IBM is reporting that by adopting a social sales program they have been able to increase sales 400% over a single quarter. The program started with training the seven B2B sales reps in IBM’s Cloud Computing product division. IBM launched a program that focused on “intelligent listening,” using social media platforms to help discover conversations that were occurring about cloud computing. The inside sales reps were then set up with LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and provided with both inside and outside content that could be used to bolster engagement during social conversations.
The IBM team encountered some resistance from baby boomers on the staff who complained that they didn’t have the time to engage in social. However, IBM met the resistance by creating some short videos that discussed the value of social sales as well as showing best practices.
IBM’s goal was to make social a prominent—rather than marginalized—part of the social process. According to the business unit executive for inside sales marketing at IBM North America Douglas Hannan, “We really wanted to make social selling part of the basic way we sell,” Hannan says. We didn’t want our reps spending five minutes a day tweeting and then going back to their ‘real’ job.”
In addition to increasing sales, the pilot program also vastly grew IBM’s reach to followers. The seven inside sales reps were able to gain about 3,000 new LinkedIn followers which therefore expanded their reach (followers of followers) from 54,000 to 1.3 million.