This report shows B2B businesses how they can leverage a social network to find the right prospects, build strong relationships and achieve sales goals with a social selling strategy.

Social selling – the practice of using social media platforms to find and engage with new prospects, educate and add value, and nurture relationships – is an approach particularly pertinent in the B2B space where the sales cycle is longer and products are more complex.

As cold calling continues to fall short, businesses must have a social selling strategy, which involves identifying the platforms their audiences frequent, understanding where they can add value, and providing them with the right information at the right time, on an ongoing basis.

This report provides a practical guide to creating a social selling strategy. It considers the three most effective social media platforms for B2B marketers and salespeople – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – advising on how brands can best harness the unique potential of each. It also covers:

  • Why social selling is important in the B2B space, and who is now making the key decisions in these businesses
  • The biggest social selling opportunities for B2B brands throughout the sales funnel
  • How to create an effective social media strategy, from getting board buy-in to empowering employees
  • How to create and communicate engaging content that prospects will find useful at every part of the customer journey
  • Using the LinkedIn Social Selling Index to measure how well a brand or individual is achieving its goals.

Introduction

Social media has grown exponentially. In January 2020, there were 3.80 billion social media users, with this number increasing by more than 9% (with 321 million new users) since January 2019. But the term is misleading: social media has become as important for business as it has for social interaction, reflecting the changing way in which people communicate and build relationships in the digital age.

This growing popularity of social media has given rise to social selling – the practice of using social media platforms to find and engage with new prospects, educate and add value, and nurture relationships. This approach is particularly pertinent in the B2B space, where purchases typically have long lead times and it can be challenging to engage with busy prospective customers and complex buying groups.

Cold calling has also had its day. Even by 2016, 55% of senior sales management professionals claimed that the effectiveness of cold calling had greatly reduced in the previous five years. Digital enables a more targeted and meaningful approach to forging contacts.

B2B social selling is about leveraging a social network to find the right prospects, deliver timely value, build strong relationships and, ultimately, achieve sales goals.

Today, business professionals are educated and informed, using online tools to research, learn and compare products, services and brands. A 2018 survey from Showpad shows that, on average, B2B buyers will spend up to 20 hours researching before they contact a sales rep. Buyers use digital resources to answer questions and solve problems, and social media is a critical part of how they arm themselves with the right intelligence to make the best decisions.

LinkedIn alone has over 660 million users in more than 200 countries, and nearly half of the total number of LinkedIn users are monthly active users. In addition, more than two new members sign up for LinkedIn every second. Twitter is also a powerful business tool, boasting 330 million monthly active users (as of Q1 2019). According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, Twitter is the second most used platform for content marketing purposes, behind LinkedIn.

Businesses must have a social selling strategy, identifying which platforms their audiences frequent, and understanding how they can add value, engage in conversation and provide the right information at the right time, on an ongoing basis.

The dramatic and devastating impact of Covid-19 globally has lent even greater importance to social selling. With many people forced to work from home for long periods, and face-to-face meetings not feasible, networking and securing deals have become almost exclusively digital activities. As the world cautiously adjusts to a new way of working, the many businesses that have capitalised on social selling during this period will doubtless integrate it as part of their strategy.

This report is a practical guide that looks at how B2B social selling works, the opportunities and challenges for businesses, how it affects the relationship between sales and marketing and the different approaches that can be taken. It offers guidance on how to plan and implement a social selling strategy that enables organisations to nurture existing customers, identify and engage with prospects in the long term, and drive sales.

It also looks at how social selling has gathered momentum, where the biggest opportunities lie for B2B brands, and how they can take practical steps to devise a social selling strategy. This includes leading from the top, empowering employees and, crucially, creating and disseminating powerful content.

It considers the three most effective social media platforms for B2B marketers and salespeople, namely LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and advises how brands can best harness the unique potential of each.

It shows marketers and salespeople how to plan a successful social selling strategy that builds fruitful relationships that deliver on objectives – and how to avoid alienating prospects and customers by failing to play by the rules.