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A Social Imperative for Sales

Posted By Jessica Jeffcoat, July 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM, in Category:

Until very recently, I didn’t really understand social media’s relevance in the B2B world. I thought Twitter, for example, was simply a way for crazed (or very bored) teenagers to stay on top of the Kardashians’ latest shenanigans. But when my team, Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership (GTM), ventured into the Twitter-verse a few months ago, I set up an account with some trepidation. What would we tweet about? How would we find interesting people and organizations to follow? How would we get people to follow us and find out what content resonated with them? How would Twitter help our team gain a better understanding of the business environment and the key interests and challenges of our existing clients and prospects?

It’s been much easier than I expected to find worthwhile topics to tweet about—whether it be sharing information about our latest GTM research, events, and team blogs, or simply forwarding interesting business articles on topics related to the executive functions GTM covers (Sales, Marketing, Corporate Strategy, Corporate Development, R&D/Innovation, Market Research, and Competitive Intelligence). There is no shortage of fascinating thought leaders and companies to follow, and it’s remarkably easy to find them. Monitoring Twitter mentions and re-tweets has shown us which content resonates most with our target audience. And although gaining followers is not instantaneous, the more quality content we post, the more followers we get. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the vast amount of information out there on Twitter and other social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, that can keep us in the loop on trending topics and help us track the interests and needs of existing and potential customers.

Speaking of trending topics, a very popular subject in the social sphere lately has been how critical it is for Sales to use social media in its prospecting and client development. If a sales rep doesn’t want to be left behind, he or she must take advantage of the virtual treasure trove of information social media offers to deepen existing customer relationships and establish new ones.

However, GTM’s latest global survey of sales executives indicates there’s room for improvement in this area. The survey reveals that 46 percent of the 564 respondents (69 percent of whom come from B2B companies) still are not using social media in their sales activities. Even fewer (14 percent) have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that capture social media activity.

Social media is not the way of the future; it’s where our prospects and clients already are. 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies have active corporate Twitter accounts and LinkedIn claims executive-level members from all Fortune 500 companies. These platforms give Sales a unique opportunity to glean critical insights on its target audience.

But exactly how can Sales use social media to close more deals? In a recent article, 4 Ways Social Media Can Help You Close More Sales, social media expert Shannon Duffy provides the following four tips:

1. Make Sure People “Like” Your Reps: Duffy suggests that sales reps should routinely participate in social media training to make sure their social profiles are polished, have a unique and likable voice, and demonstrate expertise.

2. Know Where Your Customer Goes: Not only should you look for your clients and prospects on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, you should seek out online communities to discover their interests, opinions, and needs.

3. Nurture Your Top Prospects: You (or your company’s social media team, if you have one) should follow your top accounts and prospects, to stay on top of major company news. Re-tweet customer announcements and congratulate them on key wins.

4. Connect with Social Data Insights: Avoid wasting time with the wrong company leads by finding accurate business data via social platforms. Ideally, social information will be tied to your company’s CRM system to more easily manage what can be an enormous amount of data.

My own recent foray into using social media in the business sphere has demonstrated just how broad the business application can be and how much potential there is for gleaning valuable customer insights. It’s clear that social media is not going away anytime soon, if ever, and Sales reps’ ability to apply social media information to better understand and serve customers will continue to be a key predictor of their success.

Jessica Jeffcoat is a Research Analyst for Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership program. Follow her on Twitter at @jkjeffcoat.

Written by Jessica Jeffcoat

Jessica is a research analyst with the Growth Team Membership, a best practices research group within Frost & Sullivan. You can follow her on Twitter: @jkjeffcoat.

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