The term ‘social selling’ has been around for a decade now, so it’s not a new concept. In fact, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles laying out the case for how social selling can majorly impact sales. This is not one of those blogs.

Instead, I’d like to share what I’ve learned from leading Social Selling at Dell a few years ago as UK Digital Marketing lead and from my current position at Salesforce and talk about how programme managers, a non-sales-supporting function, can initiate a programmatic approach to lead social selling to tangible gains within businesses.

Here are my 4 keys for running social selling programmes.


1. Passion is everything

People can tell whether or not you have a true passion for what you’re doing. If you don’t care, why should they?

When I started advocating for social selling to sales teams at Dell, I remember a sales director telling me that given the large size of his team, he needed to be selective with his meetings and one-to-ones. But whenever I approached him to talk about social selling, he could see that I was radiating passion: this was something to get excited about! “I-Wen knows her stuff,” he’d think, “I should make time to listen.”

Now, I still smile and unconsciously raise my energy level whenever I talk about leveraging social media to build emotional connections directly with one another, and how everyone can be an ambassador for not only their company’s brand but their own. That passion has become second nature.

I am not an expert on every aspect of social selling, and I’m always racing to keep up with new channels that other generations have grown up with, but knowledge is easy: choose what you want to know, and go learn it. Passion chooses you.


2. Find your executive sponsors and allies

For social selling programmes to be adopted by and executed by sales teams, you need to start at the top: getting executive leaderships’ support.

Sales leaders often ask me, “Why should my team spend time on social selling?” Now, for marketers, brand awareness, content sharing, relationship nurturing sound great and are important, but when you talk to any sales manager, their top of mind is pipeline and revenue. Make sure that you can address their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) when asking for a sales leader’s sponsorship. There are many online resources showing the correlation between the use of social media and sales performance, if you can perform analysis with your actual sales numbers, you will get the leaders’ attention.

It’s equally important to find other allies. Executives can help communicate, but you need other stakeholders onboard: an enablement team to deliver social prospecting or social training sessions, a marketing team to support short-form engaging content that can be easily amplified on social channels, an analyst to track the impact, and sales managers to help with execution.


3. Know the Gap

Like any programme, you need to know where you’re starting from and where you want to go, and how your programme can bridge that gap.

I used LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) to understand the external gap between our company and the industry’s top performers, and the internal gap between different sales teams by segment and by region. This showed which areas and skills our programmes needed to focus on.

Don’t forget the qualitative gaps.  Data tells you what the gap is, direct feedback gives you the ‘why’ - the stories behind the numbers. Ask sales if they’re using LinkedIn to build personal brands, find decision-makers, close deals, if they’re not, why not? Is it because they don’t know how to use social networks to listen to contacts and accounts, or to connect with the right people? Or do they have the knowledge to do so but chose not to because they already have successful offline relationships or don’t see the value of social engagement?


4. Prove it

Lastly, deliver what you promised.

Social selling programmes are no different from any marketing campaign or sales programme where you need to agree upon success measures upfront and have tracking in place to demonstrate “ROI”.  However, be patient, a study shows that it takes an average of 66 days to solidify a new habit, so if your sales team is new to social selling then remain patient and consistent, do not give up after just two weeks.  

Since last year I have run a few gamifications to boost the usage of social media which resulted in higher SSI, but without understanding the exact connection between SSI and sales performance it is still just a number.  This summer I had 4 interns working on a detailed analysis on the pipeline upside per SSI point increase based on the PipeGen performance from thousands of account executives and sales development representatives across international regions (APAC, LATAM, and EMEA). They not only uncovered the strong correlation on some sales roles but also useful insights such as the drivers for social selling success.

Keep your sponsors and allies updated with the programme's status, celebrate any success big or small, thank them for joining the ‘social’ transformation journey with you, and the results will come.

Connect with me on LinkedIn to learn what social selling programmes we are running and I'd love to learn your tips too!

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