One Big Idea to Help Sales Reps Connect to Buyers

Social Selling Grows Visibility and Sales Image courtesy

Being at work is more of a state of mind than a place, according to IBM’s Senior Marketing Manager of Cloud Computing, Cheryl Mikovch at a DemandCon Boston recent session.

Customers are connected 24 hours a day posting needs, concerns, and ideas all the time. Marketers need to be listening and responding.

Mikovch went on to talk about the social transformation that has gone on at IBM in Inside Sales – getting over 1,000 of their sellers to use social tools including text chats, video chats and intelligent listening throughout the organization.

The Big Idea – IBM Rep Pages

It may seem so obvious, but how many mid-market (or larger) companies devote a well-designed page for each of their sales reps’ contact information that is well branded, including company marketing and resources? How many smaller companies do this? When the idea that over 1,000 reps in IBM's Inside Sales team each had a page it really turned a few heads in the room – especially those from large companies. I was there, and I heard comments afterward from Fortune 100 marketing leaders - it might have been the top initiative they left the conference with.

The IBM Inside Sales rep pages serve as a social home for the seller with real time information, and easy ways for a prospective customer or existing customer to find the rep and initiate a conversation. I was surprised that these pages are all search friendly – you can go to Google and find the IBM’er of your choice this way.

Thousands of sellers at IBM are getting more and more social, and in the words of Mikovch, social is “less about tweeting and more about listening to business issues”

Mikovch suggests these ways to engage socially:

1) Marketplace listening - look for comments and sentiment about your brand in various ways and places online – what are people saying?

2) 3rd Party Listening – follow keywords and look for social influencers who are engaging about your company or it’s people

3) Engagement Opportunities – individuals are online expressing needs and potential needs in real-time. Look within your industry and customer segments. Is there a way you can add to the conversation?

There is a time prior to when buyers reach out to a seller which is the hidden part of the buying cycle. At this time, buyers are educating themselves, through online colleagues, friends, testimonials, and customer references to determine if you will be one of the “lucky” two or three finalists they will then reach out to for a proposal.

At IBM Inside Sales, social selling has not replaced outbound calling – but there is a balance to be inclusive of those coming their way digitally.

Mikovch suggests less focus on big white papers and more on easy-to-digest bites of knowledge like good infographics and re-purposable messaging.

Rep pages are showcases for the latest in marketing – including video – the design of all pages offer brand consistency and tell a story. This is sales working alongside marketing at its finest - since most of the page is branded and consistent with the company vision - yet tailored with rep contact information and often video. If you'd like to see an example, take a look at Cloud Computing Inside Sales Specialist Erika Callaway’s page.

How did IBM Get So Many of its Sellers on Board?

Another great idea is that created an internal “Social Seller Showcase” which now has over 200 testimonials from sales peers who had connected to a buyer through social channels and how each turned into opportunities. Other sellers saw these successes - growing over time, and were determined to add this strategy as well. A Social Champions Network of successful seller peers was put into place for peer support and social advice throughout the organization.

Results So Far

In 2011, according to Mikovch, 15% of annual WINS were attributed to social for one of IBM's public cloud offerings.

The program is expanding beyond North America to IBM Inside Sales worldwide in 2013.

To put such a large program in place, you need to be process-oriented and the program needs to scale.

More and more IBMers are now on Twitter (although many seem to be just starting that journey) are building out more robust, connected LinkedIn profiles, and are beginning to blog – strategies that gain visibility as industry connectors and influencers.

One Final Question

As Mikovch ended our session, I’ll offer the same question – Is your sales team socially connected?

See the post on the IBM CMO Study results for more on what marketers need to do today.

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies.

Topics: B2B

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