The Role of Social Media in Channel Partner Enablement. Today’s business customers are approaching the sales process differently. They no longer rely on sales personnel to educate them about a product or service; they search the internet or discuss the topic with their peers. Companies must have a cohesive social selling strategy to ensure that information about their brand is visible and available when prospects come looking. This paper defines the concept of social sales, discusses its importance in an overall sales strategy, and outlines the process for implementing social selling in a B2B context.
Social selling is a sales tactic that integrates social media presence into a complete sales strategy. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, YouTube, and many others are leveraged to “identify opportunities, get insight into prospects, earn the first engagements and deepen relationships.
While social media has been embraced by marketing teams as a way to increase brand recognition, sales personnel have been slower to adopt social media and make it a part of their platform. Social media is such an integrated facet in the lives of prospects that if sales teams want to be successful, they have to have a clear social selling strategy. Prospects are using social media to gather information about the brands they are considering. They are no longer relying on companies to educate them; they have the tools and the network to research a company and its products and services, and perhaps more importantly, the relationships that those companies have with his peers.
Today’s customer insists on two-way relevancy when dealing with sales personnel; he’s done his research on the company, and he expects the company to know about him. This means that companies must have comprehensive sales intelligence in place that is integrated with social media. Sales personnel have to “leverage the social web to actively listen, engage, and add value to the customer conversation. Your customer expects you to know at least as much about them as they do about you.”
Today’s average buyer begins the buying process without involving the sales personnel in an organization. Cold calls and emails are no longer effective; unsolicited emails are deleted, phone calls are unanswered. Buyers no longer go first to marketing and sales personnel to educate them about products and services; they are going out and researching for themselves. They are searching the web and asking their peers about their relationship with the companies in question. They trust the members of their social media circles.
This means that companies in general and sales personnel, in particular, must now become trusted members of the social media circles of their prospect to prevent being filtered out of the “noise” customers are bombarded with every day.
Social media strategies must now be part of an integrated sales and marketing process that also support channel partner enablement frameworks and strategies. Companies that do not have an active and cohesive social media presence are simply not performing as well as those who do.
Social sales is a direct result of technology evolution. As social media and online collaboration tools have matured, customers are using them not just for personal interaction, but also for business interactions. Customers scour the web for information on companies, products, and services, and if they don’t like what they see, or they don’t find enough information, they will quickly move on to another company.
The reality is that social selling is necessary because savvy customers are setting the guidelines of how they want to get their information and how they want to interact with companies.
Simply put, social selling is more productive than not using social media, and many studies over the last few years back up these claims.
“In 2012, 72% of salespeople using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.” Conversely, non-social media users missed quota 15% more often than social media users. This study also showed that 54% of respondents could directly tie closed deals back to social media usage.
Aberdeen Group defines social selling as a “best in class practice”, and notes that “top sale performers lead all other firms in using social media to build sales prospect lists by working side-by-side with marketing.”
The Core Business in Social Media Study found that “56% of people feel a stronger connection with companies who engage on social media.”
Social selling works just as well in a B2B environment as it does in a B2C environment. The first step is to simply get started. You need to make a commitment to developing a social selling plan and implementing that plan.
Once a commitment has been made, it’s critical to understand which social media platforms your customers are using because it’s on those platforms that you want to focus your effort. However, since it is unlikely that your customers only use one platform, you will want to engage in all of the platforms that are relevant.
When you’ve determined where your customers can be found, it’s up to you to provide relevant and useful content on those platforms. This isn’t about pushing a sales message; it’s about providing the information that prospects are looking for to make a buying decision. Your goal is to be the trusted expert that provides timely and relevant content.
Next, cultivate relationships with those who access your content. If someone asks questions, answer them. Throw out some questions of your own, and see how they are answered. Create a rapport without pushing sales. This has to be a two-way street; allow your prospects to access you and they will allow you to access them.
About the Channel Institute:
The Channel Institute is the only training body in the world that provides business training and certification specifically for the channel profession through a syllabus validated by a vendor-independent Industry Advisory Council. The Institute currently offers three certificate courses supporting channel managers, channel marketers and channel resellers:
- The Certificate in Channel Management
- The Certificate in Channel Sales
- The Certificate in Channel Marketing
- The Certificate in Digital Co-Marketing
The Channel Institute also licenses its course content to universities and vendor training academies to bolster their channel training libraries.