Social Selling to the Next Level

As a sales and marketing professional for over 2 decades now, I’ve seen technology change the dynamics of selling over the years (as many of us have) and am constantly refining strategy.

And I think that companies may fall into several camps when it comes to positioning their sales teams to take advantage of certain new opportunities.

One of the things that a good marketer is constantly doing is research. Researching markets, trends, industries and companies is a far easier task today than it was 15 years ago, due to the ubiquity of the world wide web, and the many ways to provide and extract information to and from it.

I think that the top salespeople in higher level B2B industries are also very focused these days on researching prospects with this new ease of information access. When they are supported by a marketing department that is also on this page,  the synergy is there to implement an “intelligent marketing” (IM) strategy.

The question here is: What value does an IM Team bring to prospective companies that do not have a stong marketing program themselves, beyond the traditional goal of qualifying and selling their product when there’s a good fit?

Before you say to yourself “none”, consider the following:

Part of the consultative process that the best sales professionals are immersed in as part of their IM strategy is to truly understand the products and/or services that the prospect delivers. This isn’t a new age concept. It’s more so the old adage of “getting to know one another, to see if we can do business”. It begins with pre-call research, and continues through consultative meetings.

Connecting ProspectsIn that process, both the sales professional and the prospect fully understand what each respective company does much more so than any marketing department for either company could ever hope to convey through any other means of communication.

That said, even though the roles are not traditionally established, both companies are probably better qualified to “sell” each other’s products or services than they think.

As the title of the article refers to “social selling,” one must grasp that more in life is “selling” than we sometimes think. And some of the very best salespeople are not trained salespeople at all. They are merely advocates for a product or service they believe in, based on their heightened level of understanding.

After all, isn’t that the great sales utility of social media? You’re customers are “doing the selling” by giving you great reviews?

Now we (“we” being seasoned sales professionals) have all had that one great customer over the years who keeps feeding us leads. Sure, that person is more inclined to see the benefits of that relationship than your “normal” customer.

But what have you (“you” being that great salesperson) done to:

1) return the favor, and
2) set the tone up-front for that possible 2-way relationship

Now at this point, we need to stop and consider that some companies will consider this kind of relational strategy to present conflicts of interest, but as I said, the dynamics of sales and marketing are changing. And social media of course is just a part of that change.

Let’s take a real life example. In our sales and marketing intelligence gathering we come across a prospect who is a patent holder of a unique technology that we have fully researched and understand.

Later, we read an article in a trade magazine (from a another prospect’s website) about a growing trend in another part of the world that looks like it could be accelerated with this new technology. And this prospect is a global distributor of parts that provide critical support for this growing trend.

Does knowing what these two distinct companies have to offer one another bring value to both relationships? Does this seem like an excellent opportunity for an introduction?

So now, when we ask the question:  What value does an IM Team bring to prospective companies that do not have a stong marketing program themselves … are we on the same page here?

But again, this type of relational selling is not really new age, rather social selling has “come of age” in the era of social media.

And, of course, best of all, there is no better salesperson than a customer who “does not sell”. That is simply a byproduct of the well known adage that, “People love to buy, but hate to be sold to”.

One parting comment. The theoretical example above is taken from a true-life scenario, and that patent holder has developed an entirely new vertical market for that rapidly growing trend.

Which of course would make both companies more profitable, and able to purchase the products and services we were initially approaching them about, with much greater ease.