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5 Social Media Strategies for B2B Sales Success

 

Marketing Sherpa released a report in January showing that the average B2B deal size is on the decline. One reason: in a down economy, sales professionals compete on price instead of value and push incentives to close deals quickly.

As the report notes, larger deal sizes involve more complex buying processes. How can B2B salespeople reduce that complexity to help boost deal sizes? Social media may be part of the answer. InsideView recently released an intriguing infographic that illustrates the growth of social media in the B2B space. Surprisingly, social networking sites are visited by 75 percent of buyers who go online. If social media is where the buyers are, salespeople should be there to engage them. But what does that engagement look like?

In this article, I present five ways B2B sales professionals can leverage social media to find–and win–more business.

1. Find Opportunities

The key to prospecting is finding customers with a problem you can solve. You can then offer them a solution.

“Rather than using social media to find people, sales professionals need to use social media to find problems,” says Mark Hunter, a sales trainer and consultant.

Try searching social media sites and tools for certain signal phrases, such as “seeking vendor recommendations,” or those that mention specific pain points your company can address. Refine your searches to social media channels your target customers use, such as by relevant industry hashtags on Twitter or industry-specific groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. This method of discovery requires minimal effort and can uncover leads that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

2. Learn About Your Buyers

In addition to being a useful tool for discovery, social media can be an effective tool for buyer research. B2B sales professionals can go beyond profiles to see how prospective customers are engaging on the Web, which indicates what’s important to them. What discussions are they taking part in? What are their interests?

Dan Waldschmidt, sales strategist and author of the Edgy Conversations blog, explains that many C-level execs aren’t chatting it up on Twitter and LinkedIn. So, B2B sales professionals need to get creative. Waldschmidt shared an example of how a client found a creative way to use social media to differentiate himself from the competition, which resulted in more targeted engagement, and ultimately a win:

A client was trying to close a deal with a hot prospect, but eventually things went cold. Rather than declare it a loss and move on, my client did some additional research and found one exec’s public profile on Pandora. They discovered he was a fan of the Dave Matthews Band, and it just so happened that the band was going to be playing soon. So, they bought tickets, invited the exec along and won the deal.

3. Identify Your Influencers

One of the greatest benefits that social media can provide a company is free promotion. When people like your product or service, they will often tell others over social networks. If these people have some level of authority, whether from rank or professional clout, they are considered influencers. B2B sales professionals should not only cultivate their influencers, but track them to see who they are networking and interacting with online.

The benefits are twofold: you can identify new leads from your influencers’ networks, and you can potentially gain access to key decision makers. C-levels might not be active participants on social networks, but the people with whom they share the boardroom or play golf could be. Mark Hunter points out that the group of thought leaders and influencers on social networks is largely made up of mid-level execs. They may not be C-level, but they may have the access to get you into the C-level suite.

4. Understand Your Competition

Social media allows the B2B sales professional to track their competition. They can see what tactics their competitors are using, who their customers are, and develop a plan of attack to get those customers.

“It’s the 24-7 tradeshow,” says Hunter. “We used to go to tradeshows to see the competition and now we can just get on the Web.”

Salespeople can also reap the benefits of a competitor’s snafu. Let’s say that Cloud Provider A experiences six hours of downtime, resulting in the shut-down of thousands of their customer’s businesses. Those people are going to get vocal on social networks, both trying to figure out what’s going on, as well as airing their grievances. This presents a great opportunity for Cloud Provider B to step in and pick up the proverbial pieces.

5. Scale Relationships

In an interview with Brian Solis, Marcel LeBrun of Radian6 (now part of Salesforce.com) talks about how recent technology has mechanized the relationship between customer and company. We are separated from our customers behind what LeBrun calls a “wall of automation,” but social media gives us a means to break through that wall, opening up communication in a controlled and manageable way.

Salespeople will tell you that anything beyond transactional sales still requires relationships. While it’s difficult if not impossible to forge and nurture personal relationships with hundreds of prospects, social media empowers a salesperson to get to know a prospect just a little bit better–and let the prospect learn something about the salesperson, too. Even the seemingly superficial details about the books and blogs a prospect likes can give a salesperson just enough of an edge to engage a prospect in a sales cycle. Social media won’t replace face-to-face interaction, but it might just be the next best thing.

How are you using social media in B2B sales? What tactics have you found that work best? Which ones aren’t worth your time? Please let us know in the comment section below.

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Lauren Carlson

About the Author

Lauren writes about various topics related to CRM software, with particular interest in sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service. She has a background in the music industry, and when she isn't writing about software, you can find her running at Town Lake and singing at local venues. She is a graduate of the University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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