SECTION 1 - INTRO
Is about Relationships
What is the main way any professional gets customers ? You can argue that for most professionals is their network of relationships. Most customers come from referrals as jobs and business opportunities. But if you think in your day to day , what have you done to make them better this week ? To develop new relationships or even just to maintain existing ones.
Some people argue they are too busy and don't have the time to be on social networks. Time is money, so they say. But missing important opportunities can be much more costly.
Most of us attend or network from time to time , whenever we find a spare moment. We feel somehow guilty or just bore and take that break or waiting time to socialize a bit. The platforms bring a constant flow of updates , so you will end up interacting with a random set of people . Unlikely the ones that your career needs , so your efforts get wasted .
That makes people,every time more, seek help with tools. But many are too basic auto.responders and programs to send the same bulk messages to all. They are too easy to detect and that misses the point. The whole idea was to build trust .
Relationship building is also about time and consistency . There are things that you can not speed up or jump steps.
Back the power to the people
The traditional demand generation based on attracting visitors to a web site by ads or content , expecting them to convert into prospects by filling up a long form to self- quelifty is not well suited for B2B sales.
Over 98% of web visitors do not leave their contact details and GDPR makes it even harder to get them in your systems.
On the other hand cold outreach is neither effective nor compliant and the modern buyer wants to initiate the buying process researching and grabbing the information by themselves before involving anyone from the vendor .
Si does it mean that business and anyone trying to promote a product ,a service or themselves have to adopt a passive strategy ? Pay the hefty ads fees or invest heavily in content creation just to wait for someone to discover it and then be happy with the minuscule fraction that convert into potential customers to talk to them?
Before getting into that, let's take a moment to examine how have we come to this situation ?
Everything starts by someone trying to make people to get to know how their problems can be solved.
Somewhere in the way a division was created between people that talk to people one by one - called sales and other employees that use technologies to reach many people at once.
Sales people where the best to taylor the message to the exact needs of the customer but If you want to scale , you had to make a compromise and make the message more accommodating to a broad audience, for broadcasting .
That has been true for many years due to the state of the art of the technologies used , from print, radio, tv and even in the internet times. The complexity to build web pages and the associated systems make then just suitable to the specialized IT teams.
But now a single individual have access to easy to use tools, networks and way to reach as an individual thousands or millions of peers , customers , prospects and stakeholders in general.
And the marketing led model has reach a peak of inefficiently , people do not want to follow brands but other people.
For business means that technology and the means are best use in the hands of those that can build relationships with the customers .
The answer has been forming for a while with terms like Account based Marketing or the inverted funnel . In a nutshell means to start by locating and identifying your exact target , to them create ways to reach them in order to attract them with a much focused and thus more relevant and higher converting value proposition , mostly taylor content .
The richness of social data combined with the power to scale that smart automation tools and technologies makes the individual employees and much valuable asset that an impersonal brand account
The resources have to be allocated to get the best returns and employees in general - and sales in particular - are the ones that can get the best return on the assets - content - to reach their intended targets
Just a quick note to clarify that I am not advocating the end of the marketing function , the messaging, the content, the production have to happen but the units to deliver the whole experience have to be closer to the customer - a kind of micro-sales & marketing departments that control their own universe of stakeholders. We will address that in more detail in the chapper Content for sales
Digital Selling Principles
The Sales journey is defined by the customer
A sale happens when a customer is ready to buy . Even as simplistic as it may sound , this is currently in most organizations not the way their systems are set up. As a first step the process is defined by their internal channels , marketing and sales , inbound and outbound and whinin each different flows that put the product first and then look for ways to feed in prospects into it, make them adapt and consume whatever is been defined in the script for each buyer persona in best case scenarios.
But as people are unique individuals with unique needs and interest , so is the business the one that have to adapt and cater for each combination of need /pain, buyer stage , buyer persona , cluster , segment or even better individual profile and the myriad of containers to transmit a value proposition from content types to media channels , forums, networking sites and publishing platforms , both for mass audiences or one to one communications.
In reality is not as complex as it may sound , but actually quite rewarding as the value each product or service can be better highlighted at each laser focus case of use.
