Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Social Media and Enterprise Sales Acceleration

There is seldom a quick hit in business-to-business enterprise sales.

Prospects are appropriately demanding. Product features and corporate capabilities must be presented and validated -- repeatedly. Market expertise, thought leadership and industry reputation are constantly judged.

Rush the process and a vendor risks losing the deal. Relationships are cultivated over time and it’s typical for an enterprise sales cycle to be measured in years.

The payoff is sweet. Revenue from an enterprise sale can run well into the millions of dollars. Plus, the lifetime value of a loyal customer can serve as the very foundation of the business.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), the majority of our clients sell sophisticated products or services to government and commercial enterprise customers. As such, our social media and digital communications work has gravitated towards lead generation and sales cycle support for enterprise deals.

We have refined a four-step methodology that allows social media performance to be measured by enterprise deal flow and resulting revenue, rather than merely awareness and positioning.

Step 1 Prioritize the Hot Ones. By working closely with your sales team, a set of prospects can be culled based on their standing in the sales pipeline, intimacy of existing relationship and potential size of the transaction. Typically, we’ll select a list of 15 to 25 prospects which is then reviewed and updated on a monthly basis.

Step 2 Map and Monitor. Compile an overview of each prospect’s engagement in online communities, blogs, Twitter feeds, trade shows and conferences, and advertising activities. Monitor weekly and pay particular attention to new activities and related messaging.

Step 3 Engage in a Prospect’s Communities of Choice. Connect with a prospect through LinkedIn, Facebook and other communities, and then share relevant content from your company’s social media and marketing activities. Also, be sure to demonstrate your interest in the prospect’s views through comments on their blog or invitations to contribute content to your social media programs.

Step 4 Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.
There are two important criteria to use when assessing the impact of social media on enterprise sales activities. There are tactical benchmarks, such as number of prospect connections, comment exchange and participation in content development. And then there is anecdotal feedback from the sales team on how social media and digital engagement has helped move deals forward.


Gregory I. Simpson, PhD said...

Hi Marc,

You are bang on with this blog. I don't think anyone if the want to be competitive in b2b sales, can afford not to engage, research and participate in social media. As you point out, establishing credibility is the name of the game and that is a constant tread mill we all are on. Whether or not enterprise sales are accelerated can be debated, but what can't be is the absolute necessity for social media strategies to be included in the Marketing strategy.

Jonathan Kranz said...

Great blog post. Of the four steps, I think the most important are the first (Prioritize the hot ones) and the third (Engage in a prospect's communities of choice). These are classic direct marketing principles which can have extraordinary power in social media by helping us focus our energies AND by communicating with prospects on their own terms.

Axel Schultze said...

Right on Marc. I wrote a white paper together with some sales executives a few month ago that pretty much supports your definitions: http://xeeurl.com/A099


Allan Finkelman said...

Interesting post. While it would be difficult to quantify, and truly validate the effect of this strategy, it's firmly rooted in terms of common sense. Certainly, increased engagement has the capacity to accelerate deals. And, engagement is at the core of social media's value. This is a much more sensible approach to a B2B social media strategy than those trying to use it for lead gen as a broadcast, direct response media.

Britton Manasco said...


It's interesting that you have recognized the opportunity for taking social media beyond the "awareness" stage of the customer decision process (where marketers are most at home) to the "engagement" stage (where sales needs to shine).

As Ardath suggests, this seemingly does represent a new opportunity for marketing to elevate its value and increase its alignment with sales. Somehow, I suspect that's the direction this will take. I don't imagine sales will typically make the first move and then, ask for marketing's support. (Or have I got that wrong?)

Beyond marketing's role, perhaps social media even represents an opportunity/platform for sales to put itself in the center of a multi-party decision process as a decision facilitator and provider of reliable guidance.

Anyway, I will look forward to seeing this phenomena further discussed and studied. Best, Britton