Pete Belmonte, Director of B2B social media specialists Influence London, explains why dealers should leverage social media to showcase credibility, increase awareness, generate leads, acquire customers and build reputation.
There are many people who believe that social media is far more appropriate for B2C markets than B2B. Whilst this is true to some degree – B2B businesses are in the main behind the curve – this common misconception is being challenged and the mind-set of progressive companies is changing.
Buyers are still looking for the best ways to run their business more efficiently and are still collecting information on sales professionals who can help them do this. Yet, equally, there’s no doubt that consumer shopping habits are impacting the B2B buying process; business customers are steered by the same factors that influence their personal buying decisions, and technology is causing a shift in how today’s buyers educate themselves and how they engage with salespeople.
As the climate changes, it’s no longer enough to rely on traditional sales prospecting techniques, such as cold calling. Today’s (and tomorrow’s) procurement professionals are engaging with companies that provide customised content targeted to their needs at the appropriate buying stage, and they are relying more on social networks for peer-to-peer research to validate new solutions and offerings in the marketplace.
The business case
There is a new generation in the workplace – Millennials, Generation X and Y and the soon-to-emerge Gen Z. These digital natives have grown up with digital technologies and have integrated them into their lives from a very early age. Their digital presence is deeply integrated; they rely on being able to access information from anywhere and at any time, and are doing research and forming opinions about companies that could help them tackle their challenges before they even think about engaging with a sales professional. If you want to connect with these buyers – and let’s not forget that Millennials are expected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025 – as well as ‘digital immigrants’ who have lived in the analogue age but migrated to the digital world, you have to embrace social selling in order to successfully convert prospects into customers.
Make warm not cold calls In a 2014 IDC study, Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience, researchers found that three out of four B2B buyers and eight out of 10 executive buyers within that group use social media to make purchasing decisions. The research also indicated that buyers who use social media are more likely to be influential, have larger budgets and buy more frequently.
Cold calling doesn’t cut it anymore: according to LinkedIn’s research on B2B buyers, 59% would think less of you and 53% would think less of your company, if you made a cold call.
As a sales professional, you should be looking for opportunities to ‘warm up’ the call by targeting buyers with whom you have a common contact and asking for an introduction. The research found that more than two thirds of buyers are more likely to choose a vendor if the salesperson is recommended by a professional network peer.
Whether or not to embrace social media is a no-brainer; your customers, your prospects and your competitors are on social media, so why aren’t you?
Today’s buying journey is fluid, and successful organisations are adapting to the changing expectations of prospects. Buyers are coming to the sales conversation with a wealth of knowledge gained through social media, content and other research before they interact with a sales professional. It’s time to step up to social selling.
There are hundreds of social media platforms out there, but for B2B businesses looking to leverage a strong return on investment the three platforms of choice are: Twitter, which has 320m users globally and 15m in the UK; LinkedIn (400m global LinkedIn users and 15m in the UK); and Facebook, which more than a third of the UK population visits every day.