Sales is Social
It’s funny to me that people forget that sales is a social process. Selling is mostly an interaction between people. Granted you can buy some products or services from a website and never need to talk to anyone. But, most B2B sales require humans to talk to other humans while understanding the buying process and determining problems that need to be solved. Every good seller has a sales process that follows the way people want to buy. Today, for most sellers, that process should include using social media. So, let’s take a look at how to use social media throughout the sales process.
Missing a Crucial Step
First, I’ve outlined a simple sales process below. If you follow a process with a strong strategy, you will have the best possibility of getting great results. There are many ways to execute the actions for each step, but many salespeople are missing a crucial one. It seems that even as many sellers are using social media to prospect, they don’t find ways to intertwine social media throughout the entire process. Social media can be the key to success in every step of a successful sales process.
Successful Sales Process Example
- Target Audience
- Build Awareness and Develop Interest
- Determine Needs
- Educate the Client
- Close the Deal
- Implement the Work
- Retain the Client
- Grow the Business
- Get Referrals
In my world, a successful sales process starts with targeting the right audience to ensure successful prospecting. Next, you build awareness and develop interest, so the target audience has heard of your company and identifies with your brand when they are ready to buy. When they are ready, the process then moves through determining the prospect’s needs to educating and closing the deal. But it doesn’t stop there. Implementation is critical. Even though most salespeople feel this part is completely out of their control, it is part of the process. Unhappy customers do not continue to buy, and they do not refer you to others. An effective sales process moves the customer through implementation in a way that makes them happy and retains their business. Happy customers buy more and become loyal clients who provide excellent referrals.
I want to show you how social media can help in almost every step of this process — even when it may not be obvious. Here’s how you can use platforms like LinkedIn to move through your sales process to close more deals and make your customers so happy they become walking advertisements for you! These ideas will work with many of the social platforms out there, but my favorite for B2B sales is LinkedIn because 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn.
1. Target Audience
To target your audience effectively on social media, you first must define your ideal customer. To clearly identify your ideal customer, think of these characteristics:
- Demographics: The age, revenue, location and business sector for your ideal customer
- Psychographics: The attitudes, values, or lifestyle your ideal customer embraces
Once you know who your audience is, then you can figure out where they are and how to contact them. I prefer a variety of methods in the prospecting stage that include, social media, email, mail, voicemail, events and getting introductions.
LinkedIn makes it easy to find your target audience by allowing you to search for companies that meet specific criteria for these characteristics. Do a search and make a list of 10 businesses that fit your criteria.
Once you have a list, it’s time to do some Google stalking. Search each organization in Google to find its official website and social media accounts. Now, follow the business on each of those outlets so you can watch its activity and start interacting, which is the next step.
2. Build Awareness and Develop Interest
Once you’ve identified a list of companies and connected with each on social media, it’s time to interact. Every like, comment and share will draw the attention of your target customer.
Be aware that larger companies usually assign a marketing person to operate their social media. But, in smaller companies the owner often runs these channels. Even in a large business, decision makers typically run their personal pages. So, you’ve got a good chance of drawing the attention of the chief decision maker.
You’ll also want to connect and build awareness with the company’s individual employees — especially those in decision-making roles. In LinkedIn, you can click on the company page and see all the people connected to that organization. Start interacting in a friendly, personable way to build awareness.
Once you’ve started developing a relationship with someone by interacting with their posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other channels, you can ask to connect. If they accept, you have an opportunity to discover shared interests and how you might help.
Offer some ideas, resources or articles that might pique your new connection’s interest. Once you’ve done this and received a positive response, it’s time to move the conversation offline.
Once you’ve connected with your contact and offered them some valuable information, they are likely to say yes to a meeting. Now, your prospect knows who you are because you’ve interacted. You’ve built awareness. This person also knows you have integrity because of what you post and what you shared. That is how you develop interest.
3. Determine Needs
Typically, at this point in the sales process, it’s time to get off social media and meet in person or a Skype or GoToMeeting because of distance. You need the direct interaction of a conversation to ask the right questions and determine your prospect’s needs and the solutions you can provide.
However, you can use social media to anticipate your prospect’s needs. For example, many companies will publish job openings on social media. These posts can provide insight into an organization and its needs. Or, see if your contact is posting in a LinkedIn group with a question or request. Watch for the release of new products. Be savvy and follow the clues companies and their employees send on social media.
