Most salespeople and sales leaders understand that today’s buyer has changed, but how does this change reflect in respective buyers’ behaviors across the globe?
We’ve spoken to several prominent digital leaders about the landscape of B2B sales today, the differences between buyer expectations, the impact of tools like LinkedIn, and the effect of legislation, language and time across America, EMEA and APAC.
1) Key Differences in Buyers: Americas, EMEA and APAC
What we’re seeing in the market is that buyers are better informed by the time we’re making first contact. Buyers do more research, not just because of social media but also because of the general availability of Google.
We can see that our articles are being read, and they’re being digested. We’re hearing phrases coming back to us that are being used in our publications. We certainly can influence buyer’s journey, but they’re quick. They need soundbites and more collateral to circulate around their own organizations.
The problem is, are they reaching the right information and drawing the right conclusion? One of the challenges that we see by the time buyers choose to engage with a seller is that we sometimes find that they’re missing key pieces of information. They don’t know what they don’t know. We’ve found it very helpful to surround them socially and start to guide that journey by feeding them the right information.
When we look at our buyers, some countries are much more advanced (such as the UK and Ireland) and much better prepared when they get phone calls, where other countries (such as Spain) social selling adoption is much lower. For us, the challenge is to make sure that we understand the how informed the buyer is in these different countries.
When we started the social selling pilot with 50 participants in four geographies, including Span, the UK and the US, I was surprised about the wide range of people receptive to social selling.
We were selling very technical products so we suspected that, for example, production leaders, production engineers, research and developers would probably not be so receptive to social selling, but our salespeople found they could in fact interact with them on LinkedIn Sales Navigator. I was surprised how receptive also the Spanish engineers and Spanish production managers were to social selling.
2) What are the differences in buyer expectations today between Americas, EMEA and APAC, and how does social help?
It’s not a new phenomenon, but the trend continues to increase globally that because people have so much information available prior to engaging, they’re expecting us to bring them innovative insights and information they can't or haven't already figured out themselves.
In the UK, buyers are very skeptical of salespeople. Sales is not as reputable profession as perhaps is in the US or maybe in the Far East – perhaps even in other parts of Europe. So, when engaging especially with the IT buyer, salespeople need to pull information from a wider range of sources, such as Gartner or Forrester industry reports, rather than just their own marketing material.
What I teach the teams is that it’s about increasing the number of value-added touchpoints in your cadence. InsideSales.com conducted research that found the average sales rep said they did 12 touchpoints with a buyer before they gave up.
They compared that to the companies CRM’s, which told a different story. The average was four. So, we have reps saying they’re doing 12 touchpoints on phone and email, when they’re doing much less.
It’s not simply about calling more. It’s about trying to get a rep to add more touchpoints in their cadence in a way where they don’t think they’re being bothersome, they’re not irritating the buyer, and that they’re leading with value and in a professional way.
Don’t under estimate the reach of social in global organizations, and its ability to get to people around the world through a single post. The networking value is immense, and the ability to influence multiple parties at multiple levels globally is unique to social selling. You can't easily do that face to face. You can hop on a plane to fly around the world, but trying to organize that takes so long. Social selling, you can do that in the night.
3) What tools are more prevalent in your region and what is the impact of platforms like LinkedIn?
Wendy van Gilst:
I think LinkedIn and Twitter are the most used now. A lot of our salespeople don’t feel comfortable reaching out to people via Facebook or Instagram. As it currently stands, salespeople feel most comfortable using LinkedIn, followed by Twitter, and in terms of regional tools we have, for example, German salespeople who prefer to use Xing, though the main ones are LinkedIn and Twitter.
LinkedIn certainly is the best for networking and social selling. Twitter is interesting for something like sending out opinions, but I'm not sure how many people read it for business. Facebook is a personal tool, and while it’s accepted that consumer brands are using it, I don’t think it has a place in B2B sales.
4) What is the effect of legislation, language and time?
Francisco Ramón Pelzing:
Before launching the pilot a year ago with the 50 Sales Navigator participants, I had to align with a lot of internal stakeholders, including of course compliance, purchasing, legal and our work as council.
So, if I can make one recommendation for a larger company, I recommend to align as soon with multiple stakeholders across the globe to explain to them what this is about and show you are proactively engaging with them and not hiding anything.
I don’t see legislation inhibiting us in any way in terms of social selling, since you’re contacting people through means by which they have volunteered to be a member of the community.
Language is certainly an issue. Europe and APAC English is certainly the global language of business. Of course, it’s better if you can put that content in local languages, but there’s an acceptance but it doesn’t always have to be in the that way.
From the point of view of time, you’ve got the ability to schedule your publications. You can send messages that are basically synchronous, so if you’re sending a message it will be received when the person is ready.
We’re all very time poor these days and unless you’re in the business where you’re actively on social media, we need to account for that in our scheduling and anticipating response times.
This blog has been adapted from the webinar: Americas vs. EMEA vs. APAC: Global Differences For Implementing Social Selling.