Thanks to social media, a B2B salesperson has never had so much formal and informal data available to get to know their prospects. So long as you abide by some rules and show some tact. And never devote all of your sales efforts to this channel alone, as it does have some limitations.
By making phoning and especially going door-to-door look old fashioned, social media has become an essential way for making customer contacts. Less intrusive, initiating a contact on LinkedIn, Viadeo or Twitter is a way for a salesperson to initiate a relationship on the basis of recommendations from mutual acquaintances. Just like in real life!
Then the professional has full freedom to start a conversation, one that will ideally be continued over the phone or face to face. To do this, never neglect social media etiquette and abide by a few best practices. If not, you risk becoming undesirable or a spammer.
Know your target
Social media is full of information you can use to prepare the ground ahead of time. By “crawling” institutional sites and personal pages, salespeople will gain plenty of indications on the profile of their prospect: their business, their sales figures, how many people work for their company, what they do, what their background is.
Nonetheless, remember that all of the information presented by the profiles of both people and companies is what they have put there themselves. Besides, profiles are not necessarily updated regularly and may comprise some information that may be suspect. This is why using additional solutions for cross-referencing data and verifying information presented in a profile or on a company page is preferable.
This way, Big Data also opens additional doors. For example, the Sparklane for Sales solution provides access to a database comprising several million companies and the contact information for their decision makers and, above all, allows the selection of hot prospects on the basis of business signals coming from their news. A real solution for sales hypertargeting and real time lead scoring, very useful for understanding what is happening in your own market and reacting faster than the competition.
Furthermore, looking beyond this formal data, it becomes possible to set out a “social graph” of the prospect by picking up behavioural data too. What discussion groups do they belong to? What news do they publish or relay? Based on this, you may deduce the issues they are busy with at the moment.
Adding value to your community
You cannot be passive! Social networks come to life thanks to exchanges between their members. And remember, all are not active, far from it… To make your own place in a network and gain a certain credibility, you will need to show some regularity in your activity there.
When it comes to inbound marketing, highlight your know-how by putting content online on an expert blog, a discussion forum, etc. Pulse, the new editorial tool from LinkedIn ensures a good audience for columns.
You can also post your presentations on SlideShare or your latest webinar on YouTube. If you don’t have your own content, you can always take some from blogs placed in creative commons. They generally ask that you acknowledge the source of the published text. In the same way, a site like Scoop.it lets you curate on a given theme using third-party content.
By adding value to your e-reputation, you gain search engine visibility and credibility too! From a seller of products or services, you become a specialist in the field, sharing the same concerns as your prospect. So long as you do not pollute this image by publishing photographs of your rowdy nights out on Facebook…
Bet on the right social media
Now you cannot be present on every platform, as the investment in time for each one is just too much. But you do need to react fast. No way can you let a week pass before answering a question posted in a public or private message. Social media is hot media.
You need to choose your social media well and always bear in mind that the number of members claimed is not the number of active members. This is a social media limitation as many people have only a passive presence. They create a profile, fill it in (or don’t bother) with a certain amount of information (true or not) and… forget about it. This is why you should always take any information presented with a pinch of salt as yesterday’s truth may not hold true today.
Alongside the general players – LinkedIn, Viadeo, Amplement – there are plenty of specialist social media channels for individual businesses: Digikaa for digital players, Rezotour+ for the world of travel, Docatus for medical practitioners, Yumeet for hospitality trades, etc. Regional platforms such as Alsace.biz in Eastern France are also now open.
One way to stand out is to approach your prospects using general public social media like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or WhatsApp. By entering someone’s personal space, the exchange becomes a less formal one. But beware! If you lack tact or become too pressing, the contact may legitimately feel imposed upon in their personal space. Every media has its codes and its world. Pay attention to this!
But don’t restrict yourself to social media!
Always keep in mind that social media offers a real plus when prospecting but should not be your main foundation. Once again, prospecting through this channel still requires at least minimum preparation in advance or you will quickly spread yourself thin and drown in a sea of not always useful leads. So, you need to properly define your market scope in advance so as to stay focused on your core target, e.g. by using Sales Intelligence solutions that will let you direct your search for contacts as well as setting out sales arguments for approach work thanks to the information provided on each of your targets. Once contact is made with the people targeted, move quickly to an IRL (In Real Life) relationship to bring your approach to life with a meeting. For, ultimately, prospecting remains an activity based primarily on personal contact.