Cisco Blogs

Use Social Media to Sell Smarter: Insights from our WebEx Event

February 22, 2011 - 1 Comment

On Feb. 3rd, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman and CEO of OgilvyOne facilitated a WebEx featuring a panel of thought leaders who shared their knowledge and experiences in using social media to create powerful sales strategies. In part one, Brian shared some amazing research about the changes social media has made to the sales cycle. Today, in part two, we’ll hear from the panel. You can listen to the entire WebEx here.

Meet the panel:

Sam Decker: founder of Mass Relevance. He worked with Dell on their ecommerce engine and also was CMO of Bazaarvoice. Now he is curating content. All of the millions and billions of pieces of content around the world, he pulls it together and curates it so that marketers and salespeople can engage with buyers.

Barbara Weaver Smith: founder and president of The Whale Hunters – a strategic sales coaching firm. They help small businesses grow explosively by finding bigger customers and signing up bigger deals.

Sergio Balegno: director of research with Marketing Sherpa and MECLABS. His company has a phenomenal repository of over 7,000 case histories for the marketing and sales community.

The discussion in Part One focused on how the sales/buying cycle has really changed because of social media. As a result, selling has changed too. In part two, the discussion turned to evidence of this change and tips for dealing with it.

Is this change in buyer behavior happening in small businesses as well?

Barbara W. Smith:

It’s absolutely affecting small businesses; perhaps even more. I think one of the interesting things in your research is how much more interest there was in use of social media in China and Brazil than in the USA and the UK. I think that’s because the social media is a great leveler. It creates opportunities for companies to behave in ways that they’ve never been able to behave before.

So for small businesses, many of them are a little slower to get on the bandwagon, but they need to be known and be found, and they need to use the social media as a research tool, so that they can be as informed as their buyers.

Sergio Balegno:

From the marketer’s point of view, social media means your brand is no longer what you say it is. It’s what they say it is, they meaning your customers and prospects. Now you have to engage at their level and engage in their conversations on social media to control the image of your brand.

Are you using digital body language?

B. Fetherstonhaugh:

We worked with a fellow named Todd Herman who was voted the world’s great salesperson and he says he has a new killer question. In the old model, he was able to assume that he and the buyer started the selling journey at the same time at step one. Now he says it’s no longer true. His new killer question isn’t, what do you need or what do you want or what are you looking for. It’s actually where are you? Where are you in the buying process?

If someone says, “well, I’ve been to 17 websites, I’ve studied you and your competitors, I’ve done a price comparison”, that leads to one selling conversation. If they said, “I’m just thinking about the whole category and I’m looking for some insights into where it’s going” – then his new killer question addresses this new buyer behavior. Then he can tap into the old traditional skill once he knows the conversation that’s going on inside your head, he can join it, he can guide it, he can work with you to find the solution.

This is the whole area is an emerging field, which I refer to as digital body language. It’s really a new skill set. So in the old world of selling, the best salespeople could read a wink or a twitch – they could tell whether people were responding or not.

With virtual selling, many of these transactions are not happening face to face.

How do we cope? If we don’t have these body language reading skills, as marketing and sales people, we’re really flying blind and taking away a lot of power.

B. Fetherstonhaugh:

Our clients who are really using social media are using it in a whole variety of ways, from trying to put their message out the way they would like to be perceived as paying close attention to their customers’ behavior: who’s downloading your white papers? Are they visiting your blog? What interests them? How can you get to know them?

More and more companies are trying to be hosts of a conversation with their customers. Even B2B companies are doing that. It’s a whole new world of understanding the buyers’ behavior.

At the same time, larger companies are trying to put more distance between the buyers and the sellers through more RFP processes and more procurement teams. Social media lets you to get around some of those restrictions by getting to know people online.

Sergio Balegno:

The research we’ve done over the last couple of years finds most organizations are listening, but where we’ve seen the big change is in what they’re listening to and what they’re tracking.

Maybe a year or so ago, the majority were tracking metrics that were very specific to social media, like sentiment, the ratio between positive and negative commentary about your brand. Today, we’re seeing a shift to tracking on social media metrics that are more traditional to sales, and that are ROI related, things like conversions and leads and sales revenue and metrics that lead you back to ROI, from social media to ROI.

Sam Decker:

It’s amazing to me how few salespeople are using the basics. A Google Alert on the companies you’re following, a Google Alert on the topics that they’re interested in. I think salespeople have to start thinking of themselves more as editors and as customer service; they have to help prospects and clients – even with things that are tangential to the buying process. Once you do that, you build trust.

B. Fetherstonhaugh:

There’s a totally different style of using search for consumer insight, for real time, this is reading digital body language.

In Part Three, the panel will discuss the tools they to sell and market.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. good idea, is it !