The sales trainers at VorsightBP know that great customer service starts with the very first customer interaction. Understanding your customers’ needs is essential to making a sale, but understanding won’t get you far if you can’t get in the door. We interviewed Steve Richard about how VorsightBP’s sales effectiveness platform helps salespeople create more opportunities and drive revenue for their companies.

Do you think social media enriches the customer experience? How do you leverage it to help customers and prospects?

People have been gathering socially for professional reasons for years. It’s natural for that experience to migrate online. Social media has enhanced the customer experience because it has broader, more democratic reach than other social interactions. What happens on Social Media stays online interminably. Who you are matters much less than what you contribute. Anyone – from a sales up to a CEO – can have a lasting impact in customer success.

All of the research of Forrester, IDC, CEB, SiriusDecisions, etc. points to the reality that sales reps who help buyers identify needs and form decision criteria win somewhere around 60-70% of the time. Content through social media enables sales reps to engage prospects earlier, helps buyers identify their needs, and shapes their vision of the future. Plus, since it’s all shareable, it generates referrals.  Customers are not simply looking for answers; they are also looking to understand the problems they didn’t even know they had.

How do you feel about using social media as a first touch point for new prospects?

We experimented with Tweeting short messages to arrange appointments with senior executives. It is very unreliable right now, but for tough to reach techy folks, it can work. We also did a test where we sent 500 LinkedIn InMails as outreach for VorsightBP’s sales prospecting training service. All told, we got 1 meeting. I compared our result to other organizations. It turns out that InMail is VERY effective for companies with a known brand name (LinkedIn, Eloqua, InsideSales.com) and not effective at all for those who are not yet well known (VorsightBP). We believe in continuing the experiments with social outreach as a first touch. However it will NEVER replace the phone. 68% of the VP level appointments generated by our outsourced appointment setting team (400/month) come via conversations on the phone.

What’s the best way to make a great first impression on a prospective client?

Learn a little bit about them and their world. We refer to this practice as 3×3 Research. It entails finding 3 key points on the company and/or contact in 3 minutes of research. Look for information like former employers, quotes, videos, leadership changes, second degree connection, new product releases, news, current processes & systems, etc. In this day and age, with the transparency of information on the Internet, leading a sales call without showing that you did your homework is malpractice. Knowing just a little bit about a prospect’s company instantly earns you the right to a conversation. Why? 99% of vendors never do any research before reaching out. That’s why we love InsideView. It allows us to do 3×3 Research very quickly to have something intelligent to say that is customized to them.

How do you show appreciation to your loyal customers?

Give them referrals. Vendors are fast to ask for referrals but slow to give them to their clients. This seems odd to me. If you try to make connections and surprise someone with an introduction, I promise they will remain loyal to your business forever.

Steve Richard is the Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer at VorsightBP, currently #2326 on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5000 fastest growing companies. VorsightBP creates and tailors workshops to help clients close deals and become better armed to fill their pipelines. Learn more about VorsightBP’s Sales Prospecting Training and how it can work for your sales team. Gain a deeper insight into sales tactics that work with VorsightBP’s OnDemand Sales Webinars.

(Note: this post has been updated to change the company name to “VorsightBP.”)