3 Steps To A B2B Social Media Marketing Strategy Your CEO Will Love

B2B Social Media ROI

There’s an ongoing debate about the ROI of social media marketing.  Many of the conversations center around measuring social media as a branding and awareness tool, while others concentrate on the value of thought leadership.

Monitoring the metrics for thought leadership and branding are important, but many marketers make the mistake of using those metrics to support the success of their social media initiatives.  This can result in C-level executives doubting the return on their investment in social media.

Simply put, your CEO is probably less interested in hearing about how many people are talking about your brand/product/service and more interested in learning how social media helped drive revenue.

As a sales person in the B2B Demand Generation space, I’ve invested countless hours researching, experimenting and testing various techniques.

Based on my experience (almost all my sales wins in the past 2 years can be attributed to using social media marketing and sales techniques), the following are three steps marketers can take to directly attribute sales leads to their B2B social media marketing strategy:

1. Convert Thought Leadership Into “Offer Content”

Convert thought leadership into white papers, videos, or otherwise tangible “offer content” assets that are specifically written NOT to sell your company, product or services, but rather to SOLVE a business problem. (Problems that coincidentally, your product/service can assist with.)

Then, develop a plan to promote the content socially.  Tactics can include lacing links to the offer content in relevant blog posts, posting bite-sized snippets of the content on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and including links in the comments of related blog posts and community forums (but only when they add value, never spam links in unrelated posts).

If the nature of the content is meant for prospects in the early stage of the buying cycle, it’s a good idea to present it as “un-gated” (i.e. no registration required). For offer content that would be most interesting to audiences later in the buying cycle, it might be a good idea to have it accompanied by a landing page* (with registration form), a thank you page and/or a fulfillment email.*

*If your company has invested in a marketing automation (MA) solution like Marketo, visits to the content assets can be tracked, providing valuable sales and marketing intelligence.**

To learn more about choosing the right offer, download a free copy of the white paper “How To Choose Your Carrot: Effective Lead Generation Offers for High-Technology Marketers,” from the lead generation experts at Spear Marketing Group.

2.  Dedicate Sales Time To Social Listening & Social Selling

Social selling is very similar to attending conferences, user groups and association meetings. Except you do it daily.

Your first job is to position yourself in online communities ripe with your target audience.

The second part of your job is to participate in conversations with solutions to their problems, make friends and be as helpful as possible – without coming across as “salesy.”

The third part is to always watch and listen. Keep an eye out for pains and needs that your product or service can solve. Watch for changes in jobs, industry news and other events that signal an opportunity for you to engage.

I’ll post later on more strategies to find your target audience, but in the meantime here are some suggestions on where/how to find your audience:

*LinkedIn Groups & Other Online Forums

*Twitter

*RSS Feeds

3. Craft A Great Intro Email

Believe it or not, the Intro Email is quite possibly the most effective weapon of successful social selling.  At some point, you’ll want to connect outside of social media to get the meeting, and good old-fashioned email  (along with a follow-up call) still reigns king for that purpose.  As with all good marketing emails, the subject line must bestow a benefit to the audience.

Example Subject Line: Learn how to improve your XXX

Once you have their interest, the body of the email needs to speak to their needs and business problems and demonstrate your credentials for offering a solution.

Example Email Body:

[FirstName]:

This email is to introduce you to ABC Corp, an XYZ company specializing in XXX. We help companies like [CompanyName] improve their XXX by assisting with:

<Distill your message to 3 points, maximum. Bullet point them here.>

I’m interested in learning whether you have any XXX initiatives upcoming. If you’re interested in discussing XXX or in learning more about XYZ company, please feel free to contact me directly.
Regards,

[Your FirstName]

<Pay attention, because here comes the important part>

P.S. If you’re interested in tips on maximizing your XXX, get a free copy of our [insert title of  and link to business problem-solving offer content asset here].

[Your EmailSignature]

Trust me, the P.S. works.

So, now that you have the basics, how will you integrate this strategy in your initiatives?

**[Full disclosure: The agency I work for is a Marketo partner.]

7 Ways Sales Intelligence Gives You Super Powers

I was recently invited to guest post for InsideView, one of my favorite sales & marketing software tools. The abridged version is below and you can read the original post here.

