Social Selling is a VERY hot topic right now in B2B Sales. In fact, I spoke in a session at Dreamforce yesterday on this very topic along with Seema Kumar from, Mark Syneck from Sales Benchmark Index, Ralf VonSosen from LinkedIn and David Rogers from Pandora. Here is the Salesforce Blog Summary of the session.

Social Selling is on a rapid adoption curve with mainstream B2B sales.  But something that has advanced faster than the Social Seller is the "Social Buyer."

The Social Seller needs to catch up and meet the information stage their buyers are at. So many reps still go into meetings not knowing who they are going to meet with (live or a call) other than the company they are with, and plan to wait and see if they are enough of an influencer or a decision maker to spend the time on research to move the deal forward.

The problem with this approach is buyers are almost 60% more informed than they were 10 years ago, and you are engaging at a further stage in the pipeline. Your role is no longer to "present the company" but to help the buyer assimilate all the information they have about you correctly, undo any wrong impressions, help them connect the dots of what they are researching, and help them come to the right conclusion to work with you. It is a much more sophisticated role reps have today than 10 years ago. To do this effectively, you need to know your buyer going in. 

Something to consider, your buyer is likely making a lot of information about them available through LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks. This is "prospect-generated content" and they are giving you clues on how they buy. Missing out on that opportunity is impacting you more than you know.

"Why is that?" you might ask.  You can be sure your buyer isn't waiting to see if they want to do business with YOU before researching your company.  They already did enough homework to keep the meeting. You are in the meeting with them now because they confirmed they want to at least talk to you, and they also likely took the next step and looked YOU up too.   

What does this mean for you as a sales rep?

  • Your buyer knows more about you than you do about them - not a level playing field
  • You have missed the opportunity to engage on any common areas of interest or connections in your first meeting--this could have provided a more meaninful connection that motivated your buyer to pay more attention to your follow up
  • You don't know how long your customer has been in the space they are in now. Example: you are selling a supply chain solution for less than a year--your prospect has been in supply chain executive management for 15 years with some of the biggest companies in the world, they are published on the topic, and they have been at this company for 2 years but a year ago your company closed one of their former employers and they are an active reference.  But you don't know any of the conversation is pitching and presenting, lots of questions to the prospect you could have found out on their LinkedIn profile but you don't know that
  • Let's make this worse - you have been meaning to build out your LinkedIn profile and you have not. You just have one line descriptions of your jobs, and it says you are looking for an opportunity at the bottom.  Does your prospect see you as a supply chain expert or someone that will be their rep for a long time?

There is a lot of subconscious interpretation of discovery going on when companies check out providers, both from what you say, what you do not and how you present yourself. Do not depend on just your company to make the great impression, they are meeting with you and will look YOU up.

Often buyers, since they are in the position of strength, take the time to exploit every possible weakness of a vendor to better negotiate, leverage areas to get better terms, pit you against an incumbent, etc.  If you are not prepared for that, at a minimum they know you were the extreme they see risk working with you or the meeting was not strong enough to keep other vendors out of the discussion moving forward.

What does the "Social Buyer" have access to?

  • Reviews and industry placement
  • Expertise in the form of blogs, social presence, testimonials
  • Press and Industry recognition
  • Peers and colleagues that know your firm
  • Your customers you publish
  • Backgrounds of your executive team
  • Your financial backing
  • Bad reviews or bad experiences in forums
  • Product comparisons
  • Your background and expertise and who your network is
  • Customers you have on your site, they are easy access through LinkedIn

Buyers are smart, informed, understand the power of information in the public domain, and do not hesitate to find what they need without you.  

What can you do right now?  Three things:

  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile presents an expert in your field
  • Research your prospects before meetings
  • Learn how to interpret the information you discover into actionable discussion and discovery points

Reps making this investment in themselves are seeing the returns in a major way!