How BMW Would Have Benefited from Social Selling

July 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Sales Operations leaders have seen the power of Social Selling.  The top of the funnel is filling with highly qualified prospects.  Leads are being nurtured daily by reps through their LinkedIn updates and Twitter Feeds.  Sales cycles that begin with an online referral are closing more rapidly.  Your message is resonating with buyers earlier in their buying process.  You can avoid commoditization and grow your margins.  Most importantly, it’s been easy to implement and adoption is high.

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The problem is the rest of the company doesn’t get it.  Finance has told you there’s no budget.  Corporate Communications sees inherent risk in mobilizing a social sales force.  Marketing worries about the brand’s consistency.  You need to know how Social Selling effects each division.  You can then show how Social Selling adds value around the organization.

In this post, you can download our Social Selling Cheat Sheet to handle the Top Misconceptions of Social Selling. The tool focus on driving revenue through:

  1. Persuading the entire leadership team to take action
  2. Implementing a successful sales transformation
  3. Understanding the drivers of Sales Force Effectiveness

Social Selling is not simply a tool for driving increased revenue, though.  It is a risk mitigator, branding engine and market research mechanism.  As the following BMW case study illustrates, Social Selling impacts the entire organization.

BMW Electric Uproar

At BMW, Social Selling would have helped retain a loyal customer base.  On April 18th 2011, BMW CEO Jim O’Donnell told a group of reporters: “Electric Vehicles won’t work for most people.  For at least 90% and maybe more of the population, an electric vehicle won’t work (at the current battery range).”  This set off a firestorm in the electric car community.  Within hours the Detroit Free Press had picked up the story and posted it online.  Electric car blogs, like AllCarsElectric.com, took off with the story. 

BMW Corporate Communications found out about the story on April 21st.  For three days this story grew like wildfire and BMW did not realize it.  They had to play catch up.  They had to salvage their reputation among the electric car community.  On April 28th, O’Donnell put out a statement explaining what he meant by his comments.  For 10 days the image that BMW works so hard to protect was at risk.

A social sales organization could have prevented this.  Within minutes, the reps of their electric car fleet would have seen the article spread.  They could have asked Corporate Communications for an official statement.  The message boards holding the conversations could be identified.  Angry customers and prospects identify themselves as in the market.  PR handles the messaging and reinsures the market.  Now, though, you’ve got a list of potential buyers to target. Reps can use event to get an appointment with prospects.  Find out what they thought of BMWs response.  Discover the problems that still remain.  Provide follow up content to drive home the message.

Eliminating Misconceptions

Misconceptions about what Social Selling is inhibit its effectiveness.  The following are two classic misconceptions addressed in the Social Selling Cheat Sheet:

  1. We’ll need to find additional resources: Like all sales transformation initiatives, there are necessary resources to implement.  However, the focus is reallocating resources, not bringing in additional resources.  Your reps are using Social Media daily.  They are cold calling daily.  They are ordering complex market research.  Social Selling simply focuses all of those activities to provide the optimal customer experience. 
  2. We don’t want our employees hurting our brand:  It is a risky proposition.  Sales reps are trained to spread messages quickly.  They are engaging with a customer and prospect base that can be volatile.  Will they promote the brand according to corporate guidelines?  The fact is, they are out there engaging anyway.  Each rep has a LinkedIn profile that has your company’s logo right at the top.  They are sharing content regardless of whether it’s part of corporate strategy.   The team needs to be trained on how to promote the Value Proposition socially.  They need to know what conversations they should engage in and which ones to avoid.  Social Selling is a key agent in mitigating this risk.

Your organization should be developing a Social Selling strategy.  As the agent of sales enablement and training, you play a key role.  But this initiative has more stakeholders than a typical project.  Instead of hitting a roadblock down the line, address it up front.

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Topics: Social Selling, sales strategy, Sales Operations Strategy, sales transformation, sales execution, sales operations

Posted by John Kearney

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