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February 24, 2016

Sales reps and social media

Social media is becoming an ever prevalent part of the way companies interact with their customers. This is especially true for individuals in sales positions, as their work requires them to establish and maintain relationships, and many of those relationships now start (and continue) online.  But social media can be disastrous if used incorrectly. Just check out a few of the snafus experienced by some of the world’s biggest corporations in this top 10 list on Inc.com. So how can sales reps use social media effectively and responsibly to build relationships and improve sales?

The first step in using social media effectively is knowing where your audience spends time online. LinkedIn is seen as “the” social network for professionals, and with the addition of Pulse and SlideShare to the LinkedIn platform, there are now great ways to share rich content with your professional network.  High quality, relevant content on both Pulse and SlideShare are seeing very high engagement metrics.  Quora is great for exchanging information and sharing knowledge that is unique to you and your industry, allowing prospects to see you as a knowledgeable advisor, whereas networks like Twitter allow for consistent yet more informal interactions and can be a great way to stay top of mind with your prospects.

Once you’ve identified the platforms that make sense for your specific goals, make sure your profiles convey the proper image.  Include a professional photo and make it clear which company you represent and your role there so that when you comment or share information, there’s a clear connection to your products and services.  Don’t be afraid to inject some personality in your profiles, just make sure that it aligns with the brand you represent.  It’s important to have a unified message across all the platforms you use.  Buyers will be looking at your social profiles before they reach out to you, and if something is outdated or inconsistent, they’ll be less likely to engage.

Focus on sharing information and insights rather than constantly pitching as social channels are better suited to building awareness and trust, whereas hard selling on social networks tends to be ineffective.  For example, answering a question on Quora with a product pitch can discredit a sales rep, doing more harm than good.  On the other hand, offering an opinion, or better yet hard data, while being transparent about the company you represent, can be a powerful way to engage prospects and create awareness.

Because social media for B2B companies is a great place to share knowledge, insights and data, it’s important to make sure that your sales reps’ social media strategy is aligned closely with your company’s content marketing strategy. Content creation isn’t generally the direct responsibility of the sales team, but they should be aware of the content marketing strategy before taking to social media. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, out of the companies that find content marketing to be most effective, 66% have a documented content marketing strategy, 86% have a dedicated person that oversees the strategy, and they use an average of 7 different social media platforms to reach their audience. 74% of these same companies say that they are reaching lead acquisition goals by using content marketing and social media. The reps who leverage the content strategy can piggy-back off this momentum, often simply sharing content that was created by the company or adding a little bit of color to that content is enough to get the attention of buyers.

I’ve mentioned in recent posts how important it is to be a trusted source of information for your customers, and social media is a great way to reinforce that.  But it’s not just prospects that will be checking out your social media presence.  You should be doing the same with your target buyers.  You can learn a lot about a company or individual by observing their actions on social media, from tweets to rants to blog posts. Its a great way to get to know your buyers before a meeting to build connections and to understand their current pain points and maybe even glean from their connections and conversations which of your competitors they may be considering.

Social media is emerging at a rapid pace with new platforms coming online every year.  They offer a wealth of information about your buyers and competitors and can be a great vehicle to establish connections and build trust during the sales process.  At the same time, putting the wrong information out there can be harmful to the sales process so embrace social media as part of your process, but be careful what you post.  You may think no one is paying attention to your Tweets but it only takes 140 of the wrong characters to kill a deal.

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