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Why B2B sales executives need a social selling strategy

social selling indexWe all know that politicians have speech-writers, and famous celebrities get their books ghost-written by professional writers, but what about sales executives? Does it really help you to sell if you publish blogs and other online content?


In the marketing game it’s called content marketing, but an important shift in emphasis has taken place in the past couple of years. It used to be that a company could earn better results on Google if they published content regularly. It makes sense - publish interesting content about the business and this will improve the search results.


However, this is now becoming important for individuals who sell. Any time you approach a prospect, what’s the first thing they do? They go to Google or LinkedIn to check you out. What appears in that search result has an enormous effect on whether they call back and want to engage with you. Blogs and content are no longer about marketing the brand of your organisation, they are a real tool for driving sales.


According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), over 90% of sales are now based on a recommendation and 84% of B2B buyers start out with a referral. You might ask what is important about this. In short, it means that people buy from people they know. The image of a salesperson cold-calling executives and hoping for an order is hopelessly outdated.


But if you are selling widgets and you want to look beyond your current crop of customers, how can you look further if nobody takes calls from strangers? By demonstrating that you are a leading expert in your field using content on platforms such as LinkedIn and trade journals.


If you are not convinced and still think that there is only a tenuous connection between your online footprint and sales success, then consider some of these stats from the HBR research:


  • 82% of B2B customers say that the social content published by their chosen supplier plays a significant role in that buying decision.
  • 72% of B2B business development specialists report that their use of social tools helps them outperform their peers who are still relying on traditional sales methods.
  • B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with someone who offers ideas and insights into their industry on their LinkedIn profile.
  • B2B sales professionals using social networks to improve relationships are six times more likely to exceed their quota than less social-savvy peers.


Do those stats sound intangible? 82% of people are checking what content you have contributed to online before engaging with you? Now try a Google or LinkedIn search on your own name - how do the results look? That’s what your prospects are finding. We are not talking about massaging the marketing effort of your business. This is sales support at the front line.


To use an example, imagine you are a leading supplier of contact centre software and you are trying to win business from a company that wants to create a secure network for home-based employees. Before pitching your ideas to this company, you create some content talking about the best solutions, the worst mistakes, and the future of supporting employees at home. You don’t just sell your services, you write an article as if it were for a business journal, but discussing the subject where you are an expert.


Publish that content on your corporate blog, on your personal LinkedIn, maybe on some trade journals - editors are usually happy to take free content provided you are offering valuable ideas, not just flogging your services.


Now go and make a pitch to that company.


What happens? If they check LinkedIn to see who you are, or Google your name, a deluge of content hits their screen with ideas and tips showing how you are a leading expert in this field. If the result of a search like this influences 82% of B2B customers, then can you afford to be the person who is socially invisible? In fact, if you are socially invisible today then you are not making any sales, no matter how many lunches you keep on buying.


The way we all communicate with each other today has been heavily influenced by social networks for the past decade, but in the B2B environment there is a more fundamental change. Don’t be a social stranger, consider how content shapes the way that potential customers think of you - an expert partner offering help or some annoying sales guy you want to block.

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