Social engagement is an opportunity to redefine how you find and serve your customers, and it’s changing the way people connect with companies–as well as how sales teams work.
Your target customers are getting up to 70% of the information they need to make a buying decision before your salesperson even knows they’re looking. On their journey they are gathering information all the way along–from the trigger event that caused the initial interest, up through what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations,” down into the “trough of disillusionment.” By the time your prospect is heading up the “slope of enlightenment” to the “plateau of productivity,” you want to have made a positive, and lasting, impression.
Along their journey, it’s not just the website they’re consuming, it’s your blog, your tweets, your FB posts, and your LinkedIn posts. It’s your comments, and how well you respond to questions, how thoughtful you are in debates on Quora. Perhaps prospects are tuning in to your individual team members to check for compatibility–listening to all your communications to get a feel for the brand and how well it would fit with them.
Customers are forming a perception of your company long before they move down the funnel to the decision stage. Now salespeople are finding that turnabout is fair play; they’re doing a deep dive into customers’ social lives in addition to traditional research.
Here’s how your sales team should be preparing for “social selling.”
1. Train Your Team (For the Social “Do’s and Don’ts”).
Invest up front in starting employees out with the training they need. Just as you wouldn’t hand over the keys without making sure that someone knew how to drive a car, you shouldn’t let people out without basic social media training. It’s easy to create a company document that identifies the basic rules, guidelines, and best practices for conduct on social sites. Get more experienced employees to show the ropes to the newbies. Remember that likability is a competitive asset, so this is essential planning.
Mashable has a great article to start you off in the right direction for formulating a social media policy. While you don’t want to bog employees down in intricate rules, it’s good to remind them that social media is a public activity and common sense should prevail. Here are some great examples of prominent companies and their social guidelines:
2. Track Your Customers’ (Public) Social Footprint.
Follow (and prioritize) prospects and their companies so you can build a complete profile and be well versed on company news. But don’t stop at the obvious social sites. Look for communities or groups that might offer insights about the things that are important to them. Then be generous and inquisitive about engaging and warming up the brand. Start the relationship off right. Talk about or retweet the things that are important to them, then get the sales team involved. With this intelligence, you can build a great “top prospects” list to work from.
3. Use Great Tools to Make Life Easier!
The best tools (ahem…like Nimble) will help you build a well-rounded view of a customer or prospect. You need a capable social relationship manager that understands that the sales role has changed, that social business is about developing and nurturing relationships with prospects and customers. When you bring together all the relevant information about people–from everywhere they live and play and communicate–you’ll know them in a fuller way, not just as a title or a name on a list. With this information, you can set out to build a strong foundation for long-term benefits.
With the right tools, a full relationship is within reach.