Using social media for sales

771Have you ever heard about the invention of pre-prepared meals? They might not seem like such a big deal now but to time poor, work busy Brits in the 1950s the invention of something that didn’t need to be peeled, boiled and baked was a big deal.

Fast forward to today and social selling is something that must be pursued by sales as a more informed market starts actively seeking solutions to their frustrations.

According to a Forrester report buyers may be between two-thirds and 90% of the way through their buying journey before reaching out to sales.

The people that are looking to buy your product are not waiting for you to approach them any more.

They are online, looking at their options. If you as a company are not online interacting in this space and being helpful, you’re 90% behind your customer’s buying journey.

Today customers can go online at any time and start researching a solution that perfectly suits their needs. They don’t have to wait for you to call or for you to be available for an appointment.

They can also ask their peers about their experience of certain products and ask companies themselves for recommendations and advice.

This is why even big companies like IBM are investing heavily in social selling. IBM realised that 75% of decision making IT professionals are expected to use social media as a crucial component of their decision making process in the future. So they ramped up their social selling efforts and invested in social media training for sales.

Social selling is not where you customer may be some of the time, it is where they are now – always.

How to get started

Like all new things, common behaviour and etiquette take a while to get established. The best way to use social media to sell, is to treat it like a more advanced version of what sales has always been – the creation of meaningful relationships.

Be genuine within the space, monitor what is being said and develop connections and contacts online that you’d traditionally make at events. Network, share your expertise and put time and effort into getting to know the people and key frustrations of your target market.

You must be genuinely helpful

Personality and humour has it’s place in social selling, it is about who you are and relationships after all, but you must offer something of genuine value. In the end, we don’t do business with the people we like. We do business with the people we trust and who offer genuine solutions to our problems.

You should be writing and posting about solutions to typical buyer frustrations and offering helpful advice to your buyers. Be the person in their space that is constantly making their life easier.

Marketing does the social media

The success of any business depends on the efforts of every single member of the team. Segmenting tasks is only harmful to your business as customer’s now expect sophisticated customer service and a business that understands and responds to their specific needs.

The sales team is often positioned to be the best advisor on what the company should be talking about. You spend all day talking to customers, understanding their frustrations and advising on solutions to their business problems. So why aren’t you writing those solutions down and helping as many people as possible?

It is not just about communicating

Let’s face it, every single person online is communicating. Gone are the days of sitting there and sending out carefully constructed stories and getting a lot of attention for your efforts.

Social selling is about creating something real, engaging in discussions and interacting with people.

It is about being helpful, useful and interesting and making sure you’re there for every step of the buying journey.

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Less support calls, but better customer service – how did we do that?

helpdesk

Over recent years we’ve been closely monitoring the volume, frequency, complexity and fix rate of our inbound customer support queries. Like many in this age of cloud based software applications, we use an online customer service portal – to make life as easy as possible for our customers.

We use a solution called Zendesk – a cloud-based customer service tool that enables us to track every customer interaction – whether by email, phone, directly via the portal and in ot

her ways too. By keeping everything in one place, we can easily keep on top of what’s going on, helping us to better serve our customers with things like customer self-service.

Yes, that’s all very interesting, but everyone has some kind of support system – but the really interesting part for us is what the reporting and analytics has revealed.

White Springs ranks above 70% of all Zendesk customers on “First time reply”

What does that mean exactly? Well out of the 52,000 plus customers that Zendesk has, White Springs responds to new calls faster than over two thirds of their clients. And over time, we’ve improved out response speed by a whopping 37%.

But how have we done this? I caught up with Neil Cochrane who runs customer support here and he noted three main reasons:

  • As our own software has evolved, we’re doing less ‘on premise’ work, which historically tended to bring more than its fair share of challenges and consequently support tickets
  • The quality of the solutions we build has improved over time – our software is better made now that it has ever been
  • Our process for fixing bugs and issues has become more robust over time. Not only are there less bugs to fix, but when they do occur, we get fixes in place much quicker

We’re not saying that our work is done, exactly the opposite. We’ll keep pushing to improve in every aspect – solution, services and support.

From small seeds… and building long-term client-supplier relationships

From-small-seedsMighty trees may grow from small seeds, and we’re not saying we’re mighty trees, but many of our clients have been clients for many, many years – and just like a healthy tree, those relationships have grown and successfully weathered the different seasons.

Our White Springs sales enablement technology has undoubtedly played a part in keeping our customers happy. Providing outstanding customer service has also been a considerable influencing factor too – see our recent post on our achieving 100% customer satisfaction.

Clients such as bfinance, Health Edge Software, Pearson Packages and Inova have been working with us to enhance their Miller Heiman and Salesforce implementations for eight years or more. Many others, for example, McCue Corporation, Baker Atlas, Spherion, Noresco, ChemImage and Houston Wire and Cable are not far behind, at around seven years.

In the world of sales, customer acquisition and retention, we’re often reminded that it’s costly to attract new clients, and it’s much better to retain the ones you have. This philosophy is certainly held at White Springs.

We’ve started the New Year as we mean to go on – 100% Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction - Outstanding Customer Service2015 has got off to a great start, in many ways, but in particular the three months to January 13th. We’ve written about our well above the industry norm levels of customer satisfaction before, but we’ve not rested on our laurels. In the three months to January 13th, we’ve hit 100% customer satisfaction once again.

Thank you to our customers for providing such great feedback, and thank you to all involved in delivering this outstanding level of customer service.

Is there anything else we can do for our customers? Make the tea perhaps?

Sales Enablement Solutions – Should you build in-house or partner with the experts? Infographic: The pros and cons

If you’re considering deploying a sales enablement solution or enhancing an existing one, you may be considering building a solution in-house to meet your specific needs. But have you taken everything into account? Our infographic looks at the pros and cons of an in-house built solution versus partnering with experts in the field of sales enablement.

Infographic - pros and cons of build in-house or partner for sales enablement

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Sprint planning meetingPrior to a ‘Sprint’ kicking off an, imaginatively named, ‘Sprint Planning Meeting’ needs to take place. Those participating in the Sprint Planning Meeting determine which User Stories will be implemented in the coming Sprint.

Sprint factors will include: its duration, the number of developers and their available time. A calculation is made around the number of effort hours, or Story Points worth of User Stories, which can be implemented during the Sprint. This effort calculation is based upon the teams’ knowledge and experience. The feedback loop also helps guide the decision, i.e. as teams become more experienced with Scrum, they will be able to more effectively and accurately estimate the total functionality that can be implemented in a sprint. [Read more…]

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scrumI talked about the concept of the Product Backlog in part 1 of this blog series on agile software development and, in particular, the scrum methodology. All items in the Product Backlog are estimated in terms of effort to implement; this is either in hours, days or in an arbitrary unit known as ‘Story Points’. Story points do not attempt to estimate the exact number of days, hours or minutes required to implement the User Story, but rather give a measure of the relative size or complexity of the User Story. A simple User Story that would take no more than a couple of hours to implement would be assigned, for example, one Story Point, a more complex requirement may be two Story Points. [Read more…]

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