I admit that I’m not exactly an early adopter when it comes to using social media, but apparently I’m far from alone. According to statistics cited in “Tweet Me, Friend Me, Make Me Buy”, by Barbara Giamanco and Kent Gregoire in the latest Harvard Business Review, only 5% of B2B marketers said social media was a mature and optimized part of their marketing efforts. 58% said they are in the early stages, (which is where I am), and 17% don’t use it at all.
Here’s why all but the top 5% are making a BIG mistake: in B2B buying decisions, buyers are far more active in gathering information than they used to be. The old days where sellers “pushed” information to prospects have given way to a “pull” model; potential buyers are actually beginning the sales cycle long before you get involved. (Those who’ve read Dixon and Adamson’s The Challenger Sale won’t be surprised by this). At this very moment, potential buyers are becoming aware of problems, searching for possible solutions, comparing alternatives, forming positive or negative impressions—and you aren’t even involved yet!
And they’re not just getting their information from websites. They are reaching out to others for their information, knowledge, and insights. 55% of buyers access social media when they’re looking for information. (What percentage do you suppose get their initial information from your cold call? According to an InsideView survey, over 90% of C-Level executives say they never respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts.)
As a result, when you show up for that first call with them, they know far more about your company than you do about theirs. If the primary value that a salesperson brings to the prospect is information about how to improve their business and help them achieve their objectives, that equation puts power firmly in the hands of the customer, and leaves the salesperson playing catch-up against requirements set by someone else.
If you’re not using social media to engage them in those conversations early, you’re letting someone else dictate the terms of the conversation. You’re also letting someone else establish the anchor by which subsequent information is filtered and perceived—or even noticed.
The article is too brief to recommend much in the way of specific practical steps that sales organizations can take to change this. But they sold me—I’ve just ordered Giamanco’s book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, and will post a more extensive review after I’ve read it (and begun applying the lessons to my own sales efforts.)