“You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason…so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
– 55 AD from Epictetus, the Greek Sage and Stoic philosopher
Listening is probably one of the most important skills we can use in all aspects of our lives – both personally and professionally it shows empathy, a genuine interest and through active listening we can learn a lot about a person. We can better understand what is important to them, what their challenges are and what what is top of mind. Translate into the context of B2B sales – and it is clear why listening is so important. I strongly believe the foundation of all modern marketing and sales programs starts with listening:
Listening to your buyers, listening to your customers, listening to your competitors – your industry, your market. Listening for insights and buying signals in order to deepen engagement.
So let’s step back a minute and think about the importance of listening in the context of what I would call the ‘Social and Digital Age’. This is not new but I think it is critical to defining the importance of listening to drive engagement with buyers and customers
Social and digital interactions are now established as a persistent, participatory layer in our daily lives.
Being part of communities, conversations and networks, with real-time and relevant content is necessary to demonstrate expertise and build credibility and trust.
Authenticity, adding value, sharing and engaging with insights is key.
In this age, for B2B Sales there are New Rules of Engagement:
- Your online personal brand is more important than ever.
- You need to build and demonstrate expertise.
- Buyers are looking for new insights and to be educated.
- Authenticity, personalization and consistency are key to engagement.
As B2B sales and marketing professionals we need to be where our customers are – to demonstrate our expertise, build credibility and trust. And we need to do it in an authentic way – adding value with insights.
But how do you do this in a world of rapid change, innovation, new technologies, evolving customer priorities and needs? It is crowded and noisy, it can be challenging to filter through the noise, but if you can succeed and stand out, add value and engage authentically there is a huge opportunity to stand out, and stand above your competitors.
It all starts with listening – digital and social listening are key to effectively engaging with the modern buyer in the social and digital age.
Before we jump into how to master buyer engagement with social listening, I want to clarify and align on a definition of ‘Social Listening’ in the context of modern sales. It is not just about listening on social media platforms. While listening on social media platforms is an important element – what we are talking about today is much broader.
It is about tapping into key industry influencers and experts, the rich online content available (blogs, white papers, articles, videos), social media conversations, relevant online communities and your own networks. If you start with listening you can then engage in a meaningful way with insights.
4 Steps to Mastering Buyer Engagement with Social Listening
Build and grow your authority: Stay on top of industry trends to become a subject matter expert through effective social and digital listening. You want to read what your buyers are reading – to be a part of those conversations but also to bring new insights. Finding niche highly relevant content is important to break through the noise. Quality is key. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Save a web search for industry related content
- Identify and follow/listen to industry experts and thoughts leaders: know who influences your buyers and identify the key influencers in your industry. Follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and industry publications
- Follow industry related hashtags on Twitter (examples: #fintech, #healthtech, #edtech, conferences , etc…)
- Create a Twitter List of key influencers
You can leverage insights from your listening to engage your buyers more effectively – on the phone, in email, face to face and to build your personal brand through sharing on social. Rich, relevant industry content will help you to position yourself as a valuable resources in your network and with your customers and buyers. This will lead to deepening relationships, referrals, and sales.
3 Steps for Account-based social listening
- Setting up social listening for success: Find all the key stakeholders for your accounts on social – LinkedIn and Twitter (maybe Facebook and Instagram – but if they don’t use these channels for business, do not engage with them there). Create Twitter lists and web searches on the brand, the stakeholders, their business and their industry.
- Pause and listen for the intelligence to engage with insights: Digital body language, what are they sharing, and what are they not sharing can give you insights.
- Personalizing Engagement: Ensure your listening informs how you engage, including marketing content, sales enablement and 1-1 conversations.
Listening and Personalization
Through social listening you can discover new insights to increase engagement with your customers and buyers. The below quote really sums up the power of listening to be able to personalize engagement with your buyers:
“LinkedIn is probably where I spend at least 50% of my day; not just for hunting, but researching, listening, and scanning what is going on with buy prospects and buyers. Did they get funding? Did they buy a company? Are they promoting their annual conference? Are they not sharing anything at all? It is so telling what gets shared.”
– Carly Wennogle, Account Executive and SDR Mentor
Identify sales-ready prospects across the web and social
Social listening can be a powerful way to find prospects that are further along in their buying journey. If you have already established yourself as an expert and trusted advisor in their network, you are ready to engage. Here are some ways you can find those sales-ready prospects:
- Build a Twitter list of your key competitors (look at who is engaging with them)
- Leverage your industry research and listening to identify sales ready prospects (web searches, Twitter searches & lists) – look at who is sharing and engaging with their content.
- Listen on social channels like Twitter and LinkedIn for buying cues (often people will ask for input and recommendations on vendor selection, they may ask questions in LinkedIn Groups, follow conference hashtags, people are often ready to buy and very open often to engagement during a conference)
Building a Social and Digital Listening Program
Building a program to help your sales team is key to scaling social listening across your team. It is important to support and enable your sales team to easily adopt and integrate social and content listening into their approach to engage effectively with buyers.
You need to start with training on the ‘Why’ and the value of social listening and then work towards helping your sales team build their skill set. This includes listening and learning to engage effectively. You do not want your sales team spending more time on social media talking about your product. You want to enable them to succeed with the new rules of engagement. Help them build their brand, build their expertise, add value and share insights authentically.
With the right mindset and skill set your team start can start with listening, develop the skills to listen effectively, add value and engage authentically. The right toolset will accelerate your success!