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The internet itself gave prospects the power to become highly informed decision makers. B2B purchasers are now leveraging social media to find deals, research products and receive recommendations. Yet the amount of information is overwhelming. One needs to start to differentiate the reliable and unreliable information. This gives the Inside Sales Rep completely new perspectives to follow up on and approach prospects within the highly competitive Software Industry. One of these is Social Selling.
Inside Sales building social bonds
Social Media is a long acquaintance of ours and intended to build and uphold relationships. It presented a way of communication, where face-to-face interaction failed to be feasible. Moreover it developed into a platform of delivering one’s thoughts and opinions, search for solutions when stuck and provide support within a community based atmosphere.
The possibility to leverage this outstanding resource within Inside Sales, is what makes Social Selling so interesting and resourceful. The term itself might be misleading though, because it is not a plain pitch and buy situation. Long gone are the call-pitch-sell scenarios.
Nowadays Inside Sales Reps need to build relationships, seed trust and recommend solutions for their prospect’s issues or problems and needs, while still maintaining the local touch and cultural fit when educating customers or partners. When going virtual, it is paramount to keep the “real-life” connection. The customer or partner is very much in need of the personal touch just to stay interested.
With Social Selling you start building relationships for the long run.
Stronger Inside Sales with Social Selling
Long before the introduction of social media into the sales cycle, Inside Sales Reps had to rely on cold calling and probing companies for prospects by deducing information from secretaries, subordinates, as well as the decision makers themselves. They needed to find interest and spark a conversation about the solution they have to offer, to finally get to a possible close. The research time though, was a daunting process, which extended the sales cycle tremendously.
Smart selling Inside Sales Reps build and expand a connection to have a targeted audience for feeding their content to. They engage in talks on Social Media and strengthen their position as a trusted advisor within the software industry.
There are two ways of combining Inside Sales with Social Selling.
The first starts with a cold call. Once you reached your prospect you connect instantly on the social business platform LinkedIn to have an imprint for future conversations.
The Second is to reach out on LinkedIn to your prospect, sending an instant message, or even better get them involved in a discussion on the commentary section of a post. As next step, a cold call is well suited to be done.
For both approaches applies the following: Do not pitch; advocate.
Although both are legitimate the first point is to be considered with awareness. You do not want to spook your prospect in any way. The recommended approach is the second. Going from there you will be able to leverage two major advantage points:
First of all, the psychological barrier of disclosing revealing information online is lowered to a minimum. Research into the human mind tells a narrative of disclosing a small information, and from then on revealing more and more intimate secrets. Science suggests that this might be because of the lack of nonverbal and visual cues. The prospect then needs to fill in the blanks and facilitate a sense of interpersonal cohesion. The desire for trust or finding a solution outweigh the costs of vulnerability.
Secondly, working in B2B relations means working within a partnership, which is built on trust. This trust has to be earned. Either you start with the cheapest sales service on the market, or you proof yourself worthy as a trusted advisor, who is capable of generating revenue. Having genuine conversations with your prospects, focusing on their needs and business, is the key to success.
Within your first two conversations though, online (could be more if these conversations are shorter) or call, do not think about closing a deal. These two conversations should build trust and discover the prospect’s needs in a deeply manner. Marketing or sales pitches are not welcome. Provide relevant information, they can relate to. It doesn’t even have to be software related. It might be something you and them have in common. An up-to-date topic. A new invention. A common connection. At some point you swerve to your solution, by then a subconscious relationship has been already established.
Do not see yourself as extension of the marketing department, but a unique self to portray your value to the prospect via Social Selling. The smart Inside Sales Rep uses the power of this hybrid tool to broaden his channels of possibilities and changes them into palpable success resulting in revenue.
The practical use within Inside Sales
The smart Inside Sales Rep not only connects via Social Media Platforms, but researches the prospect’s company beforehand to gain entrance into a prosperous conversation.
Did they recently acquire another company?
Are they operating funds?
What marketing activities did they partake in?
Are they in the process of hiring a whole new team?
Recommendations are the gold, sought by prospects to prosper within an industry. An Inside Sales Rep asks questions and recommends a solution. Within Social Selling the questioning becomes redundant.
B2B customers do not move down the sales and marketing funnel in an orderly fashion anymore. They take non-linear paths towards making a purchase. They read online, as well as offline content to update their decision making process. Being able to provide valuable content to these decision makers, is the first step in educating them about your company during their jump in and jump out phase of studying and choosing a software solution for their enterprise.
