With social selling, intelligent social research allows you to effectively target the right organizations and engage people at the right time with insight and context.
Social research enables you to create a hypothesis of value and an engagement strategy to overcome the competition (including ‘do nothing’ / status quo competition). Research and planning is how you build the foundation of efficient and effective engagement around social selling activities.
Research has always been important for strategic social selling and the Internet, especially LinkedIn, has transformed the way it’s done. Anyone who fails to prepare for a meeting deserves a bad outcome. These are the research areas to focus on for B2B sellers:
- Research the organization you are targeting.
- Research your buyer’s industry trends, threats and opportunities.
- Research the buyer roles who will need to be engaged and influenced.
- Research individuals and their connections.
When it comes to researching individual people and their relevance to a sales campaign, we can almost make the argument that the internet itself, Google searching and email are all secondary and tertiary channels to LinkedIn. The fact that we can transparently see an individual’s social proximity is massively powerful. Success leaves clues and here are common practices and techniques used by the best sellers today:
- They are masterful in the use of search engine tools for refining and creating ‘saved searches.’
- They read daily about their customer’s industry in newspapers and online forums.
- They actively seek conversations with those who understand the trends, challenges and opportunities within the industries they serve.
- They embrace the concepts of Challenger Selling to earn high value conversations with the most senior people.
- The majority of their searches in a given business day are performed within LinkedIn to map the political power base and understand connections.
- They study the interrelationships of their own company via TeamLink to understand how their internal networks overlay with that of prospects.
- They create mash-up organizational charts for account planning and mapping the power base, buying center and competitor threats.
- They contribute to and leverage internal CRM systems as a single source of the truth about a current customer’s status. This is critical to understanding who are the best references for supporting selling efforts to new named accounts.
Research can easily become overwhelming or paralyzing. It is therefore essential to have purpose and pragmatism in our research efforts. Here is what I recommend concerning your focus and priority in research.
- Create your value conversation with the potential customer. Read The Challenger Sale and obsess about how you can create game changing value for the customer. Value as they define it, not a value proposition from your marketing department
- Understand the political power base and create a winning relationship strategy to both ‘sell to power’ and help them gain consensus within their teams.
- Decide which competitive engagement strategy is best for defeating the competition and also ensuring that they actually go ahead with purchase and implementation
Jamie Shanks has provided this list of social research tools that can make you hyper-efficient. Glassdoor is especially powerful for understanding the real culture of an organization.
In all of this, don’t neglect your CRM. It’s where you should be creating the single source of truth about your accounts and opportunities. It’s where your strategy documents should live and be shared with your team. Having said that, the rocket fuel of B2B selling is LinkedIn Sales Navigator and here’s why LinkedIn is the quintessential sales dashboard:
- There’s a growing number of people that just connect LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook & Google+ but only utilize LinkedIn as their core network.
- LinkedIn has cracked the code on making a social network into a profitable business model with 2.21B in revenue in 2014.
- They’ve essentially transcended the restrictions of “social networking” nomenclature / classification and become something entirely new: a human-centric virtual world mapping the economic graph.
- Who else is mapping the global economic graph? I’d be hard-pressed to answer that question which further highlights the level of blue ocean strategy and divergent, focused and memorable value curves they’ve effectively exploited.
- The majority of executive buyers are looking for sales people to teach them new insights. LinkedIn has become the global hub for subject matter expertise as it flexes into both Publishing 3.0 and Learning 3.0.
CRM could literally melt away were Navigator to allow for just a few extra features like: Sorting of lead lists, designation of current contacts and opportunity management with minimal stage creation. Just a few basic classic CRM functions could help LinkedIn Sales Navigator be an end-to-end enterprise selling tool. Unlike CRM, LinkedIn has self-healing data.
Research and prepare before charging in. Now it’s over to you; how do you leverage social to hit the sweet spot for effective research? How do you make your social research matter?