B2B Companies Must Keep Pace with the Customer 2.0

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.

Comments

  1. says

    Excellent post. I would venture to say that the top sales performers already perform at 2.0 levels. They are renowned for listening and engaging their customers, and they use every resource to do so. They throw out the scripts painfully researched by marketing teams to have conversations and get to know their customers. I have no doubt that you will see these top performers continue to excel in social media as they do in person now.

    @Erroin

  2. says

    Hi Umberto,
    I think the point you make about listening to your customers in this new world is the most important one. Moving to an environment that is more about listening and engagement rather than interruption is a big change. To support this, I agree will need to be lead by the sales team, but they will need broader support (ie. leadership and management) to deliver on this.

    What do you think?

    Adrian

  3. says

    Adrian,

    You are right: it is a fundamental shift of mindset, and all such shifts need to be embraced and probably led by the company leaders. Part of leading is to think about “how can I help my team successfully navigate this transition,” and implement systems & processes that facilitate the transition.

    Those companies who will embrace this shift first will build competitive advantage, and outperform & outsell those who don’t.

    Umberto

  4. says

    I think social media is a crucial element of b2b marketing now, but to say it is ‘go-to resource for b2b customers’ is a little ambitious.

    For some buyers in some sectors, yes, (we’re talking about tech savvy, professional services and consulting) but for more hard nosed manufacture, engineering, supply, distribution operations, many are still way behind the curve.

    At Barrett Dixon Bell, we’re working to convince our B2B client base that being the first mover in social media in their sector affords theem greater differentiation and greater position, reach and profile. But it’s a slow process, and as we know, needs a careful considered sell which indicates there is some tangible return.

  5. says

    Tim,

    Exactly, and we don’t have to wait until the GenY makes it into senior management. Most sales organization today have a heavy GenY representations (especially inside sales), and those workers expect modern infrastructure at work, that helps them do their job just like social networks, social media and other consumer apps help them be more productive outside work.

    Companies with 1990s systems will lose engagement with their GenY employees.

    Umberto

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