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Social selling: Your partners' secret weapon

Kirsty Gilchrist, MD at Twogether, reveals how to best employ social media without scaring away your prospects

While everyone knows that social media is important, not everyone knows how to get the best value from it.

Most partners (and vendors) still treat it as a purely outbound channel. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t play too well with prospects.

They want to hear about what’s important to them. So just pumping out lots of tweets and emails about what you want to say, regardless of customer need, won’t win you many friends.

It’s the equivalent of cold calling. And we all know how popular that is.
Which leads on to a bigger truth about customers’ unwillingness to engage with salespeople; these days customers prefer to do their own research.

In fact, according to Sirius Decisions, 70 per cent of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live salesperson.

By the time customers make contact, they hold the balance of knowledge (and power).
If you’re in any doubt that social media influences business decisions, consider this; according to research from Forrester, social media sources of information are used by more than 70 per cent of B2B decision-makers.

A LinkedIn study also revealed that 85 per cent of IT decision-makers use at least one social network for business. LinkedIn alone has over 300 million users.

The long and the short of it is, companies today can access around 20 times as much information about you, your partners and competitors, as they could a few years ago.

However, while buyers may be much better informed, they face another problem.
The more data they have, and the more stakeholders they have to consult, the longer it takes to make a buying decision.

This sheer volume of data gives you and your partners a great opportunity to deliver insights that can speed time to value.

Be front of mind, not in their face.
Social selling means using social media to relate to customers and identify opportunities for engagement.

  • Social media is asynchronous and non-interruptive, so it’s perfect for reaching buyers who are still assessing their challenges and potential solutions.
  • Social networks help salespeople establish authenticity and credibility online, so customers consult with them (instead of automatically binning their messages).
  • Continuous participation within relevant social groups allows salespeople to stay visible and valuable throughout the prospect’s buying journeys.

For your partners, that means going where the customers are and becoming the approachable expert in industry forums. It means commenting helpfully on customer blogs, expressing opinions and asking questions that reflect well on the author. And it means filling partner websites with useful resources (and making sure you do the same).

Finally, remember that social selling is about already being there when the customer starts looking.