Kevin Micalizzi: Welcome to the Quotable Podcast. Getting started on social media for selling is always a challenge. Join us today as we talk with Rich Stone, VP of Sales at TechTarget, and we dig into how to approach it, what you should be doing, how often you should be doing it. So Rich, thank you for joining us in the studio today.
Rich Stone: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Micalizzi: Let’s jump into it. You and I were talking as we were prepping for this and the whole concept of how do you get your reps up to speed on social selling because a lot of them, especially reps new in their career, they’re pretty much digital natives.
But it’s a different experience trying to build your brand and really use your social media for work. You may snap your friends, but totally different experience because you’re not going to snap the world and suddenly have customers. So actually, before we jump into it, you and I have talked. I know who you are, but would you share a little bit about yourself?
Stone: Hey, folks. I work for a company called TechTarget. We’re based out of Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.
We are an intent data software company. We sell exclusively to technology vendors. I’ve been at that company, as I said, for about a decade now, nine years in a sales role, and the last year of which I’ve been running our sales team on the west coast. Obviously, because we sell exclusively to tech vendors, we have a lot of our customers here in the Bay Area, so I oversee our sales operations here locally.
Micalizzi: Excellent. And I know in the Bay Area even hiring sales folks is always a challenge because there’s so much competition, and I know depending on the markets you’re selling to, typically we tend to skew more toward folks at the beginning of their career. There’s a lot of enablement and training that has to happen there, and I think social is one aspect that people just aren’t — they don’t know how to use it to advance their career and advance their selling.
So I’m curious, with your folks that are starting — what are you doing with them to try and help them? Social selling is not going to solve all your problems. But at the same time, you’ve got to be out there, or people aren’t even going to talk to you anymore.
Stone: Yeah. That’s a great point. It can be overwhelming. Especially, as you mentioned, most of the reps that we have are hired right out of school. And they’re very familiar with social, but more so as users and consumers of social with their friends on Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram, whatever it may be. So the key thing is to just really break it down and talk about the simplicity of it.
Don’t overcomplicate it because you talk about digital or social selling, it can get overwhelming. So whenever we have new folks on the team, and I actually connect with the team quite a bit and talk to them about this — just really break it down and make it simple because you don’t need to overcomplicate it.
And the way that you can do that is really segment the different aspects of social selling. And what it takes, really, to be an effective social salesperson as a part of your selling arsenal alongside the traditional vehicles with phone, email, face-to-face, and the like.
What we typically do is we just break down the value they can get from having a social presence. There’s typically three overarching things that folks will derive from using social as a vehicle in their sales process. One is really building your brand, and I like to say this is a long play. You’re not going to get on LinkedIn and Twitter and put up your headshot and ultimately have a brand built.
But that’s something that you need to invest in right from jump in your career. And I always tell the reps on the team that they’ll see paid dividends moving forward because if you start early and often, you’ll build that brand over the course of your career. That’s important nowadays.
Micalizzi: When we’re talking about your LinkedIn brand and your profile, we’re way beyond the days where you just put up your resume. What are you recommending for folks in terms of even just establishing that core presence to begin with?
Stone: That’s a great question. And I think it’s important to be yourself with both building out a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter profile, which are the two key vehicles that we leverage for social selling with our team. LinkedIn, you want to have a professional headshot, “ish.” If you want to be yourself, have a little flair, have a fun shirt on, or whatever, that’s fine. Professional headshot. And then really tell them about what you do and what company that you work for.
Keep it concise, and don’t be too salesy. And again, when you’re dealing with customers, you want to talk about the value for the customer and not just me, me, me and what we do. So that’s in the profile. Then in terms of specialties that you have, I think it’s important not to label yourself a thought leader, or a visionary, or that sort of thing because I think that it’s up to your customers to decide if, in fact, you are that. Again, just be honest and be humble, and talk about your experience.
Your experience may be limited if you’re coming right out of school, but talk about how, “Hey. We had a great six-week training program. I really dipped my toe into understanding the subject matter that I’m now versed in in my new role, overseeing a territory of accounts that are based in the Bay Area, specializing in XYZ technology or segment.” Make it pertinent to who you are. And that’s important for LinkedIn. Again, you said you don’t want to just regurgitate your resume.
