Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc. – usually revolves around business to consumer (B2C) efforts. In it, companies are trying to reach many possible customers through their social media effort.
For business to business (B2B) companies, the situation is quite different. The prevailing relationship is not one to many. Rather, it is one to one or one to few. In B2B, it is vital to have personal interaction and develop real off-line relationships. As such…
B2B companies need to use the on-line world of social media as a gateway to create relationships in the physical world.
To do this, the B2B executive or business leader needs to cut through all the hype about social media and just concentrate on doing a few simple things well.
Turn Cold Calls into Warm Referrals: The B2B executive needs to get on LinkedIn and connect with people. The key is to focus on solid connections; that is, people who really know you and would pick up the phone when you call. And connect to your employees. Use your and your employee’s connections to get second and third level connections to network with customers and other people that you want to know so that you do not have to cold call on them.
- Know Your Prospects Better: Use LinkedIn to know your customers, prospects, and employees. Before any meeting, check the LinkedIn profile of the other attendees. Especially in a sales situation, this will allow you to gain some initial commonality and traction with the other person, be it through similar background, education, interests, etc. Ensure that your salespeople are doing the same so that they can subtly change their message and approach to more suit the background and skills of the prospect.
- Create a Database of Relevant Articles: Whenever you or someone in your company sees a relevant article that might be of benefit to a customer company, tweet the article using a good explanatory tagline. The truth is few will ever really see your tweets (Think: by what serendipity will someone who is following 20,000 people on Twitter happen to come across your one Tweet and then read it?). But, your Twitter stream is a content archive. When you meet with a customer and the discussion is on a subject that you have tweeted about, you can easily follow up after the fact sending the article to the customer directly. This packs far more punch. In regular sales follow ups to maintain customer relationships, you can send out an article relevant to the customer rather than a “how are you doing” or a tedious and largely irrelevant newsletter that won’t get read.
Tell Stories: Use blogs to tell customer success stories and stories about overcoming different customer objections. By blogging every few weeks, your company can quickly compile together a compendium of sales stories that you and the sales team can use when appropriate. These stories can be brought out during the sales or marketing call or used after a call as a follow up to drive home the point. To get started, think of the key success stories and sales stories for your company and think of the key objections that customers often bring up. Quick note: In writing the blogs, it pays to admit mistakes and show humility.
- Align and Improve Your Sales Team: By blogging good customer success stories, you will put more rigor into your sales stories. They will be shorter, more focused and pack a stronger punch. This will help your sales team in their telling of stories helping them in their sales calls. By repeating the same stories, the sales team will have more ammunition in confronting customer objections, be more aligned to the company brand, and focus on the same or similar points in all of their sales calls.
- Do Little to Nothing with Facebook: If you must, put up a page largely to reserve your company’s space on Facebook. And that is about all. Face facts: as B2B companies, we just are not that interesting especially as compared to the Nikes and Apples of the world. Few, if any people, will really care about us and follow what we do religiously.
By following these basic ideas, the B2B business leader will have taken a strong step forward in using social media. In the world of B2B, this means that they will have begun to proactively use the on-line world to enhance and develop their relationships in the off-line (real) world.