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Where’s The B2B?

By Sander Biehn | Nov 10, 2013

Back when I was a kid there was a hamburger chain that ran a successful campaign asking consumers, “Where’s the beef?” While competitors offered a larger menu, variety and expanded drinks and dessert options, this chain kept to their bread and butter of making quality large hamburgers.  I can still see the dour face of the geriatric spokeswoman asking, “Where’s the beef?”

Fast forward about 30 years and I find myself in a similar relentless dilemma. No matter what trends I notice in the world of Social Media, my first question is always the same. Where’s the B2B? Or better yet, how does it fit into B2B selling? While new social campaigns continue to wow consumers with that special touch and big business entertainment, we mosey along oblivious to the fact that corporate buyers are people too. They crave new relationships with interesting new firms via cool content. I know a lot of tech buyers, having been in B2B sales for over 20 years, and I can say from firsthand experience, that even they want to have a little bit of fun now and again.

The train has left the station. Buyers and evaluators already use social media channels to find good content from journalists and industry specialists instead of calling in the sales team.  So, why is it that social media hasn’t made it into the mainstream forum?  I think there are a few reasons.

First, social grew up around the consumer rather than the business user. While social is making its way into the realm of  business via great products like Salesforce Chatter and Yammer, it is still relatively new in comparison with the proliferation of Facebook and Twitter in mainstream America.  It seems to follow that social will become more important in B2B as time goes on, especially as more Digital Natives in Generation Y enter the workforce.

Next, like many professions, the rank and file of the Sales teams has resisted any change to how business is transacted.  Admittedly,  no one wants to make a mistake when we are talking about sales numbers. While great ideas are abundant, sales leaders who are generally older and more familiar and comfortable with existing selling strategies are cautious to try new things.

Finally, B2B relationships are fewer by definition and have an aura of needing tighter security and propriety. It is true that the written word has greater weight than errors and omissions made verbally by a salesperson.  However, the result is the exactly the same. Social media is not any more dangerous than a misinformed sales person visiting with a customer.

So, in the balance of things, what is the argument to make a pivot to social selling? I think there is a preponderance of reasons to begin moving that direction, but there is something a little bigger at stake here. My good friend Mark Schaefer said it best when he said, ‘we are doing something important here. Something that will change the world for the better.”

Why do you think Social Media is more understood and used in B2C than B2B? What will it take to change the trend so that social is more widely used in B2B selling? What is your firm doing to help us all make that change?

 


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