Apr 25, 2017

7 Key Skills for Sales Teams in a Digital Age

by Digital Marketing Institute

75% of B2B leaders say that they regularly use social media in their decision-making process. What's more, buyers who use social media have 84% larger budgets compared to those who don't use social.

For sales professionals and leaders, digital technologies provide a new way to connect with and influence prospects - moving them from leads to customers.

While once considered an industry buzzword, social selling has opened up a new and incredibly effective avenue to sellers as traditional sales techniques like cold calling no longer interest or convince today’s digitally savvy customer.

To excel in this fast-paced digital world, sales professionals and leaders need to learn and hone a number of key skills to become a successful digital selling machine.

1) Digital Research

When it comes to selling a service or product, starting with the view of the customer, understanding their wants and desires, and understanding how to solve their problems holds the key to success.

According to a recent study, 65% of companies who exceed lead and revenue goals have updated their buyer personas within the last six months. By constantly analyzing activity on social media using listening tools, personas can be identified and expanded on as more arise or customer needs change.

Essentially, a great social seller will conduct research both digitally and socially to identify market trends and influencing factors affecting customers within their industry. Also, by creating buyer personas, it is easier to target the right audience in the most effective and engaging way possible on the right channel.

2) Content curation

Illustration of different digital devices to curate content

Content is an invaluable resource for a salesperson. When shared on social platforms the right content will help to engage with and influence prospects in a positive way, which in turn will lead to conversions - if done right, of course.

While it may seem simple to choose and share relevant content with a target audience, to reap the greatest rewards, it's vital to understand what to share, how to share it, and when to share it.

The most successful social sellers not only know what type of content to share but add a touch of personality to each post. This uniqueness helps sellers and their brands build trust and brand awareness. Experimentation is also key as a good content curator is not afraid to try different formats and topics to see what engages until they have pinned down what works for them and their audience.

55% of all buyers do their research via social media networks - so sharing content that speaks to a target audience is essential - HubSpot

3) Content creation

Expanding on the importance of content when it comes to sales, content creation is a skill that will help a team increase conversions and forge long-lasting relationships.

Curating and sharing content is effective, but creating unique content is vital. Presently, 86% of B2B companies use content marketing as part of their sales strategy. What’s more, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago. A clear indication of the importance of creating fresh, informative, and immersive content.

By creating content such as a LinkedIn Pulse post or blog entry on a popular niche website, a salesperson can show the depth of their knowledge and share key insights from an industry and individual perspective. This, in turn, will build authority and engage with consumers on a more personal level.

4) Social platform know-how

With so many social media channels out there, it’s important to know which ones work with the audience you want to target. There is no point spending time curating and sharing images on Pinterest or Instagram when the prospects you want to target are active on LinkedIn. With so little time, it’s essential to be where the prospects are.

With a seemingly infinite number of social media platforms out there, knowing which ones to leverage can prove tricky. While Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users and 1.23 billion daily active users, on average, but that doesn't necessarily mean your prospects use this as their primary source of social interaction. Conducting market research and knowing each available platform inside out is a vital part of social seller's digital arsenal.

5) Analytical expertise

Man surfing on tablet analyzing data

Salespeople who can analyze online customer behavior have a distinct advantage as this skill endows them with the ability to take a proactive and consumer-centric approach to selling their products or services.

For e-commerce companies—such as Amazon and Wal-Mart— their strategy is to use data to their advantage. By carefully evaluating the browsing behavior of their users, these companies better understand their shoppers, their habits, and their needs. This information is then put to good use to ensure the business maximizes their profits.

After all, the more known about a customer's' buying habits and lifestyle preferences, the more accurate predictions of future buying behaviors will be. As a result, sales professionals will be far more successful at delivering relevant offers that attract rather than alienate customers.

58% of executives reported not having a formal customer engagement program in place, and 60% didn’t know how many customers they had lost over the past year - convero

6) Trust building

Trust is key in building relationships online. Many customers today value transparency above anything else and purchase accordingly.

Today's customers want to know everything about a product or service before they hit the 'buy' button. It's the job of the digital and social seller to provide as much information and prevent a customer coming to the end fo a buying process and coming across fine print they knew nothing about.

For a seller, there are many elements to building trust with a customer that goes beyond credibility. Nurturing a customer online can go a long way to building trust and ensuring customers know as much about a seller and their company as possible. Above all, sales professionals need to support and guide prospects through digital channels in a way that isn't all about the sale but providing an excellent customer experience.

94% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency while almost 3 in 4 would pay more for a product that follows that mindset - Label Insight

7) Problem-solving

Bird's eye view of team collaborating at table to solve problems

Customers are always looking for solutions to their problems. Social sellers that provide targeted insights or practical solutions to a problem will create a positive brand image online and turn prospects into fully-fledged customers in a big way.

Tools such as Social Mention, Feedly and Buzz Sumo enable sales professionals to keep track of the conversations happening around keywords, products or services along with competitors and industry. Continuous monitoring will help to identify issues, pain points and recommendation requests that will allow a seller to respond with valuable insights that lead to solutions.

Sellers that can place themselves in the customer's shoes, ask the right questions, and deliver a workable solution to a problem, will win trust and respect. After all, on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

“Social selling is a strategy (not a tactic) and requires sales teams to reorganize and move online. The professionals who grasp social selling will be the winners in the new digital world.” – Tim Hughes, UK Business Development Director at Oracle.

Social selling is an essential part of any modern business wishing to compete in an online world and those who adopt a digital mindset when it comes to selling will be the ones who prevail today, tomorrow, and beyond.

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