Value proposition can be transmitted not only with content but other forms as apps, extensions, integrations within ecosystem
As an example the value propositions of a product can be better demonstrated by an Browser extension or an app that help some users with a micro-pain , collateral to the value proposition.
Be able to see at a glance the Linkedin profile of the people sending you an email was great add on a gmail extension that got almost a million people to use it and in that way auto qualifying themselves as prospects for networking and productivity tools.
A kind of gateway to demonstrate or otherwise onboard a potential customer.
Active profiling of each prospect
it is obvious that modern organizations can not afford to wait for their customers to call them in or fill their web site forms
Besides being a passive strategy that limits enormously the funnel , it creates a split among sales & marketing that it does not help the business
Sales can not wait for their targets to happen to visit the web site or request information
You need to actively find out groups that have shown any sign of potential interest and prove them with each of the value propositions
Value propositions relevant for each individual- Long tail interest
Your product value can be as specific as each situation where there is a need . And people with that need will seek for content, experiences and solutions to solve it.
Any form of help , typically a piece of content is better as adapted to each person as possible.
There is the obvious trade off to be able to replicate it in order to scale but as technology evolves so does the individualization possibilities .
The start is to segment by topics of interest, then go further by types of buyer, titles , stages etc,, rich social data can help a long way with that
And then you can take it to next level using systems that react to the customer context and activity , using triggers to deliver the message at the right time, when the customer is actually actively interested in one of the micro pains that you solve
Build bridges wherever they are reachable
People talk to people , see what people do and read what people share . And they do it in forums, social networking sites and some other mediums of personal communications.
Businesses have to be there , connected in order to influence them .
But not as a business or as a brand , but as people . Employees, sales, ambassadors, influencers or any other form of people , one of the best being your own users or customers
Use assistants to monitor each target and scale up your reach
Yes, social networks are people networks but that does mean that your people can use some help. And yes, we are talking about tools and automation, but that does not mean to stop being personal
The critical point is where or who should use the systems . If you centralized in a kind of central community management center , you miss the point. We are talking about decentralization, being closer to the customer , individual to individual , but at scale .
Give back the power to the individual but give them too the tools to survive, artificial intelligence assistants
Social networks are noisy and without systems to filter is a waste of time , a waste of sales valuable time.And sales needs to monitor , lots of contacts and prospects , actually each potential customer should be monitored for each potential opportunity
So there is no way to do that without tools, the good news is there are plenty of options. The not so good is that you need a plan to carefully choose the one that fist in your strategy
Build a system that flows in a natural way
Everything has to adapt to the ways the customers want to consume our value proposition.
Generate natural flows where inbound, outbound , the personas and the content work together in the same direction to complement each other.
Sales people leveraging content adjusted to their segmented list, automatically sent when a topic is discussed in a forum , with tracking systems that alerts sales or initiate a chat when a specific prospect visits the web
To manage all the possibilities under one single omni channel platform that aggregates everything is simply not possible.
Besides the mighty technical challenge and the complexity to manage a monster that control each channel to interact with customers,webs,mails, contents,video, forums many of the most popular are outside the scope of the enterprise , the social networks and attempts to “move customer data” have to take into account data privacy regulations ( GDPR and so on )
You have to play in each field with the best tools available at each. And the only single point of nexus across platforms is the people. All systems have to have the person as the centricity point .
That's why for a business , the strategy to leverage their own employees is best.
WHY BOTHER? Selling is tougher than ever
How many emails and calls it takes you to land just one meeting?
The job of a B2B sales professional is getting harder, actually is now hardest than ever. There are talks questioning the future of salespeople and even sales as a profession. Artificial intelligence, big data and social technology are changing the relationships between business and customers. And is true customers are changing too. But all this hype misses one key factor, how savvy professionals will adapt to master disrupting technologies to work on their behalf.
According to the Gartner group most of those salespeople who do not reach their targets work with traditional sales methods . Using list based on attributes like company sector, size, revenues or people titles.
78% of salespeople who use social channels and data outperform their peers.
Social data is updated and can be used to assess the interest of a person in a subject so as a proxy for buying interest.
