Customers continue to change the way that they research, test and buy products. Independent research and due diligence has never been more important. Social channels such as Quora, LinkedIn Answers & Groups, and Twitter are filling this need, as customers often seek independent advice prior to making contact with a sales rep.
It looks like prospecting-focused sales groups are finally catching on. While companies across all industries have been slow to begin using social channels for sales prospecting, there may be signs that this is changing. Bridge Groups’ 2012 LeadGen Metrics Report shows that a full 91% of companies are now actively using at least one channel in their social media activities. A closer look at the report shows that 87% use LinkedIn, with 27% using Twitter.
It’s easy to see why LinkedIn would be such an active channel, especially in regards to groups, where there’s a lot of industry-centric discussion surrounding specific pain points and solutions. While Twitter is among the worst channels for initiating contact (two users have to mutually follow each other in order to send a Direct Message), it can be a terrific channel for seeing candid pain points and stream-of -consciousness thinking that may indicate that a prospect is actively looking for a solution. Over time, I’m confident that Quora will also gain more mainstream traffic, since the quality of both questions and answers – especially involving software/service comparison – tends to be very high, with responses coming from the companies themselves as well as customers.
What To Look For
Whether you’re using LinkedIn, Twitter or Quora, reps should scan for people who are frustrated with their current problem or existing service. Any prospect that is frustrated with their current solution (or lack thereof), is more likely to respond to a cold contact from a sales rep.
The old tried-and-true sales technique informally called “cut and bleed” is the practice of calling prospects and, through a series of focused questions, alerting them to pain points that they didn’t know they had. But as prospects become increasingly averse to cold calls, this technique is less and less useful. But with social sales, no calls are completely cold. There are plenty of prospects on sites looking for solutions and, often openly, asking for social communities to weigh in on specific solutions.
Finally, look for prospects that are actively shopping for advice on a specific set of products. Even if they don’t name the product you’re selling, it’s an opportunity for you to introduce a product that should be considered.
William Tyree is the Chief Marketing Officer of ringDNA, where he works collaboratively with the team to drive breakthrough growth while creating an iconic brand that inspires companies to improve sales experiences. Previously, he was CMO at FaceFirst and VP of Marketing at DemandResults. His thought leadership has appeared in Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Atlantic and elsewhere.