Recently while speaking to a client, we talked about how his company was now transitioning from a traditional sales model to a more digitally cohesive environment. Salespeople in the social era had to be digitally social too. The key reason was that in the B2B environment they were in, the buyers had changed. No longer would the buyer come to a trade fair and decide on the spot. Buyers would now go back, check online, compare solutions and then work on a purchase order. The way a new customer was acquired wasn’t just through a single channel but spread across. With a strong background in business development, today we have Partner and Executive Vice President at Acquirent, Geoff Winthrop sharing his thoughts on the new world social sales. Time to take notes. Over to Geoff!
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New Tasks For Salespeople In The Social Era
Social media is changing the way companies conduct business as we know it and the effect on sales is equally profound. As we move into the new social era, companies are closely examining the changing role of sales and refining techniques to succeed in the B2B realm.
Perhaps the most significant change formed by the advent of social media is in customer expectations. Customers can quickly compile information about products and services via their mobile devices. They also expect the rest of the formerly extended sales cycle to shrink to a shorter, more compressed period of time. They also expect and demand a greater degree of personalized, real-time interaction with the businesses that have something they want.
“In our always-on world, buyers expect instant, 24/7 service,” notes sales strategist Tom De Baere. As a result, he adds, “Companies today have a huge incentive to fix problems and make customers happy so they don’t complain in public.”
This is where the evolving role of salespeople comes to the forefront. How can sales teams adapt to a new world where power has so demonstrably shifted from sellers to buyers?
Here are tasks that sales professionals (and the businesses they represent) should perform in order to succeed in the new social era:
1. Establish a personal brand
Back in the day, a salesperson would often be content to serve as the person to contact when customers were ready to make a purchase. Today, salespeople need to strive to create a personal brand, via social media and other venues, establishing themselves as go-to problem-solvers and valued content providers. It’s no longer enough to expect the company’s brand to sway buyers. They themselves must build and maintain a reputation for providing an indispensable service when the customer wants and needs it.
A key element of this personal brand is a salesperson’s consultative abilities. By emphasizing relationship building and personalized contact, he or she offers value in ways technology can’t replicate.
“Technology may be able to assist with lead generation, but it can’t replace human interaction or build relationships,” writes sales expert Sean Gordon. Buyers “need to validate the soundness of their judgments or receive assurances on their opinions in order to feel confident and justified in their purchasing decisions.”
2. Understand the influence of social media on the buyer
Salespeople are no longer the key purveyors of information about their product or their companies. Long before reaching out to a sales representative, B2B customers research the company in depth, all on their own. This includes reviews of products or services, the offerings of competitors, etc. So a salesperson’s focus should shift away from “selling” the business to using social media to better understand a prospective customer’s needs and pain points.
Salespeople can use social media to “listen in” on conversations among prospects and trigger discussions of their own. In this way, they’re doing their own research on prospects before reaching out themselves. And when a prospective customer does show interest, use resources such as socially enabled CRM systems. These enable sales reps to quickly follow up with pinpointed answers to a buyer’s questions.
3. Curate and provide content of value to the customer
Tools for content curation and sharing must become a key part of every salesperson’s arsenal. By providing content to prospects that educates and informs them about issues important to them, sales reps build trust over time that can lead to sales. Find out where buyers go to get answers to their problems or to explore opportunities (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), then actively share relevant content on those sites and networks.
4. Use data to act on buying signals
When buyers respond to your content by downloading white papers or registering for webinars, it’s time for a sales rep to follow up and. As De Baere puts it, “personalize the customer journey with the brand.” Various CRM and marketing automation technology can trigger the right actions to take while predictive analytics can influence the best overall sales strategy to pursue.
Remember to keep your sights on the customer, rather than pushing out thinly disguised advertisements for your business. Today, notes sales consultant Matt McDarby, “buyers have the power to literally block and ignore salespeople who appear to be too focused on themselves, their products, and selling.”
Opportunities abound for sales teams that embrace new ways of doing business in the social era.
How have sales in your organization changed with the social landscape? Do share your thoughts with us!
We’d like to thank Geoff for his insights. If you’re interested in sending us a guest post, don’t hesitate to see the guidelines here.
About Guest Author: Geoff Winthrop serves as Partner and Executive Vice President at Acquirent, LLC. He brings a strong background in new business development, sales strategy and sales management to Acquirent and its clients. Today, Geoff is involved in building and managing many of Acquirent’s client accounts.
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