A lot of decisions are made upon the relationship between the prospect and the vendor. Within the Software Market you have various possibilities. Put yourself into the shoes of your prospect, who has the possibility to choose between several vendors. You can offer the best price to the same solution such as the competitor does. If the competitor has established a real relationship with your prospect, you will lose the deal 100%. Nowadays no one buys without the “good feeling-good price-good offering” combination anymore. With trust you gain the prospect’s interest, with insight their attention.
30 days before contacting the prospect via Inside Sales techniques, a content sharing strategy is implemented to become a trusted advisor for your prospects. Throughout this period of time the Inside Sales Rep is providing specific content for the target account set and suggests to connect via LinkedIn within the last third of the respective month.
After the social content implementation Inside Sales Reps engage the prospect with a call and e-mail. Throughout the Inside Sales phase the Social Selling does not stop. Constantly new content is presented to prospects advancing and nurturing the targeted account set.
Benefits of combining Social Selling with Inside Sales
Social Selling is the go-to-strategy for a lot of Inside Sales Reps, who believe it to be the right lever to outsell their peers. This comes in handy, especially when slicing the waters of a highly competitive market, such as the Software Industry.
LinkedIn even states, a sales rep using vehemently social media creates 45% more opportunities than peers with a lower SSI (Social Selling Index). 51% of the questioned sales people stated to be more likely to reach their quote with Social Selling, than without. Hence, 78% of sales people outsell their peers, who do not use Social Selling at all.
Pitch-Selling a product or solution is a vintage selling strategy and not recommended at all within Social Selling and Inside Sales. A good Inside Sales Rep needs to provide a solution for the customer’s needs and pain to get their attention. Simple e-mail pitches will not work anymore. This was and is still overused, which the customer gets a massive amount of. In the end you will be ignored.
The modern approach of Social Selling eliminates a lot of the most gruesome parts of traditional sales. It enhances the important activities of great Inside Sales Reps to close deals and drive more revenue. The mastery of it is not to be the first to pitch and close, it is to nurture and advocate. Just take a look at the most compelling reasons for using Social Selling.
B2B decision makers approach a sales person already once the decision has been made or when comparing several companies who offer the same type of product. But most of the time they look for recommendations within Social Media. Within highly saturated markets, you need to portray yourself and your business as unique and resourceful. This way you will get their attention focused on your solution instead of the competitors’. Especially within the highly competitive Software Industry you need to find the pain points of the target group and share content, to influence the decision makers purchasing criteria.
The Know-How of Social Selling
Social Selling has a great benefit over sole cold calling. The person on the other end knows who he/she is speaking to at that very moment. The prospect is provided with a picture, a CV and an overall knowledge of the other person behind the keyboard.
This is the reason, why it is paramount to profile yourself correctly inside the virtual world. The better your account is set up, the more of an expert you become when showing your experience in your field. There are some vital points to consider:
Make your social media account presentable with your company’s banner.
Write a great synopsis about yourself and what you can bring to the table.
Upload a nice and welcoming business picture, especially on LinkedIn
Provide your job title and company information
Because of that, it becomes much easier to provide people with relevant content to their needs.
Stay up-to-date with your prospect’s needs and nurture them with relevant content. A prospect is more likely to connect, if the vendor is providing relevant content, showing their experience. In a certain sense, Social Selling becomes a support function. Provide solutions for challenges within your sales cycle or even challenges not related to your business.
The goal is to spark the idea of being the trusted advisor, resource and expert, providing all kinds of insights, value and knowledge about your niche. Once again, customer education is a crucial part of portraying your expertise. Providing inspiration and new insights to support their business is the go-to tactic. Do not talk about who you are, talk about how you might be of help!
Choose the right prospects
Social Media Platforms such as LinkedIn provide you with actual data of positions within the company and give you the opportunity to map out decision makers. It comes down to the sales person to leverage these opportunities and build in-depth relationships and so called connections.
Although buyers may be well informed, they need to go through a lot of stakeholders and information to make a buying decision. This completely controverts their need to shorten the purchasing cycle. Therefore most people are more willing to buy from referrals. If you choose the right prospects and provide them with highly tailored content, they will see you as a trusted advisor. Hence, they will shorten their purchasing cycle, which concludes in shortening your sales cycle.