Sales reps using social media to research prospects

Social Media
Social Media

CRM vendor SugarCRM has discovered that sales reps are turning to social media in order to research prospects. LinkedIn (64%) is the most common research location followed closely by the prospects own website (63%). Google (61%) is also a common search location. As well as LinkedIn, sales reps also use Facebook (53%) and Twitter (34%).

The use of social media is interesting. It means that sales reps are looking for a wider view on prospects than ever before. Sadly, the survey doesn’t give up much in terms of why social media is a key research tool. There is the inevitable distinction based on age. However, there are other reasons for using social media.

Larry Augustin CEO at SugarCRM (Image credit )SugarCrM
Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM

According to Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM: “These new findings prove how intrinsic social media has become to both our personal and professional lives. Consumers are engaging with these channels every day, so it’s only right that the business world keeps pace and stays relevant through their own practices.

Of course, there is a fine line between gathering insight and intrusion, so information gathered via social media should be worked into conversations strategically.”

Social media appeals to different age groups

The use of social media is, as expecting, defined by age group. Millennials (18-34) are most likely to turn to social media for information. This could be because they are also the biggest users of social media. 59% admitted to using Facebook for research and 41% used Twitter. Compare that to older members of the sales teams (55+). Here LinkedIn (76%) and the company website (83%) are the primary research points.

The amount of time spent researching prospects is also interesting. 72% admit to spending at least 30 minutes on social media researching a prospect. Interestingly 49% say they spend at least 45 minutes if not a lot more.

Unfortunately the research doesn’t dig deeply into why social media is interesting. ET spoke to a number of sales reps to ask why they would use social media. The responses were interesting. They ranged from:

  1. Controversy: This could be about reputational issues and avoiding controversy. This would mean that a deal would not get caught up in any issues outside of the sales teams control.
  2. Ethics: Millennials are more likely to walk away from a deal based on ethical issues. Selling to a client who was seen as having poor green credentials or who didn’t have an equal employment approach is an issue for some.
  3. Inside track: The rumour mill has always been a big tool for sales teams. Knowing when a prospect is in trouble or likely to make a big purchase means getting in at the right time. Social media is a hotbed of rumour over acquisitions, mergers and sales.

What makes the prospect tick: Knowing what subjects a prospect is interested in is something sales teams have always cultivated. Social media makes it much easier to know your customer. In fact, the amount of data on social media today could only have been acquired in the past by stalking a prospect.

What does this mean?

Social media is a perfectly reasonable way to research a prospect provided the information gathered is evaluated properly. The amount of fake news and rumour that runs rife on social media means its use comes with a lot of caveats. However, the art and craft of a good sales rep is in what they know about their contact and then about the prospect company. This allows them to build a close relationship with a contact quickly and then appear to be pitching the right offer at the right time.

It would have been good to have more information on just what sales team were gathering and why. However, the message is clear. Information, no matter where it comes from is key. There is no such thing as too much data from a sales teams perspective.

There is a caveat here. Sales reps would be well advised just to bookmark the sources of data. Copying that data, even when it is in the public domain can create a major privacy issue. With GDPR just around the corner, it will be interesting to see how many companies put in place controls over the use of social media to meet stricter privacy compliance rules.

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  1. This is the very first article I have ever read on this subject. When I sell for my firm, I always like to know more about the person I am selling to. Social Media Research gives me that competitive edge because I learn so much from it. You may find out that you lived near each other as children, or that you went to the same church. Whatever it is, that connection provides the foundation of a relationship.

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