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Category Archives: Social Selling

3 Underutilized B2B Sales Strategies in Social Media

by on August 14, 2012  

Social Media Strategies Target CustomersPeople we know in midmarket companies tend to do what works – until it doesn’t work so well any more. Most companies are not proactive to research what is on the horizon – they simply don’t have time or resources to do so.

When it comes to integrating online and social activities into their marketing and sales strategies it seems like there are two camps – those that “get it” and those who will wait till there is more “proof” that social selling actually works. Black and white. Right or wrong.

Is it possible that there is a mid-point where one can employ a few business tactics that happen to work on the social web into place, without having to declare that you’ve “gone social?”

Here are three ideas whose time has come and are widely used by your competitors – so why not take a look at just these strategies for sales growth:

1. Spreading a meme: I first learned about memes from a brilliant man named Thomas Leonard, now affectionately known as the “Father of Coaching”. He talked about memes back in 2000 and how fast a meme, or cultural item transmitted by repetition could travel. More about memes here courtesy of Bryan Kramer on the Smarter Commerce blog.

This leads me to Pinterest. You can write it off as a picture party for the female population on the web, or you can see ways to grow your name, your cause, and what you stand for online. Here are a few examples.

I spoke at a conference and grabbed photos of all the other speakers, creating a page (called a board) with a link to each person’s own website. I get credit as curator, but they get visibility so they want to share with others.

On another board, we listed all those mentioned on a list of Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers. There is no down side to creating these types of boards, because as curator, people recognize the value you are sharing, and those mentioned – in this case business colleagues, can share with others because it directly helps build their visibility. You can use this idea internally (showcase your sales team, for example) or outside of your organization (showcase your industry or next trade event)

2. Research: Learn more about your competition and your customers’ market sectors by setting up a regular process of quick research on Twitter, LinkedIn Answers,  Focus, Quora, SalesGurus and other places your buyers are, and tie that in with either Google alerts or a strong Inbound program to learn about customer segments. You can also find your competitors here – learn about them.  I take just 30 minutes going through 5 social tools every morning.

Inbound marketing and good intelligence products will bring knowledge your way – your job is to interpret it.

3. Understanding: Think of research, above, for industry and competitive information. Next, think about focusing on your prospective customers finding you and the context you can gain on critical issues and events that affect what and when they buy. Even better, learn and assimilate what their challenges are as a whole, so that you can proactively reach out to them before they start searching for answers online. Use the social channels that you are comfortable with and that you know your buyers and customers flock to. For many in B2B this means LinkedIn first and foremost. Without spreading yourself too thin, make sure you are open to other ways – including an updated, interesting company blog.

When you ARE able to be proactive, you can still identify those buyers who are a great fit for what you provide, and you have the opportunity to work with them to craft their solution. In the old days, we did this by helping our buyers craft proposals. In the social web we can still do this – just with different vehicles. Don’t think you can only be reactive now. It just isn’t always true.

Does that make sense?

You can’t do anything though, if you don’t understand what it is that could be of the most benefit to your prospective customer, and most of that knowledge is available to you online. What isn’t is proprietary and is able to be shared through trusted connections and industry insiders  – another reason to be online and visible.

Are you utilizing these basic ideas with your sales and marketing teams? How has it worked? We’d love to showcase more B2B social success stories – drop a note in the comments of any you can tell us more about.

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IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management”. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

Sales Person as Publisher – the New Way to Grow Sales

by on October 20, 2011  

The minute I saw the email from Social Expert Mari Smith I knew it. The second I clicked through to one of the newly-launched Social Media Mags it hit me like a brick: publishing will never be the same again, and selling /marketing /brand building will be changing even more.

It is all about being a good visible publisher with great content – to defy the noise all around and to find your next prospective clients as you build your business or grow your mighty cause. Publishing is not the future, it is now.

Just back from the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco where we heard more of the same – you need great content to grow business and claim your spot as more than just a thought leader – but a part of a brand with all sorts of products and services of value.  Your company needs others online talking about the great work that you do.

How to do it? Success leaves clues. Start researching the new wave of publishing – those organizations who are creating content that is easily viewed, engaging, and that drives you further with their offerings. I’m a new raving fan of GSG Publishing- of which Mari Smith is Executive Editor of one of their new publications – Fb & Business Magazine.  It’s easy to read, builds their brand, helps me as a reader, and is a great viewing experience.

[special note: Mari Smith also has a brand new book you NEED to buy. Visit her beautifully done trailer about this new book – The New Relationship Marketing –  and you can see why I, and tens of thousands of others think so highly of her. Brilliant, Mari]

Conventional print newspapers and magazine publishers need to get on the bandwagon – it is not a snippet of your magazine we want online, we want the whole thing. It should not need to cost to see it – but rather, like old school magazines, will lead readers to other revenue sources. It should be well laid-out and easy to read.

How is your small business (or large business) publishing coming? Do you have someone feeding you content for your brand, and is the sales team getting links your company is publishing to share with prospective customers? Since prospective buyers making their choices online about who to call or contact well before you even know about it, are you giving them enough information to make their short list? Now is the time – where is your content and offers?

For starters, see what Hubspot is doing, if you have not already. Spend just 21 minutes every day from now on to learn how you can convert what you have been doing by phone and in person to share with the rest of your prospects – the ones you will never hear from (unless you start getting out there more).

