Today's B2B buyers are highly informed and very active on social media. They download whitepapers, watch videos and access the information they need to complete their online purchases. They no longer appreciate "intrusive" prospecting methods such as phoning and prefer to control their search process themselves.
Before making a purchasing decision, they search for information on search engines, consult the recommendations of recognized experts in their field, and read the opinions of users who have tested the service or product in question.
Several studies show that B2B buyers accomplish 70% of their buying journey independently without contacting a sales rep.
The notion of trust is becoming more and more central to buyer decision making. For example, according to a Salesforce study surveying over 8,000 business buyers across 16 countries:
- 84% of customers say that the buying experience is worth more to them than the service or product purchased
- 65% of customers stop working with brands because of a loss of trust
The role of a sales rep has evolved significantly over time and now remains on the sidelines for most of the prospect's journey. In order to be perceived as useful, the sales rep must provide information with high added value and/or that is difficult to find online.
The same study shows that 89% of business buyers expect the sales rep to understand and meet their expectations immediately.
In terms of prospecting, we have moved from multichannel to omnichannel. Telephone and email marketing are no longer enough to achieve conversion goals. Professional social networks come into play to complete this prospecting process.
On this topic, a Hubspot study conducted in 2019 found that:
- 80% of customers do not like telephone contact and prefer to discuss with companies by email.
- It takes about 18 calls to get a real appointment.
- There will be 1 real business opportunity for 100 calls made.
This study offers a comprehensive view of the importance of prospecting on social networks, and more specifically on LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Nearly 92% of professionals in all industries believe that LinkedIn is changing their marketing strategy.
- 80% of prospects are found on LinkedIn, but mostly through the creation of groups that allow you to contact serious prospects.
COMMERCIAL PROSPECTING IN THE DIGITAL AGE
The advent of digital technology has tipped the scales of the commercial relationship in favor of buyers. They have taken back the control of their product sourcing. Social selling is a prospecting technique that gives this power back to the sales rep while taking a human approach. The seller is put back at the beginning of the buying cycle thanks to an active and non-invasive presence.
Social selling is not a closing tool, any more than phoning or email marketing. It is the combination of the three points of contact that allow you to reach new prospects where they feel most confident. Social selling is a natural evolution of the prospecting techniques used by sales reps.
Social media marketing must be distinguished from social selling, even if the two approaches are complementary:
- The objective of social media marketing is to create a relationship between a brand and an audience that it develops and nurtures with content in order to increase brand awareness.
- Social selling, on the other hand, is about helping salespeople connect with their prospects and be recognized as experts in their fields in order to increase qualified leads.
This method is much easier to apply on Twitter and Linkedin because they are fewer "personal" networks and buyers feel more comfortable and open to the idea of engaging in a discussion with a seller.
For a social selling strategy to be successful you need to:
- Be relevant in the way you present yourself to your target
- Maintain your profile and share valuable content
- Personalize your content according to the different segments of your audience
- Interact with your prospects before, during, and after the sales process
4 steps are therefore necessary for sales reps to perform on professional social networks. They need to:
- Create their own professional brand (personal branding): trust comes when the prospect perceives the salesperson as a credible professional and expert in their field.
- Find the right contacts: sphere of influence of current customers (competitors, suppliers, former employees, etc.)
- Exchange relevant information: Storytelling* and customer examples.
- Build trusting relationships: get in touch with your target audience via discussion groups on key topics.
SOCIAL SELLING: A TRUE ALLY FOR SALES REPS
Unlike social media marketing, whose main objective is brand awareness, social selling is a recognized technique for prospecting and developing customer loyalty, and allows you to achieve your goals of generating qualified leads.
One of the main benefits of social selling as a prospecting method is that it puts the power back in the hands of sales reps. They are reintegrated into the buying journey of B2B prospects by interacting with them and positioning themselves as credible contacts who provide relevant, valuable content.
Implementing methodology makes it possible to achieve content creation and lead generation goals. Here are 5 steps for defining an effective action plan:
- Train sales reps and update their professional profiles
- Create recurring content that stands out
- Find prospects by leveraging the search engines of their professional social networks
- Thoughtfully engage prospects by contributing to conversations of the moment
- Analyze returns with the Social Selling Index (SSI) on LinkedIn.
4 TOOLS FOR AN EFFECTIVE SOCIAL SELLING STRATEGY
LinkedIn and Twitter have proven themselves in the field of digital business development. In addition to these two social networks, several online prospecting tracking tools exist that offer sales reps additional benefits:
Inside View: founded in 2005, it’s a solution for collecting public, editorial or social information on companies and their contacts.
Tilkee: this sales intelligence platform, integrated with Salesforce CRM, helps predict, manage and increase sales "in a world without physical interactions."
Hunter: is a business prospecting solution that allows you to verify business email addresses.
Banana Content: is a multichannel digital amplification solution that helps increase the reach of editorial content via email, newsletters and SMS.
SOCIAL SELLING = MEASURABLE ROI
As explained above, social selling is a marketing strategy used to effectively target prospects and learn more about their specific needs. However, some B2B professionals still perceive social media marketing actions as difficult to measure.
In the Hootsuite report on social media ROI it is described that only 20% of marketers manage to prove the ROI of their actions. This same report provides a clear and easy-to-implement method to facilitate this measurement. It consists of defining specific expectations (conversion of prospects into leads, brand awareness, user experience, etc.) and measurable objectives (volume of downloads of marketing content, rate of completion of a registration form, etc.)
According to LinkedIn’s social selling index:
- 78% of those who use social selling sell more than those who do not use social networks
- The top social sellers generate 45% more opportunities
- They are 51% more likely to achieve their goals
In order to be sure that a social selling strategy is going in the right direction, sales teams need to set up regular monitoring in three steps:
Track the volume of followers on professional social network accounts
Measure all engagement criteria on shared content (likes, comments, shares, etc.)
Analyze the source of leads received (via Google Analytics for example).
Generating qualified leads is not an easy task because sales reps have to position themselves in a new customer journey where the customer is fully aware of their own expectations. Sales reps must continually prove that they can meet real needs with relevant content, presented in the right format, at the right time and via the right channel.
Social selling integrated with an omnichannel digital strategy and combined with techniques such as content marketing** enables sales teams to convert website visitors into exploitable prospects. It is therefore necessary to implement a real content marketing strategy and to integrate it into the social selling process. Making content such as white papers, reports and guides available to prospects creates an initial bond of trust in their business interactions with sales reps.
The major advantage of the combination of content marketing and social selling is that this approach allows prospects to get to know the person they are talking to and to feel free to express an interest in a company and its services without feeling pressured. There is no better way to break the ice than to start a discussion around common interests!
*Storytelling is a marketing term that defines the telling of a story for communication purposes. It allows you to attract attention, inspire emotion and develop your brand personality.
*Content marketing: this term refers to practices that aim to provide prospects or customers with a certain amount of useful or entertaining content. It allows you to generate visits or prospects and increase the conversion rate of your site.