The 'F' Factor: How friends, fans and followers impact today’s sales teams

10th Dec 2012

Amanda Hinkle explains how sales efforts can be boosted with the 'F' Factor. 

The structure of today’s sales force looks quite different than it did 10 years ago, and in another 10 years we can expect it to look different than it does today.  There are some trends that we should pay attention to that will lead companies to evaluate the needs of the current “inside sales”/”outside sales” structure.
Inside sales teams are growing at rate of 15% each year and many of these folks are young, new to the work force, social media proficient, and inexpensive alternatives to the traditional two man sales team. It is expected that 85% of buyer-seller interactions will happen online through social media and video. Customers will not need a field salesperson to come on-site for a face to face, meaning that action items will be delivered digitally and/or virtually. The average cost of an outside B2B sales call is $215-$400 per call. An inside call, on the other hand, averages only $25-$75.
Also, will we have a need for a global workforce? Thomas Friedman told us… The World Is Shrinking! Sales teams will not need to be set up by region anymore thanks to the ease of being able to work virtually and socially.  Right now, Skype, web conferencing, and video are quickly catching on as a good alternative to traditional meetings.
Sales teams already maintain contact with prospects and customers through traditional channels such as phone and email, it just makes sense that social media will be weaved in. As business managers decide how to best leverage sales people for social media objectives, here are a few ideas on tactics to consider implemeting:

  • Monitor the social web for comments and conversations that indicate opportunities. IBM’s "Listen for Leads" program has uncovered millions of dollars in sales by monitoring social media sites for keywords that indicate prospects with questions or in the search phase. More and more consumers and B2B buyers will participate on the social web during the discovery and consideration phases of the buying cycle, and companies should be looking to tap into this powerful network.
  • Look for leads on the social web from posters who say, “I’ve got a guy.” Word-of-mouth is the most prized referral that sales teams strive for.  Research shows a referred customer is a better customer. 65% of new business comes from referrals. And referred customers have a 25% higher profit margin than non-referred customers. Additionally, referred customers spend 33% more than new customers per purchases and are 18% less likely to abandon a brand within the first two years of the relationship. Don’t overlook the opportunity for scoring referrals from the social web.
  • Create a unique destination for social participation to serve as the hub for a salesperson’s social media activity. This is where social content is published, aggregated and curated. It’s also where calls to action, offers and invitations to engage on a more business level can be posted. This personalized platform can serve as a destination for other publishers and bloggers to link to and appear within search results. Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr are great places to start. Also, Nimble, which describes itself as a way to combine CRM features with sales teams’ social networks so they can leverage their influence for business growth, looks to be attempting to bridge this gap, as the tool of choice, from the more traditional sales rep to this new hybrid.
  • Create company best practices on the most effective uses of social media and networking sites for your sales teams. Companies can provide sales teams with templates, processes, and training plus regular internal networking opportunities to share best practices to help them succeed.  It’s also important to provide ongoing education so salespeople know what it looks like to be too aggressive or forward with their social participation efforts (a subtlety that is often only learned the hard way). Continuously improved processes, new social tool evaluations and tactics evolution can improve sales force social media effectiveness and overall ability to create value and engage prospects.  

As with all social media sales and marketing efforts, success measurement varies according to the target audience, industry, resources, and sales teams capabilities. There’s no doubt that strategy alone doesn’t sustain long-term social media marketing success. To help the sale force of yesterday become the sales force of NOW (and tomorrow), training and feedback will be essential.

Amanda Hinkle is senior digital marketing strategis at StrongMail.

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