Social Selling: Get your foot in the sales cycle sooner

Cold calling is so last season and social selling – the process of using your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights and relationships – is bang on trend. Today’s B2B buyers are increasingly using LinkedIn, Twitter and (brace yourself) Facebook Click To Tweet as their go-to resources to research and discuss pain points and identify potential vendors. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buyer journey is typically completed before sales even gets a sniff of the opportunity.

But it seems that sellers haven’t caught up: a recent HubSpot report (1) found that only 7% of organisations consider social selling a priority. Click To Tweet Why the reluctance? Perhaps sales leaders aren’t yet convinced of the value of social selling, or their teams don’t know how to go about it. Or maybe they simply don’t have the time to invest in yet another task. If these objections resonate, you’re leaving money on the table: IBM boosted sales by over 400% with a recent social selling initiative Click To Tweet, and is now rolling out the practice worldwide.

Why do you need to act?
There’s a familiar refrain from Sales that marketing-qualified leads just don’t cut the mustard. Social selling can fix the traditional disconnect by generating sales-qualified leads, getting reps back into the sales cycle earlier and giving them more control over the outcome.

For Marketers, social selling offers an effective way of reaching new audiences and nurturing existing ones with engaging content that challenges their perceptions – and provides that missing link from the top to the bottom of the waterfall.

How do you make it happen?
Social selling is not a standalone technique, but should form part of an integrated strategy. Marketing must take the lead by developing insightful, relevant, original content, which demands a regular editorial approach – it’s not a one-and-done exercise. You’ll initially need to support your sales people to optimise their profiles, and help them identify and connect with prospects across social networks. If you’re starting from scratch, establish pilot projects with your most socially-savvy sales people, then use the results to compel and inspire the sceptics to get on board.

Social selling will almost certainly require a change of tack (and tone) among your salesforce, because it’s something of a misnomer: it doesn’t involve selling! In fact, it’s a value exchange between peers, rather than a pitch from seller to buyer, so any overtly salesy messaging will torpedo connections and conversations. You’ll also need to align the right internal resources to ensure change management and a cultural shift from the top down, which means gaining the full buy-in and ongoing sponsorship of sales and executive leaders.

Software AG disrupts the market with social selling
Software AG were looking to accelerate existing opportunities through their Digital Business Platform pipeline by engaging the change agents – known as “mobilisers” – among their target audience. Their social selling programme was developed to trigger conversations with mobilisers based on exclusive content – hosted on “The Disrupt Club”, a dedicated professional community site – and help them achieve their digital transformation goals. By adopting social selling through The Disrupt Club, account owners built up brand credibility and deepened relationships, boosting their ability to close deals. Read the case study here.

(1) HubSpot – The State of Inbound 2014-2015: Sales Edition


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