The majority of businesses now understand the value of social selling, judging by the fact that worldwide social media ad spend shot up to a staggering $67.9bn in 2018. Finally, it seems as though the sales opportunity of social media is being realized across the globe.
At the same time, a sudden boom in the prevalence of new tools and dramatic changes in customer expectations has led sales experts to now claim that social media monitoring is vital to successfully engaging and converting new prospects. This is especially important in the cynical buyers’ market, where informed customers are actively exercising caution when interacting with salespeople.
Changing Customer Expectations
Research conducted by Salesforce found that up to 76% of consumers now expect that a company will understand their needs and expectations. It is unsurprising that acquiring this level of knowledge about customers has proven a challenge for feature-focused outbound sales teams.
But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the internet, with its ubiquity of information and unbiased peer reviews, is now reducing direct inbound queries—which in turn threatens to stifle growth in sales teams across the world.
“[Customers] don’t want to talk to you until they’re pretty far down the path of doing their own independent research.”
At a glance, it could appear as though salespeople are in danger of becoming largely redundant as a result. In reality, this is unlikely. Customers are still keen to gather more information about products and services, with various estimates claiming that 50-80% of searches fall into the ‘informational’ category. Clearly, prospects have not disappeared, even if conversations are no longer taking place on a shop floor, a homepage chat window or over the phone.
As such the type of conversations must evolve if companies wish to remain successful, as Ali Fenn, Former VP, Sales at Genius.com told us in an interview at a recent GDS Sales and Revenue Summit.
Social Media Monitoring—Not Selling
Fenn: “[Customers] don’t want to talk to you until they’re pretty far down the path of doing their own independent research.” They intend to be better informed about products or services, not from impersonal and obviously biased company websites, but by the wealth of opinions that exist on social media platforms.
Decoding these interactions to achieve granular social media monitoring used to be fiendishly difficult and expensive. But with the rise of a host of affordable new tools that are in fierce competition with one another, it has never been easier for companies to locate interested parties online. Naturally, this has huge implications for lead sourcing.
If sales experts successfully employ social media monitoring, they can intercept conversations at scale and drive higher conversion rates. The crucial point to remember is that the nature of these discussions must remain as objective as possible, as these consumers can hardly be counted as sales-ready.
Most of the sales advice already online centers around selling on value over price, but Fenn goes one stage further. Salespeople must engage with the knowledge acquired by social media monitoring, provide the answers their customers are looking for and avoid pitching their product at all.
Fenn explains that conversion rates from similar engagements on Twitter—tracked through the system and employing social media monitoring—were much higher for her team.
How to Increase Online Sales: Don’t Push.
Social media monitoring will only become more powerful as trust in traditional sales methods continues to erode. By presenting themselves as readily-available online advisors, sales teams can build trust with consumers over time, steadily improving conversions.
But if salespeople neglect to learn from the mistakes of hard selling, they will invariably reinforce the mistrust that exists in the minds of consumer. Even worse, those examples of poor customer service will remain on highly used public platforms, for all to discuss.