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Social Selling for B2B and Manufacturing

January 9, 2012
at 11:05 am PST

What is Social Selling?

You’ve probably heard of it; you may have even done some research to see if it’s “right” for your business. However, if you’re active in social media, you may be participating in social selling without even realizing it.

It is difficult to pin down an exact definition for social selling, as it depends on whom you ask. In short, social selling is the use of social media for generating and executing sales, but in a different way than traditional B2C. It is based on relationship building, and customers know who you are before you engage them in the sales cycle.

A good example of Social Selling:

  • First, establish yourself as an expert on a product or service. You could accomplish this by having a social media presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and/or a Blog – personally or for your company. You establish yourself as an expert by constant mind-share, thought-leadership, and peer recommendations on theses social media sites.
  • Several large B2Bs, for example, have individual social networking sites – a “personal rep page” — for some of their sales-members. The sales-members blog about products/services and offer instant/video chat services so the customer can reach out to them in real-time and discuss via these social channels.
  • Then, once you are established, customers will begin to reach out to you via your social media channels, and these channels become your platform for communication with your customers.

Is it right for Manufacturing?

Here’s where it gets really interesting.  Only 30% of global manufacturing companies plan to increase spending on social media and community marketing in 2011. Overall, the manufacturing industry has been slow to adopt social media. I’ve heard several explanations for this: “our customers aren’t hanging out on Facebook,” “we’re engineers, not hipsters,” etc. Rather than focus on the relationship, many in the manufacturing industry are only looking at the medium (Twitter, Facebook) and how B2C companies use social media.

B2C companies don’t often build a knowledge-based relationship with their customers via social media. With B2C, social media is generally used to broadcast short-term promotions or sales or to receive critical feedback.

But B2B interactions with customers are different than B2C, and this is where social selling is a great fit for manufacturing: it is about building relationships. Long-term relationships based on expertise – and ones that drive complex and high-price sales.

We’re going to expand on the concept of social selling in the next few weeks (along with our promotion of Cisco Live UK, Jan 30-Feb3rd!). So stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Jeff Reinke, editor of Manufacturing.net on the concept of social selling and its relationship with the manufacturing industry. Coming this Wednesday!

Update: For more information on social selling, please read my interview with Jeff Reinke, editor of Manufacturing.net: http://blogs.cisco.com/manufacturing/jeff-reinke-interview-on-social-selling-editor-of-manufacturing-net/

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6 Comments.


  1. I think that many people are social selling already through different channels and social media platforms. B2B should also take the opportunity of these powerful instruments to broaden their influence and presence. These platforms are so powerful because its 2way, and not 1way like an ad, commerical and the like. It is an instance way to promote a service/product/brand and receive feedback from their (potential) customers.

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    • January 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Misha — your comment that social selling is “2way, and not 1way like an ad, commerical and the like” is hitting the nail on the head. It is this relationship that makes B2B social selling different than traditional B2C selling through social media. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. January 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    “our customers aren’t hanging out on Facebook,” “we’re engineers, not hipsters,” – The sooner the manufacturing industries remove this blindfold, the better it is for them. They still don’t realize how powerful the social media today is. Facebook with more than 800 Million active users, Twitter with more than 100 Million active users are taking the entire world for a ride and has become such a huge and important channel for communication. Infact, I know few people who never even worked on computers, and these mediums have encouraged them to associate themselves with Internet and I am sure there must be many more such people.

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    • Andrew Lach

      Hi, Barun . It’s definitely not everyone in the manufacturing industry who has yet to embrace social media, but your comment about people using social media as the conduit to getting “online” is encouraging. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. January 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I didn’t mean to be that harsh on the manufacturing industry. I was actually referring to the remaining 70% of the unit, as per your blog. :) Anyways, nice read.

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