“We’re in B2B sales, we can’t use social media.”
I hear it many times. B2B salespeople who think they can’t use social media, because social media is just for fun. It’s just for kids. Their clients don’t use it. Blah blah blah.
I don’t know who keeps perpetuating the myth that social media is some kids’ playground that “real” businesspeople aren’t allowed to use, but it’s wrong. There is no one who can’t benefit from social media. Even spies can use social media — the CIA has one at ICouldTellYouButI’dHaveToKillYou.com.
But I was in B2B sales long enough, in a past life, that I can see exactly where and how B2B salespeople can use social media.
1. Solve problems.
The best way to find customers is not to call them up, one at a time, from a phone list, and hope for the best. The best way to find customers is to happen upon them when they have a problem, and fix it. Even if it’s just a small problem that’s easily managed in a single Twitter message or 500 word email, you will get a person’s attention when you help them.
You answer their question, show them how to fix the problem completely, and they’re grateful. They’re so grateful, they check out your profile, see who you work for, and visit your website.
They don’t buy anything from you right then, but they start paying attention to you on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or an industry discussion board. They see you helping others, and they realize you solve problems. You’re honest, you’re helpful, and you provide value to them.
And then one day, they realize they have a problem where they need your help — paying-you-money kind of help. You meet, show them how your product can fix their problems, and they buy it.
2. Become your industry’s expert.
Solve problems for a lot of people, not just a few. Start a blog and write important articles about industry trends. Write articles about how trends in other industries affect yours. Write articles that show people how to fix a common problem. Write articles about other articles other industry people have written.
But do it without pimping your product. Don’t write commercial after commercial about your products. Don’t write about “5 ways our rotary wankle engine beats the competition.” Don’t even write about problems where your product is the only solution. People hate that, and will ignore you.
Then, share those articles on your social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. As your customers and prospects read your articles, they’ll figure if you know enough to write about these issues over and over, you must know what you’re talking about.
Not only will they think you’re an expert, they’ll realize you know enough to fix their specific problem. They won’t want the help from the person who just called them up for the 8th time. They want the expert whose wisdom they’ve been reading for the last several months or years.
3. Deepen relationships.
Social media lets you connect with other people, in all industries, all career levels, all over the world.
You can be Twitter friends with your favorite customers. You can be LinkedIn colleagues with important decision makers. (And you can keep tabs on the competition.)
Social media lets you deepen important work relationships without constant face-to-face meetings. You can find out interesting things about people, things you would never learn in a real meeting. And things that show you care about them as a person.
“I saw on Twitter that you got a new puppy. How’s she doing?”
Now you’ve connected with them, gotten to know them better, and you can start deepening that relationship. Only it doesn’t stop growing when you’ve left them. You can continue to grow it when you’re back at your office.
People buy from people they like. By using social media to grow your relationships, you can get people to like — and buy from — you.
4. Avoid gatekeepers.
Anyone who is in sales has learned that gatekeepers are the bane of our existence. It seems their sole purpose in life, the reason they were put here on this earth, is to say no to salespeople.
Those people are not monitoring your customers’ social networks. They’re not on Twitter blocking your tweets. They’re not on LinkedIn intercepting your group discussions.
Your customers using it themselves. They’re paying attention to you. They’re reading what you have to say. And because you’ve done the previous three steps, they’re willing to talk with you on the phone or meet with you face-to-face.
Because the one phrase that trumps all gatekeepers, and is like sunlight to a vampire to them?
“He asked me to call.”
5. Keep up with client turnover.
People move on. They get promoted, they change jobs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called someone only to find they left that job. All that work, all those phone calls and meetings, wasted. I could catch up with that person in their new job, if the gatekeeper was willing to share it, but a good bit of the time, that wasn’t possible.
With social media, because I’m keeping up with the people in my industry, I know when someone is moving on. I see their announcement on Twitter, I get the profile change notice on LinkedIn. I can send them congratulatory messages, follow up after they get settled in, and help them in their new role.
Occasionally, I can connect them to other people who can help, or write a blog post that relates to their new role and ideas to consider in their new position. (Sort of like this one.)
Social media is a force majeure in the business world, even while old school sales and marketing pros are still questioning whether and how to use social media, not realizing it’s already being used to great effect. Especially by the competition.
If you want to stay up with current trends and be a valuable resource to your current and potential clients, start using social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. (But that’s for another post.)
It sure beats playing Dialing for Dollars day after day.