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BtoB

Using social media to shorten the sales cycle

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B-to-b sales professionals spend their days finding, calling on and following up with new prospects. Experience has taught them that people do business with people they like and trust. So how can they build relationships efficiently and effectively, earn trust and shorten the sales cycle? Social media can help the sales department crack into the sales vault. It can help them move past the gatekeepers, save time and build relationships that lead to signed contracts. • Back to social. Business has always been social, making social media a natural fit in the business world. On Facebook, a friend of a friend may be the decision-maker at a company you want as a client. On LinkedIn, salespeople are one connection away from many of their prospects. Sales can do a little digging on social networks for introductions from friends and business associates—and a warm introduction beats a cold call any day. • Keep the business conversation going. Sales had a great meeting with five decision-makers. They liked the presentation and asked several “buying signal” questions. Now what? The sales rep can connect with all five on LinkedIn by sending a short message like, “I enjoyed our meeting and look forward to the next.” Then, they can check in twice a week to see if those decision-makers post anything to LinkedIn. If they do, the rep can comment in a way that shows interest. Sales shouldn't try to sell the product or service here—they're trying to establish a relationship and plant a name firmly in memory (in a positive light). Even a simple, “Great article, thanks for posting,” is sufficient. • Multiple “ins.” In companies with more than 25 employees, there's usually more than one decision-maker. You may have to present to several, but it only takes one to get in the door for a meeting. I like those odds; how about you? Here is one way to use social media to find the multiple “ins” at a company. Go to LinkedIn, type in the name of the company you want an appointment with and a list of employees will show up on the screen. Scan the list, and identify a handful of possible decision-makers. If you reach out to each of them, there is a good chance at least one—or two of them—will get back to you. You can also follow the company on Twitter and Facebook, looking for additional opportunities. • Minimally invasive procedure. If sales uses social media to help build relationships and continue conversations, it's not as invasive as other sales methods such as cold-calling or cheesy one-liners. But if sales turns the focus to building a relationship, they'll get a meeting and leave a favorable impression. Building a relationship does not feel invasive; selling to someone does. Social media can help sales bridge the gap in an efficient way that will open doors and shorten the sales cycle. Efficiency and effectiveness in one tool? Social media is the best b-to-b sales gadget you'll never see on an infomercial. Julie Bee is president-chief connector at BeeSmart Social Media (beesmartsocialmedia.com). She can be reached at julie@juliebeeinc.com.
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