Why Social Selling Matters
September 2, 2015
The world of B2B buyers has changed. It used to be that one person was often responsible for making major purchase decisions in corporations. That has changed dramatically in the past several years. Would you be surprised to know that according to CSO Insights, on average, 5.4 people are involved in the average B2B decision making process. Do you only have one contact at each of your key prospect or client accounts? Today, the key to successful selling and ongoing account management is identifying and cultivating relationships with as many key decision-makers and influencers as possible. As a sales professional, you want to drive support and build consensus for your product or service, whether with a prospect or an existing client.
Adjusting to a Buyer-Centric Approach
Just as most of us use the internet to research and validate B2C purchase decisions (you next car, where you will have dinner this weekend, this year’s summer vacation spot). B2B buyers are now doing the same. They look for “social proof” to support or validate buying decisions they are considering. They reach out to their peers, and do research online, not just prior to making a buying decision, but prior to even engaging with a sales professional. The latest research from CEB shows that the average buyer completes 57% of the buying process before they ever contact a supplier.
Buyers also rely on their peers and colleagues to support their buying decisions. These “influencers” can be as important as decision makers in the buying process. They can help you navigate the organization, champion your product and facilitate introductions to important contacts.
Buyers are not only researching their buying decisions online, they are also talking about their needs, challenges and interests via various social channels. As sales professionals, we are missing an opportunity if we don’t use these channels to actively listen, respond and establish ourselves as thought leaders.
Social channels provide the opportunity to understand needs and gain insight. Buyers no longer want to be barraged with questions; they want the people they do business with to bring value, to provide insight as to how their business problems can be solved.
How Sellers can establish Thought Leadership
Today sellers can use social channels to identify these decision makers and influencers and develop relationships with them. Buyers are talking on social media; asking questions, posting information and looking for answers. As sellers we can use this dialogue to learn about buyers before engaging with them. Gaining sales intelligence allows you to turn what would be a cold call into a warm(er) outreach.
LinkedIn Groups are one way to participate in the conversation with your buyers. By actively participating in groups, not pitching your products but instead offering advice, teaching and educating, you can become the source of information buyers are seeking. Monitoring what buyers post on LinkedIn, and via other social channels, is another way to gain insight and engage in a dialogue.
By developing relationships prior to the beginning of the actual buying process you can put yourself in a unique position once an organization decides to make a change or begins the search for a new tool or supplier. Studies show that 85% of buyers have a better impression of sales professionals who have insights or knowledge about their business and are far more likely to engage with those sales professionals when they provide valuable information.
The Importance of Multi-Threading
Developing multiple relationships at an account means you should have the right network in place to influence the buying decision in your favor. People change roles and companies frequently, so if you are connected to only one decision maker or one influencer, at an organization, your sale is at risk if that person leaves or moves on. As part of account planning you’ll want to identify the following roles at each of your accounts:
- Primary decision maker
- Key Influencers
- Economic buyer(s)
- Stakeholders/end users
Identifying who the influencers are and what role they play in the buying process can be the difference between closing a sale in a timely manner and being stuck in limbo for a long period of time. Influencers and end users can also help to build a case for the initial sale and the ongoing product value. The more complex the sale, generally the more decision makers and influencers involved in the buying process. By using social channels, you have the ability to identify all of these parties and develop relationships with each of them.
To improve your chances for engagement with buyers, leading sales professionals are using social selling techniques to arm themselves with information about buyers, organizations and industries to help make a connection and provide valuable insight. By using these techniques, sale professionals are seeing results; in fact, according to the Social Media Sales Quota Survey nearly 80% of salespeople who use social media to sell outperformed those who don’t. The question is: do you want to be part of that?
To learn more about the importance of social selling in today's buying process, download our latest eBook "The Sales Manager's Guide to Driving Social Media Adoption and Revenue."