Sales Intelligence Super Powers

Image courtesy of InsideView

In his June 27, 2011 Harvard Business Review article, “Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople,” Steve W. Martin published the main key personality attributes he discovered after administering 1,000 personality tests to top business-to-business salespeople.

Mr. Martin revealed that the seven most common personality traits of top performers are:

  1. Modesty
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Achievement Orientation
  4. Curiosity
  5. Lack of Gregariousness
  6. Lack of Discouragement
  7. Lack of Self-Consciousness.

Martin notes that the “key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling style and ultimately their success.”

Could it be that these traits of sales superstars could be considered the inherent “super powers” of successful sales people?

Now, before you start exposing your sales team to gamma rays and radioactive spiders, there’s another solution. You can use sales intelligence to amplify these traits amongst your sales team and empower them to be better salespeople. Here’s how:

1. MODESTY

Selling Style Impact: Team Orientation

Top salespeople aren’t concerned about who gets the accolades for a sale – they just want to do their job and help their clients. So, they position their team to accounts as the centerpiece of value.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Intros, Referrals and References

Sales intelligence can quickly identify connections between the salesperson, the salesperson’s colleagues, and the account contact. Through those connections, the salesperson can humbly leverage their network for intros, referrals and references instead of boasting about how great they are directly to the prospect.

2. CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

Selling Style Impact: Account Control

Top salespeople control the sales process; quickly determining when an account is not a candidate, when it’s time to re-engage and when it’s time for the next step.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Smart Agents and Watchlists

Features like “Smart Agents and Watchlists”, provide instant alerts on events such as leadership changes, mergers & acquisitions, funding and product launches. Rather than scouring the Internet on a daily basis looking for news and updates, InsideView sends these alerts so that the salesperson is always knowledgeable and in control of their account.

3. ACHIEVEMENT ORIENTATION

Selling Style Impact: Political Orientation

Martin states that, “During sales cycles, top sales performers seek to understand the politics of customer decision-making. Their goal orientation instinctively drives them to meet with key decision-makers.”

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: People

One of the greatest new features from InsideView is Industry Insights which gives a 360 degree view of the company and its industry. Salespeople can quickly research and obtain information on the key decision-makers before even asking the customer to explain their decision-making process.

4. CURIOSITY

Selling Style Impact: Inquisitiveness

Successful salespeople are naturally curious and unafraid to ask customers the questions that are vital to uncovering a fit.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Account Profile, News and Smart Agents

Sales intelligence aggregates and provides quick access to the mundane data, allowing the salesperson to be well-informed going into client calls and focus the time on the vital questions around needs and process. Using a sales intelligence platform, such as InsideView, salespeople can now find the right people in an organization and understand the right message they need to reach out.

5. LACK OF GREGARIOUSNESS

Selling Style Impact: Dominance

Successful salespeople establish expertise with contacts and as a result, their customers are willing to follow the salesperson’s recommendations and advice.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Intros, Referrals and References

Authority is established early on when a relationship starts with one of the customer’s trusted peers making a recommendation to speak with the salesperson. Using the connections feature from InsideView, you can easily peer into the connections you have within every organization. What’s great is that it grabs connections from social media sources such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

6. LACK OF DISCOURAGEMENT

Selling Style Impact: Competitiveness

According to Martin, “top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to compete.”

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Build a List

If you missed your quarter because one deal fell through, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in the dumps. Sales intelligence allows you to quickly build a list of targeted accounts to keep your prospecting engine running and your pipeline full of opportunities so you can shrug off the lost opportunities and continue to charge like a rhino.

(For more tips, advice and best practices for filling up your pipeline, download a free copy of Spear Marketing Group’s High Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.)

7. LACK OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

Selling Style Impact: Aggressiveness

Top salespeople are fearless and comfortable fighting for their cause.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Sales Intelligence

The bottom line is simply that confidence is preparation. Sales intelligence empowers your salespeople with quick access to the tools they need to hit the goals and drive revenue.

Sales 2.0 Redux – Are You A Before Or An After?

