“I’m a big fan of the misunderstood, the vilified, the underdog, the breaking of myths.” –Dominic Monaghan
We all do it. We get a preconceived notion in our heads and it becomes the truth. Here at Cisco we believe deeply in omni-channel customer communication and social engagement, but sometimes we need to do a reality check – particularly when it comes to how our partners interact with their prospective and current customers.
We wanted to know what matters to partners when it comes to using social media for sales and marketing. So we used a tried-and-tested approach: we asked them. In partnership with Leader Networks, we conducted a mixed-method study (which included interviews and a survey) with 240 Cisco partners in our EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia) region. Our goal was to understand:
- The opportunities, barriers, and challenges Cisco partners experience when engaging prospective and current customers
- The areas where social engagement could enhance or accelerate sales and marketing efforts
- The tools and support Cisco partners need to be successful on the social channels
Of course, we entered the process with a set of assumptions – including a theory that, because our partners engage with customers in highly localised, highly personalised ways, they would tell us that social engagement was a ‘nice to have’ instead of a strategic need. Guess what? We were wrong! Here’s what we learned:
Myth: Social selling is a good idea but it doesn’t really work for the partner community.
Fact: Social engagement is becoming critical to partners’ sales and marketing initiatives.
According to our study, 91% of Cisco EMEAR partners believe social engagement will become important or very important to their organisation in the next 12-18 months. That’s almost all of them. This indicates that social selling is not just a market trend swirling outside the partner community. It’s very real and very relevant to partners right now.
Myth: Most partners aren’t active on social channels.
Fact: Partners are smart about social – and they’re getting smarter.
Our survey showed that the majority of EMEAR partners use LinkedIn and more than half use Twitter and Facebook.
What’s more, 60% report that they use social channels in their sales practices. Although some partners are in the experimental stages, many are on their way up the social selling maturity curve – and they’re developing stronger strategies and programs by the day.
Myth: Partners only use social selling techniques for lead generation.
Fact: Social selling is delivering a host of meaningful benefits.
Some organisations use social channels to shout: to digitally broadcast and amplify their ideas. Our partners are using social selling techniques to listen and engage – and that is paying dividends. According to our study, socially engaged partners report meaningful benefits such as an increase in their visibility among prospective customers (84%), closer relationships with customers (71%), and greater awareness of customer needs (70%). Taken one step further, our partners are not only using social engagement to sell products and services – they’re gaining invaluable insight that can be used to drive new products and services.
Myth: Partners want pre-packaged content that they can “push” over social channels.
Fact: Partners want to become thought leaders who craft their own content.
To advance their social selling strategies, EMEAR partners desire more information and insight. They want to create and share content about industry trends and new perspectives to make valuable contributions to their customers. They also want the training and support they need to do so. Said another way: they don’t want fish; they want to become fishermen.
Myth: Only millennials use social selling techniques.
Fact: Social selling is universal.
In our study, we spoke with partners in a wide range of ages across multiple countries and organizations of varying sizes. There were no significant differences in their responses – whether they were digital natives or a seasoned salespeople, working in Austria or Algeria, employed by a large or small firm. The bottom line? Social selling has the potential to yield benefits for all partners. Full stop.
Our partners are incredibly important to Cisco. They’re on the front lines with our customers – working hand-in-hand to help them get the business outcomes they’re looking for. By continuing to use social media as a two-way communications channel, our partners are in a unique position to gain the deep insight that will inform new products and solutions, drive business transformation for customers, and ultimately shape the future of Cisco. That’s a fact.
Click here for our Infographic.