Tony states that the power of social in B2B is in building a personal brand that you can use to engage more effectively with prospects and customers. He talks about how social is a powerful prospecting medium for ‘listening’ for triggers and leveraging those to engage..
He challenges CEO’s and sales leaders to “….liberate their salespeople to sell themselves first before they sell the company or their products and services”. And social is key to achieving this.
John: I’m here again with Tony Hughes – friend of mine, author and speaker – an author of one of the best books I’ve ever read on sales, The Joshua Principle. Welcome Tony!
Tony: Thanks, John!
John: Tony, in the last couple of discussions we’ve had we talked a lot about various trends in sales and so on, and you’ve raised the word “social” a few times. I was really interested to get more insight from you on what that means, and I’ve noticed you’ve been very active in the world of social, particularly on LinkedIn and with a lot of the posting of articles you’ve done recently, which have been brilliant – thank you very much for the value you’ve brought to the table on those!
Tony: Thank you.
John: So, I’d really like to get your view on what “social” means and how it’s changing the way we approach the sales world.
Tony: Yes, I think “social” is really misunderstood, and the main problem is that people talk about “social selling”. I think social selling is relevant in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world where you’re wanting to project a message and really engage with the masses. Business-to-business (B2B) selling has really been relationship-driven and I don’t think that will ever go away. But the power of social selling in the business-to-business world is actually in building a brand, because buyers increasingly today will research you.
Even if you leave them a voicemail, leave them a message, send them an email – you know, you’re trying to get that early engagement meeting with someone senior. Increasingly today they’ll research you before they decide whether they will take that meeting, and your brand needs to support the fact that you’re a domain expert and not make you look like a lower-level salesperson. So, if you’ve got a LinkedIn profile that says “Quota Crusher” and all of the things that it’s got there, it’s really a CV for the next job; that’s the first big mistake.
John: Yes, I understand that. Actually, I had a classic case with somebody I was working with, coaching a salesperson who has done a great job recently of building a profile, and they’re now finding that whenever they leave a voicemail they’re getting many, many more people coming back to them. Because what they do is “Who’s this? LinkedIn.” and they see this value coming from this person in relation to the customer’s business.
John: Big, big change.
Tony: Yes. And LinkedIn is incredibly powerful, especially when combined with Twitter, so I definitely agree with that. The second thing that’s really important is to not think about “social” as a place to project messages through multiple channels. That’s more relevant in B2C, but in the business-to-business (B2B) world the first thing to be aware of is to build a strong brand for people to research you – the second thing is to think of social listening, think of social research, use social…
John: Right, the old “trigger” thing.
Tony: Exactly! Yeah, the old trigger event thing. Listen for people changing roles, listen for things going on in the marketplace, including complaints. I recently did a little test where I actually put a complaint up on Twitter, hashtagging the airline saying they’re about to lose me as a valuable customer. I’d achieved the highest level that you can [03:00] achieve as a frequent flier with them, and I’d become unhappy and was thinking of changing, and I hashtagged them multiple times to see whether they were doing social listening to use that as a sales opportunity to save a client.
John: Okay, but that’s B2C. What about B2B? Same thing?
Tony: Well, yes. And here’s the reason—this is a profound thing, and that is to think about business-to-business-to-customer (B2B2C). One of the most powerful things we can do in B2B selling is to think about our customer’s customer.
John: Of course.
Tony: If we’re aware of the problems that our customer’s got within their marketplaces with the people that they’re selling to: now we become someone who can turn up with some insight and be focused on them and their problems rather than us and what it is that we sell.
John: The other thing is – I do a lot of work in personal branding, and I’m just finding that so many organisations now are helping each one of their customer-facing people – salespeople, consultants and so on – to build a very strong and valuable personal brand that the customers are going to respond to, and of course the power of many with a single focus is extremely powerful.
So the organisation—it’s not just an individual that can benefit from their personal profile – an organisation can benefit substantially from having their workforce, particularly the customer-facing workforce focused on putting valuable messages out there to the customer, interacting and engaging. And the other thing is: I hate the word “social selling”. We don’t sell on social, right?
John: But we do engage.
Tony: We absolutely do. And I know you do a lot of work with people to help build their own brands on social media platforms, which is so important. Because one of the decisions an employer has got to make, and they’ll have to get there eventually – I think the sooner they do it the better – is they’ve got to liberate their salespeople to sell themselves first before they’re selling their company. People buy the salesperson, and that level of trust, before they’re going to buy the product or service or solution they’re selling.
John: So true.
Tony: So help people build great, trusted brands, equip them to become true industry experts and have insights and go and engage. They buy the person, the product or solution will come in behind it, and just accept that. Accept the fact that the person is the product before what the company is selling actually is.
John: Great advice Tony, and thank you very much for taking the time out to talk to us!
Tony: Thanks, John!
John: Thank you!
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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.