The seventh Sales Trend for 2014 is ‘The Normalising of Social Media in Sales’.
This sales trend is seeing businesses really ramping up their use of social media in very sophisticated ways. Rather than seeing social media as a tack-on to the marketing budget, smart businesses are now creating their own social media departments which are actively working in concert with sales, marketing, and other departments to create real-time content that is engaging, relevant and interactive.
Prospects and customers have never been closer to our businesses – they are just a click away. They can scrutinise us as much as we can scrutinise them in real time. Social media is the window into our customers’ world and it tells us so much – if we would only listen and engage.
Many businesses, especially in the B2B (business to business) space, have been keeping their distance from social media seeing it as only for retail at best; however, the signs are showing that social media is indeed a very important customer engagement, selling and retention resource for B2Bs. At best, B2B has adopted LinkedIn as its social media tool of choice but even then many are not fully utilising its power.
Social media is much more than LinkedIn. Social media is maturing as a core company discipline as people work out the rules and how to use it. To the uninitiated, it can seem daunting and messy, but social media’s ability to drive sales is now part of the complex mix of business effectiveness.
The real purpose of social media
The real purpose of social media is not to ‘flog’ or ‘advertise’ yourself in the traditional manner. Anyone who has tried that knows how it backfires and creates immediate antagonism with your intended community. It’s a bad strategy. As journalist and content marketing expert Kath Walters says, “Social media is about engagement first and selling second.”
We are seeing social media – think YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networking sites – being used instead to improve people’s lives, make them smarter, enrich their social intelligence, as US market researcher Paul Marsden notes.
LinkedIn is constantly evolving too, making it possible for B2B business to promote valuable content across targeted networks, create communities, advertise, go direct to prospects and build targeted visibility and currency. LinkedIn has some big plans to change the sales landscape if you have caught up with their latest initiative to ‘nurture’ clients with content marketing.
Smart B2B companies are using Facebook and Twitter too. They recognise that many people use FaceBook, Twitter and other online aggregation sites as their news feed. This is where companies can update consumers, customers and users on the latest news and interesting things about their industry and markets, not just about their latest product launch, paid banner or sponsored advertisement. If the content is useful, engaging and interesting then it is easily shared with others, commented upon and engaged with and so it goes.
Content is key
Content is key to social media. Social media helps generate sales by, ironically, giving things away with the express purpose of making our customers, members, patients, associates, peers’ lives better.
Social media is more about engagement, education, building communities, entertaining and delivering value.
And smart companies know this. They will still invest in sales teams but they also know that their customers, their followers, their tribes become part of their sales effort too, because they want to.
If you are going to use social media you better have the right intention.
Harnessing internal resources
Smart companies know that their people are increasingly engaging with their customers and colleagues via social media. They know that social media can be used very successfully for training, engagement, communication and providing direct customer support.
This sales trend sees social media becoming a more accepted way of doing business. Smart companies approach social media holistically knowing if they do not, they risk social media anarchy. Smart executives get on board because they can see that social media initiatives track back to tangible business objectives. They see the convergence of social business, customer experience, and brand health as important KPIs and therefore are allocating budgets for social media as a priority.
Social media is becoming a bigger movement. No longer just the domain of marketing and PR, social media is now becoming a company-wide movement.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.