Guest post by Shelley Cernel, Senior Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree
Over the past several years, we have seen a significant rise in the importance of digital channels in the sales process. In today’s increasingly connected world, prospects and customers are just a click away. Modern companies must adapt their sales strategies to attract and satisfy these next-generation buyers. The power of social media combined with content sharing can help sales forces to engage more intelligently with buyers and build those important prospect relationships.
1) Marketing is creating content that is not getting used
New data from CMI shows that 20% of B2B marketers’ budgets goes to creating content that is not getting used by sales or adding value to sales conversations. Unfortunately, the right content at the right time is often the deciding factor in whether a deal advances or, sometimes, even closes.
2) Sales needs content because buyers demand it
More than ever, B2B buyers are relying on content to guide them through the complicated and confusing purchase process, from research to purchasing decision. Over 80% of B2B buyers review a minimum of 5 pieces of content, with a direct correlation between complexity of the sale and number of pieces of content viewed. And in a recent DemandGen report, almost 2/3 of buyers indicated that the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their purchase decision, demonstrating content’s importance in the sales process.
3) Sales doesn’t always maximize the power of social media
Social selling isn’t about spamming potential customers with hard-sells. As the name implies, it’s about providing value socially first, with selling coming in a distant second. Successful social selling requires sales reps to develop their image, cultivate a following, and become a go-to resource. Content has become a key aspect of this process, but it is one that is often forgotten or neglected.
How Social Sales Reps Can Use Content
No matter where prospects are in the purchase process, sales reps can engage with and nurture them. Social media offers reps the opportunity to make additional touches that will add value, such as via a tweet or LinkedIn post. But content is now powering more and more sales activities, as it can facilitate the relationship with buyers and reinforce the brand without pushing a sales message.
Use content to … educate buyers
Prospects are spending more time doing independent research and obtaining information from peers and other third party sources, with 54% of B2B buyers beginning their purchase process with informal research about their business problems. And almost ¾ of B2B buyers use social media as a research tool. Social media offers a non-intrusive way for sales people to get involved with prospects while they are still in the early stages of information gathering, and then from that point they can guide the selling process. And despite other changes in the B2B selling space, content still plays an important role in the buying process. The prospects may be aware of their problem and are not sure what next steps to take, or they may be exploring the space and begin to recognize not-yet-identified challenges within their organization. The key here is that it’s not just about sharing content, but rather about offering a variety of engaging and relevant content that will increase the likelihood of exciting, informing, and motivating the prospect.
Use content to … become a thought leader
Social media enables sales reps to build their personal brands and position themselves as subject matter experts. They should become a go-to resource on a topic that is relevant to their target audience. Reps can share thought leadership material, such as blog posts and articles, infographics, and videos, to spread awareness of their brand and attract potential prospects. B2B buyers look for those vendors who understand their business and the challenges they face and who can offer valuable insights into resolving their pain points. Remember – it’s about helping people and solving problems – not just about making sales. Sales reps should be able to use their knowledge and content to understand and diagnose the prospect’s problem and make the right recommendations to overcome the challenge. In fact, sales teams that challenge and engage prospects with value-add insights are twice as likely to hit their quota. And 92% of buyers are willing to engage with a sales rep who is known as an industry thought leader.
Use content to … build relationships and guide the customer experience
In today’s increasingly connected world, social media can enable sales reps to develop stronger relationships with prospects and customers. Social selling is about building trust and credibility, nurturing relationships, and staying top-of-mind. It goes beyond just technology utilization to place the customer experience ahead of the sales pitch. One of the fastest ways to create this trust is by focusing on helping prospects rather than on making a sale. Consider more in-depth content pieces such as ebooks, whitepapers, research reports, and webinars. Additionally, research shows that the more trusted an individual is, the greater their sales effectiveness, enabling them to successfully advance deals.
Use content to … add value to prospects
Social media and social selling can help sales forces relate to and engage more intelligently with buyers by enabling them to have meaningful conversations. By monitoring and getting involved, sales reps have an idea of what their prospects are talking and asking about, and they are in the right place to help solve the problems at hand. The answer? Content. Buyers demand more content now than ever before, and they expect to have relevant and engaging content throughout their entire purchase process. Offering value helps potential customers make informed decisions and feel confident that they made the right one.