Marketing has been shining the spotlight on the power of social media over the last few years. It’s been effective as we’ve seen budgets for social media and content marketing increase with hockey stick proportions. Now it’s time to add a new team in the race and look at how these tools can be used to drive sales in the organization. That means we need to take a hard look at where the sales team fits in the mix. I know a few of you just visibly cringed as you think of letting your sales team loose on social media channels, but the reality is that many of them are already there. If we don’t start empowering our sales teams with the knowledge they need to successfully use social media there will definitely be plenty to cringe about. I’ve always been a big believer in aligning sales and marketing to drive more sales because it’s in everyone’s best interest for the company to make more money. It isn’t an “us versus them” conversation anymore. We are all “them” and it’s time to band together to make some awesome together.
Inbound Marketing is the Wind Up
“Audiences everywhere are tough. They don’t have time to be bored or brow beaten by orthodox, old-fashioned advertising. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.” –Craig Davis, J. Walter Thompson
The top of the funnel starts with Inbound Marketing. Marketo, a marketing automation platform designed by marketers for marketers, defines Inbound Marketing as “the process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.” In essence, it’s about bringing prospects to your front door and then nurturing them through the sales process. Great inbound marketing requires a strong content strategy that includes resources your potential buyers are likely to search for before they know they have a problem your company can solve. This can include blog posts, e-books, guides, infographics, statistics, webinars, videos, and more. Further, it’s important to have content that is designed to trigger a lead conversion. This content strategy should include high value content that the user can download after filling out a form. Teams need to create a content engine that produces a steady stream of new and relevant content that is broken into two categories: informational content and decision-making content. Informational content is content that is interesting to your potential buyer, but doesn’t necessary have anything to do with the product or service you sell. Decision-making content is content that is designed to show possible purchase intent for your products or services and will trigger the beginning of the sales process. Marketing needs to support sales by creating a strong inbound lead generation framework.
Inbound Marketing Stats
- “Call to actions promoting ebooks get almost twice the click through rate as emails promoting webinars.” (HubSpot)
- “Those with over 40 landing pages got 12 times more leads than those with only 1 to 5 landing pages. (HubSpot)”
- “Inbound Marketing costs 61% less per lead than traditional, outbound marketing. Outbound average cost per lead $346. Inbound average cost per lead $135.” (State of Inbound Marketing, Hubspot, March 2012)
- 57% of companies have generated revenue producing leads from the company blog. 62% have done the same on LinkedIn. 52% produced revenue from Facebook. 44% generated revenue from Twitter. (State of Inbound Marketing, Hubspot, March 2012)
Social Selling is the Muscle
While marketing is creating an inbound lead generation engine sales doesn’t have to sit on the sidelines and wait for results, they have quotas to beat after all. Instead we can empower the sales team with training and resources to find prospects online. There are two phases of social selling. Building relationships with target buyers and finding sales ready buyers. Your sales team is going to be most interested in investing time in finding sales ready buyers. Never forget the power of the sales quota. However, marketing can show them the power of doing both and in some cases help to manage relationship building activities so they can focus their time and energy on sales ready buyers.
Automation isn’t the Enemy
The marketing team can use tools like InsightPool to find your target buyers on Twitter. It allows you to compare your following to the following of other Twitter accounts and then employs marketing automation tactics like following targeted buyers, then direct messaging those who follow back with a relevant piece of content and publicly mentioning those who don’t follow with a resource. InsightPool is essentially marketing automation for Twitter. It allows you to personalize every message with merge fields and even use a variety of combinations of messages so everyone doesn’t get the exact same message. While many may argue that we shouldn’t automate Twitter, the reality is that it is going to take time to get our sales team up to speed and they want leads now. I have no problem using tools that can provide the most personalized automated experience possible to help start the conversation and then let the sales team follow up with those who respond.
Social Media Explorer recently used InsightPool to let our followers in the Philadelphia market know that Jason Falls and I were coming to town for an event with ExactTarget. We were able to personally message each of our followers who lived in Philly to spread the word. This is something we simply couldn’t have done manually due to the time investment it would require. And our followers thanked us for it. It’s all about being smart with your messaging and which pieces you automate.
