These are the best of times and the worst of times for today’s professional salespeople.
On one hand, buyers have more information than ever before at their fingertips…literally. They are just a few mouse clicks away from finding out just about everything they need to know when researching the potential solution to a problem they are having, or finding something new that might help make their life (and their company’s profitability) better.
That makes things worse for sellers, because they are being cut out of the process earlier. According to various estimates, about 60-70% of any given buyer’s decision is made before they approach a seller. The tables have turned in terms of who has the real “power” in influencing buyers. In fact, over 90% of B2B buyers start their buying process online, based on findings in the 2013 B2B Lead Generation Report by Holger Schulze.
Yet at the same time, this actually makes things much better for sellers&nash;at least they ones who recognize the new realities and embrace online technologies for their benefit.
THE GROWING GAP BETWEEN SOCIAL VS. NON-SOCIAL SELLERS
There’s a growing gap between two camps of sellers:
- Those who actively use social media and online technologies as part of their sales process (e.g., for prospecting, spotting opportunities and helping people buy their products and services)
- Those who keep doing business “they way we’ve always done it”–which doesn’t include a structured, regular use of social media
For those who are using social media, the results are clear and positive. Social selling is helping top sellers close more deals, exceed their quotas and retain customers better, according to research by Aberdeen Group.
HOW SOCIAL SELLERS ARE SUCCEEDING
Smart sellers know that in order to get “back to the front” of the sales cycle, they must become adept at using social media technologies. With buyers starting their search on Google and social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter, these sellers are wisely positioning themselves by sharing content and insight that resonates with their prospects’ pains and aspirations.
At Sales Performance International, we see 21st century sellers embracing a new role asMicro-Marketers. In other words, they recognize the imperative value in seeding content about their products and services online. They are therefore eager and willing to carve out time during their day to be active on LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, Google+ and other places in order to disseminate information and participate in relevant online conversations.
However, they also recognize that they have a lot on their plate and typically don’t have 8-12 hours a day to create long, highly polished blog posts, videos or podcasts. Instead, as Micro-Marketers they are curating and sharing the best content that their marketing and public relations departments create, as well as other industry information that will help educate and enlighten their prospects and customers.
Sellers understand that marketers are responsible for populating content (including product information and collateral) and building a Web presence using their own properties and third-party sites. As Micro-Marketers, sellers establish the value of these products and services in a tailored way. They convert marketing “product pitches” into buyer/seller conversations about how these products and services solve the buyer’s problems.
Newer tools like InsideView and Postwire make it easy for the salesperson to engage in a one-to-one or one-to-many dialogue with prospects, in order to share specific information that will help guide them in their decision-making process. This is crucial, as it still holds true that sellers who help buyers create a buying vision early in the process win more deals.
The idea of Micro-Marketing as a new type of “informal” marketing through social media is revolutionary for salespeople. Never before have they had so many powerful tools and techniques for reaching out to people who may benefit from their solutions. As the tools evolve, it’s up to salepeople to learn best practices for engagement through social media, apply them on a daily basis and measure the results.
Note: This article first appeared on the Postwire blog.
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