The surest way to make a sale a decade ago was to get to a customer before any competitor and show them the benefits of whatever product or service your firm was selling.
Now information overload has become one of the biggest challenges in sales. Customers, with limited time and resources to address the amount of incoming information, filter out what they consider noise to a high degree. Unsure of the best way to find the information they need, customers also often turn to search engines and social media.
CEB Marketing data show that B2B customers have typically made it 57% of the way through the purchase decision-making process before they contact a supplier. This means that sales reps that are unable to influence potential customers online will lose out to those that can.
And that means, however queasy it may make them, sales bosses should let their reps loose on social media.
How Four Firms Do It
We recently spoke with four member companies about their social selling programs, specifically focusing on how they train sales reps to use social media for selling. We found that:
All of the companies we spoke with created training sessions or virtual learning modules to teach their reps about social selling.
All of the profiled firms use LinkedIn for their social selling initiatives because it is user friendly and popular among customers and salespeople. In addition to LinkedIn, two of the profiled organizations use Twitter to expand their social media reach.
Two of the profiled organizations assembled groups of internal subject matter experts to design their social selling programs and the corresponding training.
Marketing teams at three of the member companies created a system (e.g., a database, weekly e-mail, or LinkedIn group) to deliver content to sales reps, which they can post directly to social media. This saves sales reps time and allows the organization to control the messages sales reps share with customers.