Social media has an established presence in the industrial sector. Technical professionals use social media to search for contacts, keep up on news and technologies, find product reviews and new suppliers, and for other work-related activities. If your sales team isn’t using social media yet as a tool to help uncover engagement opportunities, you can get them started.
While not a one-to-one tactic such as email correspondence or a phone call, social media has a number of advantages as a B2B selling tool. It fits with the way buyers conduct research today: They go online and use a variety of digital resources to become informed about solutions that can meet their needs. Social media is also asynchronous, which means it is non-disruptive; you can use it to establish connections and help educate customers and prospects without interrupting them. In addition, intelligent and judicious use of social media can help establish a salesperson’s credibility and authority, and help to raise the visibility of your company and its offerings.
However, many salespeople don’t know how to effectively use social media in support of their selling efforts. It’s marketing’s job to educate salespeople and make them comfortable using social media. Here are five ideas to make it easier:
1. Develop internal guidelines for posting, sharing and responding on social media channels, and train your salespeople on the guidelines. Important topics to cover include frequency of posting, how to respond to tricky questions, how to avoid getting into online arguments, what company information can be posted and what is confidential, and where to find relevant content to share. It’s a good idea to hold social media training sessions, such as a “lunch-and-learn” or internal webinar.
2. Educate salespeople who aren’t yet comfortable using social media on a simple three-step social media process: find, listen and engage. Salespeople should start by finding their customers and prospects, as well as relevant industry sites, by seeking them out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +, Facebook and other social platforms. Next, they should “listen” by following their customers and prospects on social channels to discover their interests and concerns. Finally, salespeople should begin to engage customers, prospects and industry experts by responding to their posts, participating in discussions, answering questions and creating their own original posts.
3. Your sales team is busy; they can’t use every social media platform, but you should encourage them to use the ones they are comfortable with and that their customers and prospects use. Hint: Your entire sales team should taking advantage of LinkedIn; it’s the most popular social media platform for engineers — 74 percent of technical professionals have LinkedIn accounts.
4. If salespeople use a social channel, they should engage with it to its fullest. For example, on LinkedIn, they should keep an up-to-date profile that includes information and links about your company and its products and services. They can use LinkedIn to find and connect with key decision makers at customer and prospect companies—especially important when multiple people are involved in making a purchase decision. Your salespeople can follow customer and prospect pages (as well as your own company’s page), join relevant groups, and participate in discussions by adding their expertise and answering questions that demonstrate their problem-solving knowledge. At the same time, it’s important to be a helpful participant without shilling for your own products and services.
If a salesperson uses Twitter, they can follow their customers and prospects, respond to their news, and retweet their news to their own followers. They can also follow industry news and retweet it to their followers. With any social platform, the more you use it, the wider your network and influence will grow, increasing your visibility and reputation—all benefits for a salesperson.
5. As a marketer, you should provide your sales team with content that is ready to share on their social media accounts. This might include offers to register for webinars, links to whitepapers or relevant articles, new videos, press releases, blog posts and more. Not only are you helping your sales team with some of the most challenging aspects of social media use—generating ideas and deciding what to post—you’re also maintaining some control over the message.
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How does your sales team use social media to drive engagement opportunities? How do you help them utilize social media? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.