Tweeting or sharing an update on LinkedIn may not seem as productive as cold-calling or attending customer events, but a recent podcast from the Canadian Marketing Association suggests more companies need to embrace “social selling” if they don’t want to miss out on many potential opportunities.

While social media has become a regular part of our personal lives, research suggests social selling could become a critical skill set that brings sales and marketing teams in Canada closer together. Data from DemandGen, for instance, shows 72% of B2B buyers use social media to research their purchase decision, while LinkedIn says 62% of B2B buyers respond to salespeople who connect with relevant insights and opportunities. The challenge is, 93% of sales professionals have received no formal social selling training, according to consulting firm McKinsey.

In response, the Canadian Marketing Association has launched B2B Hub, an online resource centre where Sue Prigge, a member of the CMA’s B2B Council, answered some of the most frequently asked questions about social selling.

What Kind Of Tools Do You Need To Make Social Selling Successful?

The great thing about many social platforms is that they’re free to join and have few costs to participate in basic sharing features. That said, Prigge said Canadian companies should be thinking about how to tie in data from those third-party services back into the systems they use to manage sales and marketing processes in order to set up social selling efforts for success.

“One of the key ingredients here is the integration of their CRM with their marketing automation,” Prigge said. “Having that end-to-end perspective of the content that is created, shared, and consumed and leading to the number of marketing qualified leads, and then ultimately the total ROI of the equation, is really important.” 

For example, Prigge said if sales people are sharing content on social media to raise awareness about a business problem that could be addressed though a product or service, the sales rep should be able to see whether their customers or prospects clicked through to a link or downloaded something as a result. Then, the rep should be provided with content on similar topics that might be tied into the next stage of the buying cycle, such considerations of key features in a product or service. 

What Is The Best Way to Measure Social Selling?

Like many of her peers, Prigge said she’s been trying to learn more about social selling by researching the topic online, and the results can be overwhelming. She said one blog post indicated 48 different key performance indicators that should be used to track social selling efforts, but that may be overkill for the average small or medium-sized Canadian business. Instead, she suggested narrowing it down to the following three areas:

  • Engagement: What proportion of content shared via social media was consumed? What can this teach the marketing department about the relevancy of the content being offered to sales teams for sharing on social media?
  • Connections: Sales professionals are often evaluated on the strength of their network of customers, prospects and influencers in the physical world. The same should hold true on social media. The more they are able to grow their followers on Twitter or connections on LinkedIn, the better the results of their sharing content through these services.
  • Conversions: Ultimately, Canadians companies have no choice but to be driven by bottom-line results. In this case, they should have some way of knowing how social selling activity translates into live, in-person meetings with a customer or prospects. Twitter or LinkedIn are really about helping sales teams get in the door.

 

How Can Companies Align Marketing Activities With Ad-Hoc Social Selling?

Social selling doesn’t tend to be rigidly implemented as a program or policy in companies, which may make it seem difficult for marketing teams to understand their role in the process. Prigge said it may be more simple than they realize.

The most natural first step, she said, is identifying strong social sellers who may exist within an organization already, and use them as internal case studies to educate the rest of the sales team. Next, marketing departments need to focus on supplying sales professionals with content that will work well across social media, be it infographics, market research, white papers or blog posts. Beyond offering their own content, Prigge said companies should also be “curating” content from other sources to help sales professionals show they are tapped into the wider world.

“A lot of companies are just starting to have really strong alignment between marketing and sales,” Prigge admitted, “(but) good salespeople understand that social plays a big part in the buying process, and it’s a great way to share content, offer thought leadership and generate more demand, taking an online contact and turning them into a face-to-face one.”

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