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The Sales Review

Learn about emerging best practices, strategies and insights on B2B sales today dedicated for the modern sales organization.

Social Selling Programs Are Doomed To Fail Without Executive Buy-In

Posted by Jamie Shanks on Apr 18, 2016 1:37:38 PM

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After rolling out 250 client engagements, there’s no question in my mind that leaders are facing a fundamental problem with adopting a Social Selling program. And it’s a problem that has lasted through every training program since Xerox launched in the 1960s!

There aren’t any sexy tips or complex models in this blog because the problem is quite simple: the biggest mistake leadership makes is not creating a culture of full leadership buy-in and accountability for the way the sales team will be selling in the future.

Social Selling is not just an event

Unfortunately, sales leaders often view Social Selling as an event, a one-time occurrence they want to get over with, or a nice to have. But when you have this kind of mentality, thinking ‘can we just get this done?’ ‘Can we just deploy it and move on?’ ‘Can we just buy it and install it?’ – the message you’re conveying is that you want to get it over with and then revert back to the way you’ve always done things.

They believe that it can be initiated in just a few simple steps. However Peter O'Neill of Forrester Research states:

"A comprehensive social selling program can take years to develop, especially if you are in a regulated industry. Marketers spend considerable cycles educating key stakeholders on the value of social media, training the sales team on how to use their social networks, and putting the right tools and processes in place to support a social selling program that will improve the bottom line."

Social Selling is not a one and done solution, it takes time to launch a formal program which requires leadership buy-in. Unfortunately, this lack of buy-in and accountability from you as a leader is ultimately destroying any additional progression in your business.

The most important thing you can do

Honestly, I wish this could be a blog that had various complex models or takeaways and tactics. But if you are a Social Selling “mobilizer” or a progressive sales enablement leader who’s trying to create massive cultural change within the business, the most important thing you can do—greater than 50% of all things you can do in a Social Selling engagement – is to get the Regional VP’s of Sales, the Senior VP’s of Sales, and the Chief Marketing Officer and the digital content marketing team to fully buy in and be accountable. 

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So that no matter what pitfalls and roadblocks you experience over the next few years, a digital transformation in Social Selling will be a Top 3 priority over the next few years.

But unfortunately, most people don’t think that way. In reality, a lot of Regional VP’s are comfortable with the status quo. They’ve been selling the same way for the last 20 years, and are comfortable with the way they’ve always done things. They can’t fathom the idea of massive change in themselves.

This presents a major challenge to buy-in and accountability. Regional VP’s and Senior VP’s of Sales will lead a horse to water—they’ll ask the sales team to engage in Social—but they won’t make a cultural change themselves. They won’t take the same actions they’re asking the sales pros to do.

I liken this to the construction industry. If you have too many foremen asking the workers to dig a ditch, but won’t dig the ditch yourselves, you’ll end up with problems. Soon you’ve got a lack of respect and trust. As a sales leader, the sales team looks up to you and wants to emulate you. If you won’t adopt and enforce digital yourself and be accountable for measuring it, your sales pros also won’t make a big change.

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Jamie Shanks

About the Author

Jamie Shanks is a world leading Social Selling expert, responsible for pioneering the space. Jamie Shanks has trained 1,000’s of sales professionals from Fortune 500 companies to solopreneurs.