While many B2B companies are beginning to recognize the value of social selling, progressive organizations are finding success by involving marketing teams in their social selling initiatives to help drive content messaging and enhance account-based marketing (ABM) tactics.
Companies such as Brainshark, a sales enablement platform, have embraced social selling as a way to increase engagement with potential buyers through new channels. The company’s efforts are already paying off by creating more relevant conversations and opportunities, according to Brainshark CMO Robin Saitz.
“Our best social sales reps have found new ways to connect with buyers and build relationships with the right people,” Saitz noted. “With LinkedIn especially, the sales team has been able to extend their reach with potential customers, learn more about who they are and engage in the topics they are most interested in.”
Jill Rowley, a social selling consultant, pointed to an independent IT training company that generated $1.7 million in new opportunities through social selling during a six-month period.
Companies such as Prudential Retirement, Penn Mutual and Kimberly-Clark have seen 30% to 40% increases in sales-generated leads, 10% to 20% improvements in sales productivity and 20% to 30% increases in buyer touch points through social selling, according to Michael Idinopulos, CMO of PeopleLinx, a social selling platform.
"[Social selling] enhances the personal brands of your salespeople and showcases their expertise," Idinopulos noted.
Prudential Retirement, which provides financial services to businesses, was involved in a $650 million RFP several days following the start of its social selling initiative. In addition, the firm saw a 190% increase in LinkedIn connections to intermediary partners, a key sales channel. “Our program creates tighter ties to our prospects, clients and intermediary partners,” noted Steven Webster, Prudential Retirement’s Director of Digital Sales Enablement and Marketing.
While many B2B organizations want to adopt social selling, some have been slow to adopt the tactic as it requires more resources and cross-departmental collaboration than traditional selling. According to PeopleLinx’s The State Of Social Selling 2015 Survey Results, 73% of salespeople see value in social selling, but only 31% say their sales process includes social outreach.
“There are a lot of constituents involved when you are trying to do social selling the right way,” Rowley noted. “It’s no wonder this is slow-going because of the collaboration and the alignment needed. The bigger the company, the harder it is.”
Social Content Should Spotlight Expertise
For marketers looking to get started, LinkedIn is one of the most efficient channels to begin a social selling campaign, according to Idinopulos.
“LinkedIn profiles are the first and easiest quick hit,” Idinopulos said. “Marketing should help the sales team optimize their profiles with company-approved profile photos, role descriptions and education, along with links to the company website, embedded video and images and other marketing ‘flair’ you’d like salespeople to promote.”
Whether enlisting LinkedIn or other channels for social selling, the marketing team can play a vital role by collaborating with the sales team to provide relevant and compelling content to share, sources noted. A finely tuned content strategy positions the salesperson as an authority while avoiding self-promotion, according to Scott Levine, VP of Strategy for KERN, a marketing consultancy.
“By constructing a content strategy that makes it easy for sales to share valuable information, marketing is enabling the sales team to stay top of mind when a purchase decision is imminent,” Levine noted.
Social Selling As Part Of An ABM Approach
Sources noted that social selling can be more effective when used in conjunction with insights about target accounts, making it an important component of an ABM strategy. "I don’t think you should do account-based marketing if you’re not embracing the concepts of social selling,” Rowley said.
Better sales and marketing alignment can help ensure cohesive and relevant messaging. “Regular weekly or monthly meetings between sales and marketing are a great place to start this conversation,” Levine noted.
Marketing should view social selling from the perspective of how the sales team’s performance is evaluated, according to Rowley. “Marketing has to support sales in prospecting, opportunity development, winning deals and selling more to existing customers. Marketing has to help sales accomplish what they are measured on.”
While there may be some challenges that accompany social selling, B2B sales and marketing teams can reap the rewards by giving this tactic the proper attention and resources, observers noted.
Successful social selling requires a commitment to training and a change in culture, Rowley said. “You don’t become a social seller by taking a one one-hour training course.”