For most business owners, sales managers and sales people the priority is sales and lead generation.
Social Media is relatively new and Social Selling is a very new concept. But, definitions apart, are your customers buying in different ways now to say 3-5 years ago? Are you making purchases in different ways? Buying is changing and Social Selling is a response that in some ways counters that buying change.
The Internet, Search and Content, Social Networks and profiles, mobile devices and more are having a fundamental impact on the way that buyers buy. Research indicates that they are perhaps 70% of the way through the purchase process before they talk to a sales person. And buyers have developed elaborate means to avoid being interrupted or distracted by an idea or a product or service that is not on their agenda.
If you are interested in ideas, approaches and strategies for lead generation and social selling read through this page. What is outlined is a strategy that connects Social with Sales, that provides linkages between B2B selling and buying that can be directly supported by Social Networks, particularly LinkedIn. Businesses who are already using Social Selling techniques are reporting significant benefits, and sales people who are leveraging social media are performing better against their targets than those who aren’t using Social, yet.
Take just a minute to review the Fours Steps of the APPS approach and see if they could improve your value proposition and sales messaging.
ALIGN – the foundation for a strong value proposition
Buyers now have access to so much information, research, news, comment, that it’s become a noisy market and hard to be heard. Choosing to align with buyers is a strategy that pays dividends at many levels. To illustrate the point, here are four levels to consider:
- Market and Sector Trends – as an expert in your field you should know what the big trends are. Maybe there are regulatory changes, cycles such as consolidation or diversification, in-sourcing versus out-sourcing, innovation and new technology impacting a market. How do these impact your potential customers, and how do you align with them, and can you interpret them for your target audience? You can keep tabs on trends through online sources, thought-leaders and others in Social Media, especially LinkedIn.
- Company or Organisation Goals – companies you are targeting as potential customers will have goals and objectives. Maybe they want expansion and increasing sales, is it developing and launching new products into new markets, is it retaining existing customers and protecting market share. Try to identify what these are, and align with them. You can identify key company information from their website, search and through Social Media.
- Department or Position Goals – what is it that the VP, C-Level Executive, Departmental head, and those around and reporting to them needs to achieve as part of their role in the organisation, to support the tactical, operational and strategic aims of the business? Identifying who’s who in a company, and some insight into their official responsibilities can be gained from LinkedIn.
- Personal Goals and Interests – where people have a LinkedIn profile and if they also post status updates it may be possible to develop a picture or profile of the individual, and from that identify how to align with their emotional needs. Are they an ambitious high-achiever looking for promotion? Are they keen on a healthy work-life balance? Are they putting back into the business or domestic community? These and other aspects can be gleaned from Social Media and used to align your message.
Going with the flow is a lot easier than swimming against the tide, at each of these levels. Having a unique angle is important though, in order to cut through the noise, as an individual and as a company. Are you 95% aligned and 5% unique in your approach?
Being Disruptive and Challenging is effective too!
The ability to disrupt and to challenge buyers and the buying process is a strategy or technique that can also be very effective. The ability to be a CHALLENGER, to move your prospect out of their comfort zone and guide them to a ‘better place’ can be an extremely powerful sales technique. Tactically you might start by sending a thought-leadership article or invite your target prospect to a trade conference or network meeting. This may be suitably disruptive to their train of thought to make it Stand-Out! Intercepting a deal that’s about to be signed with a competitor is another disruptive example.
Being trained and equipped to engage in a discussion with senior execs about how they could significantly change the performance of their business, division or role is a sales strategy that is gathering momentum. Helping them to see and then to Align with a different paradigm is a way to add business value and create deep differentiation. Combining this with digital media such as LinkedIn and techniques including Social Selling has the potential to really ramp up your sales performance.
PRIORITY – where social selling can give you the edge
The Status Quo is where most people, departments and companies operate, for most of the time. The plans have been drawn up and now it’s execution time, focusing on the job in hand. Against this backdrop it’s very difficult to gain attention and achieve a break-through with your lead generation campaigns. New ideas, new suppliers, new products and solutions take time and attention to understand, evaluate, gain support for and implement. There is a career and business risk associated with alternatives to the status quo, at the wrong time.
However, a Trigger Event is often the catalyst for people to look for a new ideas, solutions, suppliers and so on. For some reason the Status Quo is no longer acceptable. Alternatives are required. Time and attention will be allocated to looking. What are the Trigger Events for your target customers? When someone changes job this often triggers change. When there’s an internal initiative such as a product launch or exhibition. When there’s an external change, such as a competitor challenging them, or a supplier has gone out of business. LinkedIn and Social Media is a great way to find, or be alerted to, Trigger Events.
Having identified a Trigger Event you may need to gather further information to decide what to do, and again LinkedIn can help.
And then you may decide to contact people to follow-through on your decision, to outline how you can help. Since you can align better with what they are now looking to achieve, and again LinkedIn can play a big role, your chances of engaging with the right person at the right time with the right message are greatly improved. Bear in mind that your smarter competitors may also be on the case too.
PAYBACK – where social proof can re-inforce your case
How often do you check out a person on LinkedIn, before deciding whether to take or return their call, or in preparation for a meeting. Their personal profile can enhance or diminish their standing in your eyes. Likewise you might check out the LinkedIn Company Page as well as the website for the company they represent. Are there strong and relevant testimonials and case studies? Can they clearly add value to your business? At each stage of the buying process is it worthwhile to invest time with this person and company? And when it comes to part with money, can you be confident that there is a business case, and that the supplier will help you to sell it internally and then achieve the results. LinkedIn is one place where potential buyers can whittle out potential suppliers before reaching a short-list and engage more directly with them.
SIMPLE – the key to effective lead generation
You know too well that there are not enough hours in the working day and tasks need to be heavily prioritised, and many will not be tackled. When a potential supplier makes things simple to understand, simple to act upon, and simple to implement, that represents a time saving, or reduces the investment of time needed. Are your marketing and sales messages simple to communicate and understand? Phrasing them in ways that buyers can understand is a start, talking about outcomes and benefits and examples, and Social Networks like LinkedIn area great place to put these messages across. Are your products and services simple to buy and to implement? Educating buyers in different ways relevant to the questions they ask is another way to make things simple. Again, LinkedIn is a great place to highlight your educational resources, which might be in PDF documents, Slide presentations, Video or other formats.
Is your Customer Value Proposition compelling?
Take a moment to review your LinkedIn Profile, your LinkedIn Company Page, your website home page and other places where your prospects will see you. How well do they score on a 1-10 basis against each of these 4 criteria?
If you’d like us to make a quick independent assessment and provide feedback please send me an email including any relevant website URLs you’d like us to look at. We’d be delighted to provide feedback to you.