Social media is not only changing the marketing department, it’s also altering the sales game. Today’s customers today are better informed. As a result today’s sales reps need to have more than just a good pitch – the need to possess a deeper understanding of their customer’s business. They need to understand a customer’s business model, be able to channel their needs and uphold their values.
“Customers have become engaged buyers, going beyond the company website to read blogs, follow Twitter handles, and spin up LinkedIn conversations to gain outside perspectives for purchase decisions,” writes Shannon Duffy in a post from the American Express OPEN Forum. Information has become so prevalent and easily accessible today that Forrester now estimates that anywhere between 50 – 70% of the buying process occurs before a sales rep is involved. It’s not all bad however, as social media is a two-way street. Sales reps can leverage the exact same tools their customers are using to help them understand that buyer’s needs. Here are four easy steps for success courtesy of Duffy.
1. Make Sure People “Like” Your Reps
“Likability will forever separate closers from steak-knife winners,” says Duffy. It’s important that sales reps routinely participate in social media training. Think of it this way, when you are on the phone with a customer and they are Googling you (which they’ll most certainly do) you want them to be impressed with what they see. Training can initially start with the basics: polishing a profile, developing a unique voice, participating in blog commentary, answering customer questions and identifying niche social networks. After a while, it can evolve and the focus can shift towards helping reps stay on top of social media trends and learn to apply them to tasks.
2. Know Where Your Customer Goes
Most customers have a LinkedIn and Facebook presence, and even more are on Twitter. But what about niche communities? Odds are that the big three aren’t the only places people visit. “For example, when was the last time a Facebook friend left a status update discussing the finer points of backend quality assurance software? Probably never (and if they did, are you still friends?)” writes Duffy. The point she’s making is that knowing where you customer interacts can help provide you with valuable data on what motivates your customer’s buying decision.
3. Nurture Your Top Prospects
“Everyone is trying to be relevant on Twitter- including your prospects and their companies,” says Duffy. She recommends having your social media team following your top accounts and prospects so that they can alert you about major company news and help salespeople get ahead of trends. Duffy also recommends having the team play a role interacting with prospective brands, “have them retweet announcements and congratulate customers on key wins.”
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4. Connect With Social Data Insights
Even with all the time and effort put into social media research, you can still reach out to the wrong contact. Having accurate data and social insights are necessary to understanding the most appropriate sales leads within a company. “The key to this efficiency is the ability to manage social prospect information, including Twitter, LinkedIn and other social profiles, in a unified instance,” says Duffy. Ideally all this info would be tied back to a CRM tool to provide an always evolving view of a rep’s entire prospect list.
While social has made the traditional sales tools a thing of the past, fear not. Today’s reps can leverage these new tools to help them get the most out of their customer interactions. The four steps outlined above should be jumping off points for reps, to assist them in establishing long-standing customer relationships based on a true understanding of their customer’s needs.