Social selling is hardly a new concept; sales reps have been mining social media for leads, interacting with customers on different channels, and researching clients through personal and professional accounts for several years. Though social selling is not yet fully integrated into the overall sales process in many organizations, its days of being thought of as its own practice are nearly finished.
In a recent Series Pass webcast, Social Selling: How to Connect with the Modern Buyer, featuring Jill Rowley, Founder & Chief Evangelist of #SocialSelling; Keenan, CEO/President of A Sales Guy; Jamie Shanks, CEO, Sales for Life; and Koka Sexton, Social Team, LinkedIn Corporate Communications, we were presented with several new ways to think about social selling as it relates to the broader sales process.
Cultural shifts within organizations start from different places; some originate with employees and float up, others start from management and cascade down to employees. In the first case, where employees look to change the culture around something like selling, executive adoption is critical to success . “If you want to talk about how you get adoption, you find out who your top reps are,” said Sexton. “Who are the ones that are doing this well? And start building the case studies from them. Eventually, once you get enough case studies — once you're able to show the revenue impact, the pipeline that you're able to drive by using social media, you go to the top; that's all the CEO really cares about.”
Executives can also be catalysts for social selling. Tim Clarke, Series Pass host and Salesforce Product Marketing Director, referenced Sage CEO Stephen Kelly as someone who exemplifies a social executive representative of a social organization.
The company's attitude towards fostering a social and collaborative culture is evident even in their products. Sage Live, for example, enables collaboration across the back office and front office, giving you the power to analyze, manage, and operate your business in real time.
While social selling has a host of benefits and advantages as described by the panel during the webcast, one important note the guests agreed on was that bad marketing is bad marketing, no matter the channel. “[If you have] an email that wasn't working before, [if I] leverage it in LinkedIn and think [just] because it's a different, fresher medium that is not over-saturated, like a Google Mail...well, crap in is crap out. It doesn't work,” Shanks said.
Rowley echoed that sentiment with an even stronger warning: “If you suck offline, you're going to suck more online. So don't suck,” she said. “Social isn't a channel for modern trickery or modern laziness. Social is an incredible channel to find your buyers, to listen and relate to your buyers, to connect and engage with your buyers.” She further emphasized that to be interesting, you must be interested in something other than yourself. Leading with the customer or the individual buyer are both more effective ways than leading with the product.
To Keenan, sales reps have an obligation to do research on their prospects, whether marketing has their back or not. “My team will not make a call to anybody...until we know everything we can,” he said. And we are full-on proud digital stalkers.”
Sexton agreed: “In sales, I would have 15 different tabs open in my browser. I would look at every piece of information I could find on that person before I ever picked up the phone. For every little nugget of insight that I might be able to bring in — where did they go to school? What kind of car do they drive? Do they have a dog? Do they like to ride horses? All of that stuff helps build the story.”
But having that information on hand is not an open invitation to regurgitate it on a first call; the key is to insert those nuggets at the right times. “You have it all in the back of your mind so that when that moment comes up, you can actually have some context around it,” Sexton said. “People put this stuff out on social for a reason. And we put it out there because we want people to see it. How people react to it and come back and use that with us is a whole different thing.”
Using the information gleaned from social research is only as good as the business value it provides, Rowley said. The sales process is no longer just about trust and knowing someone. “If you can't deliver value, I don't care that I know you, I like you, and I trust you,” she said. “If I can't get value from you, sorry. I need to get value.” For example: Rowley mentioned hearing a customer on a podcast, or writing about a company need on social. You could respond by sending an article via social media that provides value to help solve the problem, even if it’s completely unrelated to your product.
And it’s not just about adding value once and then immediately selling. Sexton said the key is to consistently add value over time, “Because eventually, the person is going to raise their hand and say, thank you so much. Now what can I do for you? And that's when you raise your hand and say, here's what I do. But I'm going to continue to add as much value, (and) throw as much gasoline on that fire as possible, because I want to help you.”
You can watch the on-demand replay of the March Series Pass webcast here.