And I’m also not a fan of folks who are on LinkedIn bragging about their results from a sales perspective. This is pretty polarizing, I think, in the sales community. My take on it is if I’m a buyer, I don’t want to be sold to someone who’s bragging about crushing their quota quarter after quarter, President’s Club, 150% to goal. I want someone who cares more about me as a buyer versus themselves. Now, if you’re looking for another job —
Micalizzi: Yeah, I was going to say that —
Micalizzi: — kind of sounds like you’re really using that profile to source a new career opportunity versus a selling opportunity.
Stone: Yeah. You’re exactly right. In your existing role, you want to live and breathe in that role. You’re not looking for the next thing. You want to influence your customers and want to make them feel safe with working with you. So don’t go bragging about how you crushed your quota and this and that, the other award that you won. You can put a little bit in there just to show that you have some expertise, but again, don’t make your whole profile about that. I think that’s important.
Micalizzi: The way I like to look at, your profile is never selling product. It’s selling you as an individual. Are you someone anyone is going to want to work with? And I think goes right back to what you were saying because if I’m putting stuff in there about how I’ve helped all these companies, it’s very different than, “I totally nailed President’s Club,” or whatever it is — my accolades.
Stone: Yeah. You nailed it. Make it about the customer and not yourself. That’s the golden rule in selling. It’s not about you. It’s about your customer and their success, and your mutual success.
Micalizzi: What advice do you give to your folks in terms of work history? I’ve heard advice on both ends of the spectrum. Leave off most of your work history because it’s all about now. Just include things that are relevant in terms of you’re selling certain kind of technology, so leave off that you once were a cashier at McDonald’s. What do you recommend?
Stone: That’s a great question that no one’s asked me before. And I personally, and on the spot, I like listing things that you think are pertinent.
Now, I know, when I’m meeting someone for the first time, their life and work experiences before they graduated from college or got their first real job. I think that says a lot about the person and who they are. So if someone was a cashier at McDonald’s, or did construction, or painted houses, or was a babysitter, or a lifeguard, I think that’s interesting information. Now, that said, does it belong on a LinkedIn profile? I think that’s up for debate.
I don’t think it will hurt you, but that said, personally speaking, I don’t have any jobs listed on my LinkedIn profile previous to my first job out of college. Maybe I would lean towards that. But if you list it off, or at least you can put it in the notes field down below — previous experience, life experience. I think that’s not going to hurt you, but you don’t want to go all the way back to babysitting when you were 13 on there either. So we’ll leave that one up for debate.
Micalizzi: I like the way you look at it, and I think I’m with you because I think there’s an opportunity for some of those past experiences to help round you out as a person from their perspective. But at the same time, you can go too deep in it. As part of building your social brand and developing that equity of you as someone who is truly helping others, you have that, “Do I create new content?” or, “Do I curate content and share that out?” And how much, how often? What guidance are you giving to your folks?
Stone: That’s a great question. I love that question. Initially, I think it’s okay to simply curate and share content from others because if you’re a sales rep, you just got out of sales training, you have an overwhelming quota, you have activity goals you have to set, you’re not going to have a ton of time to create content. So I think it’s okay to share content from thought leaders in your field, repurpose content from peers of yours who have been doing it maybe a little longer than yourself.
Also, leverage your marketing organization. Nowadays, typically, in enterprise B2B sales, we have marketing orgs who enable the sales teams. I know the company that we work at, TechTarget, does a tremendous job of providing content for our reps to share and repurpose. They go as far as to actually sample copy for the reps that they can share. I think that’s really the easiest way to do it.
Leverage the content you have available, again, from your marketing departments, your peers, and then from thought leaders in your space, but I do encourage the folks on our team to create content as well. I’m not saying it’s mandatory, but give it a shot, especially if you’re right out of college. You’re used to writing essays and papers for different courses that you took, so take some time on a Saturday morning or a Sunday morning or when you wake up.
