The Pipeline Guest Post – Trevor Stevens
If you are in sales and your mandate is to sell to companies within your geographical territory, you have probably faced a scenario similar to the one that follows. Your company’s products and related services are utilized by companies of all types and sizes, Fortune 50 to mom and pop basement operations. Copiers as an example, you may refer to document management at one end, and sell copiers to the other end.
In the process of prospecting a small business, you bring up a recognizable Fortune 50 company as a point of reference. Could be something as simple as “our clients include IBM, Exxon, and Pepsi”. At which point the prospect interjects and says, “ya, but we’re not IBM, don’t have their budget, don’t have their needs”. We’ve all been there, and the astute among us quickly learn to develop a different approach based on the company we are selling, “note to self – don’t use big clients when selling small companies; don’t use small company reference when selling to multinational enterprise”. Doesn’t make sense, doesn’t serve a purpose, and could cause fatal disconnect.
It was with this lesson in mind that I had to laugh at a blog post I read earlier this week lamenting the extremely low number of sales organizations having a formal approach for engagement through social media. (Bridging the Massive Social Media Gap Between Sales and Marketing) Apparently, only 11% of companies in the report they were discussing had a formal approach, while at the same time 82% of the companies had a formalized approach for their marketing teams. For some reason the blogger was surprised at this, mentioning how IBM is leveraging social selling.
I sell to mostly small to medium business, my customers are successful, resilient, and they sell real products to real people, and in their own way are innovative in their approach. When I talk to them about social media, they understand it, many use things like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other leading social site for their personal use. But, when I ask them how it fits in to their business, they reflect the stats above, they see little value in it, mostly because their customers are not there. Sure they connect with customers on LinkedIn, but few of those are on LinkedIn or they are there with a sparse, incomplete and out of date profile. Their revenue is generated in traditional ways, they are able to create 1:1 relationships directly with their customers, they do not see the need for a social intermediary.
Maybe this is what the large and faceless companies are trying to compensate for, using social sites to have a pretend 1:1 relationship; sadly, it becomes a 1: many approach, how 1:1 can it be when Dell’s Facebook page has over 700,000 fans, which one is the blogger?
I am not saying there is no value, what I am saying is that vast majority of B2B buyers and sellers are not as connected or plugged in as the bleeding edge folks. Specifically SMB, which makes up the vast majority of businesses in the USA. For a great view on SMB, Social Media and internet marketing, just check out “SMB’s, social media and reality intersect” a post earlier this year on the SMEBS-B2B Blog. No doubt SMB needs to and will get to where IBM may be is vis-à-vis social media, but for the moment, they are serious when they say “hey, we’re not IBM!”
As business people they are pragmatic and follow the money, and most of the business owners and their sales reps tell me that for the most part it is not yet leading them to the social sites, specifically their customers are not there, remember there is a difference between a business buyer making B2B purchases and a B2C consumer; that difference adds up to different expectations, realities and results.
The reality is that when you get beyond the largest companies, or the companies that have to play in the social space due to their nature, most B2B sales people do not use or need to use social media, mostly because their customers are not there, yet, they’re busy working.
Again, this is not to say that there is no value there, it is just not at the mass level some want it to be. Think back to the first go around of the internet, yes some jumped on early, but most small to medium businesses lagged. And let’s not forget that small to medium business make up the majority of the market for small to medium companies that sell to them. They will get there, but it is usually when the money leads them there. Until then, you need to remember that “we’re not IBM”.
About Trevor Stevens
Trevor is a sales professional in numerous universes, but spends the majority of his time selling in this one. While not a blogger he does contribute when he has something to say.
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