A few things have changed in B2B sales with the rise of social media and digital. Buyers behaviours have changed, Sales professionals have adapted and the majority of companies have adopted social selling. But why social selling is so important? What are the reasons why companies have transformed the way they sell, why do they keep improving their social selling strategy and why you should do too?
At Linkedin, I have been fortunate to be trained on social selling best practices and Sales navigator and witness the rise of social selling.
Since many companies around the world have changed the way they sell and market content. Many implemented social selling strategies and rolled out training programs transforming their sales force into social sellers with more or less success.
Some call it social selling, some digital sales and others, modern selling.
Some might be global, some local or regional, some might be competing with your business.
Buyers have changed too and digital has empowered them in the way they research, get recommendations and make decisions. So being the first to help, add value and guide them might give your business a serious advantage
But the main reason why you should care about social selling is that: social selling works
Here are the most important reasons why social selling should be a priority in 2020 if you or your business need to remain competitive in 2020 and beyond:
Covid-19 has impacted people and business around the world and UAE and the Middle East is no exception. The case of UAE was well covered by a Financial Times article in May and it said the SME sector would be the most impacted.
When most businesses are going into survival mode, reducing cost like advertising or even downsizing, one of the solutions can also be trying to generate more revenue. Not by recruiting more staff or investing in tools but by training the existing sales team and make them more productive and successful. And social selling can help.
B2B Buyers are harder to reach
Emails struggle to get the right level of attention when they are even opened. 90% of prospects hit the delete button when receiving an email from someone they do not know (Source: Inside View. “The Death of Cold Calling – Ending the Debate”. https://blog.insideview.com/2011/03/18/the-death-of-cold-calling-ending-the-debate/ )
Cold calling does not work the way it used to. A 2012 study has shown that the success rate of cold calls to appointments is only 0.3%. Not only it is a very unproductive way of employing salespeople, but it is eroding the sales team motivation and the business reputation over time. (study by Baylor University’s Keller Center for Research 2012)
On cold calling specifically, Apple has released last year a new iPhone feature allowing users to divert any calls from unknown numbers directly to voicemails, so the trend is here to stay.
Whatsapp or other messaging apps are often personal and would be used by sellers to communicate with customers they have already build a relationship with. Reaching out to prospective B2B buyers on Whatsapp would bring the same results and consequences than cold calling.
Instead of sales being perceived as intrusive and interrupting time wasters, it is more effective to stand out on digital channels where your ideal buyers are and get through by being seen as trusted experts that your customers can rely on.
Social is the new and most effective way to approach buyers through valuable insights and trusted introductions or build authority to get noticed so they are the ones reaching out to you.
An overwhelming 87% of B2B buyers said that would have a favourable impression of someone introduced through their professional network. (Source: LinkedIn: Build Relationships.)
Demand Generation Report, a warm referral increases the odds of a sales success up to 4 times, while 70% of B2B companies report that referrals convert better and close faster than other types of lead.
B2B Buyers expect more
Social media changed the way salespeople find and approach buyers and customers. Social media has also changed the way those same buyers and customers research information, engage with suppliers and make purchase decisions.
Buyers research online and on social media
Like all of us, B2B buyers do research products and services online. However, 50% of B2B Buyers find the amount of trustworthy information overwhelming according to a 2019 Gartner research report. (Source: Gartner, The new B2B buying journey and its implication for sales, 2019)
With so much online quality content available to them, social media and peer to peer recommendations are ideal choices to find relevant insights from people they know or trust.
- 75% of B2B Buyers and 84% of C-Level/VP Executives Use Social Media to research vendors and make purchasing decisions
- The most trusted source (46%). for researching B2B buying decisions is “Peers or Colleagues” Source: Demand Gen 2019 Content Preferences Report
This behaviour is accentuating over time. Not only majority of B2B buyers prefer to research online on their own without the help of salespeople but also 62% of them say they can develop selection criteria or finalize a list of vendor based solely on digital content
Forrester research shows two trends:
- Over the years, more B2B buyers prefer to research on their own, online. 60% prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information
- 62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list – based solely on digital content. Source: Forrester/Internet Retailer Q1 2017 Global B2B Buy-Side Online Survey
While it is key for organizations to produce quality and relevant content aimed at buyers, a key differentiator will be their ability to:
- produce content and insights to help buyers along the buying journey (challenge the status quo, educate, drive urgency, etc) and to help their salespeople maximize every interaction they have with buyers.