Look at sites that will create content for you and with you – no longer do you need your marketing department to do it all. Get creative and find others to work with you in this effort.

Grow business in 2012? This ONE idea will grow your business. Are you ready?

Lori Richardson is the B2B Sales Detective – she writes and speaks about B2B business and helps inside sales teams grow revenues. See her live at the AA-ISP Conference in Boston on December 1, 2011. Visit Score More Sales for our newsletter with tips and ideas to grow revenues now, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook

Social Selling and Brand Building Dogs and Winners from a Cross-Country Drive

by on August 5, 2011  

Drive Across the CountryHow could selling, customer service, cold calling, brand-building, and sales strategies have anything to do with our recent drive across the U.S.? Plenty! As sales strategists we look at interactions with a keen eye- how did we communicate to another, and how did they communicate back to us? If they are representing a business, which nearly everyone we came in contact with on our drive was, how did they represent?
As often is the case, results were all over the spectrum of what you would call “amazing” customer service to “unbelievably poor”.
How many people do you know who can immediately bring a company to mind where they say emphatically, “I’ll NEVER work with them / recommend them / go to any of their hotels again!”.
Using our non-scientific approach (just relating OUR experiences from 7 days on the road) we found some real dogs and some real standouts that deserve our recognition today.

The Dogs (You want to know who let us down, right?)
We won’t name names here – but we will share some scenarios – because of such MISSED opportunities by some people we engaged with – we don’t want others to miss the same, basic opportunities.

Hotels: We stayed at a different hotel each night as we drove 8-10 hours per day. (hint: we were really TIRED when we arrived each night.).  We found middle-of-the-road hotels (not highest end but nice places) and either booked ahead or showed up at the desk after seeing what the best on-line rates were. We don’t want to pay more than someone else walking up to the desk.
Each morning, we’d do “old school” check-out at the front desk to see if there was any effort for them to capture a new customer or at least encourage positive comments online, and to see if we were thanked for our stay. Amazingly, we were never asked how our stay was, nor how we heard about them, and were never asked about posting favorable comments on Yelp or other sites. There were no signs at any of the front desks to follow their brand on social media. We were really surprised, since we were staying at “name” brand hotels. Grade: D – so many missed opportunities to get US to post and talk up any of these brands and businesses.

Restaurants: Since we brought a cooler with us, we only made quick food stops. In states with lower populations and fewer towns, this meant we’d see McDonalds probably more than any other brand, and we stopped at two different Mickey D’s to quench our coffee habit. It is not our normal haunt, but were pleasantly surprised. We looked for Subway sandwich locations since they are pretty consistently fresh and good, but not always as we found. We also looked for good, quick local restaurants rather than chains – and did pretty well. The only chain we ate at called Cracker Barrel did ask us about our meal but did nothing to build their brand with us online or in-person.

Gas Stations: We spent quite a bit for gasoline – bought it every day – and again were struck by the lack of any brand-building opportunities at these stops. We think there could be something on the receipts to go to the gas brand’s website for a coupon or for their social media locations.

Auto Dealer: We had a repair done at a Ford dealership in South Bend, Indiana. I was there three hours before anyone said anything to me – hello, how are you, etc. It was a disappointment, although they did fix the car issue. You would think some smart sales person there would even ASK us if now is the time to get a new car – especially since we will be doing that soon.

The Winners (drumroll, please!)
A few brands stuck out in our minds  that we’d love to share and recommend:

Ford – We have mixed feelings about the local dealers, since a cold call into one could not have been less helpful, one was fantastic, and one was OK… but the Ford Company folks manning the @FordCustService (on Twitter) were our lifeline when we had a problem with an ongoing “service engine” light that unexpectedly came on twice during the trip. Good news is that we didn’t end up like so many others we saw – on the side of the road… and @FordCustService worked better than any 800 number to help direct us to another dealer when one was not interested in helping us on a Friday afternoon (“we’re already booked,” this dealer said about their service department). We think that Ford wants dealers to help stranded Ford owners across the country – that is part of their consistent brand. When we told them this happened, they quickly told us about the only other dealer we could go to nearby. Thanks, @FordCustService.

Wheat Montana  – I did a check-in on Facebook while at Wheat Montana, an amazing restaurant / store in yep, Montana – and must have liked their FB page when I checked in.
Today when I looked them up on Facebook, a conversation box appeared on their Facebook page that said: You have been to WHEAT MONTANA FARMS & BAKERY, share your experiences with your friends. [THAT is what we are talking about on brand-building]
Starbucks – We loved the wi-fi in every store and consistent brand and great product/service

Cool Beans - an awesome coffee cafe in Madison, WI. Our Garmin was supposed to take us to Stabucks at that highway exit – so glad it didn’t.

Nordstrom – We hit Minneapolis, home of Mall of America, on the last day of the Norstrom Anniversary Sale. It was a great distraction from the drive, and my shoe salesman, Mike, who has been with Nordstrom for 16 or 17 years, was totally amazing. He helped make us forget about the drive we had so far. Isn’t that what good sales and customer service is SUPPOSED to do? Thanks, Mike. We hope you get recognized for this.

Harley Davidson – We saw them from the west coast to the east coast – always located near the main highways, with their awesome, consistent brand plus nice big lot, building, tower, and events going on.

What brands stand out when YOU drive around locally or on longer trips? Who else is a dog or a winner in your book? Who is doing social selling and social, in general the right way (and building customers?)