What do B2B marketers do when social selling takes over?

Feel like you’re losing control with the rise of social selling? It doesn’t have to be that way…

May 17, 2016

There’s an awful lot of silent suffering out there. It’s the suffering of somebody who organises a wonderful party but then gets left in the corner by themselves while everybody else is laughing, joking, congratulating themselves on what a good time they are having – and forgetting all about the host.

It’s the vow you make to yourself that you won’t respond badly when someone tells you how easy this ‘content marketing thing’ is (everyone fancies themselves a marketer, right? But I digress). It’s the mixed feelings you have when it’s your sales teams presenting the audience insights they’ve uncovered from engaging with and analysing prospects on LinkedIn – not you.

Feeling a little unloved? Underappreciated? Concerned about whether anyone will value your contribution in the future? You’re not alone. As good B2B marketers we know that social selling makes sense. We know that it will help our businesses drive better results. But it’s still hard to let go of our marketing box of tactics and tricks, pass them over to sales and wonder whether they’ll end up being taken for granted. Through social selling, we’re creating an army of mini-marketers taking control of the areas of the funnel that once belonged to us.

But we don’t have to feel this way. Approach it as empowered, confident marketers and we can use it to find new opportunities to shine, build a closer relationship with sales and drive value across the organisation. Here’s how:

Start by giving yourself a pat on the back

As a first step, let’s remind ourselves that social selling is, ultimately, a triumph for marketing. It involves applying a customer-centric approach to every type of contact that your brand has with its audiences. It’s equipping a crack team of highly motivated people ready to distribute content to the most relevant prospects in a highly personalised way.

These are great marketing opportunities – and chances are that you were instrumental to creating them. After all, it’s often the marketing department that leads the call to adopt social selling, makes the business case to the C-suite, and coaches, upskills and supports sales as it gets rolled out.

Embrace the overlap

Social selling enables sales teams to identify likely prospects, generate warm introductions to those prospects by sharing relevant content, and then reach out to them directly. This gives them ownership of much more of the buyer’s journey – but that ownership doesn't have to be exclusive.

Prospecting through social becomes a lot more efficient when the sales team has a marketing team providing insight that can steer them in the right direction: which categories the business has a strong proposition within, what type of companies are most likely to respond, who the decision-makers in those companies are likely to be.

It becomes a lot more effective when sales teams have current, relevant content that's carefully tailored to the issues that motivate the people they’re reaching out to. When marketers consistently deliver these things, they will be consistently valued.

Focus on growing lead value – wherever the lead comes from

While sales teams often tell marketers that they want them to turn up the volume of leads, in reality what they want (or should want!) are high quality, relevant leads that are more likely to convert into revenue. Whether those leads come through your demand gen campaigns or sales teams’ own prospecting, the most important contribution that marketing can make is to ensure these are high-value leads– thereby improving conversion rates and sales productivity.

The marketing department can provide sales with many more opportunities to achieve these objectives by setting the strategy, identifying where the high-value prospects lie and providing the right content for different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Right content, right time, right place

Your social sellers will have a big appetite for content that they can use to generate warm introductions. However, they’re going to need guidance on matching the right content to the right moments in the buyer’s journey – and presenting it in the right way. Don't just hand over a bank of marketing content to sales. Work with them to set the strategy for what to use when, and how to get maximum value from each asset. It’s an opportunity to bring sales and marketing teams closer together – and ensure that social selling means a higher profile for marketing across your organisation.

Build brands that social sellers can sell

As buying committees become broader and buying journeys more complex, the value of trusted B2B brands becomes all the greater. Social sellers find it far easier to convert prospects when they represent a brand that those prospects recognise – and are reassured by.

Marketers should in turn invest that much more time on building those brands – something they are uniquely qualified to do. By driving closer integration between sales and marketing, and increasing sales’ interest in marketing collateral, social selling also makes it easier to align your sales reps with your brand message – and tell a more consistent story.

Getting more imaginative with metrics

Social selling will challenge marketers to take a more holistic approach to metrics. We need to explore ways to measure the effectiveness of brand-building activity in the upper funnel, and link it through to improvements in conversion rates and lead value lower down. From awareness, brand recall and engagement rates through to branded search, website traffic and more, these metrics are there – and they are ready to help drive recognition for what marketing does. We just need to be ready to move beyond volume of leads as the most valued measure of our success.

Social selling will have big repercussions for B2B marketers, and it will change the way we are seen across our organisations – but these changes really should be positive ones. It’s our opportunity to take a proactive approach to engaging with and supporting sales, develop more imaginative ways of measuring marketing’s contribution through the funnel, and place more emphasis on strategy.

These are the outcomes we should aim for. We just need the confidence to aim for them.