Generate more awareness and top-funnel leads
As seen above, three out of four B2B buyers choose the sales rep who was the first to add value and insights. One of the easiest ways to do that is to be the first to make potential customers realize they have a problem you happen to have a solution for.
Basically, this is the stage where you want to make as many people in your target audience aware of your brand, the problems you solve and the solutions you offer. This is way before they know about the problem or consider fixing it.
A successful brand awareness strategy relies on content. Even if a marketing team is doing everything right, the content that is shared online by the brand will never generate the same trust and engagement as the same content shared by employees.
For example: Content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels. (Social Media Today)
On top of that, 76% of individuals surveyed say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands.
Leads developed through employee social marketing convert 7x more frequently than other leads.
This is why social selling is important for a business.
One condition for success is that Marketing and sales teams need to collaborate to create brand awareness content that the sales team will want to use and share.
Sales need to be involved in the content ideation process and give constant feedback to the marketing team. Marketing needs to adapt Brand content and messaging for sales and make it easily accessible so the sales team can leverage the right content and insights to build awareness online and on social media
Another reason why social selling is important is it improves sales return per capita
Many reports and surveys over the years have demonstrated that Social selling works.
After implementing a formal Social selling program, organizations usually see improvements in lead generation, pipeline volume, deal size, deal closing velocity, and an increase in overall sales results.
Most sales leaders will agree that the two key factors impacting sales success are relationship and value. If your sales rep built a great and trusted relationship with everyone involved in the purchasing process and have demonstrated that your solution delivers the best value, then it is very likely he has won the business.
Social media offers a huge competitive advantage to the social sellers who have the tools, the content and the process allowing them to build relationships and add value to win sales, on top of making them more productive and more effective in creating more leads and opportunities
Companies that have formal and structured social selling programs in place are already seeing results such as 18% greater lead volume and 17% faster lead conversion.” Forrester Research
A social selling program can drive 16% better win rates, 2x pipeline, and deliver 48% larger deals. (EveryoneSocial)
39% of B2B professionals say social selling reduces their lead search time, while for 33% it increases their number of leads.|Source: CSO Insights
Social sellers with a LinkedIn Social Selling Index score of 70+ create 45% more opportunities than peers with a lower SSI score and are 51% more likely to reach their quotas. |Source: (LinkedIn – Social Selling Index)
Here are five examples of why Social selling gives sellers the ability to generate more leads, grow more pipeline and close deals faster:
Listen to targeted accounts and contacts to engage with the right content, comment or insights at the right time in order to be noticed, add value and generate more leads
Monitoring buying signals to start more conversations with decision-makers
Being faster informed when a contact leaves the company, not only they can connect with their replacement faster but they can quickly follow up with their contact to discuss a deal opportunity in the company they recently joined.
Identify more people who are in departments or roles likely to benefit from additional features to increase the current deal size
gain visibility into networks of newly won customers to proactively solicit introductions or ask for referrals into potential new accounts
Clearly social selling impacting the above sales indicators will automatically have a positive impact on quota attainment for sales reps and sales revenue for businesses:
Indeed, Social selling impacts sales professionals’ ability to achieve quota:
B2B sellers who embrace social selling are 72% more likely to exceed quotas than their peers who don’t – Source: Forrester, Add Social Selling To Your B2B Marketing Repertoire – 2017
79% of sales rep at ‘Best-in-Class’ social selling companies achieved sales quota,
Source: Aberdeen Group, Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results.
Compared with the recent CSO Insights research that showed only 53% made quotas in 2018.
Ultimately, Social selling impacts business revenue:
Companies with formalized social selling processes are 40% more likely to hit their revenue goals. Source: Sales Benchmark Index.
‘Best-in-Class’ social selling companies saw a 16.7% year-on-year revenue increase, compared with just 4.1% for ‘Industry Average’ companies and a decrease of 8.7% for ‘Laggards’. Source: Aberdeen Group, Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results