Today’s customer is social. They’re spending a fair amount of time on social media, both in their personal and professional lives. This shift can also be seen in buying behavior, with 74% of B2B buyers conducting more than half of their research online prior to making a purchase.
Despite this shift towards social media, many organizations have yet to realize the opportunity for social selling.
What is Social Selling?
To truly understand what social selling is, we first have to tackle common misconceptions.
Social selling is not a technology, it is not automation nor is it a one-time tactic. What most sales organizations get wrong is the belief that social selling is just sending an InMail or that marketing automates the entire process for sales.
Social selling is the process of leveraging social networks to identify potential customers, engaging in conversations, providing value, building better relationships and creating sales opportunities. In the landscape of social selling, content is the currency of the modern buyer.
The emergence of social selling is quite relevant to the B2B world as most customers are influenced by their peers’ content on social networks. According to Harvard Business Review, 82% of B2B buyers said the winning vendor’s social content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
Sharing content through platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can help sales professionals get involved in the sales cycle earlier. Being first to provide value can enable customer collaboration throughout the buying journey and create a greater probability of winning the opportunity.
The Age of The Social Customer
Identifying new ways to be more relevant, in the eyes of potential customers, can be a challenge. However, it also presents an opportunity for organizations to fundamentally change the way they engage with buyers.
“It’s no longer about interrupting, pitching and closing. It’s about listening, diagnosing and prescribing.” — Mark Roberge Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School; Former CRO, HubSpot
Today’s customer is socially-savvy, mobile-enabled and digitally-driven. They are consistently digesting content through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Many buyers prefer to self-educate by researching third-party websites and gathering insights from their industry peers rather than have a sales rep educate them. The average B2B buyer is 57% through the purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales rep. More than ever before, social networks play an influential role in the decision-making process.
The Imperative Of Today’s Buying Journey
Despite a growing number of organizations who’ve gone through the adoption of social selling only a handful have achieved tangible benefits. McKinsey states, 72% of companies use social technologies in some way, but “few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefit.” Also, poor adoption of social selling can lead to a massive missed opportunity to influence sales deals earlier.
Think about how you buy things in your daily life. Most of us search on Google for answers, ask friends for recommendations and read testimonials online. When doing this, you’re leaving a digital trail of information.
Similarly, your potential customers are finding key pieces of information online and leaving behind a digital trail of their activity. According to Forrester, 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
When sales professionals miss these digital trails, they’re missing the opportunity to support potential customers along their buying journey. Providing relevant content to help solve customers’ problems not only pushes them through the buyer’s journey faster but also positions your company as the go-to thought leader within that space. As Forrester’s research has mentioned, sales professionals have a tendency “to prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem.”
To fully reap the rewards of social selling, organizations must realize that being socially-savvy is not a nice-to-have but a need-to-have. It should be ingrained in the fabric of every organization from the people to the strategy and process.
How Marketing Drives Social Selling
To effectively drive social selling growth, marketing must play a significant role in enabling sales. Sales and marketing can no longer work in silos as marketing typically runs the social media strategy. For a social selling initiative to be successful, it is crucial that marketing plays a role.
At the center of social selling is content. Content helps bridge the gap between sales and marketing, but most importantly between the company and customer. As Jill Rowley, Social Selling Evangelist says, “content is the currency of the modern buyer.”
Although marketing can rapidly produce content, more content isn’t the answer to social selling.
According to SiriusDecisions, 65% of content that’s created goes unused. Creating copious amounts of mindless content doesn’t help to justify marketing ROI nor does it enable sales. Two one the main reasons why 65% of content goes to waste is because it’s either unusable or difficult to find. Leading social selling programs require marketing and sales collaboration to produce content that is relevant to the customer throughout their buying journey.
Marketing teams must be measured against their contribution to the sales pipeline and strive towards overall sales metrics. As a result, this alignment can create a consistent feedback loop; sales delivering insights from customer conversations and marketing creating content based on those conversations. Ultimately, this collaborative content creation process will help sales drive more conversations, increase pipeline conversion, and support buyers along their buying journey.
Our Customers Have Changed, Have You?
In a constantly evolving B2B world, it has become even more challenging for organizations to influence deals, increase their pipeline, and drive growth. To not acknowledge the changing buyer behaviors of potential customers is truly a missed opportunity for many organizations. Marketing must become a driving force in empowering sales teams to get the right content in the hands of today’s social customer.
Not accepting social selling as an integral part of your strategy when our customers are social is like walking up a downwards escalator.