Is Social Selling a buzzword or the future?

Take a moment and think about how your business has generated leads in the last 12 months. There is a high likelihood that people were referred to you by people they trusted, looked up your website and then looked you up on social networks. As sales and marketing professionals and business leaders, we have heard the compelling argument that buyer behaviour has forever changed. Therefore, so should our sales and marketing tactics.

Research conducted by Gartner on the state of today’s sales organizations suggests:

  • 71% of sales reps struggle to connect offerings to business issues
  • 35% struggle to manage today’s more educated buyer
  • 32% lack relevant content from marketing

The union of Content Marketing and Social Selling

Over the last two years, we have talked extensively at Marketing CoPilot about content marketing and the importance of good content to your sales process. But as we look back over the last 12 months of lead generation for our clients, the emergence of social selling or a sharing-oriented and trust building approach to starting a sales conversation, has never been needed more.

B2B buyers no longer rely on companies or sales people to guide them through the purchase journey. According to Jill Rowley, Social Selling Evangelist…

Trust between the buyer and the sales rep is at an all-time low, hovering around 30%—whereas trust between buyer-to-buyer, person-to-person, peer-to-peer is at an all time high of 92%.

This post is the last and final post in our five-part series on the importance of content marketing for B2B companies. We’d like to conclude the series by discussing the union of content marketing and social selling that is needed RIGHT NOW in your sales and marketing program.

LinkedIn defines social selling as, “leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals”.

Start selling the way you buy

How often do you buy something because a salesperson called you out of the blue or because you saw an ad on a bus bench. You are purchasing products and services based on online reviews, your colleagues’s opinions or a google search result. So, start selling your product or service the way in which you would buy one for yourself or your business.

As a company, you should have a well-defined value proposition that articulates to your best customer why they should buy from you instead of anyone else. This part of your content marketing strategy is the ‘awareness’ stage.

During your ‘awareness’ stage you should be creating valuable content based on your researched buyer personas and in tandem, using your keyword strategy to reach your buyers in the research stage of their buying journey. If you have executed this stage in your sales funnel, or implemented your content marketing strategy successfully then you have achieved your ‘awareness’ stage and are ready to move to the ‘qualifying’ stage (aka social selling).

Truth is, many of you are probably already engaging in social selling without realizing it. If you are actively using tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to reach your ideal customer through value-added content that speaks to business problems, not your product or services, then you are likely successfully implementing social selling in your sales process.

Social selling allows us to create relationships with buyers in social media outlets where the primary goal should be earning trust and building a relationship, not trying to “sell” something. For example, social selling is not tweeting about a product promotion or “special” you are running.

Social selling is taking part in the community in which your customers participate to:

  • Listen
  • Understand
  • Share
  • Engage

Do you see the words that are not included here… “Are you ready to buy now?”

Your goal with content marketing is to create awareness, Your goal with social selling is to earn trust. It’s really as simple as that. And when the two work together, the logical next step for a buyer is to engage you in a sales conversation.

How Marketing can provide social content for Sales

  1. Marketing creates a piece of content that is focused on customer issues like a blog, whitepaper, eBook, podcast, etc.
  2. Marketing creates a library of content in a single “go-to” area like your website that is organized by buyer persona and industry
  3. Sales and Marketing convene around a structured plan that has been research via Value Proposition work and a defined keyword strategy to discuss ideas and talk about customer interaction
  4. Sales uses the content in defined social media channels to participate, listen and share with the industry to gain trust and awareness in the channel

Is it really this simple? Yes.

But bad habits have to die.

The formula is straight forward and the foundation is something that Marketing CoPilot has been evangelising about and creating a methodology around for years. But the main stumbling block is management. People are clinging to old techniques and are reticent to change. How do we know this? Because not enough B2B companies are investing in content marketing, have dedicated resources assigned to content development and curation or are tracking and measuring the success of content in an active, honest dialogue with the sales team.

Yesterday I read this post in a group I actively participate in on LinkedIn to enhance my professional development in content marketing (not social selling).

This is just heart breaking to see this mentality in this day and age. If sales is not willing to share information and discuss how buyers buy, what they need to know before purchasing and who makes a good customer and why, then no amount of content marketing is going to improve your lead generation process.

How can marketing be expected to create compelling content if the people with direct access to the customer don’t participate?

Start by agreeing on goals and objectives

As depicted in the chart below, content marketing and social selling need to support one another. You must have agreement across the organization on the overall goals of the company. Whether the goal is to close more deals or grow the list of subscribers, both marketing and sales need to be on board and working together.

Found in ToutApp’s Practical Guide to Social Selling eBook

Content marketing and social selling consist of customer-centric content aiming to attract prospects who are looking for valuable solutions to their business problems. If marketing is responsible for content creation and distribution then sales should be leveraging that content to connect with prospects. Each process has to work it’s role in the funnel to push buyer’s through the pipeline and into returning customers.

There is a new sales funnel

Marketing is no longer about writing brochures and having sales people chase down leads. The new sales funnel is about sharing valuable content that your buyer cares about and creating meaningful connections with them. If you take away anything from this blog series it should be that the buyer journey has changed and marketing and sales tactics need to reflect that.

There is a new modern sales process that needs to be implemented in your organization today. Without content marketing and social selling you’ll be out of business in the next 5 years. So, be sure to download The New Sales Funnel to further understand why social selling and content marketing are not just digital buzzwords but a repeatable sales process that will effectively grow sales for your company.