Imagine you’re buying a new car. The salesperson recommends a hybrid model, but your friend Al, who you know to be an electric car enthusiast, had already told you to get a different model. Who would you be more likely to trust?
Sure, the salesperson might know a lot about cars too, but how can you fully trust that they aren’t just recommending the model that will give them the highest commission? Your peer, Al, on the other hand, has nothing to gain or lose by offering you honest advice. Al’s opinion is therefore valuable to whichever brand he recommends.
This hypothetical situation is a crude example of peer-based (or reference) selling. Since the time we were young, we were warned of the powers of peer pressure, and rightly so. After all, no one has more power to influence us than our peers. As such, smart brands are now using social media to leverage the power of prospects’ peer networks in order to enable sales.
Here are 5 easy ways to close more deals with peer-based selling techniques.
Creating a group in LinkedIn or a fan page on Facebook can be a great way to attract the peers of your peers. This can be especially powerful in the B2B world if the group isn’t product-focused. This gives your brand the opportunity to provide a forum for discussion and thought leadership that can hopefully inspire your customers to invite their peers to join the discussion. Once your group grows, remember that if you use it as a forum to just pitch your product, it will lose credibility fast. Instead, offer links to content that helps address relevant topics of conversation. Your content can subtly steer new leads toward discovering your brand and the solutions you offer.
It seems simple enough, but sometimes just asking for a referral can be an extremely powerful sales tactic. If a customer is pleased with the products or services you offer, ask if they know anyone else who might be interested. Mentioning a peer during sales prospecting is substantially more effective than just making a simple cold call. By simply asking the question, “Do you know anyone who might be looking for ?” you could end up with not only a quality lead, but a lead with a mutual point of contact to reference during a sales conversation.
LinkedIn can be used to gain an introduction to your peers’ peers. Simply visit the member’s profile that you’d like to get introduced to. Then click “Get introduced through a connection.” It will bring up individuals in your network who can possibly make the introduction. Using that mutual connection as a reference can help you gain credibility when reaching out to the new prospect.
A recent study from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Technische Universität (TU) Darmstadt showed that Facebook “Likes” can greatly influence buying behavior. The 4-week test showed a 13% increase in sales by displaying social recommendation data.
According to Dr. Jörn Grahl, Assistant Professor at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, “It appears that recommendations actually counteract some of the uncertainty that new customers initially experience when visiting a site.”
This will likely require getting your marketing team on board, but Facebook offers a variety of APIs that businesses can use to spice up e-commerce offerings. By enabling prospects to view Facebook Likes, shares and reviews from peers on your page, it can help influence your leads to make sales decisions. Offering social shopping tools to customers also enables them to post to their own news feeds when they purchase a product so they can influence their peers to check out your brand.
It’s important to have tools that enable social listening in order to best identify opportunities for reference selling. Salesforce.com has worked hard to transform their tool into a bona fide social CRM. Through recent acquisitions to its marketing cloud, Salesforce.com now provides marketers with enhanced social listening capabilities. Our mobile CRM app goes even further, enabling sales and customer service reps to directly participate in social listening. We enable reps to quickly access their leads’ and prospects’ social feeds within the context of business calls on iPad and iPhone. Agents can therefore identify customers that are saying positive things about their brand and then reach out to them in order to interact with them or even offer rewards with the goal of transforming them into evangelists for your brand.
Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingringDNA
Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at ringDNA, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 9 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.