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Social selling and the channel

Zoe Sands explains why should the channel consider social selling

social apps

Connecting sales and marketing through social selling enables the channel; distributors, resellers and system integrators to fully utilise the social media and content marketing from IT vendors to build closer and deeper relationships with prospects and customers.

Buyers have never been more informed than they are today, which puts sellers on the back front. Implementing a social selling programme and changing sales plays and practices enables a better customer experience and leads to a more profitable sale for Vendors, Distributors and Resellers. So, what are you waiting for to implement a social selling programme? Do you want to know more?

Why should the channel consider social selling?

There are lots of IT vendors who are utilising social selling really well for example Juniper Networks and SAP, but there are very few businesses within the channel that are truly utilising social media and social selling. So, why is this? Traditionally the channel is very tactical focused with its marketing and sales enablement, vendors often promote this behaviour by releasing marketing development funds (MDF) on a quarterly basis. With social selling and social media needing a more strategic approach the channel often shy’s away from activities they didn't understand, don't know how to measure and can't see a tangible immediate return.

The channel is in a prime position to fully utilise this new way of selling by using the social media training and guidance, marketing content, tools and MDF from vendors to develop a robust social media strategy and social selling enablement programmes. Those that action this now will gain competitive advantage through the latest customer, vendor and competitive intelligence and influence the buying process. An example of this is the IBM social selling programme - admittedly this organisation has lots of resources available to execute complex programmes. The main reason social selling is a success for IBM is purely down to management and leading change throughout the organisation. Rather than resting on its laurels IBM accepts the buying process has changed and now ensures its staff are readily available on the social networks to help and connect with buyers online and build trust online.

What are the benefits of social selling for the channel?

Well, in essence, it builds stronger relationships, enables closer interaction with the customer and increases trust with vendors. Utilising social selling throughout the channel optimises vendor, customer and competitive intelligence. It builds strong trusted organisations that customers and vendors want to partner with.

  • Distributors using social selling develop closer relationships with resellers and vendors by developing an open dialogue, sharing vendors’ content and supporting resellers.
  • Resellers utilising social selling will see closer connections with prospects, customers and distributors. Utilising social content and intelligence sets the social reseller apart from those that choose not to use this channel of communication.
  • Vendors implementing social selling will gain competitive advantage by having better insight and relationships with distributors, resellers and customers. Ultimately having insight thoroughout the channel will make the customer experience better.

When implementing social selling from vendor to distributor to reseller the end result is a better online and offline experience for the prospect and customer, increased productivity and higher profitability. Make a change to your sales process by planning a social selling pilot during 2016.

I have always been a strong supporter of digital marketing and social selling, so you may think this article is slightly biased so I recently caught up with some of my contacts at SAP, SecureLink, telent Technology Services and PureChannelApps and asked them their thoughts on social media and social selling within the channel and what the benefits and opportunities they saw.

SAP delivers a connected marketing and sales experience - everyone is in sales

Malin Liden, vice president, SAP Experience at SAP says “what we’ve seen at SAP is that social selling generates value beyond the apparent use cases. For us, Inside Sales was identified as low hanging fruit so that’s where we started but along the journey we quickly saw that all sales scenarios benefit from social selling. In the social economy, that means even beyond quota carriers. Social selling puts everyone in sales, it is the new way of doing business.”

She continued with “I am often asked where and for whom social selling is valuable. My answer is: In any scenario where relationships matter!” I agree social selling is part of everyone’s role in this social economy not just sales.

For SecureLink social integration is important

I asked the same question to Marco Barkmeijer, CEO and Co-Founder at SecureLink he responded in saying “Social media, especially LinkedIn and Twitter are tools we use on a day to day basis to inform our customers and look for new opportunities. Today we cannot survive if we do not use these tools, we are doing the "old stuff" in combination with social media and it is important to integrate them into our central CRM system for tracking and reporting.” Marco brings up a great point social media shouldn’t be used in isolation it needs to be integrated into your existing business process and plans.

telent Technology Services Ltd promotes teamwork as a success measure for social media

Judith Finch, marketing manager, telent Technology Services Ltd told me that "I strongly believe that it is essential that those working in the channel support their business communications and marketing effort with social media. An organisation's greatest advocates are its employees, so why not use their social networks to get closer to your prospects and customers? One way to do this is through social selling, it enables sales to get closer to the customer and build strong trusted relationships."

PureChannelApps thinks social selling benefits the buying funnel  

Olivier Choron, CEO and founder at PureChannelAps has a vast amount of experience of working with distributors and resellers with social media and here’s what he had to share with me; “Channel partners clearly realise the importance of social media and social selling but, for the vast majority, they lack the time and resources to truly get involved. Many struggle to create or find content; most don’t have the teams and employees to work on social media; nearly all don’t have a social media strategy! Vendors need to get involved and work with their partners to make social selling a reality for these partners. They really need to share best practices, organise training sessions, share content, organise discussions and potentially put in place social media collaboration solution in place for their partners.

Clearly if these partners are socially enabled, it would benefit all parties: end-user buyers will receive great content to ease their decision-making process, channel partners will be seen as the smart/ trusted advisors and finally vendors will see sales growing!” I agree with Olivier the majority of the channel hasn’t fully utilisied social media, which is a shame because it provides so much insight and value to selling. Hopefuly after reading this article it has inspired you to develop a social media strategy and plan with an option to pilot social selling with one of your sales teams.

Conclusion

The key theme that seems to come through from these conversations with SAP, SecureLink, telent Technology Services and PureChannelApps is that social selling helps businesses connect and build trusted relationships. Implementing social selling within an organisation takes time and results aren’t immediate, but once you have a programme in place with the correct support and processes you should see noticeable effects to your pipeline and sales within three to six months.

Don't miss this opportunity to build closer relationships and seek out new opportunities for your business using social selling.

Thanks for reading this post! If you liked the content and found it valuable, then please share it within your LinkedIn network and tweet about it on Twitter. Also, don’t forget to follow me here to keep up to date on more social selling posts, which I’ll publish shortly.

Zoe Sands is digital marketing and social selling leader at Zoe Sands & Co.Ltd

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