5 ways to use social media in sales even if your customer isn’t on Facebook

taking the leap

When I talk to B2B sales teams, one of the biggest concerns I hear is: “but my customer isn’t on Twitter.”  Of course you need to use common sense and spend time on the selling activities that will bring you the most return, but here are five ways to build a personal selling advantage for your team, even if your customers are not social savvy!

 1) Be there first

Each year, the Base One Agency in London does a comprehensive survey of purchasing trends in Europe. One of the interesting things they see evolving is that B2B procurement professionals under the age of 30 rely heavily on social channels for collecting information and data. In fact, they rated blogs as the highest-rated source or reliable product information, even ahead of asking a friend!

If you believe your customers aren’t on social media today, they’re coming.  I do believe there is a first-movers advantage in this space. Why not get out there and build that advantage now?

2) Curation nation

Most procurement professionals are information-rich and time-starved. Why not help your customers by curating data from the best information from the social web as a way to help them save time and money?

For example, let’s say you sell safety equipment to manufacturing plants.  Every plant manager is vitally interested in safety but probably doesn’t have time to keep up with the latest equipment developments, case studies and regulations. Set up and save a Twitter search for your favorite experts and keywords, curate this data into a monthly “best of” limit, and email it to them regularly to win the hearts of your busy customers?

3) Branding your “beacons”

In most industries today, the purchasing process begins with a search. Here’s a simple idea to give your sales team a little edge: Unify your company and product descriptions so that every employee becomes a potential beacon for your brand.

Put some thought into how you can best describe your company in key search terms that would help a customer find you. For example your company might describe itself as “The Southeast’s leading provider of safety equipment, safety consulting, and hazard identification services.”

Now, look at how your sales people describe themselves in their LinkedIn profiles. Every person probably describes your company in a different way. Just unifying your company description and providing standard language about the things you do can transform all of these individual profiles into search engine brandstands for your business.

4) Business intelligence

Here are three ways to use social media for business intelligence.

  1. Build separate Twitter lists for competitors, industry thought leaders and industry suppliers. Follow these each day for news that can give you an edge in the field.
  2. Find competitors on Twitter and look at their public lists and also where they have been listed for potential new sales leads. Follow all these people!

    How to find Twitter Lists

  3. Set up Google Alerts (Link to How to set up a Google Alert) to give you rapid notification of breaking news in your business.

5) Lead them there

I was helping a customer in Boston with her marketing strategy. She correctly surmised that her customers were not involved in social media and that it would probably be a waste of time for her to devote much time to this effort.

However, when we did research and asked customers about their biggest challenge in the upcoming year, “figuring out social media” was the number one item on the list! Why?  Because THEIR customers were piling on and they had to learn to adapt.

My customer was smart enough to see an opportunity. By immersing herself in the social web and creating a powerful blog, she positioned herself as a leader in the field and created a new value-added service for her business. Her customers needed to figure this out and she could lead them to success.

So if your customer isn’t on social media yet, there are at least five reasons why you should still be. What do you think? How are you involved in social selling?

Top illustration courtesy BigStock.com.

Twitter illustration courtesy Jeremy Floyd, my favorite Twitter model.

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  • Interesting article Mark and I suspect very pertinent at the moment to many businesses.
    I have helped the company I work for to ramp up our social efforts in the last year. I concentrate on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ mainly and write at least 2 blog article per week. Being in the HR and Recruitment sector one of the challenges is to be consistent in the content you share (whether this is your own blog posts or relevant information from other sources). It’s also a personal challenge to write and share interesting information that is something new (I am the social media department!).

    My strategy was to look at the term ‘Human Resources’ and recognise the more holistic meaning of this (it encompasses every aspect of every employees time at work, whether this is in the office, on the road or working from home). I now look for and write content that includes every element of our working lives (not just HR department specific news). For instance everything from our immediate work space to ideas for green initiatives in the workplace.
    Opening up the subject gives me more scope with regards to the content I can share, but also makes it more relevant to everyone, not just those directly associated with the HR department.

    I think one of the tricks to interacting and maintaining social engagement with current and prospective clients is sharing content which effects them directly as an individual as well as the effect it may have on their business as a whole.

