Over the past several years, we have seen a significant rise in the importance of digital channels in the sales process. Today’s B2B marketers are moving away from blanket marketing tactics, such as cold calling and direct mailing, in favor of these more targeted strategies. In an increasingly connected world where prospects are just a click away, advances in technology are enabling more innovative methods that help organizations identify potential buyers, engage them with relevant content, and quickly close a deal.

Social media in particular has increased in importance. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have billions of active users. Prospects use social platforms to do product research, interact with brands, ask their peers for input, and give feedback / reviews. And organizations use these sites to spread brand awareness and credibility, distribute content, and drive traffic to their website.

Modern companies must adapt their sales strategies to attract and satisfy these next-generation, tech-savvy buyers. And the power of social media-driven prospecting combined with content sharing can help sales forces engage more intelligently with buyers and greatly boost sales performance.

What is social prospecting?

‘Social prospecting’ is the practice of listening to people on social media, identifying potential leads, and engaging them with relevant content, with the objective of driving them to your website and into your sales funnel. Social prospecting is not just a new way to cold-call or hard-sell. It requires personalized messaging and relevant information-sharing, primarily via content.

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Why use social prospecting?

It can take eight or more cold call attempts to reach a prospect, but according to SiriusDecisions, the average rep gives up after only two attempts. This tactic is neither efficient nor effective. Social media plays a defining role in modern sales processes and offers reps several benefits:

Discover untapped leads / opportunities

LinkedIn reports that 1 in 3 business professionals around the world is on LinkedIn. And an IDC study found that when making purchase decisions, social platforms are the #1 preferred source of information for B2B buyers. Perhaps somebody is asking their social peers for recommendations for a tool to solve a certain problem, or perhaps somebody is expressing their dissatisfaction with your competition. Use relevant hashtags and keywords to uncover these conversations and identify potential leads. These insights will also give reps a clue about what content to share to help guide the prospect.

Almost 2/3 of social buyers appreciate being contacted by a vendor at the right time with relevant content and opportunities. But sales reps need to be listening and be a part of the conversation so that they can spot these opportunities and know the right time to reach out. 

Build trust and nurture relationships

Research shows that the more trusted an individual is, the greater their sales effectiveness. Today’s sales environment requires building relationships before ever even trying to make a sale. With the instant gratification aspect of social media, you can engage in a two-way conversation with prospects in real-time, answer questions, and share helpful content. 

Learn more about your buyers

Social media helps sales reps better understand buyer behavior and the decision-making journey. It is particularly important in the prospecting stage when conducting research on potential leads, as you can glean useful clues about purchase intent and how to customize your communications. What are they talking about? What are their problems and challenges? What are their needs? What topics are they interested in? What are the latest trends in their industry?

Connect with the social buyer

Research from the IDC reports that social buying is directly correlated with buying influence:

  • The social buyer is more senior and has greater control over purchase decisions – 84% make purchases for their entire company or multiple departments.
  • The social buyer has an 84% larger budget larger budget than other B2B buyers.
  • The social buyer makes 61% more purchase decisions each year than non-social buyers.

For the sales rep, this means shorter selling cycles, larger deal sizes, higher productivity, and increased revenue. 

Where does content fit in with social prospecting?

Sales reps who are not using social media and content to prospect are missing out on important opportunities to connect and build key prospect relationships.

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Sales needs content because buyers demand it

More now than ever before, B2B buyers are relying on content to guide them through an increasingly complex purchase process and help them feel confident that they are making the right decision. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the complexity of a sale and the number of pieces of content viewed, with 4 out of 5 buyers reviewing at least five pieces of content. And even if they aren’t able to buy now, an Act-On study found that 80% will buy within two years. Monitor their conversations and use these insights to share relevant content and nurture prospects until they are ready to buy.

Content helps reps maximize the power of social media

Being a social sales rep means more than merely having a LinkedIn profile. And it’s not just about posting generic messages and sharing funny pictures aimlessly. A successful social prospecting strategy requires that sales people develop their image, build up a following, and become a go-to resource or even thought leader. And content is a key aspect of this process. Catch the attention of prospects by sharing collateral that will help them in their job or career. And then stay connected to and top-of-mind with prospects by regularly sharing relevant content, such as blog articles, worksheets or checklists, and research reports.

Successful social sales reps add value

Social prospecting isn’t about spamming potential prospects with hard-sells. It’s first and foremost about building relationships and adding value without being intrusive. B2B buyers look for vendors who understand their business and the challenges they face and who can offer valuable insights into resolving their pain points. With social prospecting, sales reps provide value by answering questions, sharing relevant and actionable content, and nurturing a trusting relationship until the prospect is ready to buy.

Social Prospecting Summary

A sales enablement solution such as KnowledgeTree helps sales reps add value to their prospects by recommending relevant, winning content based on the sales situation. Sales reps can share the right content through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and quickly establish credibility with their connections. KnowledgeTree matches content engagement back to the prospect’s Salesforce record. And organizations gain deep insight into how and when their content is used in the buyer journey and how to continually improve.