Write down some thoughts on a page and you might surprise yourself. Write about what you know, keep it concise, and be yourself. And I think making a goal of trying to create a blog once a quarter is totally attainable. And I don’t care how busy you are as a rep, but that’s kind of a stretch goal we have with the team for the overachievers, if you will.
Micalizzi: I think that’s phenomenal. And even with our quotable website, we have articles from AEs who are really early in their career but they’ve got a great perspective to share on it. And great advice does not have to come from someone who’s authored a book or has been in the industry 10 years. Everybody’s got a unique perspective, and I totally agree.
You should share that. When you’re sharing content — let’s say you personally. When you’re curating content and sharing it out, do you just tend to share the link out? Do you tend to write your take on it and personalize it a little bit? I know it’s always tough because this obviously is not the day job. I’m curious what you try and target.
Stone: That’s a great question. And I think it goes back to adding value and providing value in the content that you’re sharing. Social shouldn’t simply be just a megaphone where you’re just spewing out content and really not adding any color to it or perspective, so I think it is important to put your own personal spin on it. Add some thoughts or insights. Ideally, you’re not posting a ton of content you haven’t yourself engaged with because that’s not genuine.
You want to repurpose and post content that you’ve at least skimmed and gotten some takeaways from that helped you, that you got value from, before you share them with your hopeful audience of followers that you’ve built from doing just that. So add a little piece of color or insights. Write your own copy. Throw in a hashtag that’s pertinent to what you thought was covered in the piece, and really make it your own. Because I think personalizing your content will do a tremendous job in helping you build your personal brand and differentiate you from other folks who may be posting the same types of content.
Micalizzi: For you personally, how often do you target sharing content out? Is it once a day? Do you try for multiple times a day?
Stone: That’s a great question as well. For LinkedIn — I’m less regimented with LinkedIn. Personally, I like to post on LinkedIn at least once a week, and I’m very selective with what I’m posting on LinkedIn. I want it to be very valuable. That’s for LinkedIn. For Twitter, I leverage Buffer, which is a free app, and it basically helps you queue up posts. So I tweet out five times a day via Buffer.
I’ll get into Buffer, and I’ll queue up five thoughtful posts. Buffer does a tremendous job of shortening the links for you, pulling in the photos which help with engagement as lots of stats have shown us, and you can have that go out. So you have set times of the day based off of when you think folks are going to be actively engaging. What I personally do, and I’ll tell you exactly — I have posts go out at 7:07 a.m., 12:07 p.m., 12:57 p.m., 3:57 p.m., and then 9:07 p.m.
Micalizzi: Interesting. You really want to hit that lunch hour.
Stone: Yeah, lunch is important. And that’s in the west coast time zone — because what do you do when you’re on your lunch break? You go on social media, or you go online. You want to read something to take a break.
Micalizzi: I love that you’re conscious of that because your target audience is typically west coast because you’re running the west coast sales operations.
Stone: Exactly. Think about yourself and when you’re on social media. It’s usually during commute hours or when you’re waking up, and you just had your coffee. You’re hanging out, and you do a quick feed check, and then before you go to bed. That’s what I try to map to, and I’ve played around with that.
And Buffer also does a nice job with their analytics so that you can see which times have the most engagement in terms of views, impressions, as well as clicks, shares, retweets, that sort of thing, so that’s important.
Micalizzi: I love how much thought you’ve given this. Five tweets a day? I’ve got to tell you. I’ve done social media for a living, and I never find enough time to find enough content to do that. For me, at most, I try and schedule two a day if I can get to it. How are you finding five relevant pieces of content per day on top of your day job, on top of your life, on top of having kids? Everything.
Stone: That’s a great point, and five is what I personally do. If you can do two, do two. That said, what do I do personally?
Our marketing team weekly will send us 12 to 16 unique pieces that we can leverage, so we’re lucky. And so for the past three, four, five years, I can’t remember exactly, our marketing team has been doing that. We call it Twitter Tuesday or Twitter Thursday, and they’ll write the copy. For our team, it’s super easy. A lot of it is that. I don’t rely on that exclusively because that is mostly about our business and talking about TechTarget and what we do. And I don’t want to be exclusively focused on who is TechTarget —
Micalizzi: Then you’re back to the broadcasting. You’re not actually adding value.
