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Building Social Media Presence Among Development Teams

We are so used to sales, got-to-market, and solution management teams promoting solutions, that it does not occur to us that each one of us in a product development team can also be part of the selling lifecycle. A huge reason for this, is of course, the social media explosion over the last decade. This has opened new avenues and modes of selling – not to replace conventional selling, but to complement it effectively.

Transformation of Consumer Behavior

The expansion of social media capabilities has transformed the behavior and expectations of end users. Today, consumers use digital channels at all stages of the customer journey. They expect relevant content corresponding to where they are in this journey.

As McKinsey rightly pointed out in its article “Mastering the Digital Advantage in Transforming Customer Experience”, 75% of online customers shared that they expect help within 5 minutes, use comparison services for consumer goods, and trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Transformation of Marketing Strategy

This “social” aspect in consumer behavior calls for a corresponding digital marketing strategy that helps prospects and customers with insights and services through the entire journey. Digital selling, also known as social selling, is a crucial part of this strategy. It is important to note that digital selling is not always about selling. Digital selling includes the process of researching, connecting, and building relationships with prospects and customers through digital channels.

Digital Selling at SAP

SAP is an early adopter of this strategy, embracing digital selling as early as 2012. Digital selling is not only about sales and marketing. Most of the time, product companies gain the credibility that they need, after a deal has been closed. And this credibility is built through solutions, support, product roadmaps, and innovations – all coming under the umbrella of the development organization. To offer a memorable experience to our customers, it is imperative that development teams work together with sales and marketing teams. It is for this very reason that SAP decided to extend digital selling training to product development teams.

Michael Labate, head of Operations and Program Development for SAP’s Global Digital Selling Program, sees digital selling training as an investment in the employees. “We want you to build your personal brands in the industries you represent” he explains. “As core contributors in a development team, (for example, developers or product owners) your passion for a topic inspires others with similar interests to join your journey—leveraging the right social selling skills is all about having authentic conversations, understanding customers’ needs, and building up the right levels of credibility and trust. Many of you, as product development teams have access to customers in some form or the other. Each customer interaction is an opportunity to build customer delight and establish yourself as a topic expert or thought leader”.

Digital selling training also provides skills for the future, provides opportunities for realizing tangible benefits. Unlike traditional selling, social selling allows each one of you to connect with potential buyers and customers at multiple levels.

For example, a business development executive at SAP wanted to reach out to the largest gas company in Brazil. He decided to use LinkedIn InMail to contact the CIO of this company directly. He also discovered, via LinkedIn, that a close friend of his was working for the same company. One step led to another and before he knew it, his digital selling initiatives helped him close a deal worth USD 1.6 million.

In another example from SAP, a senior account executive, “InMailed” an executive of a company looking for digital transformation. This InMail kicked off a 6-month sales cycle, which ended with a 5-year contract valued at AUD 1.7 million.

One does not have to be a senior executive to have customer access anymore. Digitalocial selling allows you immediate access to customer reaction, for example, through a retweet or a comment to a blog. You get the opportunity to join conversations and receive direct feedback.

Even for customers, social access to their vendor companies’ employees brings a different level of personalization: they can ask questions, make requests, and interact directly with brands before even talking to a sales rep.

Digital Selling As a Team

Just like a successful project requires a broad set of diverse skills and team collaboration, the most effective form of digital selling involves working in teams and in cooperation with experts. For example, some developers excel at social listening, passing on their findings to the master relationship builders or the expert bloggers. Regardless of your role and skills, everyone is welcome to join this adventure in engaging customers socially!

I would like to thank Renuka Abraham for co-authoring this article

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