Social media has significant influence in all our lives today. Online exchanges, opinions and interactions are the new currency of persuasion and influence. Which makes social selling a viable means to engage buyers, participate in evolving consensus and showcase the relevance of your solutions.
With buyers more empowered to research, compare and seek out solutions online, a significant part of their decision-making process takes place well before engaging with the traditionally acknowledged sales and purchase frameworks. On a sales side, social media interactions allow professionals the opportunity to establish their credentials, create and leverage relationships and steer interactions within a context that the buyer has participated in creating.
As early as 2014, a survey conducted by IDC established that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives actively used social media in the course of their purchasing decisions. The research established that the senior and more influential segment of B2B buyers were significantly more likely to engage social media platforms as part of their purchasing behavior.
Social buyers spent 84% more per purchase and made 61% more purchase decisions. Significantly, buyers active on social media made larger purchases more frequently than those who were not.
In the intervening years, industry leaders have become even more active in engaging online resources to identify the best options available to them. A significant part of the purchasing decision is much more likely to have been influenced by interactions on social platforms than ever before.
The ability to proactively consider, compare and investigate solutions has also made buyers far less receptive to cold calls and other legacy sales methods. In a recent report, Statista.com, the online statistics portal, noted that e-commerce activity will constitute a whopping $4.48 billion by 2021 and that digital interactions already influence 92% of all B2B purchasing activity. Social selling is no longer a useful adjunct to an overall sales strategy. It has become a non-negotiable core practice that drives success.
While traditional sales practices were accommodated as a necessary part of business in the past, the emergence of online resources helped cast a much wider net to engage buyers. So much so that today, legacy strategies lagging on online engagement can mean that your organization is off the list of options very early in the purchasing process.
Buyer behavior is only one half of the story. The true value of social selling is in the avenues it offers to create a presence, demonstrate value and close deals, far more efficiently than before. Also, a well curated online presence attracts attention and allows buyers to participate in the engagement process in the course of their everyday business behavior, as opposed to being asked to interrupt their day and consider a cold contact.
The ability to harness the opportunities that social media platforms offer sales teams is key to organizational success today. There are numerous ways it can be leveraged:
- Personalized contact: Social selling allows a salesperson to develop an ongoing interaction with their target audience. The advantage of being able to operate from unobtrusively established positions and interactions that address the specific concerns and interests of the buyer, is one of the primary advantages of the approach.
- Focused engagement: In the course of establishing an online presence, a salesperson can stake a unique identity within the context of their industry and the solutions that they can offer. Ongoing interaction helps create relationships that are to mutual benefit.
- Enhanced awareness of innovations and trends: With so many transformative forces influencing business practices, it has never been more necessary to have a finger on the pulse of most industries. Remaining relevant and actively appearing to be so, is the single most important pre-requisite in this business climate. Establishing an online presence, engaging thought leaders and offering insights helps align interests and ensures the complementary evolution of buyers and salespeople.
The shift from seeking opportunities to actively nurturing synergies, is the transformation that social selling is driving. Ongoing conversations are the basis for establishing relationships, mutual interest and common ground. Social selling creates a dynamic that offers more to each half of the relationship and streamlines both roles.
Ruqaiyah Jaffery is the Head of Marketing for the Middle East – South at SAP.