By Christine Crandell – Forbes
Social business was born in marketing. The ability to listen, monitor and act on changing market sentiment is a powerful way for companies to better align with their current and future customers. Social is touching every corner of organizations as profoundly as it has changed how we conduct much of our personal lives. But there is one place where the benefits of embracing Social aren’t obvious, namely Sales. It’s made Sales harder yet it’s also enabled greater focus.
I caught up with Phil Arturi for a discussion on how the social transformation has changed his life, or not. A soft spoken, calm mannered guy, Phil has an obsession with results that has produced over $1 billion in value for clients including companies like KPMG, Accenture, MasterCard, Pitney Bowes, and Mercer. If you’ve been following my writing, you’ll understand when I say he is a “thinker” sales archetype. Today, as president of White Hawk Sales Partners he serves the sales outsourcing needs of B2B companies.
- What does Social Selling mean to you?
Social selling embraces the fact that prospects are better informed and control the buying process. They research and validate their buying options through multiple social channels. This well informed buyer is demanding relevance from sales people, expecting them to know about them, their companies, and their needs. The best inside sales professionals will leverage the multitude of social channels to actively listen, engage, and understand their prospects’ buying environment and opinions. A proactive inside sales outreach integrated with social media listening produces the best opportunity to engage with relevance – and a high quality pipeline.
- Is Social ringing the death bell for sales?
It all depends on which engagement model is best for a potential buyer. From a cost perspective, the model is straightforward; employ the lowest cost channel to reach the broadest audience. Use social and the web for broad ongoing engagement, and highest cost direct salespeople where the potential short term benefit is highest; a closed deal. However, it is important to understand how your prospects buy. That determines which model, or weighting of channels, is most appropriate and at what time in the buy cycle.
That is why it is so important to take the time to really understand how your buyers buy and align your selling channels appropriately. Building a high quality pipeline requires you to clearly understand your buyers. Where do they spend their time in the buy cycle; map your sales and marketing efforts to match where they are and what they’re looking for. Do this effectively and you can optimize your sales and marketing resources while making sure that each stage of the buying process is being handled correctly.
- If that’s the case how has B2B sales changed?
“Sales” today means building long term engagement models. It used to be that Sales was defined by a set of short range activities that led to closing a deal. Today “sales” means engaging in a broader, deeper and longer term relationship that engages a potential buyer every step of the way through their buying process.
B2B selling has become more targeted and focused. Making the relevant connection to a potential buyer at the right time has always been the greatest challenge in sales. Originally salespeople literally knocked on doors to find good prospects. Knocking on doors was replaced by direct mail, cold calls, and mass emails. Today, the Internet has created many more ways to determine where in the buying cycle a potential prospect is and what might be the most relevant outreach. Marketing automation platforms, social media listening tools, and lead scoring and ranking all provide more insight than ever into where prospects are in their “Buyers’ Journey” and how to interact with them with real relevancy.
- Are social technologies marginalizing sales?
Not at all – just the opposite. Social enables sales to get an even better sense of what’s really happening within their markets. Whenever Sales has more information and can use it to drive a smarter conversation, we can do a better job matching offerings to buyers who really care. If anything, social technologies create efficiencies in the selling process.
But let’s get real, social has made selling harder. The best salespeople know where to spend their time, where they can get the most leverage for their efforts. Getting more insight into buying behaviors via social media helps develop messages that resonate. The challenge, and what is harder, is making sure your time is spent focused on only those areas that can yield results. That requires more discipline. Getting caught up in turning over more stones in order to find a few opportunities is a surefire way to miss your numbers.
- How does outsourcing sales development fit into the Social model?
For many companies, the complexity of the sales engagement process deserves a dedicated company salesperson. However, for most B2B companies, inside sales for buyer targeting, engagement, and qualification is better handled by a professional outsourcer. Why? Many companies don’t put their best, most seasoned people on inside sales. Instead, they treat it as a proving ground for younger, less experienced hires. In social business that introduces a significant level of risk because you’re trusting your ZMOT to someone without experience in developing continuity in conversation or buyer experience. What better place to have a seasoned, professional than where the buyer will most likely first engage in a meaningful conversation?
That being said, outsourcing requires a partnership between the client and the outsourcer. This is not a ‘throw it over the wall’ relationship but one governed by mutual agreement on process, methodology, and execution so that everyone is bought in and works as a team. Regular touch points to review results, change-up the approach, and review the pipeline of opportunities is key. What sets the best outsourced sales firms apart from telemarketers and appointment setters is they recognize this and have experienced, articulate people building meaningful buyer relationships. Incorporating a well structured methodology and process to engage with the client’s direct sales counterparts to insure a seamless sales transition of opportunities and consistent buyer experience is the second key to success. The best outsourcers align their fees with their client’s results to create the best selling environment where everyone wins.
- What advice do you have on how to drive growth?
Focus, focus, focus. This seems so elemental yet we see so many companies that don’t take the time to create an appropriate coverage model for the kinds of customers they want to win. Start by understanding your target market’s Buyers’ Journey, align a sales model to match the Journey, continually look for patterns of success and failure, and then measure the results.
The reality is that in the transformation to becoming a social business, sales needs help. Instead of carting everyone off to Las Vegas for the ritualistic Sales Kick Off and annual sales training that no one pays attention to, let’s spend that time teaching sales how decipher a prospect’s social body language, use social media to build a meaningful relationship with buyers, and have sales conversations that prospects actually look forward to. Do that and sales will be reborn.