Editor’s Note: I am pleased to tell you that Barbara Weaver Smith, founder of The Whale Hunters, will be writing for Nimble on a monthly basis. She is also a proud member of the legendary Sales Shebang — a group of B2B women sales & marketing experts: speakers, authors, consultants, trainers, & bloggers. Barbara’s expertise is welcome!
What in the world is “social selling” and why should you care?
Two valid questions. Since I raised them, it’s up to me to make the first cut. And then I hope you’ll chime in as well!
I define “Social selling” as orchestrating a B2B sale in an environment full of and surrounded by social media. For example,
Your company’s website, your blog, your eNewsletters, white papers, and other online sales or marketing tools and templates.
Online social membership sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Quora, Google and so on.
Your competitors’ websites, blogs and Enewsletters.
Online sites that review and/or evaluate products and service offerings in your market space.
The key understanding about social selling is this: Your contacts, prospects, competitors and industry analysts gather information about your offerings, without your knowledge and beyond your control. You may like this trend or despise it, but your revenue depends on whether you reject it or embrace it.
In the old days of selling, the sellers closely guarded all of the sales knowledge—price, availability, discounts, competition—and buyers were at the mercy of sellers’ willingness (or not) to share information. Today, information is cheap or free. Some of us remember when your doctor would check your blood pressure and not tell you the result! Or still the occasional car seller pretending to see the manager in order to quote you the bottom line price! Those are hopelessly outdated ways of doing business.
Today’s corporate buyers will conduct major research about you, your company, your history, your products, your services, your finances, and your reputation long before anyone takes a meeting. I hope you are doing the same, but this post is about “what will they learn?”
I say corporate “buyers” — plural — because many people influence a large company’s buying decisions. Two buyers are easy to spot: (1) the assigned purchasing or procurement officer and (2) the end user of your product/service, the key C-level person in charge of that division. But there are many more — perhaps the IT department, legal counsel, human resources, training, customer service, logistics — you know who’s involved in your complex sales.
The odds are very high that in a big deal, each of the buyers is using social media to check out your team even prior to their first contact with you.Therefore, you should exert maximum control over how your company presents itself online and through social media.
1. Start at Home.
Be sure that your own website and blog offer interesting, compelling, client-centered stories and examples to present your company’s reputation, your products, your services, and your differentiators. If you are wondering how to do this, I’ll offer a few key principles:
Look at your prospective clients’ websites and be at least as professional as they are.
Refrain from anything “cute” that will mark you as too small or too local.
Post brief professional bios and contact information for key people in all functional areas.
Be certain that key information about your products and services is available on your site.
Leave plenty of ways that interested customers may contact you.
Maintain a blog with frequent entries, written by a variety of team members, focused on customers’ interests and needs.
2. Include Your Team.
Once you have your own website under control, lead your team into the social media space. I always recommend starting with LinkedIn. Invest in professional head shots for each of your employees. Provide them with training about how to write a LinkedIn profile, how to join and contribute to groups, and how to post links to interesting items in your blog and website. Your employees will extend your reach and most definitely build your team’s reputation. Be explicit about what you expect from a professional standpoint.
3. Watch Competitors.
Pay attention to your competitors’ websites as well. You don’t want to copy them of course, but you should always know how they are positioning, differentiating, and selling. They are a significant part of the complex sale landscape.
4. Behave Like Leaders.
Ask your marketing team to follow online services that report on trends and activities in your industry. Work towards being thought leaders in these online locations.
Devote some strategic planning time to various ways in which you can use social media to promote your company as a source of relevant ideas, information, and solutions in your industry.
You know what? It isn’t really about “selling” at all. It’s about your entire team claiming online spaces of influence and using the space and your connections to educate your prospective customers. You can start small and, especially, track your efforts and results and bring new contacts into your sphere of influence.
I’d love to know what you are doing and what’s working for you. Your comments below are welcome!
Barbara Weaver Smith is founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters, Inc., a firm dedicated to helping companies grow fast by making bigger sales to bigger customers. She is co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company.