After you’ve conducted a needs analysis, you must follow up with the client. Since you’ve moved the relationship off of social media, you may think that you’re finished with it. Wrong! Platforms like LinkedIn can be very valuable to break through the clutter of your contact’s inbox. Some people have so many messages that they are not going to see your emails or listen to your voicemail. If you follow up with them on social media, especially LinkedIn, your message may stand out more. One caveat: Make sure to ask your contact how they prefer to communicate during your needs analysis.
Another way you can use LinkedIn with a prospect at this stage is to send them to your website for more information on their specific needs with links that track their activity. This allows you to see when they last visited the site and what they clicked. This information can help you continue to determine your prospect’s interests and move the sale forward. As I mentioned previously, SalesWings is the tool I use to do that. If you have a sophisticated marketing automation system, it should be able to track the links you email, but it won’t follow the links you send through LinkedIn. I use SalesWings for both email and LinkedIn. (Since this article was published, SalesWings can no longer be used with LinkedIn, however, I still use it very successfully with email.)
4. Educate the Client
Once you’ve evaluated the prospect’s needs, it’s time to educate them. This process probably will not take place primarily on social media. But, some parts absolutely can. For example, post your educational decks on SlideShare and share them with your potential clients. YouTube is another great place to share demos or product information. If you use a company like Consensus to have demos on your website, then send the link to those. (Don’t forget to track those with SalesWings!)
5. Close the Deal
Now, closing a deal is not going to happen online. That is direct communication with the client. However, once you have closed a deal, social media comes back into play. For example, many companies like to announce new partnerships or deals on social media. If the company you’re doing business with likes to do this, then use a platform like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, to post about how you’ll be working together.
6. Implement the Work
After you close the deal, your company needs to implement and deliver the promised work. This part of the process is typically not the salesperson’s job. But, as your business is performing, you can stay in touch with your customer through social media. Continue to interact with their posts and at the appropriate times send a direct message on LinkedIn asking how the implementation is going.
7. Retain the Client
Retention is another area that may fall to the salesperson. Many people in your company may work to help retain this customer. But, social media can help you easily keep in touch with multiple accounts over time. While it may be difficult to call each client frequently while you are out hunting for new business, you should continue to use social media to stay connected. Try sending your contact an article from your company blog, a thank you or interacting with a post they’ve created. Social media gives you a great way to stay in touch in a low-pressure way. The great thing is you can do it any time of the day or night, so it doesn’t interfere with your prime prospecting hours.
8. Grow the Business
Many salespeople must also get more business from existing customers. Lucky for you, you’ve already developed a relationship with your clients on social media, and you can listen for additional needs. Watch what they post and see if it creates a new opportunity for your business. You can also use social media to suggest other services and products with a soft touch.
9. Get Referrals
The final step in the sales process is leveraging your existing customers to create new connections. If you’ve followed this process to this step, you have a satisfied client. You stayed in touch with your new customers and grown your relationships by adding value. You’ve earned the right to ask for referrals. Loyal customers are happy to give you a reference or make an introduction when asked. This step is an excellent opportunity to use social media again.
Social media provides you access to your connections’ connections. What you want to figure out is to whom you want an introduction. Use LinkedIn to see what ideal customers your client is connected to and then determine the best way to ask for an introduction. This point is when I get off social media and get on the phone or send a quick email. Here are a few examples.
I hope things are going great. I saw that you were in NYC recently and had the chance to catch a few shows. That must have been fun.
Last time we talked I mentioned that I was growing my business and looking for a few more great clients like you. I noticed on LinkedIn that you are connected to Susan Smith. I’m wondering if you know her well enough to make an introduction? Let me know so we can discuss.
Here’s another example:
I loved your recent article on online learning. You are absolutely right about the way things are changing.
I was on LinkedIn and notice you are well connected to three of the companies I am following, Century, Bristlecone and Heritage. I’d like to meet some of the key players from these companies. Would you feel comfortable making a few introductions for me?
Have a great day!
As you can see, both emails are really personal. These are examples of emails, but my conversations are similar. The key is, you must know them well enough and have an established relationship that earns you the right to ask.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
And now, we’re back to the beginning of the process — you’ve targeted a new ideal customer and are following them or have been introduced. You are ready to build their awareness of you and your company and develop their interest and continue the process.
By following each step of this sales process with social media, you can be more successful and grow your business.