How to Use B2B Social Media for More Efficient Lead Qualification

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.

Results
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.

Comments

  1. says

    Umberto,

    Interesting idea of using social media tools to pre-quality leads. Are you aware of specific companies that are doing this with any level of success. Any published case studies/examples/write-ups?

    I think that the active use of social media by company executives or “C” level roles is still very much focused in the tech sector, among a very young generation of managers, or still in the hands of early adopter folks. My experience is that most senior decision makers are NOT using/leveraging social media. They are not on Facebook or Twitter. They are not plugged into any other social media related tools. They might have a profile established on LinkedIn – however, it’s more than likely the profile is outdated, incomplete, or essentially useless as a point of information.

    I still think we’re about 2-5 years from wide spread adoption of social media tools that are integrated into our daily routine.

    Forget senior level sales execs and corporate management. I have a large executive search practice focused on high level sales professionals (the ones that earn $200-$500k/yr. I am embarrassed by the lack of sophistication among these sales pros in their use of social media.

    Your thoughts?

    Barry Deutsch
    IMPACT Hiring Solutions
    http://www.impacthiringsolutions.com/blog

  2. says

    Barry,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    I agree that social media for business is still in the early stages of adoption. Depending on the industry, you might find that only 20%, or as high as 80%, of the people you need to qualify or prospect have social media presence. But when they do, that information is gold, and the ability for a rep to create an engaging outreach increases dramatically.

    Just like Internet adoption took years to become mainstream, it’ll take time for social media and networking to become ubiquitous. But it’s just a question of when, not if (if social media can help overthrow despots who were in power for decades, I think the odds of it dramatically changing the business world are pretty high).

    Just like with Internet adoption, those of us who first learn how to leverage social media to improve the effectiveness of our customer interactions will have a lasting competitive advantage over those who don’t.

    p.s. unfortunately, you are right that sales leaders are usually not early adopters of new technology. We are about to launch executive education programs in this area in partnership with key thought leaders, to help bridge that knowledge gap

  3. says

    Agreed – it seems to be more of a “marketing meets customer service” role, instead of sales folks leading the efforts.

    I recently read a great case study on 8th Continent Soy Milk (on American Express Forum). 8th Continent has a few employees listening to their brand and the competition’s brand, using a variety of monitoring tools.

    They use these tools to monitor consumer perception, identify opportunities for one-on-one interaction, crowd source to learn how people are using our product, drive traffic to other owned-channels, and to connect with influencers who can spread word of mouth.

    As we know, when we listen to conversations, there’s usually an opportunity to sell by responding quickly to leads.

    In one promotion, 8th Continent monitored mentions of Silk brand soy milk, one of their competitors, and offered trial coupons to users. They’ve allegedly seen a 39 percent redemption rate, versus the 0.7 percent redemption of hard copy coupons.

    Being totally transparent, at Social Strategy1, we’ve got a team of analysts who identify these types of opportunities for our clients.

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