An Industry Insight: The Truth About Social Selling

November 25, 2015

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Here Zoe Sands, Principal Consultant of Zoe Sands and Co Ltd and Olivier Choron, CEO and Founder of purechannelapps have been interviewed to contribute their honest opinion on the topic, social selling. Forget the fluff, here is the truth.


1. What does social selling mean to you?


[ZS] Social selling for me is about connecting all those involved in the selling process – whether they are quota carriers or not – into a sales enablement programme, whereby the team works through the buying funnel together. Basically teamwork starting online.


[OC] For me social selling goes beyond the ‘selling’. It’s about making sure the organisation is completely engaged in social media, at all levels. I am not talking about using social media just for marketing or customer service or HR/ recruitment. I am talking about all people being involved in social media. All your employees have a social media cloud… whether they are in sales, marketing or technical roles…whether they are in junior, mid-level or senior management positions. Only once they all have embraced social media and participated in your company’s social media efforts, will you be able, as an organisation, to enjoy the benefits of ‘social’. And remember that, according to LinkedIn, 75% of buyers use social media to be more informed about vendors.


2.Why is it important?


[ZS] Social selling is important because buyers are much more informed than they have ever been. Research has shown that buyers do not tend to engage with vendor sales until further along the buying decision process. This creates issues because often the sales touch point with the buyer is too late as short lists may have already been created and the buyer is probably close to making a buying decision. SiriusDecisions says two thirds of the buying process has already been completed online without even contacting the vendors. This is a missed opportunity for sales to influence the buying process.


Sales employees need to develop and optimise their social channels to hunt out suspects, identify prospects and build a trusted advisor status with the aim to create trusted online relationships before moving these into sales relationships. Times have changed and rather than waiting for opportunities to be created by marketing, successful sales people are creating these opportunities themselves through social selling.


[OC] Being able to influence buyers wherever they are in the buying cycle is key. Social selling, if done well and across the whole organisation, will enable this. It allows interactions to occur when they are needed and are relevant. It guarantees success. According to SiriusDecisions, successful organisations have seen a 5% increase in sales through social selling. The company, A Sales Guy Consulting, also indicated in their Social Media and Sales Quota Survey that 72.6% of sales people who use social outperform their peers.


3.How much effort should be put into social selling versus other aspects of selling?


[ZS] The effort required depends entirely on the level of trust that has already been established online. If you have a low personal brand exposure and value, then a higher level of effort is required, over someone who has already established his/her personal brand and credibility. I generally say to people I train to set aside between 30 to 60 minutes a day to work on your social selling presence.


4.What content is important?


[ZS] Content is the key driving factor for social selling. Without this it is difficult to start to build your trusted advisor status. The important types of content will vary from industry to industry, but visual content such as images and videos often generate lots of interest, as do customer references, blogs and case studies. People want easily digestible content that can help them with their current issue. Think about what types of content you engage with when you’re buying, these will probably be the same for your buyer.


[OC] All content is important. Different people consume different content, based on their expertise, interests, and knowledge. So, don’t assume technical documents are now irrelevant just because we are in the days of videos and infographics. There is a place for everything. Datasheets will resonate with more IT-aware users; whitepapers with others; business benefits-related infographics with yet another audience. Finding the right mix of content is the trick. That said, we have found that ‘industry’ content gets 80% of the clicks/engagement compared to ‘product’ content!


5.Is localised and translated content important?


[ZS] I’m a big fan of localising content, but understand that businesses don’t have an unlimited budget to translate each piece of collateral. Ideally anyone involved in social selling would be taking the sales and marketing content and giving it a local feel. This may just be providing a short 100 word localised summary to the piece of content being shared. I know that’s not full localisation, but a way of making the content distribution a little more personable and localised. My advice would be try to localise if you can.


[OC] Being French I have to say ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’… Not localising and assuming all English content would work globally is a BIG mistake. That said there is a significant cost in creating and localising content, but I see this as part of doing business globally.


6.When implementing social selling should organisations focus on all or just a few social networks?


[ZS] I think before jumping into deciding which social networks to target, you need to first look at where your customers frequent online. You may find they are on a particular community, but you won’t know this unless you do your research. There is a high likelihood they will be on LinkedIn with over 400 million members, but a little due diligence before kicking off a programme does no harm. Generally most organisations that are running social selling programmes are enabling their sales teams with LinkedIn and Twitter.


[OC] The question is correct – it’s a matter of ‘focus’ rather than ‘presence’. You will need to have presence on all social networks – again they work for different audiences. But, you will need to ‘focus’ your efforts on the social networks that work for you, your industry and your audience. In B2B, LinkedIn seems to have the edge, but who knows what the future will bring.


7.Is it worth paying for the use of LinkedIn to support social selling?


[ZS] It is not absolutely necessary to have paid support and tools from LinkedIn, but in my opinion investing in sales navigator licences and aligning your LinkedIn advertising spend certainly helps with expediting awareness, engagement and converting opportunities.


[OC] There are some clear benefits in paying for the extra services and this could help drive engagement, but it’s all about budget and where you spend it the most effectively, to help you get the right results for you, your industry and your audience


8.Which people in an organisation should be involved in social selling?


[ZS] The teams that should be involved in a social selling are sales, sales operations, marketing, marketing operations in terms of running the programme. All those involved in the sales process whether quota carrying or not should play a part in social selling.


[OC] See my answer to Question 1!


9.How does a brand really quantify the value of social selling?


[ZS] You quantify social selling through revenue. You need to decide on what you’re measuring and get an agreement on this. Ultimately you are measuring revenue achieved, but you may have softer metrics such as contact acquisition.


[OC] Engagement and revenue. In most B2B environments, the sales cycle is very long and decisions are made by many different individuals, all needing to be influenced and ‘brought on board’ by your employees. Attributing the success at any individual level is very difficult; measuring at a campaign or company level is the way to go. BUT, driving engagement at a person-to-person level can be measured and quantified (and rewarded upon).


10.When is social selling not beneficial?


[ZS] Hmm, that’s a difficult question. I would say social selling can benefit any B2B organisation as long as you have developed a robust social selling programme. However, I do know of social selling programmes being mis-sold to client-side. What they really have in place are comment marketing and social prospecting rather than a social selling programme, which leads to revenue for a business. If you’re unsure of what you’ve been sold get in touch with me for a quick chat.


[OC] If not done well or across the whole organisation. That said, one sale is all it takes to make social selling ‘beneficial’ (if you haven’t spent hours or tons of budget to achieve this one sale)!


11.How do I start when I don’t have time?


[ZS] If you want to be successful in your sales career you’re going to have to make the time to invest in social selling. It is like anything really, what you put in is what you get out. Those that fail to capitalise on this social selling trend will be playing catch up to their peers and competitors. They will find it increasingly difficult to meet sales targets. So what are you waiting for, start your social selling journey today. :-)


[OC] Speak to Zoe and remember that 90% of decision makers don’t answer the phone, according to the LinkedIn global survey of 1500 B2B Decision Makers, May 2014.


Want to hear more from Olivier and Zoe? Register here for their upcoming webinar where they will be discussing the ROI of Social selling. This is taking place on the 1st December at 4pm GMT. Click here to find out more information.

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