Understanding the force that is social media is a quite a task. But leveraging effectively it to advance your team’s selling efforts is beyond the capabilities of most companies. (See information about upcoming webinar on social selling at the bottom of this post.)
There is no lack of data to underline how far social media has progressed. Last year Facebook topped a billion users. LinkedIn has over 200 million members. And here’s a statistic you’ve likely heard but may not have a strategy to overcome: according to the Corporate Executive Board, “customers will contact a sales rep when they independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.” How do savvy sellers meet, create a dialog with, and nurture sales prospects during that time? The answer is social selling. Try this. Go to trends.google.com. They type in social selling and hit enter. See what I mean? It’s a force.
Too many companies are leaving the learning and development of a social media strategy up to the individual salesrep, and that’s a dangerous thing. It often leads to wasted time, confused company messaging, offended customers, and, most importantly, not adapting to the new way customers are buying products and services. That disconnect means fewer wins.
You can buy social media strategy advice and training from any number of sources. The challenge is integrating all that into your company’s selling process. And while some sales training companies have invested in social media learning as part of their solution portfolios, many others are less willing to be held accountable for that component of sales peoples’ skill sets. That’s not a good thing.
Leveraging social media isn’t new to Philadelphia-based Richardson. Over the past several years we’ve given them high marks for how they’ve employed social media in their own marketing and selling efforts. Right now they’re planning to incorporate LinkedIn and Google Alerts into their “Prospecting with Insights” and “Selling with Insights” programs. That’s a good choice of platforms, since Facebook tends to be more of a Business-to-Consumer and friends & family network. Twitter, the other big force, can be a time-waster and risky, as I mentioned above.
Sales Performance International—the Solution Selling® folks—have successfully piloted their “Social Media for Sales” workshop. For that program, they’ve defined emerging roles a seller must play within new customer buying processes. One role is what they call “Micro-marketer,” whereby the seller uses social media for planning and demand creation and generation. The learning objectives and exercises for that program will certainly provide a solid foundation for a salesrep to get the most leverage out of technologies such as InsideView, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube. This all relates to recent changes in the Solution Selling execution methodology, intended to boost sales performance in our world of tech-savvy, sophisticated, and powerful purchasers.
Solution Selling now includes a new framework for mapping social media into the sales process. They actually open up selected social media tools and exercise them in the context of a sales process. So they are able to answer the question, “As a seller, exactly how do I use this at a given point in the sales process to advance my sale?” SPI provides the roadmap.
What can you do now to separate the value from the hype and get up to speed on what social media networks, tools, and strategies to employ in your selling efforts? Talk to your customers. Find out what networks they use to build and maintain business and personal relationships. That’s where you need to be. Find out where they educate themselves so they can perform their jobs better. That’s where you need to be. Then, as we’ve learned from two top sales training firms, get your new social media strategy integrated with your sales process and get your reps trained on how to leverage it.