Social selling, or selling your products and services through social media, can be a tricky balancing act for B2B concepts. Sales and marketing teams must toe the line between persuasiveness and pushiness, and a little bit of social media know-how can facilitate enhanced positive interactions with potential clients.
After all, statistics point to social selling as one of the most effective tools in sales and marketing. Nearly 75% of buyers consult social media before making a purchase decision, and 77% of buyers don’t talk to a salesperson until performing independent research.
Here are four ways to master B2B social selling for your company.
Develop a strategy and choose your network
Before heading to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, take some time to develop a strategy. What are your goals? Which social media channels does your brand perform best with, and which channels are your customers using?
In general, avoid Facebook and Twitter for B2B selling; users on these social networks are likely entertaining themselves, catching up on news or interacting with friends and family. They are more likely to view a sales pitch as an invasion of privacy and an annoyance than on LinkedIn, where the audience is much more professional. However, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+ and other platforms can still serve a purpose: They are important components to creating a comprehensive brand identity. And while Facebook, Twitter and other platforms certainly have more users, LinkedIn’s more targeted audience is more engaged with professional products and services, which serves sales and marketing teams well.
Once you have a plan in place, you’re ready to proceed.
Use existing material to build brand equity
Chances are your business already has some valuable collateral that can aid in creating a conversation with a potential buyer. Think blogs, bylines, case studies, trade-show collateral, guest writing opportunities and other industry activities that will be noticed.
This is also a great time to repurpose any press coverage your brand has earned with decision-maker contacts for your targeted prospective customers. The truth is that most buyers do their research beforehand, so presenting your brand as favorably as possible is critical to the due-diligence process.
Be prompt, not pushy with your follow-up
According to Social Times, more than half of consumers expect brands to respond to an inquiry or message within an hour. While this might hold true for consumer-focused brands that do the majority of their customer interactions via social media, B2B brands can afford to show a little more restraint in social media conversations. Certainly, respond in an appropriate amount of time, but don’t be too eager: Your products and services are valuable and should be seen as such.
In all interactions, make sure your messages are clear, friendly, spelled and formatted correctly, and ensure that your tone is personable yet professional. This is the opportunity for a first impression you won’t be able to make again.
Utilize the power of your prospects’ networks
You’ve done all the right things—respectful, timely follow-up, well-crafted messages, supplementary material and more—but the potential client still isn’t biting. There could be many reasons for this—budgetary limitations, corporate hoops to jump through, general bureaucracy—but it’s still important to keep up a good relationship with your potential client because while they might not be looking to buy, someone they know in the industry could be.
Craft a follow-up message to send on to leads when big internal news hits, simply informing them of positive news and gauging their interest, because circumstances change. If at first your prospect doesn’t respond, don’t be afraid to follow up with another note. This is true social networking!
Clearly, social media influences B2B sales interactions greatly. However, it does take a practiced hand to close deals, requiring a more nuanced understanding of social selling and the social media channels involved. Use these tips to take your selling to the next level.
Jamie Izaks is the president and co-founder of All Points Public Relations, a Chicago-area public relations agency focusing on the franchising industry. He also co-founded the Northern Illinois Franchise Association.