Social media has become the go-to resource for B2B customers – both to share feedback about companies they are doing business, with as well as to monitor discussions about products and services they are considering. The control of a B2B company’s brand is rapidly transitioning from corporate marketing departments to the customer-to-customer conversations taking place via social media. Just as shared positive experiences can drive new prospects to your business, unmanaged negative commentaries can spread like wildfire, incinerating your organization’s hard earned reputation. Not surprisingly, customers recognize their growing influence and realize the impact of their praise, or more importantly, their criticism.
This is the era of Customer 2.0. Businesses of all sizes are learning the importance of listening, rather than preaching, in order to acquire and retain their customers. Customer 2.0 is not interested in vague and impersonalized advertising and sales pitches. They are socially savvy and active, know how to connect with one another to talk about your company (more than half of active US Twitter users follow at least one company, brand or product) and possess little desire to maintain loyalty for a company who does not care for and accommodate their needs.
This new environment creates big challenges but also incredible opportunities for B2B sales. Sales professionals can no longer completely rely on traditional email and cold calling campaigns. The good news is social media is leveling the playing field for selling to Customer 2.0. Sales professionals can now gain timely and relevant insights about their customers as well as engage at a very deep and personal level – two huge boons to the B2B sales process. Thanks to social media monitoring and conversation, individuals within the organization have the ability (along with the responsibility!) of championing the identity of their corporate brand and uphold public reputations. The wall between the corporation and the end-user has been torn down; and sales professionals are on the front lines.
B2B buyers have evolved faster than their sales counterparts, and it is Customer 2.0 who is setting the social media trends, not the organization. Hence, companies must learn to accommodate the customer’s preferred methods of engagement. Many organizations have been doing just that for the past year and have seen tremendous rewards.
Although this new engagement model involves a mix of marketing, customer service and sales, sales teams must take the lead in this process. It is the B2B sales professionals who face the continual challenge of defining, learning about and meeting the needs of their customers. The savvy sales person has a new mandate of knowing how to use their social resources and take full advantage of the platforms at their disposal.
So, how will you take advantage of social media to keep pace with your Customer 2.0s? For starters, do not get stuck in of the interrupt-driven world of “sales 1.0.” Listen to your customers and engage in relevant conversations with them. And, stay tuned for more insights on the tools and methodologies you can easily adopt to improve the social selling IQ of your sales team – the rewards will surely follow in the form of higher sales productivity and shorter sales cycles.