How to reach B2B buyers with social selling

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Last week, customer intelligence and web analytics company KISSMetrics offered its latest in a series of analytics webinars, Measuring the ROI of Social Selling.

The webinar seeks to teach participants how and why to measure the ways in which social media activity supports the sales process from a B2B perspective. Michael Idinopulos was the featured speaker, and he works as chief marketing officer for social selling platform PeopleLinx, designed to helps employees optimize their profiles, leverage relationships, and engage connections with targeted content.

Why do B2Bs need social selling?

Idinopulos begins by stating that B2B buyers are becoming increasingly difficult for sales people to reach. The latest research shows that it can take up to eight calls to reach a buyer, which represents an increase of more than four calls from what the figures were a decade ago.

What makes it difficult to reach this subset of buyers, according to Idinopulos, is that they are consensus driven, and they’re self-educating. He says, “Fifty-five to 70 percent of a buyer’s decision making process is already complete before the buyer picks up the phone or fires off an email to a sales rep.”

This figure shows that there has been a major shift in the control of information. Where previously salespeople were the point of contact for potential buyers to learn about products, features, opportunities, etc., now this information is all available online, with more than 80 percent of this information being accessed by B2B executives through social media.

Idinopulos states, “As a [sales] rep, if you’re waiting for the phone to ring, if you’re waiting for that inbound, you’re going to be joining the baseball game in the bottom of the fifth or sixth inning … That’s a real problem if you’re trying to influence the decision criteria, the considerations, the mental models, and the frameworks that your buyers are bringing to the conversation.”

From this, he insists that social media is becoming increasingly critical to early engagement when your sales people are trying to reach a B2B buyer. He’s pulled some pretty compelling statistics to substantiate this.

For example, research published in places like Forbes has found that 78 percent of salespeople using social media outsell their peers.

But Idinopulos is quick to point out that not all social media is the same, and not all people use it the same way. He insists that how you use social media will affect whether or not you see an increase in your sales output.

And to determine whether or not your social media strategy is effective, Idinopulos advocates for self-measurement. He says, “You’ve got to measure for yourself in order to understand for your business, for your market, for your salespeople, what’s actually delivering what level of ROI.”

Measuring the ROI on your social selling

Metrics currently exist to help analyze that ROI delivery. Idinopulos points to LinkedIn’s new social selling index (SSI) as an example. This measurement tool takes into account such things as completeness of profile, extent of network, and frequency of content sharing.

In short, LinkedIn’s SSI is a reflection of a user’s activity and actions on one social media platform. However, he warns that to effectively measure your ROI, you need a metric that extends across multiple social platforms. For this, he points to the klout score. It’s a metric which measures more than just your activity, it gives a sense of the engagement that your social audience has with your actions and content across multiple social networks. In short, it gives you a sense of how influential you are on social media.

Here, too, there are limitations, especially for salespeople. What’s missing is the tie back to revenue. Idinopulos says, “As sales and marketing professionals … all the vanity metrics of social media are relevant and interesting only insofar as they allow us to tie back to sales lift .. the tie back to deal flow, the creation of new opportunities, the advancement of opportunities, and to the successful closing of those opportunities.”

Tying social activity to sales

Idinopulos points to three different actions that create connections between social selling activities and sales results: employee advocacy, prospecting (finding qualified buyers that you can engage in an opportunity), and deal nurturing. The metrics for these are known already. Things like how much your content is shared, how many surveys or forms are filled, how many opportunities are created, win rate percentages, and cycle times are all familiar measurements. The key, though, is that all these things must actually be measured.

Fortunately, as Idinopulos points out, if you’re using a CRM, then you probably already have this data. Where the challenge lies is associating that data with the social actions that are generating the outcomes you’re measuring.

Idinopulos gives three tips that can be implemented immediately:

  1. If you’re encouraging employees to share content, give them unique URLs with an embedded tracker for social sharing
  2. In your CRM, add “Social” to lead/deal source to make sure that social selling wins get captured
  3. Capture success stories. When you learn about interesting techniques and strategies that your salespeople are successfully implementing to engage buyers through social media, share them so that your other reps are learning from their colleagues.

What’s important when doing this is ensuring that the data you’re capturing is as granular as possible. Idinopulos suggests that for employee advocacy you track factors like which sharing actions generated which click-throughs, and which of your sales reps are generating the most engagement. He suggests that for prospecting, you should be encouraging your salespeople to use social as a value for tracking sales sources (such as emails or InMails sent), again with an emphasis on granular data. Deal nurturing, he admits, is the most difficult to capture, but not impossible.

He says, “Just as you can do things like associating an email sent with an opportunity — most CRMs allow you to do that now — you can also associate things like connection requests, or pulling someone up in a search. There are all sorts of social networking actions you can associate with the opportunity they influence.”

The figures for ROI on social selling

If social selling is done properly and consistently, Idinopulos has some compelling figures which show the average ROI:

  • Low CPC cost: $1 to $2 per click on employee-shared content (a figure which includes the investment to train and help sales reps share content)
  • 30 to 40 percent form fill conversions contributed by social
  • 3 to 4 times the increase in outbound yield versus cold-calling
  • 10 to 20 percent increase in win rate
  • 20 to 30 percent acceleration in cycle times

Social selling is not just for B2C

In this KISSMetrics webinar, Michael Idinopulos of PeopleLinx has made an impactful argument for why B2Bs can no longer treat social selling as something belonging to the B2C sphere. Social selling is a must for successful B2B sales activities from start to finish and beyond.

Photo via KISSMetrics webinar

 

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