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 my 10 step 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 many sellers are using social media to prospect, but don’t find ways to intertwine social media throughout the entire process. Social media can be the key to success in every step of the sales process, helping you add value and insight to move the opportunity forward.
My Successful Sales Process
- Build Awareness
- Develop Interest
- Determine Needs
- Close the Deal
- 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 the prospect on how you solve their problem and on how to buy from you. It doesn’t stop there, implementation is critical. Most salespeople feel this part is completely out of their control, however, 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.
Use Social Media for Every Step
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.
To target your audience effectively, you first must define your ideal customer, which your marketing team may have already done for you. 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 perfect client embraces
Once you know who your target 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 includes; 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. Next, find 3 to 5 people you feel will be included when purchasing from you.
Once you have a list, it’s time to do some Google research. 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. Then, the next step would be to start interacting. Be sure to follow the individuals but don’t connect yet.
2. Build Awareness
Once you’ve identified a list of companies and followed 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.
You’ll also want to interact to build awareness with the individuals at the company who may be involved in a decision to buy your solution. In LinkedIn, you can click on the company page and see all the people connected to that organization. Find the right people, follow them and start interacting, but don’t connect yet.
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 start a conversation, discover commonalities and develop their interest in learning more.
3. Develop Interest
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 or insights, 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 so that you can determine if there is a need. The selling doesn’t start yet. You are still getting to know the person to determine if they are a prospect. No pitching. Asking questions and learning is key. If they accept a meeting you can determine their needs.
4. Determine Needs
Typically, at this point in the sales process, it’s time to get off social media and meet in person or via phone or video meeting. You need the direct interaction of a conversation to ask the right questions and determine if your prospect has a need for the solutions you can provide. You’re looking for a fit. A fit between their challenge or need and what you can provide.
However, you can use social media to anticipate some of your customer’s needs. For example, many companies will publish job openings and promotions. Look to see if your contact is posting in a LinkedIn group with a question or request. Watch for the release of new products, company announcements, and awards. These posts can provide insight into an organization and its needs. They can also help you prepare for your conversations. You can show that you are aware of things that are happening at their company because you have paid attention to these posts. Be savvy and follow the clues companies and their employees send on social media.
After you’ve conducted a discovery meeting and determined whether or not it’s a fit, you must follow-up with the prospect. Since you’ve moved the relationship off 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.
Even if there was not fit between your product and their need, there is value in maintaining the relationship for future needs, referrals or when that person moves on to the next company. Don’t underestimate the power of a relationship, even when you don’t have a deal to move forward.
If there is a fit and you are moving forward, it’s time to educate the prospect. They need to understand the details of how your product will be implemented and provide what they need. Not only that, they need to be educated on how to buy from you. Many salespeople miss this part of the education process. Salespeople believe the buyer knows how to buy and of course, they know their internal process. But, what they don’t know is how your process matches how they buy. Your salespeople need to be well versed in how the process flows to get a deal closed. They also need to share this with the prospect and write out the steps and timeline for the prospect. This process will not take place on social media. But, some parts of the education process can. For example, post your educational decks on SlideShare. YouTube is another great place to share demos or product information. If you have online reviews on social sites you can send links to those. You can reinforce the education in small bites with links to these and perhaps blog posts or other information on your website. Of course, you can do this by email as well, but look for opportunities to communicate with your prospects on the channels they prefer.
6. Close the Deal
Now, closing a deal is not going to happen online. That is direct communication with the prospect. However, once you have closed a deal, social media comes back into play. For example, many companies like to announce new partnerships 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. If you have photos of working together at a trade show or on site, those are great content to post.
Many companies pass the client to a Customer Success group at this point. Either way, the salespeople and sales leadership can stay in touch with the customers through social media as well as other methods.
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, salespeople can stay in touch with your customers and interact with their posts and at the appropriate times send a direct message on LinkedIn asking how the implementation is going. Of course, you can do this by phone or email as well.
Retention is another area that may fall to Customer Success, but the salesperson can stay involved. In fact, many people in your company may work to help retain this customer, they should all be connected with them on LinkedIn or other social media that makes sense. 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 and learn about the business. Try sending your contact an article from your company blog, a thank you or interacting with a post they’ve created. You can make introductions to others you know that will be good connections. Social media a low-pressure way to stay in touch. The wonderful thing is you can do it any time of the day or night, so it doesn’t interfere with your prime prospecting hours.
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 or a reason to get in touch. You can also use social media to suggest other services and products with a soft touch, by sending content from your blog or a video.
10. 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 have grown your relationships by adding value. You’ve earned the right to ask for referrals. Loyal customers are happy to give you a reference and 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. Build a list of who you want to be introduced to. Use LinkedIn to see who your client is connected to and then determine the best way to ask for an introduction. Sometimes I ask for the introduction on LinkedIn but typically, 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, Moor 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?
As you can see, both emails are personal. These are examples of messages that can be sent by email or through social media messaging, but my phone conversations are similar. The key is, you must know them well enough and have an established relationship that earns you the right to ask.
And now, we’re back to the beginning of the process — you’ve targeted a new ideal customer and have been introduced. They are aware of you and your company and it’s time to use social media to 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 more quickly.
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.