When you read the statistics on the benefits of aligning marketing and sales for B2B organizations, you can’t help but sit up and take notice. Here are a few that caught my attention recently:

Companies with aligned sales and marketing generated 208% more revenue from marketing. (MarketingProfs)

B2B organizations with tightly aligned marketing and sales achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period. (SiriusDecisions)

According to International Data Corporation, B2B companies’ inability to align sales and marketing teams has cost them upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year.

When sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies became 67% better at closing deals. (Marketo)

Knowing that marketing and sales alignment is crucial, leads to the question: What opportunities exist today to bring the two together in a way that will lead to higher sales and ROI?

According to Liz Gelb-O’Connor, VP of Inside Sales Strategy and Growth at ADP, “Reps who use social selling are 50 percent more likely to meet or exceed their sales quota.” In addition, “anywhere from 57 percent to 90 percent of B2B purchase decisions are made by the time the buyer reaches out to a specific vendor.” Buyers are finding information online before they reach out to vendors. If buyers are searching online, many doing so on social media, it makes sense that the place to focus our marketing strategy is on social media. Enter – social selling.

B2B firms need to develop social selling strategies that will bring marketing and sales together in a way that gives both of them ownership of the process and results. So, the question becomes, what would that process look like?

Social Selling University defines social selling as using “the power of social media to understand your prospects’ needs, and actively seek the right person, with the right message at the right time.” This definition inherently involves the alignment of marketing and sales. Marketing creates the message and content based on their research on prospects’ needs and buyer data. Next, sales and marketing are both accountable for delivering the message on social media. Sales is then responsible for attracting and seeking out buyers on social networks who fit the buyer profile and developing relationships with them.

Marketing’s Role in Social Selling

Social selling involves attracting the right buyers through an online presence on social media by publishing useful content. Several key areas for marketing to focus on here are:

  • Determining the target audience through the development of buyer personas and analyzing buyer metrics.
  • Actively conducting social listening to find out what their target audience is saying online, what they are commenting on, and what questions they are asking. Included in this is using social listening to stay informed about key updates happening at target firms.
  • Developing useful content which adds value to the target buyers by solving their pain points, entertaining them or answering their questions.
  • Publishing the content on the proper social channels where buyers are spending their time. For B2B customers this will likely be LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of their content and social media strategies.

Sales’ Role in Social Selling

  • Setting up complete and professional profiles on social media channels and establishing an active presence there.
  • Taking the social messages that were developed by Marketing and publishing them social channels, with the goal of developing a reputation as a thought leader and influencer in their industry.
  • Engaging in social listening, which involves monitoring their prospects’ social activity, determining their business goals based on their comments and posts, and providing value through helpful comments.
  • Interacting in industry-related groups, such as those on LinkedIn and Facebook, and connecting with like-minded individuals.
  • Using social media to research prospects before contacting them. Determining their corporate role and responsibilities, their goals, and common ground.
  • Developing relationships with connections on social media. Using messaging and email effectively to foster and nurture relationships. Inviting connections to take a closer look and refer other connections.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of social selling efforts.

Aligning Marketing & Sales

Research by IDC determined that when buyers were asked “How did social media improve your purchase decisions?” the following results were revealed:

  • 55% felt more comfortable that they had the information they needed to make a decision.
  • 54% felt more comfortable with the expertise and credibility of their vendor.
  • 46% felt they had more satisfactory options available to them.

Social media and the process of social selling, if done right, enhances the buyer experience and helps develop relationships with buyers. It builds trust as buyers get to know the company and sales staff on a more personal level. Social media makes it easier than ever to position your business in the midst of your buyers online, attract them through useful content, and connect with them through social networking. B2B firms who are taking advantage of social selling have the upper hand. Aligning marketing and sales is imperative to the success of a firm’s social selling strategy.

We know that “highly aligned organizations achieve an average of 32% annual revenue growth, while less-aligned companies reported an average of 7% decline in revenue.” (Aberdeen) So, how does this alignment happen? There are several factors that will increase the success of marketing and sales alignment in social selling.

  • Corporate-wide buy-in of a firm’s social selling strategy.
  • Resources need to be allocated to marketing and sales to carry out the firm’s social selling efforts.
  • Marketing and sales should meet regularly, offering sales the opportunity to share feedback they are learning from their social listening efforts and interaction with potential customers on social media.
  • Include sales in any marketing communication and content planning. The field needs to know what is being communicated to customers before it happens.
  • Automate the email and follow-up systems that sales will use with potential customers, resulting in a more efficient and effective system.
  • Train sales staff on how to effectively carry out social media prospecting, including setting up social media account profiles, how and where to search for prospects, how to establish connections with prospects and how to develop relationships with prospects. Using social media isn’t necessarily intuitive for all sales staff. Training in this area can align them with common goals and tools to use in their social selling efforts.
  • Automating the process makes it easier to carry out social selling initiatives. There is a multitude of online tools available to manage social media content, as well as marketing automation and CRM software to manage communications, customer records and measure results. Using automation effectively will make the process more cost-effective.

If done right, social selling adds value to prospects by meeting them where they are online and offering valuable information that serves their needs. As a result, a level of trust and credibility is built which can lead to developing relationships with buyers and ultimately to an increase in sales. When aligning marketing and sales in the development of a company’s social selling strategy and their efforts to carry out that strategy, higher revenue is the likely result.

How does your firm meet the challenges of aligning sales and marketing in social selling? We’d love to hear what is working for you.