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Remarkably savvy social sellers like Avaya are converting individual tweets into $250,000 in sales. The company realises that the answer to selling with Twitter is rooted in discovering conversations that are worth having.

And conversing in ways that generate questions that Avaya's products/services can answer. Here's how you can too.

lead generation with twitterIf you're like most businesses, you're trying to engage, and make Twitter sell. But it feels like grabbing at customers' fleeting attention. Meanwhile, competitors are capturing market share. While you engage with customers they're finding ways to generate leads and sales.

Case in point: Avaya views Twitter as a better way to generate customer inquiries. Not a better way to advertise. Companies like Avaya are using Twitter to discover demand and "plug it into" existing lead nurturing processes. To sell.

Translate evolving need

The key to selling with social media tools like Twitter is seeing the opportunity itself in a new way. Twitter isn't an opportunity to grab at prospects' attention.

It's a new tool that helps businesses translate evolving customer needs, and capture demand. Let's look at how this is true and how you can immediately apply the idea.

Paul Dunay of enterprise communications company Avaya recently shared a remarkable Twitter experience with me.

I'm writing a book on making social media sell and always looking for good case studies and examples. In a nutshell, Dunay's social media team uses advanced Twitter search functionality to monitor for explicit or latent demand across the vast, babbling Twittersphere.

In June 2009, Paul's team discovered a 57-character tweet. This started the relationship with his potential customer:

“[...] or avaya? Time for a new phone system very soon,” the tweet read.

Moments after the tweet was posted, an Avaya team member spotted it and notified Dunay, who responded by tweet:

“@[customer] – let me know if we can help you – we have some Strategic Consultants that can help you assess your needs.”

The potential customer did, and 13 days later, Avaya closed a $250,000 sale.

For Avaya, Twitter is a tool to discover demand in various stages. In this case the customer's need was immediate. In other cases it needs to be nurtured along.

Bottom line: Twitter is being used by Avaya to translate evolving need. It's more than listening. And they're not just using Twitter as another channel to hand out discount promo codes or grab at customers' attention.

Sure, Avaya uses Twitter in an outbound manner, but when doing so it is focused, again, on prompting behaviors that capture customer demand (leads).

Put it to work: make Twitter sell

Here's a practical success formula you can use, starting tomorrow.

Expect more 

What makes you buy more? Personally. Awareness or qualitative experiences with service providers? Think about it in your own life. Eschew the notion that attention, buzz, conversation, listening, word-of-mouth are desirable outcomes. Update your expectation of social media. Expect more of it.

Discover and capture demand

Successful social marketers are translators  businesses that find ways to discover customer need and create processes around it. They create ways to capture demand that involve creating behavior.  They're not broadcasters of messages; rather, process-driven customer shepherds that "plug into" the sales function.

For instance, "warm" leads can be placed into a lead nurturing process,like a content marketing program.

That is, an interactive system of prompts or "value exchanges" conducted with leads that helps push prospects down the sales funnel. Typically this involves publishing needs-focused (relevant) video tips, helpful blogs, podcasts, guide books, etc.

In the end making Twitter produce sales is more about prompting behavior, less about broadcasting discounts. Start selling using Twitter today. Discover need, capture it and prompt actions that gently but diligently move potential buyers toward the sale. 

Or maybe you're already ahead of the game? I hope others who are progressing similarly to Avaya may offer comments below.

Photo credit: korephotos
Jeff Molander

Published 27 January, 2011 by Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is a professional speaker, publisher and accomplished entrepreneur having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He can be reached at jeff@jeffmolander.com. He is a regular contributor to Econsultancy. 

29 more posts from this author

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Ian Harris

Ian Harris, CEO at Search LaboratorySmall Business Multi-user

The hard and fast business case for Twitter seems to revolve around a series of anecdotes like this one. I met a bloke in a pub who turned out to be a great customer, but I wouldn't advocate hanging round pubs in Leeds as part of your marketing mix.

Does anyone have a long term business case for twitter, and a formula for how it should be used by a B2B organisation?

As a starter I think a B2B company should:
1. Listen and respond as in this post. This is fairly easy using some of the monitoring tools for free.

2. Tweet news and blog posts (for SEO benefit as much as anything else)

over 5 years ago

Chris Sturrock

Chris Sturrock, Commercial business manager at Ithaka Leadership Development Ltd

Really interesting article - I'm going to start trying to post interesting tips and advice instead of the hard sell

over 5 years ago

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Richard Biltcliffe

Can't help agreeing with Ian. Studying a hundred twitter feeds to try and find a single solitary buying signal is not going to produce a worthwhile ROI. Certainly not for B2B. OK if this particular sales guy did secure a large order, in his case it's arguable he was just lucky and it's probably not repeatable? It's when it's a repeatable activity that consistently delivers value that it becomes worth doing.

It's probably a marginally different matter if you're monitoring mentions about your brand in B2C but direct sales or lead generation for B2B..?

over 5 years ago

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Richard Dixon

Opportunities like the example will crop up from time to time which is great. But to really make Twitter work consistently a business needs to listen, engage, share and sell every now and then.

over 5 years ago

Mike Hunter

Mike Hunter, CEO at betterlanguages.com Ltd.

Interesting discussion. I too am of the view that Twitter is a blunt instrument for direct selling, but for engaging with customers and other businesses interested in your area of work, its invaluable. Also a good source of relevant web content if you follow the right people.

I'm a translation company CEO, very competitive industry, and I'm baffled by some of the large corporates who just shout about their product, a bit like a barrow boy in a street market, trying to shout louder than anyone else.

over 5 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi Ian. I share your skepticism -- and I'm frankly tired of people citing Dell as a singular "success story" etc. etc. when, in fact, Dell has so little to say about the HOW part (beyond offering coupons). I share the story/anecdote because it illustrates a way to use Twitter to discover demand. This story doesn't pretend to offer the complete solution. In my book I hope to bring readers closer to the solution. But ultimately solutions to making this kind of practice scale are being worked out by the businesses themselves. On the B2C side, I'm also trying to discover more information about media darling, Foiled Cupcakes. They're another "often cited" success story that seems to have built its tremendously successful cupcake business based on conversations with random women about shoes and fashion. "One thing led to another and they asked about my business" is essentially the story plot.

My point: Everyone is making this scale differently. Foiled Cupcakes was a struggling start-up with, it seems, nothing better to do (they had no marketing budget after all!) than strike up random conversations w/ prospects. Have they scaled that today and if so how? **Is it worth scaling to the extent that it's a big part of the marketing strategy?** Unsure. But they're probably operating *differently* than Avaya. Point being there's no "best practice" on this and never will be. There are basic processes that organizations can "borrow from" and make work within their context (resources, culture, experience, etc.).

Richard, I don't think Ian is quite as pessimistic as you seem to be. Organizations like Avaya *are* finding ways to make the "lead/need discovery" aspect work. This is one story among many. I encourage you to stalk Paul Dunay of Avaya for more information on how he's making this a repeatable activity that delivers value.

over 5 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Mike...
"engaging with customers and other businesses interested in your area of work" to what end? To understand their need? And if so to act on that understanding in ways that ultimately help sales?

Thanks for considering.

over 5 years ago

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