Mon, Feb 21, 2011
If you’ve read any of my other pieces on Social Media B2B, you’ll know that I live by the Listen, Connect, Engage model. It’s simple and highly effective for leveraging social intelligence to improve sales productivity and customer engagement success. Today, in the third part of the Social Selling Throughout the B2B Sales Cycle series, I will focus on the lead qualification process, where sales organizations can achieve massive productivity gains by quickly and accurately assessing the quality of inbound leads as sales-ready (or not, as the case may be!).
By tapping into social intelligence, the modern and savvy sales professionals can access more personalized prospect information, in less time. Through social selling techniques, sales teams tap highly relevant information to quickly qualify and rank inbound leads, driving a more efficient sales cycle, thanks to real-time business information. So how does this intelligence indicate hot or cold leads in order to focus the sales team and increase the relevancy of sales messaging?
Social Media: Selling’s Stethoscope
Not all leads are created equal – even inbound ones. Sales professionals have long been tasked with finding, vetting and ranking leads according to their readiness and ability to purchase. This information is the heartbeat of the sales opportunity, but has traditionally been buried in internal corporate documentation. However, social media proliferates such information as prospects’ share valuable insight through their social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Sales professionals who understand how to connect with Customer 2.0 can easily access these details to streamline the lead qualification process. The key here is to identify the right decision makers to connect with by leveraging social connections, and listen to the prospect before engaging them with a compelling message. For example, social profiles indicate where an inbound lead falls in their corporate hierarchy and qualification to make business-purchasing decisions. Other validators like corporate updates on sites, including LinkedIn, highlight news of company acquisitions, expansion efforts or product initiatives – all of which equate to vital information about purchasing readiness.
One of the common lead qualification challenges is that the inbound leads are often are not the decision makers. They are typically lower down in the organization, responsible for research on potential solutions. The trick is of course getting to the decision makers as soon as possible. Here is a step-by-step look into how social selling can expedite the lead qualification efforts:
- Determine where the inbound lead falls in the corporate hierarchy by validating title / position
- If they are not the decision maker, identify decision makers within the prospect’s company
- Leverage your social connections to identify a common SENIOR connection between you and the decision makers
- Tap into social intelligence to listen to what the decision makers care about / talk about
- Learn enough about your prospect’s current business challenges and needs to convince the common senior connection to agree to an introduction
- Convert the lead to an opportunity!
Another common lead qualification challenge is that inbound leads typically come with a single contact. By leveraging social intelligence, sales professionals can identify many additional connections into the prospect for ‘expanding communication threads’ and qualifying the prospect’s likelihood to purchase faster – and moving the deal through the pipeline faster thereafter.
Lead qualification, driven by social selling techniques, improves productivity across the sales organization. As social media expedites the lead qualification process and provides real-time information about a prospect’s likeliness to buy, lead qual teams assess the quality of the inbound leads more quickly and accurately. This enables the sales teams to focus their efforts on those inbound leads that are likely to convert into opportunities, and eventually into customers. In the next post of my series, I will discuss how social selling can expedite opportunity management, driving sales productivity and ROI as well as customer satisfaction.
Umberto Milletti is the CEO and founder of InsideView, the Sales 2.0 leader. Umberto has been a thought leader in the convergence of technology and content for the last 10 years. Follow Umberto on Twitter at @umbertom.