One of the biggest issues that business-to-business (B2B) companies have been struggling with over the last few years is how to make social media an effective marketing medium. Most businesses these days have got Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, with varying results, although there is evidence to suggest that they are starting to see returns.
Where social media 'brand' pages are great for B2C companies as they allow them to speak directly to their customer base, B2B companies can use personal social media accounts to allow their staff to participate socially. Most B2B companies are set up with sales teams or consulting staff, and this is where the main opportunities lie; through the development of personal brands online that complement their offline activities.
This post will focus on Twitter, which is one of the key tools you can use to help develop your personal brand. If you want to experiment with other platforms, this social media guide offers a thorough analysis of all the main social media players and how they can be used for personal branding.
Using Twitter Can Help Get You Sales
First things first: Twitter is not about what you ate for breakfast. Users don't tweet this stuff, and no, you are not expected to care. Now that is out of the way, here are some of the key ways that sales staff could use a personal 'work' Twitter account to their advantage:
- 'Professional' Listening - If you follow your client's business account they are likely to be tweeting about future or upcoming events/launches/projects they are participating in. This could provide a key angle when making that next sales call, or you could even use Twitter itself to pitch an idea.
- 'Personal' Listening - If you follow your client's personal account, you can engage with them on other matters of interest. If your client talks about going to see Prometheus, talk to him about it. He will remember you.
- Relationship building - Most sales staff work hard on developing lasting relationships with their customers. Use the informal environment of Twitter to solidify these relationships. One of the best ways to do this is by simply being really helpful. If they ask a question, seek to answer it or retweet it to your followers.
- Ego stroking - It sounds callous, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of old-fashioned ego manipulation. People like to feel that their contribution is worthwhile. Following, retweeting, or mentioning on Twitter can all serve to make people feel a little bit more significant (and subconsciously, they may associate these positive thoughts with you).
A personal brand can directly help your ability to develop relationships by making you more memorable. Use your avatar to display an image of yourself to instantly make you seem more accessible. Social media can also allow you to show off your personality and sense of humour, so you seem more human and not just a voice on the phone.
A well developed personal brand can also help in your dealings with potential clients, as it can provide a means of social proof - if lots of influential companies and professionals follow you on Twitter, this can influence others to assume that you yourself are authoritative.
These days I very rarely start a business relationship with someone without first checking them out online, and as the business world becomes more web-savvy, this will become a more standard procedure. If people like what you are saying and how you say it, you could well have convinced them without even trying to sell to them.
Can Staff Ruin the Company Image?
Of course, there is always a concern with social media that staff could go off the rails and start to damage your company image. I would simply suggest implementing a sensible social media policy and trusting your staff . The Koozai team have done a great job of publicising the company brand by developing their personal brands - and the fact that different team members talk about their different areas of expertise also demonstrates the breadth and depth of talent in the company.
People Buy From People
So the old adage goes, and I think most sales professionals would agree with this. Social media gives you an opportunity to present yourself as a fully rounded individual. In the same way you might call a client up and chat to them about football, why not also talk to them about it using social media? You will slowly but surely strengthen your relationships and in doing so, secure future sales.
True salesmanship is about empathy, as people very rarely make purchasing decisions purely for business reasons. If your clients think you 'get them', and you can stay on their radar, they could be calling you next, rather than the other way around.