Icing on the cake by Fiona BogueThere are many myths about B2B and social media. But what is the key to using social media to sell in B2B, otherwise known as social selling? Gerry Moran, writing in his blog on marketing, www.MarketingThink.com, says it’s a piece of cake. Literally.

And when you think about it, that does start to make sense. When you bake a cake, you need to start with the right ingredients: flour, eggs, butter, and so on. When you want to sell, you need to start with good, solid sales skills. It doesn’t matter what platform you’re selling on, you need to understand the market and the customer, engage with them effectively, persuade them that your solution is the best one for the problem they’re trying to solve, and then close the deal.

Starting to make the cake

Once you’ve got your ingredients, then you need to bake them into a cake: that corresponds to developing your basic sales skills until you’re really good at them. So by now, you can prospect and identify new and potential customers, and make contact and engage with them. You have developed your personal brand, or ensured that everything that you do supports the company’s brand, and you’re successful in the sales arena.

Then you can add the layers and the icing, and that’s where social media comes in. If you layer in social media into your natural selling process, you can use it to make what you already do easier, quicker and more productive. The best way to do this is to break down your selling strategy into steps, and think about how social media can make each one easier. You can research individual customers via Google and then keep in touch with their needs by reading their blogs, Twitter feeds and even Facebook to find out what the company and the individual are currently focusing on. Instead of having to tour the country visiting all your potential leads, you can reach out to them with great content via LinkedIn or Twitter. That way, you can tailor your approach so that it’s relevant to them. It’s no good wasting your time and energy on content that your customers won’t read.

The icing on the cake is the personal touch that you can add via social media. You need to show that you’re seeing your customers as individuals, and that you value them. For example, you could follow them on Twitter, and retweet their content with comments that add value, reply to any questions, or mention them. You could join shared groups on LinkedIn and get involved in discussions. You can link to their blog when it makes a point that you’re interested in. You can generally show how much you value what they’re doing, and hope that they reciprocate: it’s all about making a personal connection, which is so vital to successful selling and marketing.

Although all this is important to B2C marketers, their customer base is so large that they can’t reach each one individually. Instead, they have to give the illusion of reaching out personally. In the B2B world, you really can have an individual and personal relationship with each of your customers, especially the larger companies, and social media makes that so much easier.

The proof of the pudding…

Marketers are reporting that key decision-makers respond less and less often to phone calls and emails, especially cold calls. Gerry Moran states that Harvard Business Review’s research shows that cold calling doesn’t work at least 90% of the time, and other research has produced similar results. Effectively, decision-makers are withdrawing from the old-fashioned sales process, a trend that we’ve noticed before. Instead of relying on the advice of sales staff from potential suppliers, they’re using social media to discuss their problems, find potential solutions, and then make their decisions. Only once they’ve gone through that process are they finally getting in touch with the sales team of the chosen supplier. IBM reports that 75% of B2B decision-makers will use social media as part of their decision-making. If you’re going to be able to influence those decisions, you need to be using social media too.

The good news is that social selling really works. Social Centered Selling reports that 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their selling process outperformed those who didn’t. The same group also exceeded their quota 23% more often than those who did not use social media. The proof of the social media pudding (or cake) really is in the eating.

Image credit: Icing on the Cake by Fiona Bogue

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