In many cases the IT department’s remit within a business covered little more than computers, servers and printers; essentially fixing it all when it didn’t work (everyone is familiar with default response of ‘switching it off and on again’…).
We’ve come a long way since those days… Nowadays, IT is business.
IT strategy underpins business strategy
One drives the other. The speed, usability and scalability of an organisation’s technology infrastructure determines the propensity of its ability to grow, adapt, and ultimately survive as a viable business.
IT is now considered one of the most exciting areas of commerce and society. Cloud, collaboration and connectivity (or Internet of Things / IoT as it’s known) capabilities are not just turbocharging efficiencies in business, but bringing about environmental and social good, paving the way toward solving many of the issues facing the future of humanity.
As former Cisco CEO John Chambers puts it:
Changing of the guard
What was refreshing to see at Cisco’s Annual Partner Marketing Forum yesterday, was the old school mind-set of marketing in the IT industry is finally on the wane and beginning to reflect the transformation of IT...
Don’t get me wrong, the old model of B2B marketing used to work and served its purpose.
But buying in data (or going through the Yellow Pages if you want go back further) and cold calling strangers in an effort to uncover sales opportunities is not sustainable. Especially in IT.
If you’re doing this, you're wasting time, money and are most likely destroying the souls of your colleagues.
The age of the customer, not the seller
The forum’s agenda, for the first time, focussed entirely on social selling strategy, tactics and best practice.
"90% of B2B decision makers do not respond to cold calls"
...according to Chris Ferris, Partner Marketing Manager at Cisco.
I think that figure is higher…
- 57% of buying is done before a sales rep even has an opportunity to get involved.
- And on average seven people are involved in a purchase decision making process in B2B IT sales cycles.
So how do you respond to these new challenges? By mastering social selling.
So what is social selling?
In a nutshell, social selling is about building an arsenal of tools to research and share highly relevant content across appropriate social media channels, for your target demographics to build a network of relationships based on trust, insight and mutual value.
Paid and earned tactics should be used to increase networks.
The decision makers in this network will then naturally look to the thought leaders who have provided insight on a relevant topic, when a purchasing decision comes around.
In addition, social sellers can also use their arsenal to uncover potential buying signals, be more strategic with their time and resources.
A good starting point for understanding your own social selling credentials is by visiting www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi (if you haven’t already). It’s a free tool from LinkedIn which analyses your account and generates a ‘Social Selling Index Score.’
It’s a really useful tool to focus your social activity around your objectives i.e.‘why am I on Linkedin?’ and ‘what is it I want to use it for?’
74% of buyers choose to engage with the first rep who provided insightful content to them in their respective network.
Because people buy from people. And people will buy from people who add value to their jobs, without the hard sell, or expecting immediate / short term gain.
This is what PR is based upon – building long term, meaningful relationships with influencers and stakeholders by providing useful ideas and insights and engaging in useful mutually beneficial conversations. And why social media became a natural channel for PR activity.
Coming from a PR background, I find the extension of this approach to B2B sales and marketing interesting, but not surprising.
At Forfusion, our entire business, not just our marketing strategy is built upon this approach. This is the most likely reason why we’re among the Top 10 Cisco Marketing Partners in the UK & Ireland.
Our customers trust us to deliver outcomes important to their business objectives, not ‘shift boxes’ or put our needs first. That’s why we come to work everyday – and why I love telling our story so much!