But having a list of potential customers is not going to get you any sales done. You need an effective way to get in touch with them.
Any way to get in touch could work as long as involves a personal and it can scale to reach your prospect market.
You need the personal interaction because we are blind to generic messages and ads. And you need the scale because selling is still a numbers game.
Channels like phone calls are not scalable for prospecting (also calls are not well perceived in most places).
Advertising is generic by definition and every time less effective. But it can help as a complimentary reinforcement as re-targeting to a segmented list.
Emailing used to be an effective channel as is personal and scalable. But the abuse of massive cold emailing have made it not effective or even legal for prospecting ( Europe GDPR) .
98% of executives never respond to a cold email.
We are aiming to get opportunities to interact with our target prospects . Social networks are the best cost-effective, scalable way.
Yet a multichannel approach is always more successful than any single method. The combination of the social process outlined in this guide with other methods as email, phone or even targeted advertisement will multiply results..
How may calls or emails just to set up one meeting?
Social data is mostly updated and can be used to assess the interest of a person respect a certain subject so in that sense could be used as a proxy for buying interest.
But just having a list of potential customers is not going to get you any sales done, you need an effective way to get in touch with them.
We are all overloaded and the average number of interactions required for a customer to acknowledge “us” has increased to more than 10.Most salespeople (about 80% ) stop a second attempt; a first call or message and a follow-up.
On the other hand there is a rise in the use of drip mailing sequences. While is true that might marginally increase your response rates , there a cost in the damage of your personal and business brand when you are perceived as sending too many .
It is about getting more results by sending more of the same.
And everyone knows about email automation , so you are not perceived as taking a personal interest. You have to differentiate.
Scale up Social Selling with Micro-interactions
You can find people related to what you are selling in Linkedin and Twitter. You have access to their contact details to get in touch and send them a message. A personalised message on Linkedin has several times the response rate of a cold email.
But it takes time.
It takes time to research each profile and to write something personal each time . At the end of the day is still a numbers game that requires putting much work daily if you want to get something out of it.
We are all overloaded. The number of interactions required for a customer to notice us has increased to more than 10. Most salespeople (about 80% ) give up on the second attemp; the first call or message and a single follow-up.
Interactions are not only messages but any exposition to ourselves or our content. Interactions are anything that "exposes" your profile to your target profile.
Actually, a popular way to get visitors to visit your profile is to just visit theirs. This "reciprocity" or better "curiosity" is said to work in around 10% of your visits. Of course to use it as a sales technique you need tools to scale it.
There are other interactions that you can use, easy ones as "liking" their content or more impactfull like commenting or connecting.
Sharing content via messages is a powerful interaction, especially if is something relevant to the prospect
If these interactions happen over a period, across social channels there will be perceived as more natural.
That natural flow also gives the opportunity to the customer to mature your association with any of their interest or needs.
The key is not to try to sell on the first occasion. But use it to trigger a connection between your headline and an existing issue in the prospect mind.
That "click" just need an instant for your prospects to see your headline. If that happens your next move ( message, proposal, content ) will be perceived differently. As a potentially relevant source worth of listening to.
In the book " Thinking fast and slow" Nobel prize Daniel Kahneman talks about the "priming" effect. It makes people see more favourably anything familiar. And that can be achieved just by briefly exposing them to it, even without noticing.
There is also the familiarity effect by repetition. That is what publicity is based on. People - we - trust more people which are familiar and whom we have seen before.
That " trust" zone is a good place to be in sales, is a place where they are open to listening. That is the power is the power of micro-interactions.
You can achieve that with your target market using social networks and automation.
There are email software services that help you to create automated cadences to mailing list. That may work statistically as a small percentage over a large mailing list will give you some results. But it will also antagonise many others, so it is not a sustainable strategy. Email is a saturated channel and just sending more will not make it better.
You could also use LinkedIn inmails ( although a series will be expensive). But they arrive categorised under "promotional". What obviously is not the best way to establish credibility.
A better option is to use Linkedin extensions. They can send automatically messages or connections request to a Linkedin results list
But those tools work with the results " as they are showed" one after the other. Your ability to segment the message and thus make it relevant will be limited
Is much more beneficial to segment your targets by something specific. You can relate to it when getting in touch later.
