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social media listening for social salesMany sales and marketing leaders believe social selling may become the dominant avenue for B2B sales, new Forrester Consulting research reveals. Social media listening is the first and most important step in mastering that potent sales channel.

Over a third of sales and marketing decision-makers surveyed (36 percent) believe social selling will become the “default way to engage with buyers in the future.” Recognizing the rising importance of social selling, B2B businesses are investing in social media listening tools and other social media tools and developing social selling processes.

Most (80%) consider social listening capabilities to be important. In addition, 79% want the ability to set up custom search queries, and 78% want buyers’ social profile data to be integrated into the solution.

Although many businesses use social media to generate leads, many do not gain the full benefit of social technologies. Although 77% of respondents have adopted social listening tools, sales teams do not take full advantage of them. Sales staffs lag behind their marketing peers in learning about buyer preferences on social media. Top challenges include lack of confidence of sales staff, lack of sufficient training, and lack of alignment between sales and marketing teams.

Key Social Selling Takeaways

These are some other ways companies can gain more from social selling.

Formalize social selling. Almost half (49%) of B2B enterprises have developed a formal social selling program, and 28% are in the process of doing so. In addition, 48% expect that a formalized social selling program will attract new buyers and audiences.

Become a resource. Buyers turn to organizations that build strong reputations, offer resources and help solve business problems, but many salespeople do not focus enough on building their personal brands on social media.

Share quality content. Buyers turn to social media to learn about venders. Sellers who share relevant content can boost their credibility as a consultative partner. However, only 42% of sellers do that today.

Find a social media measurement tool. Almost a third (28 percent) of companies believe that ROI for social selling remains murky. Businesses need online analytics tools to help measure the business impact of social selling.

Tips on Social Media Listening

Other experts recommend these tips for using social listening to boost sales:

Use a social media listening tool that can monitor multiple keywords across multiple social media platforms and integrate reports into one intuitive, customizable dashboard.

Seek a social media tool that allows advanced search operators, also called Boolean search terms. Search operators such as AND, OR, NOT and punctuation like parenthesis and quotes let users find more targeted results and eliminate irrelevant mentions.

Monitor all mentions of your company and brands including common misspellings, nicknames and acronyms.

Monitor names of competitors and their products. When someone complains about a competitor’s product, your company’s representatives can introduce your product.

Monitor for general industry terms, product categories, and keyword phrases people use when searching for solutions to their problems. Listening for those keywords can reveal potential customers that the sales force can engage.

Listen for negative comments. Responding to complaints can help your business retain current customers as well as improve its products.

Bottom Line: Social media listening is essential for social selling, which many B2B sales and marketing leaders predict will soon become the top sales channel. In addition to a robust social media listening tool, effective social selling requires staff training, a formalized process and sales and marketing alignment.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.