Though some of the greatest opportunities for today’s sales teams can be found on the social web, there is no “one size fits all” strategy for social sales. For example, there are some unique characteristics of business-to-business (B2B) sales that have an impact on social marketing: B2B sales involve multiple stakeholders, typically involve longer-term relationships between the buyer and seller, and oftentimes exhibit stronger brand loyalty than consumer markets.
As a result of these and other distinct characteristics of B2B sales, I recommend the following best practices for sales teams engaged in B2B marketing:
1. Don’t separate social marketing from “real” marketing. I believe we will soon reach a point where “sales” is synonymous with “social sales.” In most industries, it is already critical for sales reps to have at least some online presence, and potential clients are increasingly likely to search for their vendors’ information on the social web. With this in mind, it is a mistake for marketers to think that they can only spend a few minutes online each day before returning to “real” sales – social selling is should be tightly integrated into the daily sales strategy.
2. Meet your prospects where they already are. From Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn, it is almost impossible to keep up with all of today’s social platforms. Spend a few weeks researching where your client base or industry in general is most active online, and then focus on building your community in the 1-2 most active networks. This is a sure way to increase the ROI on your time spent online.
3. Focus on listening. One of the most important things to know about social media is that it is not the place for sales pitches. Instead of broadcasting marketing messages online, spend the majority of your social media time monitoring the needs of your community and prospects. And when you do tweet about your business offering, do so in a tone that keeps the conversation personable yet professional.
4. Network with decision makers and influencers. In B2B sales, there are oftentimes layers of decision maker that decide on a purchase, including business leaders and their (usually younger) buyers. When you engage with your clients online, cultivate relationships with all members of this sales chain, not just the people at the top.
5. Remember: content is king. While an engaging online presence is critical, producing and curating great content will take your social media presence to the next level. If you are seen as a thought leader in your space, your social media presence will earn a well-deserved boost. Becoming a content king or queen can involve everything from tweeting your insights, sharing great content produced by others, or even having your own blog with more in-depth analysis of your industry.
What tips and best practices would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.