Thinking B2B: Authenticity at the heart of social selling
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) Social media allows marketers to implement an interesting sales methodology: social selling. Widely used in more mature B2B markets around the world but still relatively new to South Africa in its formal sense, social selling is the practice of deliberately targeting relevant social media accounts and people to generate B2B sales leads, within a defined social selling framework and against specific business objectives.
In essence, it’s scouring relevant social media platforms of target accounts — mapping the decision-making units (DMUs) which influence buying decisions — and using the data gleaned to strengthen a position in cultivating a sales opportunity on that account. While many companies in the local market are using social media to inform their sales research, very few are doing it formally, deliberately and within a social selling framework, which make it most effective.
By way of a personal example, I had set my sights on a very specific B2B account about a year ago. I identified the DMU and noted that one of the key people to the account was the chief marketing officer. I visited her LinkedIn profile which, it turned out, was well-curated and could see that she used the platform for regular business interactions. Having spent some time getting to know more about topics that interested her, I tagged her on a post that I thought might be relevant and — true to form — a week later she’d viewed my profile, giving me my first bite.
To cut a long story short, that company is now one of my clients. To be clear, we didn’t win the business because I used a social-selling methodology to prospect but it definitely helped win us the opportunity to pitch.
Subsequent to winning the business, I told the CMO that our initial interaction on LinkedIn had been deliberate and data-driven, and I asked her if it’d contributed to us arriving at the point of working together. She validated the methodology by confirming that our initial interaction had put the company on her radar and had established me, as the sales person, as her point of contact — because it was authentic, valuable and relevant.
This may sound relatively simple but there are some key components to successful social selling that are non-negotiable.
1. Authentic and meaningful
First, and more important than anything else, your interaction needs to be authentic and meaningful to establish your credibility and open up the opportunity to build a rapport. You also can’t play a numbers game on social platforms, employing a machine-gun approach to targeting sales prospects — that totally lacks the essential authenticity. Rather, it’s vital to carefully select your target accounts and prospect in a professional, authentic and engaging way. This increases the likelihood of them engaging. It’s easy to alienate them with the wrong approach or irrelevant information and, therefore, the risks are high.
The type of engagement is also linked to the platform on which you’re looking to interact with them. Just because they have personal Instagram and Facebook pages doesn’t mean they want to talk business on those platforms. How will engaging with them under holiday pictures with their families help cultivate business prospects?
I’m not downplaying the importance of getting to know business contacts on a personal level, but that can follow later. At the social-selling stage, adding business value should be foremost in your mind. Otherwise, it’s just stalking.
2. House in order
Secondly, you need to make sure your own house is in order by doing an internal audit of your own social media platforms. Companies spend a lot of time and money on user experience (UX) and design (UX) for their websites and, arguably, as much time should be allocated to curating the relevant social media platforms — including the profiles of the people employing social-selling methodologies.
If you’re looking to establish a connection via LinkedIn, your profile needs to be set up in a way that furthers the conversation. We often do social audits of salespeople for our clients and discover that their LinkedIn profiles haven’t been updated since they left their last position (often at a competitor to their new employer), which is a poor reflection on their attention to detail and the way they manage their personal and professional brands.
Social selling can be an excellent tool in a B2B marketing arsenal and can be done at scale, and a particular boon to those who don’t do well at face-to-face networking. But, as with all other meaningful interactions on social media platforms and in life, it needs to have authenticity at its heart — within a specific and deliberate social-selling framework and with clearly defined business objectives in mind.
Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He has been chair of both the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) and the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards (Assegais), as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the monthly “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms.