Using Social Media to Manage Relationships Through the Sales Funnel

Are you trying to win new clients and keep them coming back for more? Social media provides new channels to attract, influence, engage and convert prospects into loyal customers through the sales funnel.

There are many different ways to do this. Let’s take a look at a few commonly used tools and tactics for selling enterprise software direct to clients.

Attracting customers and generating leads

The first step is to generate awareness of your business to peak a customer’s interest – so they’ll ask for more information about your product or service. But don’t be too forward here.

A “soft sell” approach is better with social media because the customer can find your business through online channels while seeking out insights and advice.

A great way to influence a customer to provide their contact information (through a form or e-mail) is by creating compelling content on your website via blogs, downloadable whitepapers, e-books and more.

To promote enterprise software, you can produce content focused on emerging technology trends or new research in your industry, host video chats with thought leaders who write and speak about technology and more.

It’s helpful to use social media analytics tools (or even search.twitter.com) to see what conversations are happening in your industry and to inspire your spreadable story ideas which you can then share on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

For more information on the pros and cons of using digital storytelling to generate sales leads, read this post from July.

Qualifying leads and engaging with customers

Now, it’s time to follow-up on new leads from your website. You can begin to follow your customers and engage in online conversations with them about technology through social media channels.

At this point, your sales team should be gathering as much information about your customer’s software needs as possible – get to know what makes them tick!

You don’t want to be doing a “hard sell” here either. Social media can be used to share information and ideas with your customers. Once you’ve made contact, you can send links to relevant articles and studies about enterprise software, host Twitter chats and webinars about technology best practices and more.

You can also listen to customer conversations, answer questions and overcome objections about your product to influence their purchase decision.

The pitch and closing the sale

By the time you’re ready to pitch to the customer, your sales people will have done all of the information gathering they can (via social media and other sales channels) to understand your customer’s needs and how your enterprise software can best serve them.

To take your information gathering efforts for the pitch to the next level, grow your customer relationships offline.

As I mentioned in this post about the importance of building in-person social media relationships, ask lots of questions like their short and long-term needs (for software customizations), their budget (for offering tiered services) and more.

Meeting face-to-face will help with closing the sale as you’ll build greater trust with your customer.

Post-sale customer relationship management (CRM)

Finally, we’ve reached the customer retention stage which can start the sales funnel process all over again. At this point, your team will be:

  • Continuing to build customer relationships (in-person and online),
  • Listening to customer feedback about your products and service,
  • Acting on feedback (both pro-actively and re-actively) to ensure a positive outcome, and
  • Rewarding customers for their loyalty.

Again, you’ll need a social media monitoring platform to identify and engage in key customer conversations. Also, make sure to participate on the social networks which your customers prefer to have contact with your business.

This way, you can keep them informed of key industry trends and software updates, and promote exclusive deals for future sales opportunities.

These are a few social CRM strategies I have picked-up from my own experience working in sales and B2B marketing.

What tools and tactics work well for your business? Please share your thoughts below.

A version of this post was originally published on the Jugnoo blog in September 2012 and has been republished with permission.
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