"Social selling" is the current buzzword in sales circles. Whilst many do not believe the actual function of ‘selling’ has inherently changed, the advance of social media is affecting the sales cycle… and it’s all good news! Savvy sales staff can now use social media as an additional tool to hook, educate, communicate with and nurture prospective buyers. This can potentially accelerate the sales cycle and provide customers with more confidence that they are buying the right product from the right company for the right reasons.
But is this the only thing social media can do for your organisation and sales teams? What about using social media before the ‘selling’ even starts?
Buyers, at all levels and across all industries, are increasingly leveraging social media to ‘do their research’ and find out about new solutions and companies. So, this is where the first opportunity lies: you can influence these buyers before they’ve even thought about buying your products or contacting your organisation. And here’s the best bit: you don’t just have to do it on your own, you can also use other people’s contacts and networks too.
Add to this one of the current challenge brands have. When I talk about social selling, large organisations always say “We produce great content, but nobody sees it.” In short, their reach on social media is fairly limited to their own followers or fans.
How to fix these problems?
Consider the potential reach of your sales employees and channel partners – distributors, resellers, retailers, dealers, brokers, and advisors, whatever you call them. These people are spending a lot of their time networking, via social or face-to-face, and collecting contacts, friends and followers.
Imagine then, empowering them with your social media content – the rich content which you as an organisation are spending good money and using talented resources to create, but possibly finding difficult to distribute.
Using social media amplification and syndication platforms, brands share content with third parties; their own sales teams and/or external channel partners, and let these parties re-post the content, as if it was their own, on their own social networks.
The benefits are clear and multiple.
For brands, amplification via advocates means that brand messages will reach new audiences previously inaccessible, i.e. the social audiences of all of their third parties, across the globe, and in real time too. It also means that the interactions created by this content happen at the right place – between the potential buyers and the sellers (your sales staff or your channel partners), hence shortening and enhancing the sales cycle.
For advocates, amplification means that they finally have content they can share. Your sales staff and partners are not always good at marketing. Handing them fresh, original content they can easily re-post as their own, will turn them into ‘active social heroes’. If you share great content, and by that I mean content that goes beyond product news, such as thought-leadership, market research, and success stories, then amplification will also help your advocates become your trusted advisors and ensure that they are more closely engaged with your brand.
Channel managers should remember that partners are businesses too and not just conduits for products. They are often cash strapped and time poor, so brands are advised to make the relationship straightforward and demonstrate the value in every request for action.
Make programmes simple and effective, and use technology which make marketing efforts between brands and partners easy and effective. Often brands forget to consider their partners have limited time, resources and knowledge to deliver marketing programmes. They also forget that these retailers cannot focus on just one brand and one product. Ask yourself how you can improve partner relationships. Is it all about margin or complimentary services and support? Look at the relationship proposition from the partner’s point of view, not just your own.