Social Media and B2B Sales CourtshipAh, romance. With Valentine’s Day coming up, this is a good time to talk about sales courtships, which aren’t altogether different from dating, especially in B2B sales.

A business courtship starts when a prospective customer first encounters the brand and continues well after the sale is finalized. And just like dating, there are plenty of opportunities to mess things up along the way by smothering your partner with too much – or not enough, or the wrong type of – attention.

Thankfully, we have social media to help provide brands a non-intrusive, real-time channel for the B2B sales courtship. Think of it like a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers delivered at just the right time.

While a strong social media strategy alone isn’t enough to keep two businesses united forever, it does help attract, close and retain customers.

Here are five ways we’ve learned to use social media in the B2B sales courtship:

1. Opportunities for interaction. There’s a fine line for how often a sales representative should make contact with a potential customer. On one hand, you can follow up too little and potentially lose the sale to a competitor. On the other hand, you can follow up too much and cause an annoyance or a distaste for the brand. Social media allows a brand (and its sales representatives) to interact with prospective customers in a way that’s friendly, nonintrusive and oftentimes welcome. Marketers and sales representatives should take advantage of this opportunity for increased interaction. Invite potential buyers to LinkedIn groups; add them to Twitter lists and Google Plus circles. Take notice of what they’re doing online and interact when it’s appropriate. This will often get a response even when a call or email goes unanswered.

2. Building a genuine relationship. B2B sales are often large investments that require long-term relationships, so having a good rapport with prospective customers can sway the purchasing decision. Social media allows the brand and the sales representative to build a friendly, genuine relationship over time. When people are interacting on social media, it’s often for pleasure and catching with up friends or family. Don’t be afraid to be a part of their circles. (No pun intended.) People want to know that they are entering a true partnership, and not just being pitched so the sales representative can make a sale or upgrade an account. So if you notice that a potential customer is recognized in the media, give him a mention on Twitter with a link to the article. “Like” his Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts to show support for what he’s doing. Have a common hobby or interest? Like and comment on these updates, too.

3. Credibility booster. Company social media pages often appear on the first page of the search engine results when a brand name is searched. If you have a large following on these networks, it tells people that you’ve been endorsed and have a healthy, genuine reputation.

4. Authentic testimonials. The best quality of social media is its ability to drive genuine, sincere conversations. If a person is happy – or unhappy – with a brand, it’s very likely he’s going to post about it on social media. I’ve been to several Facebook pages where customers wrote positive feedback, and I’d by lying if I said it didn’t affect my purchasing decision. Think about your own experiences, and you would probably say the same. Use this to your advantage and ask clients to give LinkedIn recommendations. Encourage them to share testimonials via Twitter, Facebook and other networks. Potential customers will see these testimonials and be impressed.

5. Information sharing. If someone posts a question on your Facebook page or LinkedIn group, it’s very likely that other prospective or current customers have the same question. Have your marketing team answer questions via social media so the information is made available to everyone. (If you’re following a comprehensive content marketing plan, your team can also provide a link to a company blog post that delves deeper on the subject.) Do this and sales and account representatives will spend less time educating prospective and current customers.

The point of making your information available online is to provide solutions that can be accessed by a decision-maker at any place or time. Why is readily available content so important? Because you never know when that decision-maker is going to type your keywords into Google looking for an answer to his or her problem. You want to be there to provide it.

I’ve only included a few of the ways social media positively affects sales and the courtship between two companies. I can’t stress how important it is for your company to be reaping the full benefits of social media. You might even consider having your sales team take a social media training class.

How are you using social media for your brand? Leave a comment or fill out the contact form if you have questions. Even better, reach us on Twitter at @IdeaGrove and @KRDollar. We’ll show you the power of social media engagement.