Account planning now includes social media and more departments than sales. For successful social selling, you need to align sales and marketing. Keep reading to learn more.
Account planning or account planners are there to bring your company’s customers, stakeholders, and prospects into the marketing process. Connecting with prospects no longer takes place strictly via email, phone, and other traditional sales methods. The sales team’s activities now have a direct tie-in with the account planner duties. Marketing and sales need to stay connected to ensure that the marketing experience is aligned with the interactions during the sales process.
Why the shift? Social Media. It’s a highly direct point of contact from company to prospect, company to the client, and company to fan even. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn are a singularly valuable way to grow your company’s online presence and connect with leads. With that comes the responsibility of ensuring that no matter who is viewing your posts, reading your articles, or interacting with employees, there is consistency and clear intention behind it all. Not all of these duties fall on the account executives, though. The account planner works with the Business Decision Makers to design a strategy that will help meet their goals.
Who Are Business Decision Makers?
Business Decision Makers are key to building account planning strategies. These people collaborate to make informed decisions by using current data and trends–decisions that have impacts immediately or the near future. These crucial hats usually fall onto the CEO and CFO, but don’t discount your Business Analysts or CMOs. Strategy and planning is a large part of what they do. When these business decision-makers align, acquisitions, divestitures, investments, expansions, reductions, and go to market strategies are more precise.
How do businesses make decisions? They need data from a defined set of sources both external and internal. If they have active social media accounts, the CMO should be able to discern what is working and what is not. The CFO should be analyzing what the sales team is achieving against costs. A Business Analyst’s job is to understand how clients respond to services and make recommendations to correct the course. Above, is the CEO taking these activities into account to react to the moving parts.
Orchestrating these key activities can’t only rely on leaders. Sales and Marketing departments need to be aligned to ensure that inertia is flowing. Sales needs to know about changes so they aren’t selling outdated solutions. Marketing needs to ensure that messaging and content aligns with current offerings.
Account Planning Meets Relationship Building
We want to nurture our current and prospective clients. This activity applies to B2B and B2C industries. Whether they’ve purchased credit card processing or frequent your restaurant, we need to make them feel important.
How are we staying top of mind for our people? We do it by creating a marketing strategy that nurtures leads but also takes into account the current business landscape. Today, many interactions start online both social and professional. Acting digitally socially as a business conveys that your organization is able to solve modern problems and understands how to operate in the current business landscape.
What is it about these social media connections that foster relationships? Posting is subtle and direct. It inspires action such as liking, commenting, sharing, or direct messaging. It’s also a gentle reminder of your company values. How people respond to your company on social media is like a live customer feedback loop to your business. It also serves to align Sales and Marketing. This approach is known as Social Selling.
Social Selling, when applied to strategic account planning, is the meeting point between Marketing, Sales and Enablement or Sales Excellence. The technical marketing team is using data to create strategies that best attract the right people to their content, pages, and events. Alongside, Sales Enablement or Sales Excellence are able to provide their teams with the best resources and processes that close sales and increase revenue.
Where is the inextricable link in all of this? Technology. Technology must be deployed to its maximum abilities to ensure that these teams are synced. When things go well, their salespeople can use these interactions to lead to more fruitful conversations. Because these departments operate symbiotically, sales can ensure their messaging is consistent with marketing and marketing can ensure their messaging and strategy exceeds expectations in the current business landscape.
Social Media’s Role in Account Planning
Your social media accounts are there to convert leads and nurture current clients. They also steer and start conversations. Profiles with strong engagement have the clout to become thought leaders (think viral posts). Platforms like LinkedIn offer a space for organizations and business decision-makers to make themselves known. Inversely, tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator also feed back information to your business, indicating where it stands online. It’s the perfect opportunity to adjust your strategic growth plan.
Social media profiles will make your business more approachable. Your team is no longer behind walls, phone calls, or emails. Post real photos of the office. Let people direct message on LinkedIn and speak to a real person versus calling the automated system. It’s personal. It’s authentic. The visibility will lead to more sales–it’s the marriage of sales and marketing.
A crucial piece of LinkedIn is engagement. As of April 2020, users can react to posts with a “Like,” “Celebrate,” “Support,” “Love,” “Insightful,” and “Curious.” Hitting these buttons for your peers is seemingly passive, but it’s anything but. LinkedIn posts have lifespans of up to 2 months or more. Meaning, if a lead celebrates your post, it can display said post and reaction to their audience for a long time. (More eyes on your content!) Comments and shares have shorter lifespans but are more direct ways to interact with your connections.
These engagements are anything but vanity metrics. Sales and marketing teams should be using them to communicate more effectively. Marketers can use data to post more of what people engage with. Then, salespeople can use the engagement metrics on a more granular level. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator can quickly tell them if the “reactors” hold the business decision-maker titles or just fans.
LinkedIn and your Brand
Marketing your brand on LinkedIn can be broken into 3 pillars. The first is Branding. You must have an active profile that speaks to who you are as a company and can convey your values back to the customers. Next, is Connectivity. You need to find the business decision-makers and create a strategic plan for building and maintaining a relationship with them. The third pillar is Engagement. This is sharing, liking, commenting, and having natural conversations with your leads. All of these interactions should tie to your ultimate goals and nurture your B2B relationships.
LinkedIn is professional, but in recent times it has become more fresh and fun. During the height of lockdown, people were more candid about the realities of work/life balance. Posts started to show who people were outside of the office. Polished headshots gave way to a selfie taken in a makeshift home office. Suddenly, the people we look up to were much more real. This was all for the best. It created a new layer of authenticity in how we view our thought leaders.
Connecting LinkedIn to Business Activities
The overarching connection between social media and business strategy is that your customer is present. We are spending a lot more time at home these days. Both time and visibility are to our benefit. Your salespeople should take these opportunities to warm their leads without having to send a barrage of messages.
Using LinkedIn as part of your marketing mix and sales process can help your company take the lead in the digital revolution. It’s an opportunity to make your organization and its people more approachable and authentic. The next step in the process is how to successfully implement LinkedIn into your social selling strategy. If you feel that your team is too overstretched to execute on this task, you need a trusted partner that can help you. Keep reading to learn how Tricycle’s team approaches account planning strategies.