More and more, sales teams are improving their engagements with customers and finding new ways to increase revenue by analyzing data captured through social-media use.
This means that B2B sales and marketing teams are also looking for social Web solutions that can help them launch campaigns, identify and grow audiences, and distribute targeted messages across multiple channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
HootSuite, founded in 2008, helps its users do just that. And increasingly, those users are businesses: of the 500 million messages that have been distributed by HootSuite, 150 million of those came directly from business users. In July 2012, the service signed up its two-millionth user.
HootSuite's VP of sales, Darren Suomi, has been involved in the technology industry for the past 13 years. During this time, he's worked with small start-ups and larger firms (including SAP Business Objects) to establish strategic accounts, sales, business intelligence, as well as enterprise resource planning. He's also driven global sales strategies for large organizations, as well as participated in three global-brand acquisitions.
We conducted this Q&A with Suomi to find out more about how and why B2B sellers are using social media as part of a targeted business strategy.
Selling Power (SP): Why do sales teams need a social-media strategy?
Suomi: The question for sales and marketing leaders is not,"What is my social-media strategy?" The question is, "What are the goals of my company, team, or department, and how can I fit social media in?"
SP: What's the function of social media for B2B sellers?
Suomi: The function of social is the same function as any communication medium, and that's to listen and engage. It's how you're able to listen and what you do to engage that makes the difference.
SP: Why does sales have to worry about social media? Shouldn't this be left to marketing?
Suomi: Social media is an easy fit for marketing. Fast on the heels of marketing are teams made up of customer service, sales, and HR. Social media is another means by which to communicate. We would not expect to have a sales team function without phones or email, and social media should be thought of in the same way.
SP: Are there B2B industries for which social media is not that useful?
Suomi: People have a preconceived notion of what social media is because it started as a place for personal social networking. There are some industries that are slower than others to adopt it, as it is with most aspects of change. Some industries may not see the immediate value of social media, but I do believe that all industries can benefit with varying degrees of adoption at the moment.
SP: What can my sales team do with social media that it can't do with email?
Suomi: Social media is viral. If someone with 30,000 followers posts about you, all 30,000 followers see it. It's not like email, which is more of a one-to-one interaction. If there's a conversation happening about you, it can spread extremely fast.
SP: What if that conversation is negative?
Suomi: A lot of fear about social media is the fear of the unknown: "Will the conversation be negative? Is it worth my time?" These are all rational questions that should be asked. If you're tuned in to the conversation and it turns negative, engage. You won't get a better opportunity to grab someone who's interested in your brand or company and converse with them. Social media gives you the absolute ability to engage with people you would never have the ability to engage with otherwise. Use this to your advantage and start problem solving by listening to what people are saying about you, and engage in a manner that aligns with your brand.