Social Media For B2B Salespeople? Really?
I sure hope so! In fact, since I’ve done nothing but B2B sales since 1977, I’m counting on it! First let me say that I am very excited to have been invited by Neal to be a regular contributor to this site! The best way to start with this topic may be to review a few of those things that are most important to B2B sales professionals. They want to:
- Find new opportunities and new customers – keep their pipelines full with qualified prospects.
- Improve their closing ratios and keep their sales figures (and commissions) well above goal.
- Develop closer relationships with existing clients to the point where they rise above “vendor” status and become a part of the company “team” themselves as trusted advisors.
- Get more business, and referrals, from existing clients.
- Understand their prospective customers, their interests, and their buying habits.
- Discover new opportunities and ways to engage with both prospects and customers.
This monthly Social Media for B2B Sales column will focus on these primary areas (and more) and how social media can assist the B2B salesperson in achieving these goals. I prefer the term “social business.” The funniest thing is that most B2B salespeople that I know are not yet active with social business. Why? Their reasons are many. “I don’t have time.” “It won’t work for me because … well, it won’t work for me.” “My clients are not using social media so what good would it be for me to use it?” “It’s a waste of my time!” These are all valid questions and concerns. I know because these were the very same questions I asked myself 3 or 4 years ago. I was quick to dismiss that which I did not understand. What I failed to consider at the time, but innately understood, was that I needed to expand my network beyond my traditional circles and then get to know these new people. I also needed to establish my expertise, and make it visible to, those who did not know me. In salespersons’ terminology, I needed a larger territory in which to hunt and one that was abundant with fresh game.
Please make no mistake. I am first and foremost a “relationship” salesperson. Still, I get paid to sell. This is how I pay my bills and this is how I eat. While it’s a must to be a “farmer”, I also like a little meat with my veggies and social business helps me to enjoy both. Let’s take a quick look at how social business helps me with expanding my territory and finding qualified prospects.
In the old days of B2B sales (and these are the same days for many), we canvassed our territory on foot or by phone and made plenty of good old-fashioned cold calls in hopes of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. Selling has always been a numbers game. To a large extent, it still is. Upon entering their office, we scanned for clues: family photos, awards, sports memorabilia, seating arrangement, and even quality of furnishings. All of these tidbits helped us to understand our prospect. We looked for areas of common ground and interest, so necessary in establishing rapport. “I wonder who I know who he or she also knows. It would sure be nice to use that as a referral.” We demonstrated our skill and knowledge face-to-face during the selling process. We established our expertise.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2011. Today I go to LinkedIn and learn about my prospect, their company, and other members of their company. I don’t have to guess on who we both may know. In many cases it is right there for me in black and white. Once connected, I will see that he also knows Susie over at Ace Company and I have been trying to get in with them for what seems like forever. Hmmm. On Facebook I find family photos, his passion for golf, and get a feel for him or her as a person. I may see that he is also friends with some others folks that I am close to. On Twitter he is talking to Fred Smith about Fred’s plans to expand. I’d better make a note of that. Now, will somebody please explain to me how this is not valuable information and a good use of your time. And doing all this from your desk!? You can’t.
Once we have connected on LinkedIn, he not only sees our shared connections, my LinkedIn profile helps to establish my professional expertise. Even the signature line on my emails directs him to my latest blog post discussing the most recent advancements in our industry. He’s thinking that maybe I can provide their company with value.
As a life-long B2B sales veteran, I like two things. I like things simple and I like things that bring me results. My hope is to share both with you over the months to come and we will be discussing specific strategies, applications, and techniques using social media to help you to achieve both.