By Jim Regan
We’ve all seen the statistics about social proof. Namely, 63 percent of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews; people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive review, etc. However, a lot of us think of social proof as applicable solely to B2C marketing.
It goes without saying social proof for a B2C product or service won’t work the same way in a B2B environment. Perhaps it’s because businesses buy in teams (on average, 5.4 decision makers are involved in a B2B purchase), which means product reviews and testimonials on Facebook simply aren’t enough to help salespeople close more deals.
Still, social proof is important in the B2B sphere. Why? People trust public opinion when they’re making a purchasing decision in any industry. The 2015 Buyer’s Survey Report, for example, found that the top three resources on which B2B buyers rely when searching for vendors are 1) industry experts/analysts, 2) peers and colleagues, and 3) Web search.
If you want to take advantage of social proof, apply it to your sales team. Your salespeople are your best option to influence the buying decisions of your B2B prospects. If you market your salespeople as industry experts and position them as collegial professionals you can, to a degree, engage with and persuade prospects who are conducting online research about your company and your team.
So, where to begin? Here are five steps to social proof your sales team.
Step #1: Replicate winning tactics from other marketing campaigns.
When you create social proof for your organization, you directly create or facilitate the creation of information that proves 1) people trust your organization or offerings and 2) you are engaged with the current goings-on of your industry. For your salespeople, the idea is the same: you want to prove that others trust you, usually by showing that they seek out your opinion, and that you are connected to your industry. There are many ways a salesperson can (and should) do this:
- Maintain social media profiles that are frequently updated and have numerous followers
- Attend and speak at high-profile events to demonstrate expertise or gain information from others
- Host a Webinar
- Stay top-of-mind by sending an e-mail newsletter containing a mix of articles that feature them and articles important to the current industry
- Curate industry-related resource collections
Generating social proof for salespeople and your organization concurrently is no small feat. Now is the time to take cues from any existing social proof strategies you might already be using for your organization and use them to develop that strategy for your sales team. If you’re using predictive analytics to track prospect behavior for your company’s awareness campaign, for example, or are seeing success in your company’s social media strategy, you need to apply that to your efforts to social proof your salespeople as well.
Step #2: Identify an area of focus for each salesperson.
How do you want to position each salesperson? Is one person the guru on using your service in the healthcare industry, while another has a long history working in IT? If you’re marketing your sales team, you need to decide where to take their personal brands – there needs to be focus. At Market Resource Partners, for example, we have a transplant from Latin America who moved to work in our Philadelphia office. She is our expert in helping organizations who are looking to expand their geos into LATAM – she has personal experience with the tech landscape in that region, and it’s very easy for her to help our big clients expand. It’s more business for both of us.
Step #3: Allocate resources.
Social proofing is a full-time job. Luckily, lots of organizations hire junior-level content creators who are experts at what they do. If you have an existing staff of employees who own the content realm, find out who has the bandwidth to take on this new responsibility. If not, you might want to consider hiring reinforcements or even outsourcing certain tasks.
Step #4: Restructure your hierarchy.
No traditional sales team hierarchy has room for a marketing person – but that’s about to change. After you’ve completed the step of finding the resources to create content for your salespeople, it’s time to consider marketers who are social proofing the sales team as actual members of the sales team, nested below the salespeople they’re responsible for marketing. The marketer will get the benefit of working closely with the salesperson he or she is branding, the organization will benefit from the department overlap, and it takes you one step closer to sales-marketing alignment.
Jim Regan founded MRP with Kevin Cunningham in 2002 and oversees LATAM for the company. As the CMO, Jim is responsible for keeping MRP on the cutting edge of marketing services and works on the architecture and execution of MRP’s internal marketing efforts. Jim also oversees the management of MRP’s growing team of internal marketing managers, marketing coordinators, and account executives – coaching, training, and constantly challenging the team to excel.