The Internet, and specifically Social Media, has changed the role of sales forever. In this new world, buyers have access to more information than ever before. Everything you need to know is a couple of clicks away, and what’s even more interesting is the source of where this information is coming from. In most cases it’s not the brand you’re researching, but a highly regarded 3rd party expert – or influencer – in the industry.
Marketing has picked up on this change, and as a result has been forced to integrate practices such as content and influencer marketing to stay relevant in this new world. With this marketers have also become part data scientists, diving deeper into the analytics behind their efforts to measure what’s working and what’s not with the goal of making strategic adjustments guided by these deeper insights. This is the modern marketer.
But what about sales? This transformation has an enormous impact on the role of sales professionals. While in the past, the sales force was often the sole gatekeeper to information on the products and services they’re selling, now information-rich buyers can be nearly 60% through the purchasing process before even engaging a sales rep. Power has shifted hands, people are buying on their own terms, and traditional sales practices - such as cold calling - are no longer effective (some question how effective they ever were).
Change is constant, and as history has proven, within every challenge is an opportunity to succeed. Those that are succeeding in marketing today have made the transition to the modern marketer. Likewise, those that will be successful in sales tomorrow are the ones who are able to make a similar transition to the modern sales professional.
But what does this modern sales professional look like? And how do you become one?
Just as there’s an enormous amount of information at the fingertips of the buyer, the same is true for the sales professional on the other side of the table. Conversations are happening across the social web about your market, brand, products, and competitors. Step one is listening to these conversations. Understand the key topics, trends, and players that are pushing the conversation forward. Get a better understanding of your prospects and customers, their backgrounds and interests. All the information is there for you to use. The insights you can uncover will have an enormous impact on the conversations you have going forward. In addition, identify gaps in the conversation – questions or issues that have been left unanswered. Identifying these gaps opens up huge opportunities to bring value to the conversation.
Tools I Use to Listen: HootSuite, LinkedIn, Traackr
Which brings us to step two, join the conversation. As mentioned previously, cold calling is no longer effective. People don’t answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize and no one listens to voicemails anymore. Cold emailing can also be a challenge. Inboxes are overflowing with emails pitching seemingly similar products and it’s always tough to balance presenting your value and differentiating factors while keeping your emails short and concise. Meanwhile, conversations are happening on the social web and this is where your prospects are spending their time. Join in, engage, and find opportunities to add value. This will enable you to connect and develop relationships with qualified prospects whose challenges you may be able to solve.
Tools I Use to Join the Conversation: HootSuite, Nimble, Traackr
Step three, become a thought leader yourself. Curate and share relevant content that your audience will find helpful in their buying process. A great way to do this is by identifying influencers in your market. Influencers act as an amazing filter for quality content, and by sharing their content you open up the opportunity to develop relationships with them too, which can be extremely powerful. Also, create your own content. As a sales professional living and breathing your industry and the challenges your products are looking to solve, you have a unique perspective. You are closest to your market, having deep conversations with your customers on a daily basis and a better understanding of their pain points than anyone else. Create content that will benefit them and you’ll attract more people like them who will want to learn how you can help them as well.
Tools I Use to Become a Thought Leader: Traackr, Scoop.it
Finally step four, start measuring engagement vs. activity. Along with the digital revolution comes a ton of powerful tools that enable you to get deeper insights into what’s working and what’s not. Gone are the days of exclusively measuring activity - number of cold calls, number of emails, number of demos, etc. Focus more on the results of your efforts and A/B test to fine-tune your process. This goes for both engagement on social platforms (ex. what sort of content leads to the highest level of engagement?) as well as more traditional forms of communication such as email (ex. open rates, click-through rates for content included in emails, response rates, etc.).
Tools I Use to Measure Engagement: ToutApp
It seems the line between marketing and sales is blurring as the modern sales professional essentially plays the role of a micro-marketer. It will be interesting to see how this develops, who will adapt, and who will fall behind. In the end, one thing is for certain - relationships are more important than ever and social media is a crucial tool in enhancing these relationships, whether you’re a marketer, a sales professional, or anything in between.