Best Fits for Social Media in the Sales Cycle

Shout at the Devil

The sales organizations of most companies have a similar way of diagramming their sales process. They make these little graphics showing a circle with five or more points along the circle that indicate a customer’s potential interaction with the organization. The points are usually labeled something like this:

  • Prospects
  • Awareness
  • Leads
  • Customers
  • Evangelists (or sometimes, they use this bubble for “support”)

In writing this up, what comes first? Awareness or prospects? (I think this goes in two configurations.) Person (be this B2C or B2B) is unaware of your product or service. You make them aware. They become prospects, which means you identify which of the people who become aware might actually be a good fit for your product. Then prospects who seem genuinely ready to become customers enter the lead process (where a sales person attempts to close the sale successfully). After this, the person becomes a customer/user/member and experiences the product they’ve purchased. And then hopefully, your customer has had such a great time with the product that they’re evangelists who say great things about it. Companies who are less hopeful mark this bubble “support.” Because it’s a circle, the suggestion is that we will constantly make our existing customers aware of new products and sell them these, as well.

These tools we have like blogging and podcasting and video and the use of social platforms are interesting, but to be useful to a sales marketing process, we have to look at where they make the most possible leverage and value.

Awareness

Here’s where I think the most value lies in using social media tools. Because we have these tools that let us listen for potential customers at their point of need (loosely quoted from Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun), we can find potential prospects and make them aware. We can use our podcast or our blog or our YouTube videos to build what we hope is meaningful content. We can strike up conversations on Twitter with people who might find our service or product more interesting. Awareness ranks highest in my sense of what these tools let us do.

Think about how you can get past the typical daily newspaper grind. Think about using email marketing, blogging, and basic presence on Twitter and Facebook to build relationships. It’s much better than the old method of broadcasting and the one-dimensional efforts of traditional advertising. There’s a strong opportunity here for any organization seeking to improve awareness of their offerings.

Prospects

My point on social media and prospecting is this: we now volunteer up lots of information via our social networks. If your prospects are online, they’re donating all kinds of information that’s useful in relationship building. If you want to sell something to Jeff Pulver, for instance, you’ll learn quickly that he loves music, that he loves live bands and karaoke, that he takes having fun seriously, that he travels all the time. If you’re a salesperson, you know how to translate this into openings for other conversations. You know how to pursue Jeff where he roams. It’s clear and obvious the value.

Prospecting using social networks and other social media is obvious, but are you doing it?

Leads

So now you’ve put someone into your lead cycle. You’ve decided you are going to close them for a sale (and remember, let’s use “sale” loosely. Maybe you’re “selling them” on donating to your charity, or watching your video channel. The advent of services like Twitter allow you to mind read from afar. If I’m going to hit up Len Devanna from EMC to sponsor a conference of mine, I’m sure as hell going to read his Twitter stream from the last two days and make sure his dog hasn’t gone into the hospital or that he’s not dealing with a budget cut, etc.

It also allows you to gently touch (without selling) your clients so that they keep you top of mind. Don’t talk to @elizabethhannan about that webinar software you need to sell her. Talk to her about her last few brightkite uploads and ask her how her weekend sporting outings were. It has the same effect: a gentle touch in the process of closing a lead.

Customers

As more and more organizations turn to blogging and Twitter for customer service, still others are building communities of use around their products, and promoting product discussions, member sharing forums, and more. A paid-up customer is not the end of the sales cycle, any good salesperson knows. He or she is a trusted part of your next successful sales, or at least, a referral to other potential prospects. These tools are a great way to connect with customers and keep them feeling important.

Evangelists

Social tools that promote sharing are a great way to transform customers into evangelists. Are you Sony Electronics and you’re trying to sell more GPS-enabled camcorders? Send each unit out with a piece of stationary inviting the new owner to sign up to YouTube (or even better, Blip.tv), and encourage them to use a metadata tag on all their submissions that marks them as part of the Sony family.

Nikon did this famously with Flickr, the online photo sharing site, such that any Nikon pictures uploaded showed off the Nikon logo in the metadata in the sidebar, and identified themselves as such.

If you’re not thinking of ways of connecting your products and services to the online share-o-sphere (all these various social networks that encourage interaction and sharing), you’re missing a powerful opportunity.

My Points In Closing

What is the ROI of adding metadata to someone’s YouTube account? Good luck figuring out the math on that. Do you feel in your gut that any time someone has a chance to experience yet another brand impression on your product, it’s a good thing? I do. And I feel that all the above-mentioned ideas are ways (or at least the start of ideas that I expect you to have AFTER the post) on making sense of how to tie social media tools and methods to your sales process.

Building awareness, maintaining good business relationships, communicating thoroughly, listening, and encouraging evangelists are all ways your efforts in social media will pay off sooner rather than later.

But what about you? Have you had some early success with any of this? What are some other examples you’ve seen or have practiced yourself? What’s your take?

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