetings.

Social media impacts purchase decisions

According to ComScore, social networking sites reach 82% of the world´s online population. 75% of B2B buyers claim that social media would probably influence a future purchase. According to Sirius Decisions, 70% of the “buyer’s journey” is completed before they even talk to a salesperson. 65% of businesses are already using social media for their sales efforts. According to the Sales Management Association, 55% of businesses believe that their sales organisation would be more productive if they had a greater social presence. These figures clearly reflect the impact that digitalisation is having on customer behaviour.

Sales People can react faster to customer needs

Social selling is about recognising that a connected and informed customer is in control of the buying process. While sales is still a relationship business, “what you know about who you know” is now more important than the straightforward “who you know”. New customers expect salespeople to be informed about their companies and their needs before engaging. As a sales professional, you should use the web to listen, engage with and add value to prospects and customers, and yes, social media gives you the ability to observe and react to the needs of prospects and/or customers faster than ever before.

Sell by solving problems

If you want to be a successful social seller, you should contribute and offer “dialogues/conversations” that solve customers’ problems. If you create “Aha!” moments, this is the best way to help customers guide themselves toward your products and services. A good way to gain in reputation is to publish articles, videos, white papers and other tools which help customers find a solution to their problems. However, be aware that people get annoyed if they get the feeling that it’s simply promotion!

Our tips for building trust and credibility for your social selling:

1. Spend time on high-level communication – quality makes the difference
2. Engage and interact effectively – you can’t sell if you are only pushing messages
3. Listen to the buying signals from the social web (Hootsuite can support you)
4. Schedule time to maintain and expand your network
5. Add relevant information/categories to your contacts (such as “very important personal reference”, “active contact”, “inactive contact”, “don’t know anymore”, “follow”, etc.)
6. Don’t annoy people with information overflow

Polite or not?
A lecturing experience by Jos Velthuis, Managing Partner, Krauthammer
18 months ago, I was asked to give a lecture at Nijenrode Business School for an international group of 45 MBA students. As usual, I used my laptop for a slide presentation and had my iPad open because I was expecting an e-mail informing me about my next appointment that day.
During my preparation, I had been thinking about how to make the 3 hours as lively as possible but, of course, I had to transmit some content as well. After one hour of presenting and lecturing, I was somewhat irritated by some of the students tapping on their iPhones and tablets. I started to doubt their level of motivation and interest, and even their politeness towards me. During the half-time break, I checked my iPad. There was no message about my next meeting, but there were 20 LinkedIn invitations from the students, 2 online polls about some statements I had made during my lecture and a lively debate about the subject of my lecture. I wonder who learned the most that day…



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