Sales Teams Can Use Social Media To Drive Much More Than Appointments
We all get awful emails in our social media inboxes. These messages come with questions like, “Can I get five minutes of your time?,” “Would you like to see a demo of our software?” and “My CEO is going to be in your area; does Tuesday at 10 a.m. work for you?”
Today, it seems like hardly anyone is using social media in a constructive, helpful, educational and prospect-centric way.
Instead, most people, internal marketing teams and agencies seem to think social media is simply a superhighway for the worst of what marketing is today. Send out a thousand connect emails, and hopefully you’ll get one or two people to take you up on the offer.
Hope is not a strategy, and don’t underestimate the negative impact this type of approach has on your brand.
Instead of the spray-and-pray approach, here’s a much smarter, more effective way for sales teams to leverage social media to make connections and drive results.
Before you start leveraging social media, make sure your social media house is in order. This means much more than your company’s LinkedIn profile. This means everyone on your team has an updated, populated and active LinkedIn profile.
If you are leveraging other social media platforms, those also have to be up-to-date, active and filled with the right story, the right visuals, the right content and the right activity.
Every social media account tells a story. Are your people all telling the same story on their pages? I know these personal pages are not your company pages, but they represent your company. Think about them like your business cards. Would you let every employee hand out their own business cards with their own visuals, their own tagline and their own personal email addresses? Of course not.
Everyone who is public facing at your company (this is almost everyone, by the way) needs to represent your company in a similar way, with similar graphics and similar messaging around your company. They should be sharing your company content, posting commentary around your company content and actively engaging with their contacts.
This is one of the least leveraged assets that almost every company has, and these connections can drive additional business results if they are used properly.
You’re already proactively working to build your email database of people who have expressed interest in what you do. You have to take a similar approach on social media. While the number of connections, friends and followers is a vanity metric that rarely has any direct impact on the number of leads your company generates, these numbers are important.
They are important because, just like your email addresses, these connections represent people who have allowed you access.
As we mentioned in the first section, these numbers represent not only those people following or connected to your company but all of the people following and connected to everyone who works at your company.
In my experience, only a small percentage of companies engage with their employees’ contacts in the same way they engage with their direct contacts. And while the tactics might be slightly different, looking at your broader audience and how you engage them in conversation is very important.
For example, it’s fairly easy to keep your corporate social media sites updated and active. You can post your content, post conversation starters to engage the audience, promote upcoming events and share company news.
In most cases, what you do on LinkedIn is probably going to work on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, as long as the content is visual, Instagram is probably going to be fine too.
But when it comes to your team’s social media sites, you have to think a little differently. To activate your team’s audiences, you’re going to have to give them direction, a playbook, instructions or training on how, when and why to share. You’re also going to have to help them pick the proper platform.
Again, for example, I’m not sure posting corporate educational material on an employee’s personal Facebook page is best practice, but posting company events, company celebrations and company milestones might be just fine.
Focus on building your own company audiences, and leverage your team’s audiences in a tactical way, as appropriate and in selected situations.
Social media (and very specifically LinkedIn) does offer sales a unique opportunity to drive a targeted account outreach program. Some people call this account-based marketing (ABM).
One of the first steps in an ABM campaign is to identify the companies and the people you want to go after. LinkedIn helps you identify those companies and those people. Remember, people make decisions, so you want to target people in the right companies.
Harvard Business Review reports that 6.8 people are involved in most B2B purchase decisions, up from 5.4 people in 2015. When you do your targeting, you’re going to want to identify everyone at that targeted company who might even remotely be involved in your buying decision.
Regardless of how simple the purchase decision might seem to you, it’s likely that at least one or two other people at your target company influence the decision.
Identifying everyone who could potentially be participating in the purchase decision and targeting those people with the right message and the right content is key to account-based marketing. Social media gives you the opportunity to identify those people.
However, there is a caution here. The information in LinkedIn is only as good as the people keeping it updated. How many people do you know who have left jobs and updated their LinkedIn profiles weeks or even months after they’ve started their new job?
Most of our ABM campaign work includes a validation of the data associated with the targeted people at the targeted companies. This could be a simple call into the receptionist to verify that Ms. Jones is still the VP of marketing.
This is where most of the ABM execution goes bad. People think there is one single step to getting the attention of targeted people, and that’s getting an appointment or engaging.
