We recently had a B2B client ask us how they could leverage their sales team to drive more leads from social media. They were frustrated in that they knew investing here would pay dividends, but none of the sales team would spend the time to get involved with these tools.
Their problem was two fold. First they didn’t have a comprehensive strategy in place. That’s the first step in any social media project. The second problem was that the sales team wasn’t given clear actions and didn’t have a real understanding of how to use these tools for business. Those two problems caused the sales team to avoid their directive to “start using social media”. Here’s my advice on how marketing can help sales begin using social media as a sales tool.
My advice is to let marketing drive the strategy and help sales with the execution. The sales team is going to do what drives immediate sales for them. Most sales compensation is tied to making sales so they don’t have time to experiment. If it won’t drive new business for them, they aren’t interested. And B2B social media can take time to turn a lead into a customer.
Marketing needs to first put in place a social media strategy to define goals, audiences, and channels. Once in place, marketing should strive to lead by example first and then assist the sales team as they dive into this new environment. It will involve a lot of hand holding at first, but as they see the value of their efforts they’ll catch on and do much more by themselves. I’d recommend a three step process:
- Provide Clear Actions (Education) – It’s likely that the sales team knows what Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are, but don’t understand how to best use these tools. They won’t get any value by just signing up, and it’s possible that’s all they know about these services.
Show how LinkedIn can be used to connect with partners, find new leads, and research prospects before initial meetings. Demonstrate how Twitter can be used to nurture relationships and help establish people as thought leaders within the industry.
Clear actions will help them actually do the tasks that will be valuable. Tell them to join a specific group or respond a specific question. Clear actions will make sure they actually get done. Too often marketing teams make the mistake of saying, “You should be using Twitter,” without giving any clear direction to how or why.
- Show ROI on Efforts (Proof) – Marketing needs to lead by example. They should have a corporate strategy in place for using social media to nurture prospects and drive new leads. If this is something you are simply forcing on sales, they will reject it. But if you can show them how you’ve been able to generate leads using these channels you’ll instantly gain credibility.Now you can speak with authority on the subject and your desire to have them leverage this channel will be met with interest rather than outright refusals.
- Make it Easy (Support) – It will take a great deal of hand holding so be prepared to provide plenty of support throughout the process. Make recommendations of who to connect with, what groups to join, specific industries to follow, articles to share, and anything else you’d like your team to do via social media. As I mentioned above, be specific. If you provide this assistance it will get done.
Be prepared for a lot of involvement early on. You’ll find that as the sales team begins to understand these channels and more importantly starts to make sales using them, they’ll take it off in their own direction. At that point you’ll need to put in place strategies to make sure the brand voice is cohesive, but that’s a good problem to have and a topic for another time.
Social media isn’t something that you can force upon sales with a carrot/stick approach. For someone to have success in this arena they need to want to participate. Make it easy and show them value and you’ll have a successful team off on their way. It’s by no means easy and can be time intensive at first, but with the right approach the effort will be worth it.