Stone: You’re exactly right. I also will add thoughts throughout the day that I have. They may not be long enough for a blog post, but I’ll have a thought and I’ll just queue it up in Buffer.
Micalizzi: Excellent. So you’re not waiting for a piece of content that makes you think about it. You’re just sharing those thoughts on the fly.
Micalizzi: Okay. I like that.
Stone: Just being mindful. And when I talk to people, or if I watch something, or I see something online that inspires me with a thought, I’ll queue that up. If I really like it, I’ll even share it right now, right in Buffer. But throughout the day when that happens, I always have Buffer queued up on my desktop, and then on your phone in iOS, you can do it as well.
And I’ll just type in there because I think throughout the day you’ll be surprised, if you’re cognizant of it, how many inspiring little tidbits come up. A lot of my content won’t be linked to an article, it will just be a little thought that I had throughout the day.
Micalizzi: Right. And I know a lot of folks I’ve talked to over the years, in terms of social, sometimes feel like they’re just popping something out on Twitter, and I’m not a celebrity. Nobody’s even going to notice. I’m curious. How have you seen your engagement change over time as you’ve started to do this more?
Stone: The important thing goes back to the golden rule of selling, and that is provide value before you ask for value in return. All the sudden, you’re not going to have people engaging with you and your content. You need to be proactive and engage with others first.
That’s the beauty of it is that you can be the catalyst for that engagement. One first part of getting started with social selling, the content and sharing and providing value from that perspective is one arm of it. On the other side, it’s called social media for a reason. You want to engage with others. So what we’ll have the team do is we’ll aggregate a list or a couple of lists.
One will be a list of prospective customers that we’d like to work with and their territory, so that could be corporate handles as well as personal handles. We’ll do the same thing in LinkedIn where we’ll simply follow the accounts, or people if they’re thought leaders in their space, you can follow them as well. So we’ll aggregate that list of prospects. Secondly, we’ll aggregate a list of customers that are existing that we’re working with already — again, the corporate handles and the personal handles of the people we work with.
We sell to marketers, typically, at tech companies. There’s lots of folks in marketing orgs that we — marketing people are very active on social, so we aggregate a list of all the marketing contacts at all the organizations that we’re looking to influence. The third pillar of that is thought leaders in the space, so other folks who are well versed in digital marketing and B2B sales. Build that list of thought leaders that you can really be inspired by in terms of the content that they’re sharing. And then finally, fourth, is competitors.
Aggregate a list of competitors because you can see what they’re active about, what they’re engaging on, and what their approach is. And the more you know about that, the more effective you’re going to be in the field. We have the team build out those lists, and you can do so very easy on Twitter. On LinkedIn, it’s a simple follow. Then from there, that is your feed that you can go to. It can be just once a day.
Schedule time in the afternoon for when it’s quiet. Go through your feeds, and on those feeds, you can find content to share and repurpose as well as reasons to engage. And that’s where the sales part of social selling comes in. You’re monitoring the content that the folks you’re looking to influence are putting out there, and then from there you find reasons to engage that you can use in your sales outreach.
Micalizzi: We’ve talked about profile. We’ve talked about sharing content out. We’ve talked about using these social platforms for keeping an eye on your prospects, your competitors, the brands, and companies you’re trying to sell to.
How do you tackle using that information to reach out? Because I know personally, I’ve had companies now send me Facebook messages. And it just feels awkward to me, because for me personally, I do share professional stuff on Facebook. But it’s much more, I’m connecting to friends since childhood, I’m connecting to family. LinkedIn, I assume I’m going to get a LinkedIn, either connection request or an InMail, almost daily about something, whether it’s relevant or not. But how are you tackling this?
Stone: That is a great point. Again, it goes back to adding value and providing value before you’re asking for it. I’m not a fan and I’m not recommending that you ever send blind LinkedIn invites, or you ever reply to someone who tweets something out asking them to take a meeting. Never do that. It’s important to consume the content they put out there on either their LinkedIn or their Twitter, and then make a comment or reply with your takeaways from their content that they shared.
