Nearly half of U.S. white collar workers say they can't go more than 15 minutes without getting interrupted, according to a 2010 study. So it should come as no surprise that today's buyers -- inundated with an overwhelming amount of data and interruptions -- tend to ignore the day-to-day sales calls and emails that bombard them. How else can they get work done?
On the flipside, how can marketers and salespeople connect with difficult-to-reach buyers who flat out ignore their cold calls?
Ilya Bodner, Chief Revenue Officer at The Shipyard, LLC, believes a growing number of salespeople are turning to social media for data, insights channels that can help them engage key decision makers on their time, outside their four office walls. "Social is eliminating unwarranted solicitations. More and more social cues are put out there so that the right time to chat and sell can be found. Sometimes, people ask direct questions about vendors or solutions, and other times they want to learn more by liking or commenting on topics that impact buying decisions."
Bodner is among 524 salespeople surveyed in a study released last week by KiteDesk that shows salespeople who are skilled social media users were SIX TIMES more likely to beat their 2014 quotas than salespeople with rudimentary or no social media skills. Meanwhile, the percentage of sales professionals who missed their sales quota and had little or no social media skills increased an astounding 50% from 2012 to 2014. (You can download The Impact of Social Media Usage on Sales Performance and Corporate Revenue here.)
To dig into the results, I asked a handful of sales professionals to give specific examples of using social media to help them sell. Here's what they said:
Darryl Hannah, Territory Sales Manager, Jive Software "I wanted to land a major organization in the public sector. I @ mentioned a CIO from one of the organizations who I knew was launching a ground-breaking U.K. digital policy, and invited him to be my guest speaker for a seminar in London. This person saw I was engaged on Twitter and DM'd replied and connected me to his PA to schedule. BOOM!
Once he was confirmed, I created a whole seminar and invited 20+ prospects across multiple organizations. The session went great, with the guest speaker providing great industry perspectives and concluded with me presenting an end-user case study that softly promoted my organization. Following this I repeated my Twitter and LinkedIn routine by connecting with the seminar attendees. The result: 6 months following this seminar I secured 3 major accounts in this sector."
Jelle den Dunnen, Account Executive Europe - Bullhorn, Inc. "A couple of weeks ago, one of my competitors experienced downtime. As a software provider, there's no customer experience as damaging as downtime. And for a software user, there's nothing as frustrating as when the software that manages the majority of what you do throughout the day is down. And what do we do when we're frustrated? We complain...
So I dropped everything and started engaging with everyone who was discussing our competitor's downtime. The first thing I did was write several Tweets about our uptime, how important software performance is, and how to contact me if they wanted to experience as little downtime as possible. After that, I started engaging with anyone that was discussing that #topic. I just said hello and told them I understood their frustration, nothing more.
I received some comments on my sharp approach, but also some interest and had several calls that day. At the end of that day, I also wrote a blog on LinkedIn about 'Speed, availability and reliability, key factors when working with clients & candidates in recruitment. The blog has since had a couple of hundred reads and counting. The sales result? As we speak, my colleague and I are actively engaged with a couple of prospects I spoke to that afternoon."
Kjael Skaalerud, Major Accounts & VC Partnerships - ADP, LLC " A NYC startup was highlighted in a Tech Newsletter after they publicly showcased their technology. Soon after, they were financially backed by a Venture Capital firm to help scale the business. I then started following them closely on Twitter and LinkedIn. A few months later they hired a new CFO. I initiated a dialog with him, making sure to mention their amazing story and how my value proposition aligned with their objectives. I also made sure I highlighted our existing relationships with their competitors/peers as proof. He was fully engaged, though they were in the process of raising money, so our timing was not ideal. Shortly thereafter, they brought on an HR director, who I was connected with from her prior employer (an existing client), and our dialogue gained legitimate momentum. We are now in the midst of finalizing a very robust partnership."
I then asked sales practitioners who crushed their 2014 quota to give me on ore more of their best sales hacks. Here's what they said:
Tom Poser, Senior Vice President - Jones Lang LaSalle, IP, Inc. "Stop selling and start helping. Make a bet on yourself long term and build meaningful relationships. If you are in a position in which this is not possible because you have to pitch soon, stop talking about you and your company and focus on diving deep with smart questions into their business. That way, you can help them in an area they actually have a passion for."
Julia Molloy, President -- Molloy Management Group, Inc. "We use Facebook on several levels to attract principal interior designers and architects. We either like a post, become a friend of a prospect's personal page, or click on a post or ad that leads them to our website. There they can learn more and request an invitation to an event. We also assess the people engaged with us on Facebook. We look at their profiles and their businesses in order to ascertain whether they are a good candidate to attend the conference. If they are, we send them an invitation in the mail. Their Facebook profile has proved to be even more revealing than their business website. I can also see their friends who might also be a good fit for our event. We also do this same 'sourcing technique' through our group on LinkedIn as well as using Instagram, Google+ and Twitter."
Evan Greenberg, Merck Client Manager - SAS Institute Inc. My methods in 2014 to exceed quota were to use social media to build connections with decision makers and lead by educating prospects...The education process begins with finding common ground with each prospect. Commonalities can consist of the social network groups they've joined, people they follow, conferences they have attended, articles they have written or even the universities they attended. Then, I confirm my intelligence and find content that would be attractive to them (professionally and personally interesting). The content I post aggregates industry information and trends. My process doesn't include promoting content produced internally by company or posts by other prospectors exclusively. I use the 4-1-1 rule which is touted by Sales for Life. For every self-serving post you should post four 3rd party articles and only one company generated piece of content.
Barry Saltzman, Founder/CEO - Saltzman Enterprise Group "The key to selling is to be a thought leader and value creator. Then, when needs arise, they come to you for assistance. You must use social to let the world know you exist and consistently share how you are providing value to others. The days of cold calling are being replaced by education and thought leadership."
Karl Ortmanns, Video Marketing Specialist, Vidyard "I religiously use video content to better engage my prospects and learn more about their interests and intent. Most people don't realize it, but there are now ways to create and share video content, track if someone watches it, see how long they stay engaged and monitor which parts they skipped or re-watched. By looking at the data, I can get a better sense for which content is piquing their interest and know where to take the next conversation. Apps like Newsle, Refresh, CharlieApp and HootSuite are other tools that I like to use to help me learn as much as I can about the individual I'm talking to. Aggregation tools are helping sales people cut through the noise and get right down to what matters."
Of course, social selling is not a panacea. But as the study shows, skilled social media users have gained a solid competitive advantage over their unskilled peers. That means social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are fast becoming must-have's in the sales toolkit.