89% of B2B buyers conduct research on the internet before making a purchase. As buyers are increasingly well informed, there needs to be a change in the approach from the sales person. The emergence of the first social networks offered sales people the opportunity to get to know their clients better and to interact with them more easily. The most skilled sales people worked out how to use this tool very early on. They began to intuitively practice Social Selling, even before the expression itself was used (the first traces of this term on the internet date back to 2011). Since then, the importance of digital has continued to increase and Social Selling has become indispensable. A study carried out by LinkedIn and Sales Benchmark Index in 2013 calculated Social Selling conversion rates at 15%, which is five times higher than the average conversion rate. Sylvie Lachkar, Head of Social Selling training at SAP, lends us her expertise in this field and explains how Big Data can optimise Social Selling.
What is Social Selling used for?
With the goal of increasing their results, companies need to integrate new tools into their strategy. At SAP, we are continuously innovating and renewing our sales processes: how can we be more effective? How can we perform better? How can we best address clients? Social networks are one of the best responses to these questions. Social Selling is not only an additional sales tool; it’s a new approach to sales. We are no longer talking about an act of sale but one of monitoring.
And to practice Social Selling in the best way, the sales person needs to be silent. They have to stop talking and wanting to sell, and this starts with listening to the client, understanding their problems, their goals, ideas, information, etc. They will then be able to build an advisory relationship with the client. It is very important to understand this new paradigm because, when dealing with a well-informed client, the seller must transform themselves into an advisor: they must no longer just propose their solutions; they must, above all, provide added-value advice, in order to convince them to then make a purchase.
On which channel and with which tools do we practice Social Selling?
To become this added-value advisor, the sales person can utilise a multitude of channels enabling them to reach the client. In addition to the traditional channels like trade fairs and the telephone, they also have digital tools like social networks. The goal is to go where the client is: if they are on the social networks, then that’s where we need to be. To do this, we have to subtly engage conversation, distancing ourselves from the traditional sales pitch. And to lead an intelligent conversation, the seller will need help from marketing.
This collaboration comes naturally, as a sales person cannot produce all the content that they can deliver to the client. So marketing provides the raw material that the sales person will make into their own, transform and personalise, so they can use it astutely. The key factor on social networks is the authenticity of what we share: we cannot make do with sharing impersonal content. The content with the most success is that which is authentic, natural, with comments, humour, an attractive heading, etc. You need to attract attention for the article to be read. The content can talk of solutions, the industry, responses to current issues, success with clients, etc. The goal is to get the client to feel concerned and interested.
How do we obtain the best information about clients, so as to optimise Social Selling?
In addition to the information collected from the sales person’s contacts, there are other sources of information like the press, company reports and, of course, social networks. The coordination of all this information is then going to be used in the purchasing process. The marketing team is in tune with the market, but it’s also up to the sales team to pass on the information it has and to steer the marketers towards the type of content to produce.
How can we take advantage of Big Data in Social Selling?
What matters is the analysis of this information. The major problem of the sales team is that they end up drowning in a flood of leads. They are then forced to sort and to create priorities, without having the right information necessary to do so. The important stage consists in providing them with the tools that will enable them to analyse these information flows and to get to the heart of the matter. So a selection of leads to contact based on scoring is indispensable, so that the sales people can focus on their job, and not use their time to sort through contacts. This, combined with the Social Selling approach, is what guarantees efficiency and performance for the company.