You see this in the horrible emails we all get. They’re asking for something before doing something for me or for you. They’re skipping the connect step.
Sales can and should use social media to make connections, and then after those connections are solid, attempt to engage the person in a conversation even if that conversation is via email, social or other online formats.
You need different tools to make a new connection than you need to drive engagement.
Social media can make this easier. Here are a few examples of how you can use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to drive new connections for sales:
Connect request on LinkedIn – Hi Jon, I noticed we both went to the University of Maryland and we’re in the same field. Let’s connect and I can send you some new research we’re wrapping up on innovative new ways to drive leads.
Direct message on Twitter – Hi Jon, I noticed you spent a few years at Xerox. They are a client of ours now and we might know a few people in common. Let’s connect and I’ll share new research we just finished on innovative ways to drive more leads.
Direct message on Facebook – Hi Jon, I got to your Facebook page through a mutual friend and noticed you live outside Cleveland. I love spending time in Gordon Square and the Flats. Let’s connect and I can share with you some innovative new research we just wrapped up on lead generation.
I’ve used a few examples here of how to break the ice around connections. College experiences, past jobs and local references all help. Keep in mind that you might have to reach out and connect more than once.
The RAIN Group reports that it take eight touches to get that initial sales meeting or call. But what I’ve learned is that every company is different. It might take you 20 touches to get a new target prospect to schedule a call, or it might take two touches.
What I can tell you is that after a few months working this type of program, you will definitely know how many touches on average it takes, and this is a number you need to know.
Remember, these people don’t know you. Also, slow your roll. Notice that the only thing I’m asking for is to be connected. I’m offering something of value, but I’m not asking them to click, fill out a form or even get back to me; just connect.
Once you’re connected, you have a few more options and your goal then shifts to engagement. We define engagement as people who are actively engaged with you in conversation.
The content offer in the connect messages is the first step toward securing that engagement. If they are interested in that content offer and they request it, they are considered engaged.
From there, it’s critical that you have additional messages and content available in a documented sales playbook and in your CRM system to facilitate the rest of the motions required to move someone from engaged to sales qualified.
I think it’s safe to say that anyone interested in your business content must be having at least some pain around it.
But if your job is to deliver content in context (and it is), then your sales team needs to be astute at identifying pain, poking at that pain and providing helpful, educational and creative content around their stated pain.
The better your team is at this, the shorter the sales cycle. Again, this is something you can measure and track over time.
Other social media applications help make sales more efficient and much more effective. One of these is listening to conversations of customers and prospects, including targeted accounts.
Social listening is the monitoring of your company’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors or industries.
In short, you set up a list of words, keywords and keyword phrases in tools like Brandwatch, HubSpot, Hootsuite or Sprout Social, and you sync these tools with your database (HubSpot does this automatically). The tools then notify you if anyone is using any of these keywords on social media platforms.
Once you get notified, you can jump into the conversation and influence, educate or even direct the discussion.
It’s not really a social media tactic, but it’s related, so for your half tip, consider using a website monitoring tool. This is going to allow you to take this monitoring direction even further. You can track which prospects are visiting your website as well as what pages they visit and how long they’re on those pages.
If you have reps who are assigned to specific prospects, they can be alerted and engage with their prospects directly on your website via chat. It’s the new way to give prospects an even better, more educational and more responsive experience.
People like to get immediate attention and they like to talk to people they know. This delivers both. Instead of having to explain their situation to someone monitoring chat, they can talk directly with the rep they’ve already been taking with.
The combination of website visitor monitoring and chat is so easy to turn on that you could be up and running in just over an hour. With some training, reps can be talking to prospects visiting your website later this afternoon.
Social media is a necessary tool for any sales team regardless of what product you’re selling, your industry and your sales cycle.
In each of these examples, we’re recommending a more human and highly personal approach to using social media tools, and we’re strongly suggesting you move away from the one-size-fits-all approach that most businesses are taking.
Just because you get one appointment from 100 crappy outreach emails doesn’t mean this is a scalable and appropriate plan. What about the 99 people who you annoyed with this approach? Is it worth alienating all of those prospects just to get one appointment? No, it’s not.
Start with a smarter, more strategic and more efficient plan. Leverage the power of social to help tell your story, not to push demos or appointments on people who don’t know you and now don’t want to know you, your company or your products/services.