The Unfair Advantage … harnessing digital platforms and content to inspire and engage B2B clients … and sell 40% more!

September 11, 2017

In today’s connected world, every business has changed how it works – how it communicates, its processes and projects, its speed and decision-making. Selling is not alien to this, both in its need to engage in new ways, but also in the opportunities to collaborate more closely, and add more value to clients.

Decision makers are more connected, more informed, and more susceptible to peer influence. Recent IDC research shows that 84% of B2B decisions start from a referral. Social media, in its many formats, therefore becomes a powerful tool in reach, connecting and influencing new and existing clients. IDC also found “social selling” could extend piplines by 18%, accelerate them by 28% and improve conversions by 15%). And in total, enhance sales by 40%.

The ability to know business contacts more intimately, by reviewing their profile on Linked-In, or reading their blogs and posts, or collaborating within online forums, means that relationships can be far more personal, meaningful and accessible. Similarly the development of online business platforms, from synchronisable schedules to operational processes, enable businesses to be far more integrated, connected and collaborative.

Companies as diverse as GE and AT&T, Accenture and IBM, Deloitte and UBS each offer great case studies of ways in which they have empowered their sales people to harness the power of new tools, to drive a more active and collaborative approach to selling, which then flows through to more profitable and enduring business relationships.

Financial sercices, in particular, have a significant opportunity to align more closely with clients, to learn from these related sectors, and even change the game by which it sells. The impact will range from building a thought-leading reputation in the market, targeting and engaging clients better and faster, working more actively with them to achieve their business goals, and driving business performance.

You could call it an “unfair advantage” …

In Lisbon this week I worked BNP Paribas’s senior relationship managers to explore:

  • The changing world of work … exploring how clients have changed the way they work – organiations are flat and fast, teams more dispersed, projects more dominant, and decisions more empowered. What else? What is most different?
  • Technologies disrupt how we sell … from tools like Crystal Knows and Salesforce Tracking, to GE’s thought leadership, IBM building personality in blogs, Deloitte in social and sharing, and Fedex’s ecosystem of solution partners.
  • Implications for the way we work … from push to pull, physical to integrated, planned to responsive, delivered to collaborative, transactional to relationship, anonymous to personal … more valuable and more profitable. What else?
  • How can we use technology to change our game? … from simple steps like Linked-in profiles and discussion forums, through to practical new platforms for sales, collaboration, innovation and growth.

Examples of companies using “social” to sell smarter:

GE: The success of GE’s social selling strategy is simple: don’t make it all about “you.” No one wants to read post after post about how amazing your company is and why corporations would be lucky to use your services. Content is key to fruitful social connections. GE’s Facebook and Twitter pages are dedicated to sharing the latest news in the world of technology and science. They also take the time to diversify their social networks. They have dedicated pages for aviation, mining, healthcare, transportation and more. On Twitter, they use hashtags to attract like-minded individuals to their social networks. At the Business Marketing Association’s 2014 conference, Linda Boff, Executive Director Global Brand Marketing at GE, cited that General Electric has found Instagram, Vine and Tumblr as platforms where the GE brand has found its voice by sharing innovative research and simple science experiments. Examples of GE’s effective social campaigns include #6SecondScience, #SpringBreakIt and #GravityDay on Tumblr and Vine, and their 197,000 follower Instagram account.

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AT&T: When you think of social selling, you probably think about traditional networking on the main three – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m here to tell you that blogging is also a huge part of a company’s overall social selling strategy. In 2011, a blogging sales strategy implemented by AT&T served the market with fresh business tech content. The most successful outlet for attracting prospects was AT&T’s B2B blog titled Networking Exchange. The content featured on the blog were about topics of high interest to tech-minded companies – topics like security resources, cloud computing and mobile business technologies. The blog is well-constructed and absolutely rich with links leading readers to their sales pages. Check out this case study about how AT&T used social (and specifically their blog) to renew a fading client to the tune of $47 million.

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CBRE: Commercial real estate firm CBRE is a leader in their industry, and they have the baked-in advantage of being a business that shows up spectacularly in photos. With the utilization of breathtaking photographs of inspiring buildings and stunning skylines across the world, CBRE grabs your attention immediately. Naturally this lends itself to an incredible Instagram page with world-class urban photography. Through social media, CBRE also expresses their worldly growth story and the growth of their industry by promoting posts on the shifting nature of the modern office.

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Further info

Report: Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience

Report: 2017 Trends and Tech Guide for B2B sales and marketing

Article: How Sander Biehn made $47 million from his B2B blog

Article: 10 Tools that will change how you manage sales and marketing

Article: The Case for Social Selling & How to be Successful

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