On social media, salespeople have a unique opportunity to engage prospects and close sales. In an article for Gigaom, social sales expert Henry Nothhaft, Jr. claims, “[Studies show] that salespeople using social outsell 78 percent of their peers. [Also,] when a lead is developed as a trusted relationship of an employee through social networking, that lead is seven times more likely to close, than other forms of leads.” Unfortunately, he also notes, “Only a third of companies have an actual social strategy for their sales departments, and as of 2013, an astounding 93 percent of sales executives had not been given any formal social selling training.” Despite the clear benefits, many B2B sales teams have not yet invested in social selling. But many are eager to try.
Knowing where to focus your efforts first can be a challenge though. To help you get started, we have shared a short list of high-impact ways salespeople can grow their pipeline and secure more contracts through social media.
Organic reach on Facebook is at an all-time low. A recent study by Social@Ogilvy revealed that brand posts only reach 2.11% of their overall audience. The reality is brand fan pages are not worth much anymore. Fortunately, that is good news for salespeople. Instead of aggregating ‘likes’, sales teams can focus on metrics that really count such as leads and sales. But to get a prospect’s attention, salespeople need to build and manage Facebook ad campaigns.
Though some might assume LinkedIn is the preferred platform for targeting professionals, B2B sales teams may find that advertising on Facebook drives better leads at a lower cost. That is because Facebook has unparalleled targeting capabilities; its advertising platform has a wealth of data about its 1.59 billion users. And to develop high-performance ads, sales teams need to promote offers to targeted buyers. Lead generation strategist Mike Bird recommends B2B salespeople filter their audience using three work-related categories.
- “Employer. If you already know which specific companies you want to target, then this is a great tool to target employees of these companies. This feature will also let your target broader categories and locations. You can send out your ads to people working in a specific industry or work in more unique settings, such as a home office.”
- “Job Title. Some B2B marketers target specific job titles because they are the ones who usually control the the purse strings of the company. Most people display their job title proudly so you’re sure to get good pull for each ad. You can target broad groups, such as entrepreneurs, to more specific job titles, such as project managers.”
- “New Job. This is a life event category combines the Job Title category with a sense of urgency. When people get new jobs, they want to show that they are innovative and forward-thinking. At this stage, they’re also open to making new changes to the way the company functions, so they’ll be willing to meet with sales representatives to consider possible change-ups. The New Job field creates an AND situation for better targeting. Rather than targeting people with new jobs and a specific job title separately, target them together to maximise your potential reach.”
With Facebook, salespeople are guaranteed to find thousands of qualified prospects. Best of all? They come cheap. The Content Strategist reports that average clicks on Facebook cost $0.50 – $0.60 each while clicks on LinkedIn cost $4. And when ads are shown to the right audience, companies always see a return on their investment. When Jon Loomer ran a short marketing campaign in 2013, his Facebook ads earned a 35x ROI. When Jason Miller decided to use Facebook to drive leads for Marketo, the company was able to generate thousands of leads for $7 a piece.
Finally, enterprise sales teams can use Facebook ads to retarget prospects. Perfect Audience explains retargeted ads this way, “98% of visitors to your web site leave without converting. Facebook and web retargeting bring them back in 3 steps.”
- By tracking users with cookies.
- Finding those visitors around the web and delivering targeted ads.
- Convincing them to click your ads, revisit your site and convert into a customer.
Many salespeople use retargeted ads on Facebook to remain top-of-mind with prospective customers. This increases the odds that the lead will turnaround with a favorable purchasing decision. These ads also help sales reps share valuable content and offers with prospects at different stages of the sales cycle. Consequently, this expedites leads through the funnel allowing sales execs to close new business sooner.
According to LinkedIn, “InMail is 30x more likely to receive a reply than a cold call or email.” For salespeople struggling to get a response, InMail offers a premium solution that guarantees your message will arrive at any particular user’s inbox and be noticed. Of course, having a prospect open your message is the first step. Next, salespeople must elicit a response. To increase your response rate from LinkedIn InMail messages, Jill Konrath suggests three tips:
- Craft a personalized message that demonstrates you have done your research.
- Follow up at least 2-3 more times. Persistence is key.
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile with your information about your employment history, what you currently do, and how you can help others.
Also, in your first email to a lead, Jeff Molander warns against asking for a meeting. Instead, probe your prospect about his or her needs. With a more open-ended question, you initiate a more natural conversation and prompt the recipient to think about what he or she really wants. Hopefully then, that person might realize that what he or she needs is exactly what you sell.
