Is Social Selling utter nonsense? Let’s save time for our readers, the answer is a resounding no’. What is nonsense, however, is the claim, voiced by some ’experts’, that one may just have to sit behind a computer to sell more. Here I have investigated this matter in the light of my field practice of both selling and social selling.
I have had a Social Selling itch for a long time
When so many people are touting the benefits of social selling and businesses are changing their habits to accommodate new trends, there is always a risk that the trend becomes a fad and that all reason is lost.
A friend of mine is working in the marketing department of a medium sized B2B industrial company. The latter has just over 300 employees and operates on a large network of distributors throughout the world. The business is quite flourishing. But things can change. In fact, things are changing very fast today. My friend believes he should board on the digital marketing wave, to increase his company’s visibility on the web: in other words, he wants to develop a strategic presence on social networks. The problem is that he is not really familiar with all the digital concepts. So, he turned to me and asked me for advice.
This lead to a long reflection with him about what digital marketing really is and especially what the benefits can be for him and his business. It is important to understand digital before rushing into it prematurely. Finally, I quickly described to him the different steps that are essential to the success of his “digital marketing” project.
Digital Marketing and B2B: the two make a pair!
Digital marketing is first a matter of trend. To be competitive and innovative it is necessary to stay in the race, and therefore follow the flow.
But digital marketing goes well beyond a simple trend. It has real advantages in B2B.
What are the advantages of digital marketing in B2B
Multi-channel: By using multiple channels, digital marketing offers many opportunities (complementary to traditional marketing) and allows users / companies to act at all levels of the purchasing process
B2B sales impacted by digital transformation and Big Data
On the one hand, B2B sales is said to be resilient, since it is based on one-to-one contact and individual salesmanship. 10 years ago, famous author and researcher Bernard Cova told me that a B2B brand appears to be less important than a B2C brand. He believed then that the contact with the salesperson at the time of the purchase was a definite advantage, as opposed to B2C. What he meant by that is that it doesn’t matter if your brand changes or even disappears, as long as there’s someone to explain it to customers. In a way, what Bernard said is true. In fact, a small consulting firm like ours, is able to gain the trust of big accounts. It’s simply true because of our capabilities to explain and deliver services to clients in earnest, based on our expertise.
Ironically, buyers dislike salespeople, but they love to buy from them
Nevertheless, all that Bernard Cova told me 10 years ago is no longer entirely true anymore today. B2B sales is changing completely, in all types of markets (lower-end, mid-tier and high-end markets). Ironically, buyers dislike salespeople, but they love to buy from them.
[Björn Ühss, in the background, behind Amber Hayward, became Social Media manager after targetting his future employer via LinkedIn adds]
“One of the things that changed is that social media reached the C-suite and it’s more and more of a priority. At Intuit it is coming from the CEO, it’s a business decision” Björn Ühss said. “It’s not a marketing decision and it concerns everyone in the company” he added.
According to Ühss, Edelman ranked Intuit quite high in the hierarchy of companies using social media too. “Starbucks has issued numbers whereby 38% of their fans are more likely to visit the stores when they have seen a branded message” Björn Ühss went on. “Social Media has now reached considerable scales. Besides, Facebook has now become a giant and is on a buying spree like former high tech giants were a few years ago”.
The presenters stressed that the recent IBM CEO 2012 study predicted that in five years’ time, CEOs will be hired not only on their credentials but on their ability to manage their e-reputation and that of their company.
Björn Ühss gave us his check-list on how he got social media implemented at Intuit:
How social is your CEO? lead by example
is your culture ready?
who are your social media supporters?
where are your customers?
what data can you use?
Intuit has also managed to make social media work for sales with £99 sale add campaigns (“despite what people say” both presenters emphasised).
But the most interesting thing maybe is that Björn Ühss himself found his job with the help of social media. He posted adds targeting Intuit executives until they thought to themselves “we’ve got to hire that guy” Intuit’s Amber Hayward, social media marketing manager concluded.
Last week I had the chance to bump into Sarah Goodall from SAP; I was very pleased to see her at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London one year after being acquainted with her at a marketing conference in London. Sarah is one of our best social media practitioners in the B2B world and I was lucky enough to sneak out of the B2C session and switch rooms to listen to her. Her presentation was about how to convince your CFO about the benefit of social media. Not an easy task, but Sarah knows how to circumvent the issue; here is how:
Sarah Goodall looks after social media for EMEA and she presented on June 26th at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London. “How can social media generate value? I haven’t got all the answers!” Sarah said as an introduction, but she has a few clues which she wanted to share with us.
Sarah has worked for small and large companies and knows “how to make things work on a tight budget”. SAP sells software and services to businesses; it is forty years old and it comes from “a traditional marketing background” Sarah said, and moving into social business “is a true cultural shift”. Hence, social media “came as a shock” to SAP according to her and “it helped [them] turnaround the sales cycle” Sarah went on. What it means is that there has been more emphasis on posting content on where customers are getting it rather than push that content over to them. Therefore, the transition is to inbound Marketing “even though we are not there yet” Sarah said, very honestly. “Outbound still represents twice the budget which is spent on inbound marketing” she added.
How to attribute social influence to revenue?
At the very heart of the business, there is the owned SAP community, using Jive internally and an external community with customers. On top of that, there are channels which aren’t owned by SAP such as LinkedIn, Slideshare, Facebook, Twitter etc. The SAP community network is fairly known outside of SAP, and is 3 million big nowadays. “A lot of bloggers are contributing in this community, most of them aren’t part of SAP by the way” Sarah added.
On external platforms, SAP have enough fans to fill in football stadiums several times “but this is still not sufficient for CFOs!” she said. Hard facts are required, more arguments needed. So what will it take to drive the point home? “What the CFO is interested in is the impact on customer value, and the bottom line and it’s tough, I’m not going to lie” Sarah said.
So here are a few of Sarah’s secret recipes for getting CFOs to buy in to social media:
Potential cost of R&D saved: if you use the comments and the voting and offset that against the money saved on R&D, this is tremendous. There is also a cost of loyalty and there are savings which can be made.
Social commerce: this is a little more tricky because “the SAP sales process doesn’t quite work like that” Sarah said. SAP tried to embed links in LinkedIn and experimented on how Facebook posts can lead to a registration. “It’s not enough to generate revenue” she said “it’s not an exact science but it’s enough to uncover value”. There are also chance engagements, they don’t happen very often, but when a potential customer has been turned into a customer later then it is a great achievement.
Social intelligence: “this is a little bit more woolly” Sarah said but you can try and get insights from social media, and it can be shown that click-through-rates can be influenced through social media.
Social insight: social media is also useful in order to measure brand health. SAP is monitoring what users are saying about SAP and their competitors. “There aren’t any numbers but it is useful” Sarah said.
Sapphirenow: this is the biggest business conference which is organised by SAP. In Orlando, 15% of twitter handles of delegates were identified, and 25% followed the @sapphirenow Twitter handle. “This is still early stage Sarah said but it is very useful to tie to something related to business and prove it’s useful” Sarah said.
Social efficiency: social media saves a lot of money on support and reduces significantly the amount of inbound calls SAP is getting for support. SAP mentors are SAP’s brand advocates and “this is media which can’t be paid for” meaning that it is invaluable. SAP also launched a #suithugger hashtag which brought amazing results.
the right metrics
As a conclusion, Sarah said that “you would have to “communicate the right metrics to the right audience. Don’t show clicks and followers to CEOs! Show how social media is impacting productivity. You can’t really talk of the ‘ROI of Facebook’” Sarah warned.
Pearls of wisdom … does anyone have anything to add to this? I don’t.