B2B sales and social mediaEvery private sector organisation has to sell, in some form, if they’re going to survive. Business to business selling can be one of the most complex and subtle processes around, and what we’re going to look at here is how social media can help with that.

Note: we’re talking about reasonably big ticket, longish sales cycle products or services here. Realistically, if you’re selling something with a low order value, then you’d be best off focusing on visibility and great customer service as a differentiator on social media.

We’re also not talking about the stereotypical double glazing salesmen sales “technique”. If trying to pester your prospects into submission is your usual style, please keep it off of social media – we’ve all got really good at gatekeeping your phone calls now!

So if you want to build solid, long term relationships with key people who may need your product or service one day – here’s how social media can not only make your work easier, but make your prospects sit up and take notice of you as offering something different and real.

1. Establishing Credibility

Anyone can say all the right things in a one hour presentation, right? But in the social media environment, it’s far easier for prospects to get a convincing sense of you or your company’s values and way of working. Your social media accounts are the chance to prove that they really would be happy doing business with you.

That doesn’t mean being cold and corporate; it does mean being polite, helpful and consistent. Humour and personality is a bonus.

2. Knowing your prospect

If your prospect or their company is active on social media, that offers a fantastic opportunity to understand them better. Understanding is the key to providing them with the perfect proposal at the perfect time. So, follow them on twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn, or Google+ if they’re there. (Note: Do not attempt to become Facebook friends with them. Just….don’t.) Get to know their likes and dislikes, and get a better sense of what motivates them.

3. Maintaining contact

This is always the big challenge for big ticket business development folk. Your prospect is busy, and won’t thank you for a “how are you?” phone call which inevitably coincides with a day when their To Do list is already way off track.

But you need to keep in touch, or they’ll forget about you. Social Media lets you maintain the relationship, without detracting from their effectiveness at work. A “nice work at the weekend, Arsenal!” tweet when their team wins is as effective at keeping you in their mind as a “look at our new product” email, but for much more positive reasons!

4. Super-subtle selling

One of the differences between a so-so and great sales presentation: stories. Clever narratives that help the prospect imagine themselves in the position of a buyer, with a positive outcome. Social Media is a perfect place for story telling of this sort. Blog posts about how other clients got on (brilliantly, of course!) with your service or product. Or if you’re being really clever, a photo of your client Jessica with the project award she just won…with your help. (Check out our post about writing creatively for social media for more along these lines.)

Yes, this is absolutely selling, in the sense that you’re removing concerns and barriers, and progressing your prospect towards a place where they can say Yes. It just doesn’t look like it – and what’s not to love about that.

Why “could” revolutionise B2B selling?

So why did we title this article as we did? Simply because, in our experience at least, it hasn’t so far. How many annoying phone calls do we get each week trying to flog us exhibition space or advertising? Many. How many organisations are engaging with our Twitter account, commenting thoughtfully on articles we’ve sent out, or even re-tweeting to help us out? Very, very few.

So right now it would be very easy to stand out in the B2B space with some quite basic social selling strategy – are you listening, cold calling companies everywhere?!