Each month thousands of organizations stop doing business with one company and start giving business to another. It’s commonplace, and in many cases the process is made easier by organizations that have failed to protect themselves against a competitor’s penetration strategies.
In today's selling environment, the use of social tools will either position your sales team to take advantage of these opportunities, or be subjected to attack strategies by others.
If your impression is that social selling is just about sharing articles and comments that showcase your products and services, think again. If your sales team is responsible for hunting for new pipeline, knowing how to use social tools properly can make the difference between consistently hitting quota or struggling to reach it.
64% of sales teams that use inbound social selling reach their quotas, compared to 49% who don’t (Aberdeen Group); and
98 out of 100 sales reps who have at least 5,000 LinkedIn contacts reach or surpass their sales quotas (The Sales Benchmark Index).
So how can social selling help poach clients? The opportunities break down into two general categories: the client is either happy with the status quo or they are not. Obviously the latter is a much easier account to penetrate — the trick is to find out about this discontent in a timely fashion.
We have several graduates that have used social tools to identify these opportunities by following targeted contacts on social networks. In some cases, employees air their grievances about a product or service causing them to work late. In other cases, employees comment on articles or ask questions in regards to relevant content, noting challenges they are experiencing and looking to survey the opinions of others.
Although you won’t be barraged with these opportunities daily, when they do pop up, the odds of getting face-time with a decision maker greatly increase, and the sales cycle is usually significantly shorter. Your sales team should be utilizing “social listening” tactics (especially on your own accounts), because the rest of us certainly are.
But what about clients who are content with the the status quo?
The trick in this case to get some face time with a decision maker to discuss alternative strategies that provide additional or value. One of the best opportunities is to engage with buyers recently hired because these folks are especially keen to make an impact, and it's at this point that they are open to new ideas.
What's even better about this scenario is that the previous employee (your contact at the company) has now left the organization and your advantage is diminished. The odds of engagement in this scenario have suddenly improved, and new ideas that demonstrate value are much more welcomed. In some cases, the current supplier may be at a disadvantage since they represent the status quo, the very thing the newcomer wants to change. After all, it's hard to look like a superstar if all you are going to do is the same thing as the last guy!
Oh by the way, in order to increase my odds of success, I have been developing a network of contacts that are now following me and value the insights I provide through my content sharing. Since I was coached to develop my network purposefully, I have the additional chance that the new hire in your account is one of my contacts, and in that situation penetration is even more likely. This strategy is well worth the effort because it is only a matter of time before many of my connections (or the connections I have through colleagues) start getting promoted or move to new jobs.
Now here is the best part of the strategy: we use technology to automate this search for us and remain ever-vigilant, so when this staff change occurs we receive a timely alert. A tremendous way to focus on our day to day activities, yet still be able to strike at these opportunities while the iron is hot.
By the way, most sales people typically only have one or two contacts in a current account, so not only does a departure open the doors for poaching, but it provides a ripe opportunity for our next account penetration strategy.
The Checkmate Strategy
By using a social selling routine, sales professionals can engage with several contacts in a target organization when a single buyer refuses to engage with us. In this way we can connect with others in the organization even though your contact may not be engaging with us. We can then share our thoughts and influence across the company. If my contacts are more senior than yours…well you get the point.
Once again, by automating these strategies we take the grunt work out of the process, and simply focus on the best strategy to connect and engage with our target company. For example, we can leverage our entire corporate network (internally) and use all of the organization's sphere of influence to leverage introductions into target companies.
Now imagine what happens when a sales professional uses several of these strategies in combination with each other, the constant barrage of attacks on a competitors' client list has high odds of winning business. These are some of the ways I poach your clients.
Obviously the strategies described here are all hunting strategies, if you think of them in reverse you’ll have a foundation for understanding how to protect your current accounts, and farm them more effectively.
What I especially respect about social selling strategies is that they represent what professional selling truly is. Rather than the disingenuous rapport and pushy tactics that somehow became the stereotype for our profession, these tools allow real professionals to focus on strategy rather than monotonous and inefficient grunt work. I don’t mean to suggest that personality and rapport are not valuable, but what sales professionals do to win business involves so much more.
Staying relevant in today’s selling environment means that all of us must continue to evolve along with our prospects and clients, and adapt to the new environment. It is this evolution that elevates our profession, and that is something that all of us should embrace.