Years ago, Sales 2.0 was synonymous with Web 2.0 technologies.  For today’s marketing and sales professionals, Sales 2.0 is more than technology.  It’s a fundamental shift in mind-set that is contrary to how many of us were ‘taught” to do our jobs.  While technology brought it to life,  Sales 2.0 embodies the strategic and tactical approaches, best practices and re-thinking of how sales and marketing can more effectively meet the needs of today’s buyers.

For some, the adoption of the Sales 2.0 mentality occurred long ago.  For others, it has yet to happen. Where are you in the process?

Check out the “before” and “after” scenarios below and let me know your thoughts. Also, feel free to include your own scenarios in the comments.

Before Sales 2.0

You’d find out that your contact is no longer with the company in your monthly “stay-in-touch” call.  (Worse still, you find out from your contact’s replacement who is at the same extension.)

After Sales 2.0

Minutes after your contact has updated her LinkedIn profile with a new position, you send them a congratulations note.  Later that day, your contact invites you to discuss her needs at the new company.

Since you receive alerts from your contacts old company, a few days later you see the job posting to fill your contact’s old position.  You quickly forward it to a person you know who’d be a great fit and was looking.  They get the job and you have a very grateful new contact at the company.

Before Sales 2.0

You’d go to conferences and (awkwardly) introduce yourself to prospects you’ve been chasing for months.  They smile politely and take your card but tell you that they unfortunately “ran out” of their cards.

After Sales 2.0

You go to conferences to finally meet the people you’ve been engaging with in social media for months.  They smile at you from across the room because they recognize you from your profile picture and come over to shake your hand.  You ask them something clever about their favorite [insert hobby, activity, interest they’ve been tweeting about here] and they tell you a great story about it.  Then they say, “Let’s schedule some time to chat, I’m working on a project I think you can help me with.”

Before Sales 2.0

You received a “Contact Us” form lead with no idea what the person on the other end needs or how to prepare for the call.

After Sales 2.0

You receive a lead from a white paper download on, “Top 10 Tips To Improve XYZ.”

Before responding, you’ve looked up the contact in your CRM, reviewed their activity history and noted interesting moments from your marketing automation solution (like how they visited a high value page on ABC last week).  You also used your sales intelligence solution to get their company information, key executives and direct reports.

Now, you’re confident and prepared to discuss their XYZ and ABC needs intelligently and relevantly.

Before Sales 2.0

Your boss wanted to know why you’re on LinkedIn instead of cold-calling to that list of 1,000 contacts he bought.

After Sales 2.0

Your boss wants to know if you’d mind introducing him to one of your LinkedIn connections.

Before Sales 2.0

Success in your job was defined by your ability to handle objections, steer the conversation and “convince” prospects you were the best choice.

After Sales 2.0

Success in your job is defined by your ability to understand the needs of your prospects, present intelligent solutions to their business problems, and be a trusted source of industry knowledge and expertise.

For tips, advice and strategies for generating more leads in a Sales 2.0 world, download your free copy of Spear Marketing Group’s High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.

Stop Selling (and start listening, helping and connecting)

Obvious to many people in the sales trade, the time of smile and dial is far behind us.  Still, I frequently Imagecome across sales people who are beating themselves up (not to mention their prospects) with old school methods of prospecting.

Yes, selling is still a numbers game.  But, buyer mentalities have changed and so must the sales strategy.  Here are 4 basic tips to improve your sales efforts in today’s market:

1. Find a common interest

Sales really has no excuse for NOT finding a common interest or connection with a prospect in today’s world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Blogging, Online Groups/Forums/Communities, etc. Do your research and call out the common interest to gain some personal relevance.

Want more info on sales intelligence and social selling?  Check out:  www.socialsellingu.com

2. Leverage marketing content

Good marketing content has a specific audience, pain point and solution in mind.  Offer relevant content to prospects to show that:

-You want to help them

-You’re interested in uncovering whether there’s a “need” before “selling” them on something

-Your company has experience solving the types of problems the prospect is likely experiencing

Check out Howard Sewell’s post on packaging offer content for higher response.

3. Don’t assume they’re a suspect just based on demographics

Just because someone is a CXO at the type of company you work with, don’t assume they’ll fall all over themselves to hire you or buy your product.  Maybe they have a need, maybe they don’t.  Maybe they’ll have a need later.  But, you’ll turn off most prospects by aggressively following up with calls and emails that all have the standard “Just following up with you on my last (insert boring follow up tactic here).”

