With consumers now firmly in the driving seat when it comes to making purchases, sales professionals need new techniques and strategies to engage and influence their audience. The digital revolution presents a wealth of selling opportunities.
For those sales professionals using online tools and technologies, 63% report an increase in revenue compared to 41% of non-social sellers. With that type of impact on the bottom line, adopting a social mindset and leveraging digital platforms effectively has become crucial for any organization.
In this blog, we explore how businesses can transform their traditional sales teams into an unstoppable digital salesforce that can drive customer engagement and sales.
Demonstrate the results
Consumers are now so knowledgeable and empowered that two-thirds consult social media before making a buying decision. This self-service element to purchasing is only becoming more common as digital technologies grow and evolve.
The shift in customer engagement and purchasing behavior has not gone unnoticed to brands that are quick to innovate and agile. As a result, their sales teams are already active online and have a presence on the networks that matter to their business and audience resulting in sellers skilled in social media being six times more likely to exceed their sales quotas that non-social sellers.
Take Dropbox for example, once an unknown start-up, it tapped into the virality aspect of social media by making the most of the power of peer referrals. Through a creative video launched at a Digg audience, it had 75,000 people wanting to sign up to trial the product in just 24 hours which snowballed into 1 million users after 7 months and 10 million a year later. Now a household name, it has over 200 million users.
With many brands already on social media - more than 90% already are – there’s a presence to build on and for sellers, the key is to turn that into sales.
Align sales with marketing and operations
When it comes to selling, marketing and operations are just as vital as the sales team. While marketing has a valuable role in providing the kind of content social sellers need to engage with their target customers, operations play an important part in bringing the people, processes, and technologies together into a streamlined system.
For a social selling program to work efficiently, the sales team needs to feed into what has proven to be successful with high-value customers, whether it’s a piece of content or a savvy email campaign. Sharing insights into what works with consumers can help marketers create the right content and take the best approach to drive sales.
"Sales and marketing alignment can improve sales efforts at closing deals by 67% and aid marketing generate 209% more value from their efforts" – Marketo & App Data Room
In the background the operations team needs to keep the cogs working between people, processes, and technology - so getting feedback from marketing and sales regarding what is and what isn’t working can help inform and streamline all stages of the sales process.
Identify In-House Capabilities
All too often, organizations aren't aware of the talent they have in-house. An assessment of skills and knowledge will demonstrate a sales professional’s strengths and weaknesses and help a business create a training program that will provide the skills and knowledge required to turn traditional sellers into digital talent that connects, converts and makes the business a healthy profit.
While many sellers have LinkedIn accounts and profiles, a large proportion are not using them effectively. It’s one thing to have a LinkedIn account, but another to optimize and use it to engage prospects and influence a target audience by sharing authoritative content.
By understanding more about your sales staff and skills, a business can craft a tailored development program to help them utilize channels like LinkedIn to their advantage.
Provide relevant training
"Learning how to use social networks requires more training that dialing the phone or sending an email." - Jill Rowley, Social Selling Evangelist
According to 68% of workers, training and development are the most important workplace policy while 84% of executives ranked employee learning as important or very important. It seems that whatever role employees carry out, they have a desire to learn and evolve - sales is no exception.
While some skills can be acquired on the job, it's more efficient and far quicker toprovide training for sellers with little or no experience of social and digital selling. In fact, even for the more experienced salesperson, the pace of digital can change so much that keeping abreast of new technologies is crucial to success, particularly when it comes to high-value accounts.
40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year - go2 HR
Once a sales leader knows the capabilities of its staff, a continuous learning and development program can be put in place that meets the needs of each and every seller in the team. By doing so, it will be possible to train people in the skills they need.
For many sales teams, a pilot program can prove a good place to start when it comes to measuring scalability. Starting small is the perfect way to showcase results and create social selling advocates in-house; those that will spread the value of the program across the breadth of the team. Once positive results have been proven and a sales team is committed and passionate about the practice of social selling, the program can be grown and scaled according to the expansion of the team.
By taking the approach of both coach and trainer, sellers can learn the digital skills they need to sell, but also gain the support they need to use those skills. This tactic was employed by Microsoft as part of its social selling program, growing 15 sellers to over 3,000 and boosting productivity by 38%.
“Our team of sellers had tremendous passion and saw tremendous results. We got so many requests, managers reached out to get on board, then mid-level managers, and it organically worked its way up the chain. By the time it made its way up to the executives, we had a group of rabid users and overwhelmingly positive results. Everyone agreed to scale up the program with more infrastructure and executive support behind it.” - Phil Amato, Marketing and Communications Manager at Microsoft
Employ account-based sales development
Identifying prospects that will convert to sales is a crucial part of the sales process. Now digital technologies present new ways for sellers – in co-operation with marketing – to identify the best accounts to pursue based on data gleaned from online sources and prior success.
Segmentation is the best way to gain positive results and by adopting a process that organizes prospects into tiers, you can help your sales team understand which strategy to employ.
For example, tier one would represent the most valuable prospects; those that require a high-quality outreach strategy while tier three prospects would require a less time-consuming effort, making it possible to connect with a 'ticking-over strategy' to ensure an organization remains in view but with less labor intensive interactions. Practical ways to achieve this are:
- Identifying key contacts in accounts
- Using content marketing to match the right people with the right information
- Providing solutions to the unique problems of prospects
- Linking with prospects on social media and tracking their activity i.e. what they follow, what articles they write or post
- Creating engaging and tailored messaging
- Using multiple touch points to make contact
- Qualifying the prospect and identifying challenges to their business
- Tracking interactions with the use of a CRM
Curate a thriving online customer community
On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
For sales professionals looking to build strong customer relationships, social channels like LinkedIn offer an excellent platform to reach out to prospects and peers by facilitating discussions and sharing valuable content- both from your own company and credible third-party sites.
Knowing which channels to leverage should be reflected by the personas that interact with a business along with those you are trying to reach. Salespeople should understand who they are targeting and establish a community that matches the business and its needs. For example, Pinterest and Instagram are more focused on sharing visual images and as a result, prove effective in industries such as retail or FMCG.
Whichever platforms your organization uses, it must ensure the message is tailored to the expectations of the consumers the message is aimed at. Take the time to discover which platforms yield the best results and spend time building a message that is personal, valuable and human.
Establish measurement metrics
There’s no point in setting up a sales team with a social selling program without measuring its efficacy. After all, the most convincing argument for the value of social selling for any seller is the results it provides.
By identifying and using the right metrics, an organization can optimize its program and hone in on the elements that are working and producing desired results. While the metrics that can be measured is endless, it’s about discovering what ones work for your organization and its business outcomes such as:
- Social Selling Index
- Number of followers
- Number of shares and comments
- Leads generated
- Website visits
- Conversions via content
- Network growth
- New and closed deals
- Revenue from online activities
84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions. So, it’s clear that the landscape is changing and the needs of consumers are more sophisticated in today’s commercial climate.
Digital and social selling provides an endless number of sales opportunities and by providing a sales team with the skills and tools to engage online and develop their knowledge, a business can secure the selling success it deserves.