How do your prospects make buying decisions?
Do they sit around waiting for sales reps to call them or do they seek out information from trustworthy sources?
Today’s B2B buyers find the information they need via online search and social media. They go to Google, read reviews, ask their networks for recommendations, visit corporate websites, watch product demos and scan industry blogs.
In the digital age, 92 percent of buyers start their search on the Web. They complete 57 percent of the buying process before they engage with a sales rep.
Oracle’s social selling evangelist, Jill Rowley, described this seismic shift in B2B sales in her presentation, “The ABCs of Social Selling,” at the Inside Sales Virtual Summit. Watch Rowley’s groundbreaking presentation in the YouTube video below.
How trust is earned online
Trust in companies has never been lower, while the power of peer-to-peer recommendations has never been stronger. Only about 33 percent of buyers trust brands. On the other hand, 92 percent of buyers trust recommendations from other buyers.
What does this mean for your B2B sales team? You want your customers to become the voice for your brand. Your buyers trust information shared by your customers, your partners and even your employees. They turn to industry thought leaders and analysts for information about your products and services. So, relationships with the right people are solid gold.
Consider this: 37 percent of buyers post questions on social networking sites looking for suggestions or feedback. Decision makers also hunt down websites with product reviews.
Rowley recommends that you encourage your customers to share their positive experiences on these sites and with their social networks.
What is social selling?
Rowley has identified four components of social selling, all enabled by technology:
Distribution and sharing of content
She is teaching Oracle’s 20,000-plus sales pros how to use social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to find their buyers, to listen and relate to them, to connect and engage, and to influence their buyers’ online ecosystem.
Rowley says the goal is to socially surround the buyer, the buying committee and the third-party thought leaders, experts, consultants and partners who influence that buyer.
Sharing content is a great way to engage your buyers. Read what your buyers read and share that content across your social networks.
Follow the 4-1-1 Rule. Share four pieces of third-party thought leadership content for every one piece of company-branded content, then throw in a cat picture. It doesn’t really have to be a picture of a cat, but it should be something light and inspiring, like a motivational quote or a TED talk.
Remember the ABCs of Social Selling: Always Be Connecting — and always be curating quality content.
Rowley is helping Oracle’s reps create “buyer-centric” LinkedIn profiles. No longer should your tagline say something like “quota crusher” or “expert negotiator.” Optimize it so the buyer understands the value you bring to the business conversation.
There’s also an art to creating a compelling LinkedIn invite. Personalize your invitations. Try something like this: “Jill, thank you so much for sharing your perspective on personalized selling. I learned X, Y and Z. I would be honored to be in your network and delighted to have you in mine.”
Do your buyers belong to LinkedIn groups? Join these groups and participate in relevant conversations. Don’t blast people with sales pitches. Offer useful information as a consultant and a subject matter expert.
Embrace the modern sales tools
How does the modern sales professional succeed in an age when buyers are more informed and harder to reach than ever before?
Rowley says the modern sales professional doubles as an online concierge. She provides the right information to the right person at the right time in the right channel. She socially surrounds her buyers in her buyersphere of influence — the analysts, the thought leaders, the panelists, the peers, the colleagues.
She has a professional brand. She is a thought leader and a subject matter expert. She is not a product pusher. She is a content connoisseur. She scours for relevant information to provide insight and value to her buyers.
She’s a mini-marketer. In fact, she doesn’t use the term “prospect.” She has replaced the term prospect with “future advocate.” At every stage in her client’s buying process, she is doing what she needs to do to ensure that the buyer is an advocate of her product, her company and herself.
Connect with Jill on Twitter @jill_rowley and LinkedIn.
Get access to all of the information-packed presentations from the Inside Sales Virtual Summit by clicking the image below.