Introducing a social selling strategy in a manufacturing business can be a real challenge. But doing so can also make a huge difference to sales cycles, deal values, relationships, and revenue.
Introducing a new technique – and one that many people have reservations or misconceptions about – sounds like a risk, but the real risk lies in the barriers that manufacturing businesses often face before the strategy is even off the ground.
Here are some tips to help you overcome the common barriers manufacturers often face when trying to implement a social selling strategy:
Getting Leadership Teams On Board
Not everyone within a leadership team will understand the benefits of social selling for manufacturers.
They may think it doesn’t apply to the manufacturing industry, or it’s not as good as another technique. They may also not see the value of social media for lead generation and sales.
What’s The Solution?
Always relate the reasons behind implementing a social selling strategy back to business objectives. And, if you can, tie it back to business values, too.
In our recent LinkedIn Live with Mike Umiker from ABB, he said that when he was introducing the idea of social selling to leadership, he tied it back in to the company’s value of taking ‘calculated risks’.
That, combined with the data he found that there’s a large portion of ABB who uses social media anyway, helped to show leaders that it was worth the time and investment.
Convincing Sales And Marketing To Work Together
Getting sales and marketing teams to work together is sometimes easier said than done. They need to cooperate for things to go smoothly, but they often work at different stages.
Marketing tends to think a couple of months ahead, while sales focuses on the present. Salespeople are so busy they rarely have the bandwidth to think about what could happen next.
Additionally, salespeople in manufacturing firms usually have long sales cycles because of all the customer and sales meetings they have to attend, as well as all the conferences and events they go to.
Whilst it’s all well and good to visit prospects and customers for a more personal experience, it’s not so efficient for salespeople to visit them all the time. Think of how much travel time salespeople spend visiting customers and add all the expenses of the trip.
Equally, conferences aren’t an efficient use of salespeople time. Yes, they’re able to reach the masses, but they’re not able to hold meetings with every single person they meet.
What’s The solution?
Being able to show some of the benefits of social selling can really help to get sales teams onboard.
The next step is to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Tools like Hootsuite Amplify allow marketing teams to add content for salespeople to share on their social media profiles.
Salespeople can then add their own thoughts or commentary to the content, giving it a personal touch. Curating content in this way saves salespeople time creating their own, while ensuring what they share is relevant to their audience and fits in with the brand.
Social selling also helps salespeople reduce salescyles, increase pipeline and create larger opportunities. These were the results of Commvault’s social selling programme, read more about it here.
As for conferences and customer meetings, social selling is the perfect balance that helps you reach the masses whilst remaining personal. It also significantly reduces customer visits and overall travel.
Low Adoption Rate
Some salespeople don’t like the idea of social selling for manufacturers.
They like how they do things, and it still works, so why should they try something new, just because it’s there?
What’s The Solution?
Focus time and energy on the people who are interested. Not everyone has to be a part of a social selling strategy for it to work.
And it definitely won’t work if you’re wasting time on people who dislike social media and trying to get them to use it to attract leads.
ABB started by trialling the process in a couple of countries. Global roles were particularly eager to experiment with social selling because it can be challenging if they are located in one place, and their target is over the other side of the world.
The pilot period demonstrated that there was potential for social selling to work for them, so they continued on with the journey.
Some people will already be expert social sellers, with higher social selling indexes (SSI) on LinkedIn. There’s no point running training sessions on how to set up a profile for these experts.
Training sessions on foundational social media practices are worth it for those at the lower end of the scale who want to become social sellers.
Simple tasks like creating a profile and keeping it updated can create barriers which stop people from using social media at all, so offering things like 121 coaching for these people can really help them get started.
As more employees get involved in social selling, the business can scale up this training. Instead of holding 121 tutorials, companies could switch to recorded webinars. Employees can then study in their own time, at their own pace.
Long Lead Times
Because social selling is all about building connections, it’s often assumed that it results in longer lead times.
This can make it a harder sell, particularly to sales teams that focus on short term, not long term, goals.
What’s The Solution?
The organic nature of social selling drives a lot of inbound leads. Nurturing these leads before they’re ready to buy means that when they are ready, and they have the budget approved, they know who to go to.
Because of the nurturing they’ve received via social selling, these leads come in at a lower stage of the funnel with elevated levels of buying intent. They also have a deeper understanding of the company and product than a cold lead would. This shortens the buying process and saves salespeople time nurturing leads with lengthy calls answering the same question over and over.
There are lots of barriers that can come up when introducing a social selling strategy to a manufacturing business.
But the right approach can quickly mitigate these barriers before they cause real problems and put a stop to the process.
Being aware of how social selling has benefitted other companies, and sharing those statistics with influential people within the company, can really open people’s minds to the potential of social selling for manufacturers.
It’s also worth keeping in mind what barriers could come up, as you’re then better prepared to deal with them and the challenges they create.