Social media is changing the sales game. An explosion in social activity has shifted the power to customers who are better informed and engaged. As a result, sales representatives need more than a good pitch. They need to understand a customer’s business model, channel their needs and uphold their values.
Customers go beyond the company website to read blogs, follow Twitter handles, and spin up LinkedIn conversations to gain outside perspectives to make more informed purchasing decisions. Information is so prevalent that Forrester now estimates anywhere between 50 to 70 percent of the buying process happens before a rep even gets involved.
While social media has allowed engaged buyers to peer through a vendor’s window, sales reps can use the same tools to help understand those buyer’s needs. Here are four simple steps for succeeding in today's social-media sales era.
1. Make sure people "like" your reps. Whether in-person or over 140 characters, likability will forever separate closers from steak-knife winners. Sales reps should routinely participate in social media training.
Initially, training can start with the basics: polishing a profile, developing a unique voice, participating in blog commentary, answering customer questions and identifying niche social networks. In time, training can evolve to help reps stay on top of social media trends and learn to apply them to their tasks. When you are on the phone with a customer and they are searching for your Twitter handle and looking at your LinkedIn profile, you want them to be impressed with what they see.
2. Know where your customer goes. Most potential customers have a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook, and even more are on Twitter. But have you considered niche online communities? Chances are that the big three social networks are not the only, or even the best, destinations for business research.
For example, when was the last time a Facebook friend left a status update discussing the finer points of back-end quality assurance software? Probably never. In the era of social media sales, knowing where your customers interact can help provide you with data on what motivates their buying decisions.
3. Nurture your top prospects. Everyone is trying to be relevant on Twitter—including your prospects and their companies. Your company’s social media team should follow your top accounts and prospects so they can alert you to major company news and help salespeople get ahead of trends.
Beyond monitoring, the social media team should also have a role interacting with prospective brands. Have them retweet announcements and congratulate customers on key wins. At Data.com, we’ve developed a three-step social media engagement plan that can be easily replicated:
Sales develops a top 50 prospect account list
Sales and social media team identify top decision makers and social media evangelists in the top 50 list
Social media team engages on a brand level before the sales rep gets involved
4. Connect with social data insights. Even with hours of social media research, you can still reach out to the wrong business contact. Accurate business data and social insights are necessary to understanding the most appropriate sales leads within a company’s organization chart. Instead of playing phone tag with assistants, researching business data helps reps avoid wasting time with the wrong company leads.
The key here is the ability to efficiently manage social prospect information, including Twitter, LinkedIn and other social profiles. Ideally, this social information would be tied into a CRM platform and provide a constantly evolving view of a rep’s entire prospect list. Since countless amounts of prospect information is available, finding a way to manage and consume data is a must. Without an option to help pool this information, reps could find that the amount of information available to them becomes more of a curse than a blessing.
Although social media has altered the way sales reps need to approach their work, it has provided them with the ability to learn more about prospects than ever before. Ideally, today’s sales reps will use social media platforms alongside data consumption and management tools to maximize their customer interactions. These four steps serve as a springboard for reps to create long-standing customer relationships based on a foundation of truly understanding and servicing customer needs.
What ways are you using social media effectively?
Learn more in OPEN Forum's Sales Check-In 2012 series.
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