  • Social_Ben

    Really great advice here Mark. Thank you.

  • Laura Rivera

    #5 is especially relevant for my job–great advice–thank you! (Going to show my boss right now!)

  • You’re welcome my friend. Hope it helps!

  • Awesome. Good luck!

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  • jeff

    great article

  • Tracy Stonard

    I can definitely see the first mover advantage in #1. I was a senior buyer for a large FTSE100 company in London a few years ago and the due diligence process is a critical aspect of the role.. Although we had access to research databases for financial data, blogs and social media would have certainly helped to 1/ speed up the research process 2/ to enable the buyer to feel they are fully informed on the latest supplier news/product developments. This in itself presents further advantages for procurement teams during the negotiation and internal sign off phase. Great article, thanks for sharing.

  • Iris

    In today’s society, social media and marketing are
    closely linked. Sometimes, social media
    will bring us a lot of convenience; we can make a lot of friends in social media,
    as well as learn a lot of knowledge from them. Nowadays, social media and selling is
    combination. It made us get a lot of benefits. Everyone needs social media. These
    five advice are very great. It will make us do work better in the future.

  • Good advice indeed Barry. I am reminded of the Manpower company blog. They “sell” temporary labor but their blog is about employment law. Why? That is what their customers told them what is important to them right now.

  • Fantastic point Tracy. Many thanks for the contribution!

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  • Counting on this – in process of finally replatforming our corporate website to not only be more Google friendly…but to also have a corporate blog that does justice to ALL that Mantis offers (versus my more focused efforts around monitoring).

    We are very much B2B, and one dissenter pointed out “nobody is ever going to Google us, or visit our website, with credit card in hand”. Nope, they will not. However, if their CFO or CMO or CIO says “we need some of that business intelligence stuff…or social monitoring…or iOS app” – we want to be the ones showing up on that 1st page.

    And NOT with promotional materials and not with sponsored ads. Instead, we want to provide meaningful content that builds trust in our core competencies. And I think we can be “early adopters” of this strategy for those core competencies.

    Talk to me in a few months as I hope we start seeing results!

  • Excellent points, Mark. Your customer may not be on a given social network, but they are online. I just spoke with an executive of a mid-size software
    business who believes that there’s a “paradoxical shift” in the way
    business is conducted. His company has been in business for 30 years and he
    believes that companies that fail to adapt to the new ways of business will
    likely cease to be in business in the next ten years.

    Referring to inbound marketing, he said that the change has been effected by a new generation of buyers that are highly educated, don’t want to be “sold to” and expect to do much of the research online through search and social connections. He wasn’t talking tactics, though tweeting, blogging, etc. are the tools used in this new business transformation. He’s embraced an inbound strategy that includes these tactics but the focus is on maintaining an influential thought leadership position, so as buyers take their journeys online, his company will be a consideration. And as Brian V mentions, the content has to be helpful and not promotional or product focused.

    While some industries may be slow to adopt social media, as
    the demographics of the buyer change and the way of conducting business
    changes, not establishing a digital footprint for your company could put it at
    a competitive disadvantage—especially if the competition has an established
    footprint. Remember the early 90s when
    we were asking ourselves if we should have a website?

  • As a B2B firm, we routinely encounter the “…but nobody uses X”, or “our industry isn’t online”, typically amid a conversation interrupted by blackberry and iPhone alerts and between the individuals multitasking with same. Our answer (while trying not to smile too broadly) is to show them our traffic sources report and the 286 visits they’ve had to their website from LinkedIn or stumble upon. … That usually does the trick.

  • That is awesome news. You are going to rock this buddy! Can’t wait to see it!

  • This is a bona fide blog post on its own! Thanks for this gift Joan!

  • Great example Randy. Thanks for passing that anecdote along!

  • Really starting to take shape in regards to the site redesign – and I will meet with a few of my content creators next week. Will be intriguing since this content is probably much more suited to How-Tos due to the technical nature. I see it as a great opportunity to fill a need, though.

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  • Eileen Wang

    Gread points,I’m a new comer in this field of B2B , I had learned very much from your article.Thank you for sharing!

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  • Claytonjay101

    Here’s the big question, how do you determine the best social platforms to target customers? I know talk to them but what other steps besides that?

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