I think that’s totally appropriate. Because if a marketing person that we’re looking to work with shares something thoughtful on a topic that I know pretty well, given what I do, I’m going to share some color on my takeaways from that content they shared. And that marketer, the person we’re looking to sell to, is going to really appreciate that.
Micalizzi: Right, because you’re adding to that conversation.
Stone: Exactly. And you can even make another suggestion, be like, “Oh, your article was great. I really liked points x, y, and z. Did you check out this piece by this other person that you might be interested in?” You’re providing value there. I’m not trying to sell that person, but what I’m doing is, I’m building trust and rapport digitally. And that’s kind of the first step to ultimately being able to then engage with them from a sales perspective.
Micalizzi: I want to highlight the fact that you’re not just saying you’re liking it. You’re not just saying you’re retweeting it. You have to actually take the time to read it, think about it enough to provide either this summary of what you’re taking away or some kind of thoughts on it. I absolutely love that because I think a lot of folks do believe that, “Well, I’m following them. I click like on all their great articles, or I retweet the blog posts they publish.” And you’ve got to take it that extra step.
Stone: It shows that you care. That’s what differentiates successful sales people from those who are not.
The ones who look for the easy, quick fix like a retweet — that’s nice, but if the person who wrote that content [unintelligible] knows you spent the time to read it, and you comment with something thoughtful, that provides additional value. And then you take that offline and via traditional vehicles — via a phone call or an email, that person is going to be so much more apt to want to speak with you and have a meeting with you than someone you didn’t have that initial engagement with on social media.
Micalizzi: Overall, I love how you’re approaching this, and I’m curious if you’ve got any examples of someone that you’ve engaged with like that and then finally connected — phone, email, or some other. And they actually called out the fact that they felt like they knew who you were, and it’s no longer a cold call because you’ve already had some kind of an exchange of value.
Stone: Yeah. I’m not going to talk about myself, but I’ll talk about someone on the team who really picked up social selling, has embraced it as a primary vehicle for their outreach and approach.
A prospect at an account that he had never spoken to — Tom Alaimo, who you know, Tom. He’d never spoken to them, never worked with that account. It was as simple as that they’d tweeted out that they — you know those big sumo wrestling suits that you can wear? She did that on vacation, and she tweeted out a picture of it with a funny little snippet. He simply liked that post, sent an email with the subject line, “Sumo Wrestling on Vacation,” or whatever it was.
And just, “Hey. Saw this. I did that once. It was super awesome. Looked like a blast. [I know] I’ve been hounding you. That said, the reason why I want to talk is x, y, and z.” Keep it concise. Know that you’re paying attention. Now, that’s not the best example, but it’s that simple. If someone sees that you’re paying attention, that you care, and it can be something as surface level as what they did on vacation, they’re going to be more apt …
So the person ended up replying to Tom, had a meeting, and then ended up being a customer of ours.
Micalizzi: Do you set — because we’ve had conversations even here on the podcast about this — do you personally set boundaries? It has to be on Twitter that they shared more of a personal pic, not, let’s say, Facebook or some other vehicle. Because you get the — I’m going to call it “the creepy line” — and as much as they’re posting it publicly, I think some people don’t expect people they don’t know to come out and comment on their trip to Barbados, their fun time in a sumo wrestling outfit.
Stone: That’s a great question. And I think you have to understand the context of it. If the person has a Twitter profile that’s primarily for business, and in their Twitter profile it says the company they work at, “These tweets are my own,” and talks about [they’re] marketing manager x, y, and z. And they’re putting stuff like that on there, I think it’s fair game.
But to your point, on Facebook, if it’s public, and you can access it — their profile is public, I don’t think you go and say, “Hey, I was checking out your Facebook profile. Noticed you were in Barbados. That looked awesome.” That’s creepy. Now, that said, the more you know, the better. If their profile is public, and you find out some information about them, don’t go blasting it and telling them about it, but be cognizant of it. And then when that relationship starts to develop, you can use that information to maybe spark up a conversation at some point when it’s appropriate, but not specifically —
Micalizzi: Or even if it’s not something you actively use in conversation, it’s still giving you a better-rounded picture of who this person is.
