How to Use Social Media in the Sales Process

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How to Use Social Media in the Sales Process
Diana Alexandrova, Entrepreneur, United Kingdom

When we use an appropriate type of social media, this could benefit particular steps in the sales process. In order to do this effectively, a social media strategy is needed. The actual use should be managed by the collaborative efforts of both sales and marketing, which are considered to be the representatives of the firm that know the customers best.
Andzulis, Panagopoulos and Rapp (2012) define several steps in the sales process and the respective role of social media:
  1. UNDERSTANDING THE CUSTOMER: This step is about gathering precise and timely information about opportunities from contacts in the marketplace to find potential clients. This can be achieved by participating in social networking sites. For example, joining field-specific LinkedIn groups.
  2. APPROACHING THE CUSTOMER: Social media allows sales people to gain the prospect’s attention, establish credibility and build rapport by posting topics on 12manage, news stories on Facebook; inviting participation in new product testing through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or through online surveys and polls.
  3. NEEDS DISCOVERY: Price, quality and service are the main concerns among customers. Social media provides a platform for questioning, listening and understanding the motives and needs of potential clients so that those can be addressed.
  4. PRESENTATION: Once the specific customer needs have been identified, the sales person needs to demonstrate the value propositions (for example, by sharing success stories on Facebook) and offer a solution for the prospect (for example, creating a YouTube channel that provides more information to customers). Social media shortens the sales cycle by enabling both parties to start the process of knowing more about each other.
  5. SALE / CLOSE: This step entails the final sale of the product/service. Social media simplifies this step enriching and adding value to previous stages of the sales funnel. Dealing with an informed customer makes asking for the sale less complicated.
  6. SERVICE AND FOLLOW UP: This step focuses on communication, gathering referrals and defining future opportunities. Social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn can be very useful because it enables organizations to communicate success stories; ask for referrals; find new prospects; interact or share information with customers.
In conclusion, social media can help companies to spread their message and value proposition. It can be said to be a ‘forum for consumers to be heard’. If executed properly and strategically, social media can be a powerful tool to enable the firm to be more responsive to customer demands compared to its competitors.
⇒ In my experience of running a company (trading with consumer goods both wholesale and retail), using LinkedIn to communicate and identify new prospects works well for the B2B side of my business while Facebook is more effective for the B2C side. What are your experiences?
Andzulis, J., Panagopoulos, N. Rapp, A. (2012) "A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process", Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management. Summer2012, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p305-316. 12p. 1 Diagram, 1 Chart.


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