What do customers and dating have in common? Both can sense desperation. According to the November issue of the Harvard Business Review, 84% of B2B sales start with a referral-not a salesperson. Meanwhile, 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.
Outbound B2B sales are becoming less and less effective. In fact, a recent survey found that connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls, callback rates are below 1%, and only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened. As the graphic below details, we use more and more technology to prospect clients. Yet returns on time, money and energy are lower than ever. Technology is supposed to maker your life easier, yet when it comes to prospecting and sales, it seems to be perplexing and demoralizing.
Image From: Topo Blog
So how do you stand out from the crowd?
Word of Mouth
Why are more and more buyers avoiding salespeople during the buying process? Sales reps, according to Forrester, tend to prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem.
The answer to the shift away from reliance on outbound sales could reside in social selling, the strategy of adding social media to the sales professional’s toolbox. With social selling, salespeople use social media platforms to research, prospect, and network by sharing educational content and answering questions. As a result, they’re able to build relationships until prospects are ready to buy.
This is different than social media marketing, where a brand engages many, aiming to increase overall brand awareness or promote a specific product or service by producing content that users will share with their network. Social selling concentrates on producing focused content and providing one-to-one communication between the salesperson and the buyer. Both strategies create valuable content from the consumer’s perspective and use similar social networks and social software tools. But with social selling, the goal is for the rep to form a relationship with each prospect, providing suggestions and answering questions rather than building an affinity for the organization’s brand.
Social selling makes sense for achieving quota and revenue objectives for multiple reasons. First, three out of four B2B buyers rely on social media to engage with peers about buying decisions. In a recent B2B buyers survey, 53% of the respondents reported that social media plays a role in assessing tools and technologies, and when making a final selection.
In addition, more than three-quarters (82%) of the B2B buyers said the winning vendor’s social content had a significant impact on their buying decision. A LinkedIn survey found that B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry.
Social sales content also gets salespeople involved earlier in the sales cycle, which means they’re more likely to define the criteria for an ideal solution or the “buying vision,” and thus, more likely to win the sale.
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Tapp Network is a marketing & technology firm serving nonprofits and organizations seeking to accelerate their social impact, capacity building, and revenue growth for good.