For salespeople, participation in a LinkedIn Group can instantly grant you access to thousands (in some cases, hundreds of thousands) of potential customers for free. But with millions of groups to choose from, deciding which ones to join can be hard. Aseem Badshah advises selecting:
- Industry-related groups
- Profession-related groups
- Topic/skill-related groups
- Event-related groups
- Media-related groups
- Product-related groups
Just remember to be selective. Every LinkedIn member can join up to 50 groups at a time.
Once you are in, you can start interacting with fellow members who are eager to exchange ideas and advice. On ClickZ, Jasmine Sandler writes, “Groups enable their members to lead and participate in business discussions, promote their own products, events and services (in the Promotions tab), as well as like, comment and share other group members’ posts.” But you have to be willing to put in the work. Sandler adds, “Finding and engaging in qualified LinkedIn Groups for the purpose of developing business relationships that lead to sales and ongoing referrals requires a good bit of planning and daily proactive effort.”
Alternatively, you can start your own group. As a group admin, you have the opportunity to host a community of potential customers and brand advocates. And you will be responsible for facilitating thoughtful discussions, encouraging fruitful interactions and featuring interesting news. With a popular LinkedIn Group, you create a go-to destination professionals can visit to improve their skills, meet likeminded individuals and grow their business. To keep members constantly engaged, social@Ogilvy’s Charlie Lowe encourages four things:
- “Craft discussions to be open-ended, they could even appear a little provocative.”
- “Aim for quality, not quantity, and include contextual information where possible.”
- “Keep the language simple, asking questions is a great way to get people engaged and involved in discussions.”
- “Be human, honest and respectful, posts often work better when they are written in the first person, and never use automated responses.”
Another effective way admins can communicate with group members is through weekly announcements. This is a powerful way to keep members up-to-date with group happenings and industry news. Admins can use this weekly email as a platform for promoting their products too. Business coach Lewis Howes says, “A great example is Robert Flemming, who runs the eMarketing Association group on LinkedIn. It has almost 200,000 members. Instead of having to spend thousands of dollars each year on email marketing you could simply create a group, and send them a weekly message for free.” In B2B sales, LinkedIn Groups offer a cost-effective way of connecting and communicating with prospects at scale.
Twitter discussions, direct messages and mentions
Across Twitter, more than 300 million users ask questions, share news, promote ideas, and participate in lively discussions. And because those conversations are public, salespeople have an opportunity to chime in and make a connection. To start, sales reps should use Twitter’s search function to identify tweets about topics relevant to their industry or find people using a certain hashtag. For example, a marketing technology provider can search for conversations about “marketing technology services” or #martech.
Also, Anna Bratton of Salesforce suggests, “Look for buying signals…. It’s time to start ‘listening’ by monitoring your feed to find those you’re most able to help and who are most open to your product. Search for terms like ‘anyone recommend’ or ‘any advice on’ to identify those looking for immediate assistance. Keep an eye out for buying signals (dissatisfaction with a competitor, exhibiting a need your product can fulfill, etc) and engage at the beginning of the sales cycle. Or, if you can spot a buying process or imminent sale, jump in and get on the shortlist.” Once you find users seeking your services, you can join in on existing conversations, mention them in your tweets when you share information that can solve their problem or direct message them. Just remember to be respectful and wait for the right time to formally pitch your product. And always offer value first and let them respond with a request for further assistance.
In 2011, The New York Times published a study titled The Psychology of Sharing. One finding was, “68% [of people] share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.” Thus, what people share on social media is actually quite revealing. The links, ideas and updates people post reflect their interests and values. And because of that, salespeople can use social media to build more in-depth profiles of specific sales targets. Twitter, the most public of all the social networks, makes this easy too.
To capitalize on the breadth of information on Twitter, demand generation expert Darin Reffitt proposes, “Gather intelligence on sales targets.” For Business.com, he writes, “Corporate Twitter accounts are initially established (at least partially) as a method of broadcasting news about the organization while controlling the brand messaging on an ‘official’ newsfeed. Which means that you can know as much—if not more—about what’s going on at your socially-adept sales targets as an employee of that company. Take a look at the Twitter feeds of a few corporate accounts and you’ll quickly see that they broadcast frequent and consistent messaging about the things that matter to the company, as well as product announcements that can enable you to better sell to the organization.” Armed with those insights, salespeople can customize their approach to initiating contact, nurturing the lead and securing the account. Reffitt adds, “Whether they’re expanding operations, launching mobile solutions, promoting charitable giving, or introducing a new partnership, staying abreast of the latest news from your targets can give you an advantage in a competitive marketplace.”