Written by Melanie Dodaro, Top Dog Social Media.
Are you skeptical that social media can be an effective lead and sales generating tool for your company?
Many B2B companies aren’t seeing the benefits of social media to generate leads.
While social media may be fine for personal use and has been shown to be of benefit in business to consumer markets, it has no place in the B2B business world…or does it?
Businesses are owned and run by people. And it is people that make the buying decisions.
But can social media really provide a systematically repeatable and measureable increase in leads and sales for your B2B company?
This is a valid concern. In fact, according to a report by Gleanster
The answer to this question is yes, but only if you do it the correct way.
Some of the biggest B2B companies in the world have been using social media successfully for social selling such as ADP, CISCO, IBM and XEROX.
In fact, in another report from Gleanster , they state that 85% of top performers had indicated that social media is a top 5 channel for them for lead generation.
So social media can work in the B2B marketing sphere, but just where does it fit into the sales cycle?
How Social Media Works For B2B Lead Generation
Consider for a moment the current effectiveness of cold calls and emails. The average cold calling appointment rate is about 2.5% and two hundred emails will flood your prospect’s inbox every day, most of them unwanted. Now factor in the fact that over 90% of decision makers state that they absolutely will not buy from a cold call or an unsolicited email.  This paints a pretty bleak outlook for the current sales and marketing endeavors of many companies.
On the other hand, new methods such as social selling are proving very effective. This could be because 82% of your prospects can be reached socially via online networks and these same decision makers are using social networks, to research and exchange information on vendors and their products or services.
Gleanster states in their report:
Stakeholders have access to a global and mobile network of data that ultimately shifts the balance of power into the hands of the prospect. Salespeople can no longer control the flow of information with buyers. 
In fact, a 2012 survey  found that 77% of B2B buyers did not speak with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research.
Gleanster further stated that information is power in the B2B sales cycle and that current top performers have accepted and embraced the idea that they must earn a conversationwith their prospects.
So just how do you earn a conversation with your prospects?
You are able to have intimate and highly relevant conversations with individuals through social media according to the report.
It goes on to further say that:
These days, buying decisions are generally influenced by multiple stakeholders, and social media allows your organization to micro-target these individuals with personalized communications that can shape their perception of the brand, the challenge, and the return on investment. 
So how do you make social media work for your business?
The most important thing to understand is that the purpose of social media in the B2B (or social selling) sales cycle is to:
- Locate potential prospects
- Connect with prospects
- Build a relationship with prospects
- Move the relationship off-line
You must set goals, create a strategy and set metrics based on that understanding and your needs.
Getting The Most From Your Social Media B2B Efforts on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a powerhouse when it comes to lead generation for B2B marketing. With over 300 million global members, LinkedIn will give you access to the decision makers in your target industry. In fact, LinkedIn:
- Is utilized by one out of every three professionals in the world,
- The #1 channel to distribute content,
- Drives more traffic to B2B blogs and sites than other social media platforms,
- Considered the most effective social media platform for B2B lead generation. 
According to Gleanster, out of the social media channels used by top performers, LinkedIn was most used, sitting at 88% versus blogs at 62%, Twitter at 53% and Facebook and 42%.  They also went on to report that it was rated as the most effective. 
While these stats are impressive, you may still be wondering just why and how LinkedIn is so effective for generating leads and sales in a business-to-business environment.
LinkedIn is so effective because it is the ultimate relationship building platform. With such a large number of professionals, business owners and c-level executives using the platform, LinkedIn gives you ungated access to your target market. It also provides you with the tools to find, connect and then build a relationship with them. This dramatically increases the effectiveness of your sales efforts and shortens the length of your sales cycle.
With a complete, professional looking profile and a daily LinkedIn lead generation plan in hand, in just 20 to 60 minutes a day (depending on your industry and goals), you or your sales team could begin social selling to fill your sales funnel with your ideal clients.
Need more proof?
Social Selling on LinkedIn: The Future of Lead Generation
As you can see, the data firmly indicates that social media, LinkedIn in particular, is an ideal platform to find, connect and build relationships with your ideal clients, increasing your number of qualified leads and shortening your sales cycle. With a properly developed lead generation plan based on your industry, goals and available time, you can successfully begin to use LinkedIn in your B2B business to increase your leads and sales.
Have you used LinkedIn or another social media platform for B2B lead generation? What have your results been? Leave your comments below.
About the Author
Melonie Dodaro is the author of the #1 international bestseller The LinkedIn Code. She is also the founder of Top Dog Social Media, an agency that helps businesses, sales teams and professionals use LinkedIn and social selling to boost their visibility, attract new customers and increase their revenue. Dubbed by the media as Canada’s #1 LinkedIn expert, Melonie is highly sought after internationally as a LinkedIn and social selling speaker and trainer.
References “Gleanster Deep Dive – Quantifying the value of Social Media Engagement in B2B Marketing,” June 2012.  “Gleanster Deep Dive – Targeting B2B Buyers on Social Media,” June 2013.  Frank Rumbauskas, “New University Study Discredits Cold Calling,” January 3, 2013.  Sergey Gusarov, “Social Selling Facts” Jan 21, 2013.  Tom Martin, “Sales Strategies to Sell to Self Educated BtoB Buyers,” January 24, 2013.  Jason Miller, “The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn,” January, 2014.