Social media is altering the way that companies approach potential clients. The technology has allowed businesses to expand their reach and develop new lead generation techniques that have the ability to drive sales growth significantly.

CIO Magazine notes that organizations that take the appropriate steps to incorporate social media strategies into their sales compensation plans can see big payoffs in terms of their ability to nurture potential clients down the path to a sale. Many companies acknowledge that they are not as good at lead nurturing as they would like to be. A BtoB study entitled "Lead Generation: A fundamental Flourishes in the Digital Era," found that 74 percent of business-to-business marketers are active in lead generation, but only 49 percent of respondents had a lead-nurturing process that supported the effort.

Social media channels have the ability to provide the needed support for lead nurturing. Forrester's Social Technographics study found that 80 percent of B2B customers and 68 percent of B2C consumers are considered spectators on social media sites. These potential clients read comments and reviews posted on social media sites. This creates a large number of opportunities to provide essential information that new leads need.

Increased collaboration between marketing and sales departments can make the transition between lead generation and lead nurturing a smoother process. Without a clear guideline for when potential customers will be handed off to sales, there is always the risk of losing clients because of a lack of communication. Developing compensation solutions that encourage active social media engagement can smooth the collaboration needed to successfully lead a client through the sales process.

Products with a long contact-to-closure time frame are the ones most likely to benefit from the increased focus on social media channels. Salesmen are able to maintain contact while providing answers and information as prospects conduct research and weigh options. This level of contact can be essential to closing a deal because of the quick turnaround. Utilizing digital channels to provide instant feedback and updates shows clients that companies are attentive to their customers and promising strong customer service if anything should go wrong. These efforts to connect with potential leads may encourage them to make future purchases.

Changing consumer behavior is forcing companies to alter their sales and marketing strategies. People have more access to information than ever before, so businesses need to continually provide new experiences. Developing a strong social media presence can help companies generate more leads and improve their ability to nurture those leads until they are ready to complete a transaction.