We introduced you recently to Customer 2.0, the savvy, vocal and socially engaged buyer who favors online communications to discuss products, trends and personal issues with both peers and businesses–across multiple social channels. Sales teams and professionals are experiencing a new era of customer engagement – one with abundant visibility into the professional and personal lives of their prospects. There has been no better time for B2B sales professionals to join in the conversation and engage with prospects. [tweetmeme source= “insideview” only_single=false]
The inevitability of Customer 2.0 means that sales professionals must adapt their sales processes as rapidly and as often as the modern customer adapts and familiarizes with the online social setting.
Here are five simple steps you can put into place now, for near and long-term success in selling to Customer 2.0.
1. Determine your target audience
One of the key steps in social selling is realizing you have access to a lot more personalized data about your prospects than ever before. B2B sales professionals traditionally have had less luxury identifying potential customers via large demographic trends (as compared with B2C sales). Now, B2B sales professionals across all industries must shift from a shotgun approach to a rifle shot approach, focusing on the individual, segmenting prospects based on unique customer needs and interests. Leveraging social information emerges as the key to successfully building a customized and personalized database of your customers.
Action: Simple methods of identifying your target customers include searching social networks for keywords, demographics and interests that apply to individuals and companies most likely to use your product. Some of these new intelligence sources include LinkedIn groups, Twitter lists, Facebook profiles and blog “tag clouds.”
2. Identify their preferred social networks
Consider this the modern way of determining whether telemarketing, direct mail, print advertising or cold-calling is the proper fit. You might be thinking, “Most of these are things that marketing is in charge of doing.” And you’d be right. One key change happening is that all sales professionals are having to act more and more like marketers – and you’re on the front lines.
Online networks have a lower the cost-per-contact compared to these traditional methods, since time becomes the primary investment rather than marketing program dollars. Technologies are available to help expedite this process and identify your prospects’ social networks. But whether your process is automated or manual, locating where they communicate will streamline the process of gathering information and maintaining the most up-to-date prospect intelligence for your sales team.
Action: If the prospect is socially active on more than one network, they will likely include multiple links on their LinkedIn profile that will direct you to the platforms they prefer, including personal Twitter feeds, company profiles and even personal blogs.
This is the most important component of selling to Customer 2.0. Put simply, what are they talking about? Your prospects are not just VPs of business development or directors of supply chain management – they are parents, siblings, sports fans and friends. Selling to Customer 2.0 requires learning about their personalities and preferences outside of their day job.
Unfortunately information is abundant and tracking the activity of dozens of leads is tedious. Hence, you need to leverage 2.0 technologies and processes to more efficiently stay abreast of Customer 2.0. Dennis McDonald noted, “When salespeople can pick and choose what information they want to see and subscribe to, they can use Web 2.0 tools to select the information that makes the most sense to them and the tasks at hand.”
Action: Consider implementing a technology that facilitates social media listening. Companies with social CRM capabilities can easily follow prospects on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
4. Monitor conversations, updates, complaints, preferences and shared relationships
While listening is an essential step to gaining personal insights about your prospects, keeping record of their business-related updates and discussions is what’s ultimately valuable for making the sale. Do they advocate a product or regularly discuss a specific topic? Look for clues about their company, personal transition, travel schedules and more. How is the state of their company compared to where it was a few months ago? Have they recently released funding news, new products, partnership or new hires? Alternatively, has their company made cut backs, received negative publicity or showed additional signs of financial instability?
Action: Sales intelligence technologies are an integral part of streamlining and organizing this data. Sales professionals and teams that find the most efficient way to monitor, track and update information about their prospects will ultimately find this organization of information (some of which can be accessed through automated technologies) to be the catalyst for driving more sales in less time.
As Jason Sadler from IWearYourShirt.com noted, “Don’t mass email companies. Take the time to contact them individually, say something about their company or mention something you’ve seen them in.” In other words, spamming a department alias is likely to disappoint, but reaching out to individuals with personalized insight will likely result in a conversation.
Don’t forget that most B2B prospects and customers are not yet as socially engaged as B2C customers, so the sales person needs to be more proactive in engaging prospects on blogs, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn groups and other social conversation platforms.
Action: Engagement has evolved from cold calling as the only option, to bite-sized and frequent back and forth discussions between social peers that lead to trust (a sales asset) and familiarity. Keep this in mind as you determine how you plan to introduce yourself and your product. Be brief, reference the information you’ve gathered from their social networks and be confident knowing that you have more information about their business needs than the majority of sales professional pitching similar products and services.