by Todd Youngblood
I could suggest that since Google keeps hitting home runs, you ought to brush up on the newly announced Google Social Search (external link). That wouldn’t be bad advice given that quite a few, pretty obscure early adopters of their past technologies have become famous and made a fortune. I won’t, though. I will, however, assert that social search, and therefore social media and web 2.0 just became absolutely essential for effective B2B sales. (Notice I said, “sales,” as opposed to, “marketing.”)
To begin to understand why, consider the diagram on the left which shows the all-so-familiar exercise of “googling.” Your customer searches for “X” trusting in Google to sort through the gazillion pages out on the internet to deliver the most relevant results. That’s what they do all the time. (That’s what you do all time! That’s what we all do all the time!)
What are the odds your stuff will be listed on the first page of the search results? Second page? An “early enough” page?
Now consider the diagram on the right, and the fact that any searcher will have more trust and confidence in information from a known source. The better I know the source, the more I trust the information.
In this case, the searcher decides to “toggle the social search switch.” Good ole’ Google then takes the first set of results and passes them through another filter. If the result did not come from a web page, blog post, tweet, or some other social media “share” thingy specifically connected by the searcher to one of his or her contacts, it doesn’t show up.
Did you get that last sentence? Did it sink in? If the searcher has not already voluntarily “connected” to you, your content does not show up.
OK, the negative spin there was to get your attention… The real question is how to harness this new set of tools to enhance your visibility, credibility and profitability. There are three key pieces to the puzzle. The first takes lots of real effort, sustained indefinitely. And it’s not traditional sales work. It is, however, what will become the guts of the selling process in our brave new world. The second takes a good bit of continuing work, but entails just a minor wrinkle on something most reps are already pretty good at doing. The third is quick and easy.
Puzzle Piece 1: Your Content
Everything you’d talk about to a customer needs to be embedded into internet-based media. Everything. (I told you it requires a lot of real effort!) It can (& should) be text and/or images and/or audio and/or video. It can (& must) be on a mix of your web site, blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., along with whatever other new technology becomes available.
Content creation is NOT something an individual rep or sales manager can afford to avoid or delegate. You can only depend on the marketing department and others on your sales team for some of it. They can handle the general, overview stuff; the overall value proposition. Only you can provide the nuances and unique intelligence required by your specific prospects and customers. (WARNING: “In-your-face” comment coming here… If you disagree with this paragraph, think again. I’ll blog more on this topic. I’m pretty certain you’ll agree eventually.)
One last note on content; and it’s really, really important… The content you develop must be of interest and value to the key decision makers in your territory. This is much easier said than done, and is the true test of your sales skills. What do you have to communicate that will resonate instantly with the customer?
Puzzle Piece 2: Your Connections
Think in terms of LinkedIn (external link) to get the basic concept. Establish LinkedIn connections to all the decision-makers and key influencers in your territory. Do it! It’s not all that difficult. It’s where all those traditional selling skills come in. And remember, without the connection, they’ll never see your content! (Maybe connect up via Plaxo (external link) too.)
Puzzle Piece 3: Your Google Profile
Create one and keep it current. There’s a subtle message in the “Add custom links to my profile” section. It allows for multiple links to places you post. How many places on your list? Mine has 11.
Have a sneaking feeling Google just invented something that’s about to hurl you out of your comfort zone? If you don’t, you should.