In the past year, I’ve seen a lot of hesitation about implementing social selling practices in B2B sales. People notice the long controversial LinkedIn conversations, the quick back-and-forth communication, and the confusing acronyms (DM, RT, MT), and think “This is just way too much to handle on top of selling.
The truth of the matter is, though, that implementing social selling practices for your reps isn’t as hard as it seems, and it doesn’t need to result in a complete overhaul of your sales process.
Businesses that ignore the trends and successes of social selling are missing out on a large number of prospective customers, who may eventually choose your competitors. If you’re not where your customers are looking – and 82% of prospects can be reached via social media (CEB) – then you’re missing out on opportunities and ultimately sales.
There are a few claims floating around the Internet right now about social selling that are simply not true. People like to stir controversy – it’s how they get views and clicks – but I’m here to tell you that social selling shouldn’t be mutually exclusive from other sales strategies.
If you’ve heard some of the myths below, understand how you can counter them and demonstrate to your team that social selling is, indeed, effective. What better time to start your B2B inside sales team on social selling than now, preparing yourself for the end of Q4 and strengthening your strategies for 2015.
Let’s debunk the 5 myths of B2B social selling:
Myth 1: Social selling needs to replace cold calling, because cold calling is dead
Everyone has an opinion on this topic. Is the telephone no longer a viable option for contacting prospective clients? With social selling activities gaining momentum, what’s the point of picking up the phone? Maybe cold calling is dead?
Let me answer you with a resounding NO. New research from The Outbound Index™ shows that outbound calling is still kicking. Matt Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group Inc. and Peter Gracey of Quota Factory measured KPIs such as Reach Rate, or the willingness of prospects to speak with sales development reps, which has increased from 38% a year ago to 39.6%, indicating an upward trend in prospect attention and data quality.
This is helpful information because more people are becoming involved in the B2B decision making process; according to SiriusDecisions, the average sales cycle has increased 22% over the past 5 years due to more decision makers being involved in the buying process.
The need for a phone call is still apparent because it is nearly impossible to have an in-depth conversation regarding business challenges, goals, and on your end, solutions and offerings on social media. It’s also improbable that you will be able to reach all decision-makers and have quality conversations with each and every one of them.
Myth 2: Social selling is for B2C, not B2B companies
Another myth that many B2B salespeople believe is, “My customers aren’t on social media.” Actually, according to IBM, 75% of B2B decision makers use social media as part of their buying process. Maybe you can make the argument that your B2B prospects aren’t on a specific platforms such as Tumblr or Pinterest, but you shouldn’t ignore business social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and yes, even Facebook. Perhaps not every prospect is active on every social network but there is a high probability that key decision makers are active on a select few. You need to engage them on the social medium of their preference.
B2B social selling isn’t esoteric. Once you do your research to find where your target audience is active, you can then tailor your sales strategy to fit each social platform. Perhaps you use LinkedIn to publish a monthly thought-provoking blog and join in on conversations related to your industry or position, and you use Twitter as more of a content syndication and quick conversational tool. Strategies for B2B social selling will inevitably differ, and it’s in your best interest to figure out what platforms work best for you and are the most efficient use of your prospecting time and efforts.
Myth 3: Social Selling is only for sales reps and only for sales conversations
OK, this one might be confusing to some people; after all, the word selling is within the term. However, you can empower everyone in your B2B organization to be social sellers and advocates. In addition to sales reps, you may want to make an effort to have some leadership positions, your marketing team, customer service, and other position actively engage with people on social networks.
In order to help your company, you can also easily combine social selling with content marketing. Sharing content that is either produced by your company or other thought leaders in your industry can greatly increase your credibility. For example, 61% of customers have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blog (Gartner). Instead of sharing messaging solely about your products or services, share content that might interest your prospects, too. Perhaps your marketing team can set up a process to streamline suggested content syndication to help your company’s social presence, from company accounts to employees.
Myth 4: There’s no way to measure social selling
This is just a flat-out lie. There are a myriad of ways to measure your social selling efforts. However, first and foremost you need to clarify what is most important to your company when you’re measuring social selling effectiveness.
If it is a high priority to introduce a new product to the market, then you’ll want to be aiming for exposure and branding opportunities. On the other hand, a different company may want to concentrate on thought leadership so they may set a goal of producing and offering high quality, insightful content to help their audience and engage in conversations. Before you dive into every social analytical tool out there, be sure that you have a solid understanding of what is most important to your company and prioritize your efforts according to what you need to measure. From there, you can select from a plethora of different tools to help monitor and guide your endeavors.
I suggest checking out articles on Buffer and Social Media Examiner for insights and strategies for measuring your social media efforts. My favorites for Twitter are Twitonomy and Followerwonk for finding and sorting your followers and understanding their behavior. There may not be many tools like that for personal LinkedIn accounts, but there is a basic system for tracking views and clicks within LinkedIn. If you want to get more creative, you can also track the percentage of views to engagement in your recent posts, and change your messaging accordingly to boost that number.
Myth 5: There’s no time in the day for social selling
Yes, if social selling is new to you, it might take some time to ramp up on new strategies. However, as you know with new sales candidates, the onboarding process is absolutely necessary to be successful. In the same vein, personally I would set aside 15-30 minutes every morning to research and update your social accounts, then set aside a few minutes towards the end of the day to respond to any conversations sparked by your earlier efforts or chime in on interesting posts.
It’s wise to sign up for a social scheduling tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to organize your posts. You can schedule all of your social networks from this one tool, and you can do it all in 10 minutes in the morning.
With these social selling myths debunked, you should question your selling strategy and ask yourself if there is room to try new tactics in order to expand your network and interact with prospects. Given that opportunity, there will likely be a greater chance for finding connections whose business needs would benefit from your product or service. Just don’t forget your social etiquette!