We are aiming to get the attention of people by being relevant to their interest. The idea is to think first about topic of interest. Only after that use the particular title or position to adjust the messaging. We will see how to do it in the next section
As a general rule of thumb , social pretargeting works better with"normal" people vs. "celebrities." Normal means people who are occasional users of social networks vs celebrities. Normal people tend to interact with their network vs. celebrities who have " audiences" of thousands of followers. They mosty use the network only to broadcast content so are not usually so easy to engage.
The approach is based in making relevant connections in social networks and then gain their attention by being relevant.
Is still a numbers game ( as most things in sales) that need some automation to scale up. But is not a massive, indiscriminate approach as you would do with a emailing list. It works by being selective.
To prepare for this play, you need 2 ingredients
A prospects list with a particular interest
A way to get their attention
HOW TO DO IT?
Build a list of prospects interested in what you sell is half the job.
They are many services where you can create list of targets with names and profiles from Linkedin or other sources . So why would you want to “own” contact data already available and updated elsewhere?
Traditional contact list offers personal data; name and contact information, job title, location. Or company like company size, industry, revenue. .Some others offer specific information like the technologies in their stack or their most recent funding round.But this view of your leads is becoming outdated. Instead, challenge yourself to think of a lead profile as a series of actions across their entire online and offline experience. The influencer they followed on Twitter, the question they posted on Quora, the roadshow they attended, the follow-up email they opened, and the web page they visited three days later. These actions provide you clues about leads’ purchase intent.
This information is not ready on any business intelligence tool to tell you exactly who is ready to say “yes” when you offer your product. Gathering all this data is right now impossible ( disperse proprietary systems). Will be be not legal to analyse (data privacy ) or not good enough ( predictive systems are not so good). if that moment comes , your job as sales will be done by a machine.
But all this data is available to you as an individual.You are the best capable to interpret it to know how the move the sale forward. All you need is a bit of help to get actionable data.
that's what the next 2 sections are about
#0. Have a social profile that tells something to your target
This guide is not about the basics of personal branding, but you will need a good targeted profile.
There are tons of advice and resources on how to create one.
(here one checklist )
One thing make sure is that your headline profile have a sentence that “clicks” inside your customer's brain.
Pro Note- you can actually change your headline as often as needed in case you want to adjust it to target different segments
#1 ; Build your Lists and choose your targets
You should group the people you want to engage in a certain way, send a similar message or share specific content. Use lists to segment the universe of contacts and prospects you want to engage or follow up actively.
The Important point is to build a list of people that are already interested in something related to what you sell.
You should group the people you want to engage in a certain way, send a similar message or share specific content. Use lists to segment the universe of contacts and prospects you want to engage or follow up actively.
You can know them by heart. They might be existing customers, contacts or a list of your competitors. Or could be new prospects
you find on Linkedin or Twitter.
Why to track them ?
The key element to engage with someone is to follow their activity across social media. To do that you have to find their social profiles and follow their timeline.
The good news is you dont have to spend all your day watching it.
There are tools to do it automatically for you.
You can get alerted when a profile activity matches any of your key terms. Even set up automated Messages to be sent if some conditions happen. So you don't miss opportunities to engage with existing or new prospects
The idea is to get in touch with people who are interested in what you want to sell them, , at the moment, they have the interest.
You can do that by using signals of interest.
A combination of work-related data like their titles, companies or job descriptions. And their online presence and social activity, like what articles there have shared, liked or commented.
The traditional way of looking at a title or other static data like the company name is less efficient. There are too many job descriptions. Often you will miss the ones that are actually looking for what you sell. What if is the VP of new growth ( or any other exotic title )the one that commented an article about one of your key product areas?
When you use interest keywords to segment your list you are creating a group of people that are related to the topic.
Iit will be easier to find and also to communicate something of interest to them .
So easier to get their attention.
You could use many ways to learn that someone is a good fit for your products.
