Building a sales pipeline with social media is not something that can happen with one person or without any tools. While the process and tools will be different for every company, if the goal is to create a pipe through social, there are some key things everyone must do, and this process involves both sales management, marketing and sales reps. Everyone within these groups has a common goal, building the pipe, and while their responsibilities may be different, it takes all of them to be successful.
Understand User Personas
This is a task typically handed to marketing, and while that is appropriate, it’s important that everyone is on the same page here. Defining personas is important for a number of reasons, but primarily, so you have empathy for their pain, understand what they would need to do their jobs better, what language they use to describe said pain, and how they interact with social media (since we are talking about building a pipe through social). Knowing the language is key for getting found by them when they search for solutions to their pains, and since sales is constantly conversing with these people, it’s critical to get their feedback on how these personas are defined.
Create a Content Strategy
The content strategy is extremely important, and since marketing is mostly responsible for content this too would fall within their jurisdiction, however, this cannot be created successfully without feedback from sales; what kind of content (topic and format) they see as being successful, and how would they like the content transferred to them, or how does it fit into their selling cycles. The content strategy is also designed to specifically craft content that answers the questions your prospects have at various stages of the buying cycle. In the context of social media, where it’s more “pre-funnel” the content needs to be extremely educational, best practices and provided with no strings attached, and sales people need to be informed and have access to new content.
Align Sales & Marketing
If Sales and Marketing has agreed on who their persons are, how they consume content, and what content is most needed in the buying cycle, then they need to agree on what a “qualified lead” is. Since that’s what you’re trying to fill your pipeline with, it needs to be determined, and Sales and Marketing have to be aligned. Not only to Sales and Marketing need to be aligned on what a qualified lead is, they also need to be aware of the parallels between the selling cycle and the nurturing cycle–consistency and relevance is always better for the prospect.
Train & Educate Staff
Social media is all over the place, and their are plenty of sales and marketing tools popping up to help you optimize it, or do better prospecting, but in reality, for the average sales or marketing person, this is a very scary space and they are mostly afraid they will do something wrong. If you want your sales force to fully benefit from the use of social media (and you should) you need to give them the right tools, training, and awareness. Show them how they can optimize their time, what tools are best to use (or approved) and what are the best practices (in general) for the space.
Promote the Building of Personal Brands
Personal brands are becoming more and more important, and while it’s obvious to some, most people haven’t even thought about it, but why shouldn’t they? Providing guidelines for company use of social media is great, so there are no lines crossed, but encouraging your team promotes their personal brands, is even better, and will only benefit the business in the end (providing a more human, and rounded persona to the world). If Sales people can create their own blogs, or thoughtfully contribute to groups on LinkedIn and other places, their personal expertise will start to emerge and shine. Prospects will then start to appreciate their contributions, and have trust in their expertise, just like the strategy for the brand, the sales people become the experts, so the selling get’s a little easier for them–prospects might even know who they are before they make the first call.
You want to be sure that your capturing leads through social media, but you need to make sure there is a little friction as possible. For example, if you only capture a leads name and email for the first round, and then add additional information to their profile as they download or participate in additional content or events, it will be easier for them to say okay, and give their information. Also, it’s important to make sure that the content you are developing for lead generation is enticing enough to give their information, but more importantly, share that content with others, so that their downloading is actually a compounded lead generation technique. You use the content as bait, they download, then they themselves share the content which drives even more conversion.
Use the Right Tools
Building and maintaining a pipeline can only really be done efficiently and effectively with the right tools. For B2B, CRM plays a critical role, as the foundation for all contact management, but there are other applications that will integrate with that system to provide deeper insight into your prospects, opportunities, and customers. Tools, or applications are very important for efficiency as well as tracking–if you’re driving opportunities into the pipe, you need to be aware of that and know which ones. It’s important to have as much information (from many sources) about your prospects so you can continue to have meaningful conversations throughout the buying cycle, and not just at the beginning.
Social Sales & Marketing tools that integrate with your CRM:
Insideview: InsideView’s Smart Cloud brings together the best business information sources and social media for sales, helping you identify quality B2B sales leads and the insights needed to sell to Customer 2.0. Engage with the right prospects at the right time using social selling.
Netprospex: A B2B business directory providing full business contact details, including links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkeIn profiles. B2B’s can append customer and prospect databases with social network contact information, allowing you to engage across multiple channels.
Marketo: Marketo Lead Management gives Marketers the power and flexibility to automate demand generation campaigns and deliver high quality leads with less effort. Marketo Sales Insight helps Sales understand, prioritize and interact with the hottest leads and opportunities to close more business faster.
Cloud9 Analytics: Cloud9 Pipeline Accelerator Suite enables sales management and operations to more effectively manage their sales pipeline and forecast. The result is a dramatic increase in forecast accuracy, increased win rates and higher CRM adoption.