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Initially, social media was viewed as yet another medium for broadcasting information to an audience. Later, marketers realized that listening to customer conversations was even more powerful and, soon enough, customer service and product development departments began to use social media to listen and interact with their customers. Ironically, the department with the most "social" personalities has been one of the last to embrace social media and social networking: sales.
Most salespeople are still not very experienced at it but those who master “Social Selling” can become a powerful distribution channel. Salespeople can gain an “in” from the lack of distrust in corporate marketing messages.
B2B buyers now are 60% of the way through the buying process before even engaging a salesperson.
Salespeople aim to be a trusted advisor to their customers, building a strong, personal relationship and contributing valuable information throughout the consultative selling process.
Social Selling can aid this, as building rapport involves finding commonalities and the information available via social research makes it easier than ever. Contributing valuable information can be more challenging.
While good salespeople know how to build relationships, they are often too busy and not trained on how to create corporate messaging. Additionally, they may not be authorized to publish on the company’s behalf.
The result is that the marketing department is the official creator of the approved corporate message, but it lacks trust. Sales enjoys high trust, but lacks the resources for creating professional messages with regular frequency. The solution is sales and marketing working together. Marketing supplies the right messaging and sales acts as the trusted distribution network.
For example, an advertising company may develop a new application for tracking advertising ROI. Marketing announces the new application through the press, its website, and other traditional channels; at the same time, marketing creates a social post for the sales team to share.
The message for sales includes a Web link to a survey. The social post to the salesperson’s LinkedIn, Twitter or other business social network has the advantage of coming from someone the receiver actually knows. The link allows for the response to be tracked.
The resulting increase in credibility strengthens the relationship between the salesperson and the customer. This underscores the need for salespeople to build social connections with their customers. In this case, “social” means business relationships, not necessarily personal relationships.
By combining the messaging skills of marketing with the trusted network of sales, innovative companies are sweetening the odds that the right message gets to the right person at the right time.
Kurt Shaver is CEO of The Sales Foundry, a company specializing in helping B2B companies implement social selling strategies. For more information, go to www.thesalesfoundry.com.
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