One-on-One LinkedIn Messaging
We all know LinkedIn is a powerhouse for B2B relationship building, but there is a challenge that hasn’t been readily discussed. The volume of messages a sales person would have to send in order to generate results would simply take all of the time and their sales manager wouldn’t be happy. Social Media Explorer has been testing using one-on-one messaging that comes from sales representatives and invites target prospects to join groups, schedule a meeting, and even download inbound marketing content. This requires a joint effort between the sales representative and the marketing team to ensure there is an approved message that is being sent and that the highest value prospects are being targeted to ensure there is a pay off for the sales team. The results have been outstanding. Click through rates are better than any landing page we’ve seen and the cost per conversion is substantially lower than other activities.
Social selling is the future of the sales organization. It is important for marketing to provide the proper resources, training and framework to ensure our sales teams can be successful in social media. They will want to jump on selling right away, so we have to show them which triggers make that okay and when to continue nurturing the relationship.
Social Selling Stats
- “In 2012, 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.” (Social Media and Sales Quota, A Sales Guy Consulting)
- “There is a direct correlation between closed deals and social media usage…54% of survey respondents have tracked social media usage back to closed deals.” (Social Media and Sales Quota, A Sales Guy Consulting)
- “50.1% of sales people told us that their time spent using social media ranged from less than 5% to up to 10%” (Social Media and Sales Quota, A Sales Guy Consulting)
- “The 21.7% of sales people who told us they were not using social media, the vast majority said that they either didn’t see the value (18.9%) or they didn’t understand it (45%). (Social Media and Sales Quota, A Sales Guy Consulting)
- “75% of the respondents told us they were given no training on effective use of social media.” (Social Media and Sales Quota, A Sales Guy Consulting)
Marketing Automation is the Knockout Blow
We’ve discussed generating high funnel leads using inbound marketing and developing low funnel leads by empowering your sales team to use social media effectively, but now we need to talk about the middle of the funnel. Marketing automation is what you can use to effectively move your high funnel leads through the funnel to close. When someone has subscribed for informational content and haven’t indicated product or service interest, I recommend that your email campaigns continue to send them more content and great resources. This should be paired with a secondary call to action that drives the next stage in the funnel. Depending on your industry this could be downloading a piece of decision making content, taking a meeting, or attending a product demonstration. Once someone has indicated product interest they should receive email marketing campaigns that both drive the next stage in the sales process, but also provide great resources as a secondary call to action. This allows the marketer to continually track where they are in the sales process and evaluate fall off. Further, marketing automation allows the marketing team to use lead scoring to ensure they are delivering truly qualified leads to the sales team. The reality is that if you sent all of the inbound leads you generate over to sales, they’d end up hating you. Why? Because the majority of those leads aren’t ready to buy and you’d be wasting their time. Instead nurture your inbound leads and bring them as far through the sales process as possible and then do the hand off. If sales says they still aren’t ready, put them back in the nurturing funnel.
Marketing Automation Stats
- 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy. (Source: Gleanster Research)
- Only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales. (Source: Gleanster Research)
- 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
- 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
- A whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
- 57% of B2B organizations identify ‘converting qualified leads into paying customers’ as a top funnel priority. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
- Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research)
- Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (Source: The Annuitas Group)
- 46% of marketers with mature lead management processes have sales teams that follow up on more than 75% of marketing-generated leads. (Source: Forrester Research)
- Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails. (Source: Jupiter Research)
- Event-triggered marketing can potentially save 80% of your direct mail budget. (Source: Gartner Research)
At the end of the day, being able to show that marketing is delivering sales ready leads and have a sales team that backs you up and sings your praises is a huge credibility win in the organization. It’s high time to start caring about credibility and proving you understand business considering that the Fournaise report revealed that “more than 69% of CEO’s say they have stopped enforcing key business objectives and indicators on marketing because they have ‘continuously failed’ to prove marketing strategies and campaigns delivered business growth.” Aligning social media with the sales team might be the perfect way to prove them wrong.
What do you think? Should sales teams be using social media? What reservations do you have? What opportunities do you see? Leave a comment and join the conversation.