Stone: You’re exactly right. And that’s really about having tact.
Micalizzi: It’s true. It’s so true.
Stone: If you have tact in a face-to-face scenario, or on a phone call, or in an email, have tact via social as well. Don’t be inappropriate. Don’t bring things up that you shouldn’t and aren’t appropriate. But the more you know, the better, like you said. It doesn’t hurt you to know that they like going to Mexico or Hawaii.
You don’t have to tell them that, but when you ultimately do have a conversation, be like, “Oh, yeah. I went to Maui on my honeymoon. It was awesome. Have you been to Hawaii?” And you know they love Hawaii. That’s a good angle to go down, so it’s as simple as that.
Micalizzi: Cool, so I want to translate — we’ve covered, I think, a lot of great topics, and I love how you’re approaching this. What I’d love to do is for the managers who are listening — and our audience is pretty evenly split between reps out there carrying the bag and managers and leaders who are trying to help them get the most out of everything they’re doing — o if we talk about the leaders here, what would you recommend the first thing they do is to help their teams make better use of this?
Stone: I think it’s good to break it down so that it’s simple and easy. Social media isn’t a cure-all. Social selling isn’t an easy button. If you do social selling, you’re going to hit your number and be more successful.
I think it’s just another piece of the puzzle in terms of being an effective salesperson in 2017. The traditional vehicles — email, phone, face-to-face — are still very important, but social is an added piece to that puzzle. I think they can communicate that, in order to be rounded, fully successful, integrated salespeople in the digital age, social is a big piece of that. And I think it’s important to break it down into simple terms.
I wrote a piece for our team a couple of years ago, and it was just the seven steps for getting started with social media. And before we did this podcast, I revisited that and made some updates to it, and so I’ll share that after we get off the podcast.
Micalizzi: That would be awesome. We’ll put it in the show note.
Stone: It’s going to be very concise, and it’s basically these seven things. It’s very simple because social selling, again, can be overwhelming for new reps. So if you make it simple and show them how easy it is to do, they’ll be more apt to do it. I also say, as a sales leader, don’t just talk about it, be about it.
Embrace social selling and do it yourself. I think that’s important because if they see that you’re not doing it as their boss and sales leader, they’re not going to care. You’re exactly right.
Micalizzi: Oh, I love that. I was going to jump to asking you what reps can do, but we’ll have a blog post right there in the show notes for you.
Stone: There you go.
Micalizzi: Awesome. Let me pivot. I want to ask you our lightning-round question. If you could take all the knowledge and experience you have now, go back to the beginning of your career, and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?
Stone: I would say be thoughtful. It’s more important to take the time and look at some specific reasons for thoughtful outreach versus just volume of outreach. A lot of times new sales reps, when they’re starting, they have activity quotas. They’ve got to make 50 phone calls a day, send 50 emails a day, whatever it may be. I think that’s all well and good, but my advice when I was a brand new rep out of school would have been be more specific.
Take the time to understand the pain points of our customers and who they are and how you can help solve their problems. And make your outreach more specific to them before just reaching out to as many people as possible in the hopes you get a response.
Micalizzi: I love how almost everything you’re saying comes back to that value and add value —
Stone: It’s important.
Micalizzi: It’s a great view. If you’re not doing it then you’re going to have to hit more than that activity quota to find someone willing to engage.
Stone: When I was a new rep, I made a goal for myself — 50 phone calls a day. And that was as an AE, not an SDR — and 50 emails a day. Now, I think I would go back and say the number of outreaches is important. But make as many good emails and phone calls as you possibly can being thoughtful and specific to that person, not just trying to hit a number so I can pat myself on the back and say I hit my activity goal.
Because at the end of the day, that isn’t going to make you successful. I think working hard, but then also being thoughtful, is that key point you need to be aware of.
Micalizzi: Quality over quantity, always.
Micalizzi: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming into the studio, Rich.
Stone: Hey, thanks for having me.