How Sales Can Get Personal (Without Being Creepy)

June 9, 2016 Heidi Vandermeer

Sales Without Being Creepy

Technology has rapidly changed the traditional world of marketing and selling.  The classic "cold call" isn't quite so cold anymore – especially with the full power of the internet at a salesperson's fingertips.  

As mentioned in a recent McKinsey report: “There is no longer such a thing as a simple cold call: customers expect a sales rep to be extremely knowledgeable about their business and perhaps even their own individual profile—at least if the purchaser is a millennial who has grown up sharing his or her life online.” 

Going deeper into what this means for the typical B2B salesperson, here are three important trends to be aware of, and tips for the type of research that may help B2B professionals in their roles.

1. Harnessing the power of social networks 

“B2B customers are behaving more and more like B2C buyers.  They are more influenced by advertising, social buzz, and brand perception.  Business customers are exposed to the same dynamics of peer-to-peer networks and opinions that influence individual consumers.”1

What this means for sales research

Joining professional “influencer” groups on Linkedin or following a company's Twitter and Facebook page can also give you great insight into what's happening in the industry, and participate in an influential network.  It can provide you with credibility as an expert if you’re actively involved in trending topics within your industry.

When it gets creepy:

Finding non-professional networks to connect with your prospect might cross the line.  If you have something in common, it could be worth bringing up. If you’ve discovered they’re a member of the local Mycological Society (and this isn’t related to work), it’s best not to bring it up.

Mycological Society

What a FUN-gus society!

2. Using different channels 

“On average, a B2B customer will regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the purchase process, and two-thirds come away frustrated by inconsistent experiences.”1

What this means for sales research:

Reaching out to prospects on various platforms will make them more likely to hear your message, remember your name, and you’ll discover how they're most comfortable communicating.  Email, phone, LinkedIn, and sometimes Twitter can be effective channels to research and communicate with your prospect.  It's also important to make sure your messaging is similar on all of these platforms, to not provide an inconsistent experience.

When it gets creepy:  

Reaching out to a personal Facebook profile is a “no-no”. There are strangers who reach out to people on Facebook, but trust me: as a professional salesperson, you DO NOT want your messages in the same inbox.

Facebook creeping

Eek.

3.  Understanding your prospect’s connections 

“Technological advances have altered the traditional B2B sales approach, and even decision-making is becoming more fluid between different stakeholders and influencers.”1

What this means for sales research:  You can often get a glimpse into who may be involved throughout the buying cycle by looking up connections in your prospect’s department. Who does your prospect report to?  Who are his/her colleagues?  This is great research that can provide insight into decision-makers and influencers.  Using this information can show you’ve done your homework, and help you to better position your pitch.

When it gets creepy: Professional connections = great! Personal connections = creepy.  If you’ve uncovered information about your prospect's family tree and their chihuahua, this could be a sign you've gone too far.

Chihuahua

"Selling to me won't get you very far."

And there you have it! 3 prospecting trends for B2B sales, and (hopefully) how to avoid taking them too far.

1. Do you really understand how your business customers buy? By Oskar Lingqvist, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Jennifer Stanley 

Learn more about social selling (without being creepy) in our webinar!

About the Author

Heidi Vandermeer

Working in Enterprise Customer Development, Heidi helps marketers in large organizations to leverage their content more powerfully. She enjoys life in downtown Toronto, visual arts, and travel.

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