I have been doing a lot of speaking engagements lately before CEOs of business-to-business (or "B2B") companies. When I ask them about using social media to build their businesses, I first get a wave of laughter–and then a variety of telling responses:
- “It’s a waste of time and money for B2B; it’s a consumer thing.”
- “We have a fan page up, but it doesn’t really do anything for us; our customers don’t find us that way.”
- “When I find my people on social media during the day it just tells me they don’t have enough to do.”
Hype or Truth?
Everyone knows the pervasiveness of social media in the business sphere. The social impact of these platforms–from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to related sites like YouTube, StumbleUpon, Yelp, Groupon and others–is undeniable.
But what about for B2B? Does a Twitter account really help a company in its B2B relationships? How can Facebook give a manufacturer leverage in a highly competitive marketplace?
Social Media as Sales 201
In Sales 101 you learn all of the keys to traditional selling: features/benefits/solutions, focus on buyer needs, compelling value presentations, research on prospects, and so on. For the modern sales representative, Sales 201 is about leveraging technology for efficiency and effectiveness for better results.
And that's where social media comes in. It's not a fad or a social trend–it’s a technology platform for getting better results. Here are a few of the ways to take advantage.
1. Information: Your ability to get data, interests, history and preferences on a prospect before you ever meet him or her is unprecedented. Use LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook–but understand that to get the most leverage, you should be using the platforms yourself and actively connecting to the other users. Sure, you can receive some information from the sidelines, but not the same as a regular user.
2. Reconnaissance: Information is great, but sales people know that trends and preferences are even better. Knowing buyers’ Pandora choices, Yelp! favorites and YouTube reviews gives you, over time, a much broader and richer picture of the person. You find out their interests by looking at their profiles on the major platforms. If you are not certain how, do what I do: Ask one of my 20-something staff. (For the price of a Starbucks chai latte, I can get tutored by the equivalent of a NASA social media scientist.)
3. Profile Your Target: Now put together the information you find on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to build a profile on your target buyer. With the tools available through social media, it takes minutes, not weeks.
4. Connection: I read a statistic recently that an email coming through LinkedIn is three times more likely to be opened than regular email. That sounds a bit high to me, but the sales people who connect to people through LinkedIn messages report very high results. These platforms are not just for research and background; they are great for direct prospecting.
B2B sales is still about selling to people; even in larger sales, you are simply selling to groups of individuals. And the more you know about those people, the more effective you can be.