Or perhaps is just someone that you would like to get in touch with.
you can put these people into a list to engage straight away, sharing content. If they do not "react" to the line of content for that list, you can "move" them to another track
Or you can follow them and wait until they do share something related to a keyword and then send a message in the right context.
Either way, the lists will be useful containers to segment by interest and targeted messages.
Think first WHAT do you want to tell, then WHO do you want to say it to
I personally have found it helps me to think in that order instead. Is like thinking about the need or pain you solve and then about the different buyer personas that can benefit from it.
This is an essential point as the quality of the list you build is one of the most significant factors in the success of the campaign. The other, you guessed it, is the relevance of the message
If you think first, who is your customer as a TITLE, you will end up with an undifferentiated proposal, that will likely be ignored. "Dear CEO, we are the best for your "CEO-generic-problem" can we have a meeting?
Example; To make the point clear I am going to share my own customer discovery process; My targets are people like you ( hopefully ); Sales Pros ( AE, IS, SDR), Professionals, CEOs, Networkers...We are so used to the "traditional" thinking that even I, started by creating lists of titles instead of areas of interest... So one for Inside Sales, another for CEOs and so forthWith this approach, I would have ended up sending a message like this; Dear "Inside Sales", we have a tool that helps warm up cold calling with social selling automation. Would you like to try it?Within the list ;Some would do prospecting some would only work with existing customers or leads from marketingA few that do not use or know the term social sellingSo all of them would not have answered back and I would have left out the ones interested in artificial intelligence, inbound marketing, networking, smart templates, GDPR etc...Is nearly impossible nor advisable to list of each of your capabilities or use cases in a message, but instead you can easily create a list for each.How should I have done it? Think FIRST in the key pains I want to focus; let say List Prospecting, a list of people related to; #Cold Calling, #lead generation, #outbound List of Social Selling + automation etc..And within each of those lists, create then subsegments with tags to craft specific messages; one version for the Sales people Interested in prospecting, another for their manager's others for the CEOs, influencers or any other stakeholder etc..
The point here is to think first in pains and specific problems that what you are selling solves. Then you could adjust the wording to suit any subsegment of this group, like CEO, head of sales, head of marketing etc..
Add this step -Fine tuning the message with tags and profile properties
Tagging contacts and connections is the great productivity habit
Tags are a great way to manage contacts and segment them .
The most modern app allows you to define tags for your contacts or profiles. Gmail, intercom, sequences, mailchimp and Linkedin all have tagging capabilities. We are working in a tool to auto-tag contacts and to have a cloud exchange to sync all this isolated tags.
Tags offer great flexibility and could be used for something temporal like a campaign or an invitation for an event. Or more permanent characteristics like VIP or their preferred languaje
Applying TAGS are a great way to create subsegments of people within a list with something in common.
Tags are essential when you want to tailor a message to the specific audience within a segment. For example within people interested in Big Data send a different message to technical or business people.
#STEP 2- Warm the List
Every time you follow someone, comment or even like any of their content shared , it triggers a notification from the social network.
The notification appears in their Linkedin/twitter homepage and in their web browser. They also receive an email with your name and profile.
Those micro-interactions are small signs of interest that will create a small positive reaction
You want to create the impression of developing a relationship - not just a one-shot - to differentiate yourself from a cold email.
Also nobody pays attention to all these sales pitches sent just right after a connection is made or all the twitter autoresponders
You can do that by starting with a pre-warming phase where you interact " like or comment" the content the prospect has shared. Then "establish" a connection and finally the stage of the actual messaging. Your next message should keep that warming up going on.
If you have done the previous steps, you will have now many people in a list that are interested in something specific. And you have gained access to their social inbox. Use it to make them come to you by sending something relevant.
There is a potential upside in that you will be more active online. Some people will reciprocate and like some of your content .
That for start is a great way get your share mind in case they have a project related to your speciality. On top of that when they do give you a Like , it will be shared with their network so you will have more exposition to them. And by the principle of social affinity many of them will have a similar profile to your customer so also potential customers.
Just a quick note here in case you wonder. Your activity ( likes, comments, and replies) will also be in the timeline of your connections. So basically it means that they will see you more often, that in general is a good thing again to have mind-share.