IBM is just the latest business to discover how powerful social media can be as a lead generation tool. A buyer preference study revealed that one third of B2B buyers are currently using social media to make purchasing decisions. This number is only going to grow. The study indicates that 75% of respondents are more likely to use social media in the future their purchasing decisions. In response, IBM instituted a social selling pilot program that saw a 400% increase in sales.
Social media is often undervalued as a means of lead generation. Social is especially undervalued by sales professionals, as social tends to live under the blanket of marketing. But sales reps should not ignore the insight that can be gained from social media.
IBM has already changed its business model in response to this data. Sales reps are now being encouraged to spend more time listening and engaging with prospects through social channels.
“We really wanted to make social selling part of the basic way we sell,” says Douglas Hannan, IBM North America’s buinsess unit executive for inside sales marketing. Hannan, who leads 38 marketing managers and 1,700 inside sales reps is making social a primary concern for his entire team. “We didn’t want our reps spending five minutes a day Tweeting and then going back to their ‘real’ job.”
As such, Hannan is advocating his team engage in “intelligent listening” in which they browse social channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for actionable sales data. IBM instituted a push toward greater social engagement. The inside sales team now boasts 50,000 LinkedIn connections and has posted 20,000 tweets. Rep pages have received a total of 100,000 visits over a six month period. The increase in social effort resulted in more sales. This validates the need for more social engagement at a sales level.
More new research from J.D. Power and Associates indicates that businesses can drive revenue by adopting a more targeted approach to social engagement. The survey, based on 23,000 consumers who interacted with companies via social media platforms, shows that 87% of respondents indicated that engaging with a brand socially makes them more likely to purchase goods and services.
While The J.D. Power and Associates study focused on the marketing and service sectors, we feel that sales reps can glean important insight from the study as well. The study indicates that there is an increasing trend toward using social as a way of addressing pain points. Since more and more potential customers are viewing social as a channel to mitigate pain points. As such, there is more incentive the ever for sales agents to monitor their prospects’ and previous customers’ social fields for sales opportunities.
A Need for Age-Based Social Targeting
It should come as no shock that different age groups use social in different ways. The JD Power study rightly demonstrates the importance of employing different social tactics based on age. For example, the survey shows that consumers age 19 to 29 are far more likely to engage with their favorite brands in a social servicing context (43%) than in a social marketing context (23%).
However, adults aged 30 to 39 do not a have a statistical bias toward marketing (38%) or servicing (39%).
Yet, as previously mentioned, nearly all the respondents were more likely to purchase after social engagement. This indicates that brands should target different age tiers with different types of social engagement, with an emphasis on using social media for direct conflict resolution.
Both the JD Power and IBM surveys help to validate our decision to offer sales agents a quick way to browse their prospects’ social media fields while using their RingDNA Mobile app. We hope that sales reps will start using social media monitoring as a means to help address customer pain points, offer solutions and close deals.