Instead try continuing to offer helpful tips or offer to connect them with people in your network that they might be interested in meeting.  But don’t make them commit to something before they’ve engaged with you.  Let the initial engagement be on their terms.

4.  Listen (online and offline)

If you’re not “listening” to conversations online as well as offline, you’re losing out on potential opportunities.  Your prospects are offering information about their needs all the time – yet many sales people are too focused on “selling” to listen.

Use resources like LinkedIn Groups and user communities to your advantage and “listen” for pain points that you can address.  In following up, instead of responding in the community forum with a solution, sometimes it’s better to reach out personally with an offer to help.  It seems less “salesy”.  Even better, ask a client or partner that’s in the group or community to endorse you.

To Gate or Not to Gate – Content Offer Best Practices for Social Selling

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to experience InsideView’s first user summit, Insider Summit 2012. The panelists in break-out sessions presented great ideas and use cases for success in a variety of social selling areas – I highly recommend attending their next summit.

One session of particular interest to me was, “Social Selling Best Practices With InsideView.” Insideview’s Koka Sexton moderated the panel which included Don Otvos of Yammer and Dave Vacanti of Cornerstone OnDemand.

Both Don and Dave provided great use cases in which social selling (and InsideView) enabled their teams to close larger deals, faster. Post session, I asked both panelists about their experiences using registration gated and non-gated offer content in marketing and sales efforts. Each described very different approaches to their use of content offers.

Yammer is an enterprise social network that provides a private social network for your company. Their approach is to exclusively provide free and un-gated content to create engagement. Since they have a “freemium” model, their sales team looks at demographic data (e.g. company size, usage, etc.) to identify whether a sales opportunity exists.

Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, learning and performance management software company. Their model is to identify behavioral data (e.g. interest in a specific topic) to uncover whether there’s a sales opportunity or not. According to Dave, their content offers are almost exclusively registration gated.

In the B2B marketing agency space, we’ve experimented with a hybrid approach. On one hand, the audience for media placement and prospects for outbound efforts are identified based on demographics (company type, size, job title, etc.) and we promote gated content offers to them. On the other hand, the majority of inbound traffic comes via the company blog, The Point, which is our prominent “un-gated” content. The blog also serves as content for a big part of our lead nurturing program.

I have experimented with both gated and un-gated offer content in prospecting outreach via email and social media. With the “gated” prospecting strategy, I’m seeing about a 2% prospect to opportunity won ratio. When using un-gated content, my outbound efforts haven’t resulted in as high a success rate, but more prospects have become suspects by engaging in marketing conversions, like subscribing to our blog.

Even though the short-term sales success rate is higher when offering gated content in prospecting efforts, I wonder if the strategy is somewhat short-sighted. You would assume that since the majority of prospects don’t respond to gated content offers (and subsequently don’t become blog subscribers or Twitter followers, etc.), I’m missing out on the opportunity to convert some into suspects that might have a need in the future. Does introducing a gated offer in the first prospecting interaction reduce the likelihood of response for future, non-gated interactions?

In his (excellent) presentation, “From Content to Customer”, Eloqua’s Joe Chernov suggests that in marketing, suspects should be presented with non-gated content (no forms allowed). Should this practice be adopted by sales in prospecting efforts, or should it be saved only for marketing purposes?

Given that sales is interested in identifying near-future needs as much as possible, where does the role of gated content play in sales prospecting? Feel free to share your comments, thoughts and experiences below.

How Marketing Can Empower Sales To Generate Leads Via LinkedIn

Professionals often turn to LinkedIn to find expertise in a particular area.  The LinkedIn search features provide an excellent opportunity for your sales team’s profiles to appear in relevant, intent-based searches.

Marketers seem to get this, but many sales professional profiles I’ve viewed aren’t optimized for search.  This is a great, easy opportunity for you (marketing) to coach your sales team on how to optimize their profiles.

It took me about 5 minutes to optimize my profile and as a result, my profile views and appearances in search have more than doubled. More importantly, I’m finding that the percentage of viewers that fit my target audience profile has increased substantially.  Most importantly, I’ve won business as a result of this tactic.

Here’s what I did (and how you can coach your sales team to do the same):

Read more of this post

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