An increasing number of organizations are starting to take steps towards building social selling programs internally. A recent study that we conducted here at Sales For Life revealed that 43% of organizations have started on the path of building formalized program frameworks. Additionally, we discovered that over half of all respondents had sales teams that were actively trying to “figure out social selling.”
This statistic is an extremely positive sign for these companies and the overall market. I say this because the goals from social selling, although pipeline, revenue, brand and awareness related, ultimately help us serve our buyers and markets better. And that’s always a good thing.
If your company is on the path of social selling program development, or may have build a program internally, consider the following three strategic pillars. Note, these are not tactical steps. I classify a pillar as a beacon; a single, unified place where companies invest resources, time, process and technology.
In short, all of these must be considered. If you’re wondering where companies are on this path, we’re seeing early seeds of germination.
Let’s dive in.
1) Smart Curriculum
Gathering curriculum for social selling can be done in stages. Simple Google searches, and reading blogs and eBooks can help you compile a list of tactics and activities that sales professionals can be doing on a daily basis.
However, consider the following. While this approach may work, it also has significant downsides. For one, unlike sales methodologies and training programs of the past, social selling isn’t static. Take any sales methodology from the 80’s and 90’s timeframe and, in principle, it remains the same. Additionally, while these methodologies teach overall deal cycle governance, we’re now living in a radically and bold new world.
In today’s world, the buyer journey reigns supreme. No modern B2B buyer will fit your classic sales cycle definition. And thus, social selling platforms are fluid and dynamic as ever. In the last 3 years alone, LinkedIn has had hundreds of changes.
How will you manage this? What’s your change management and governance plan?
Thus, social selling curriculum building needs to be dynamic, growing, highly curated and must move quickly. The investment in people, process and technology alone to enable this is massive.
That’s why we advocate the philosophy that social selling programs are a combination of build and buy.
2) Deep Focus by Learning & Development
While medium to large-sized orgs have formal learning departments with budgets, resources and access to technology, smaller companies typically don’t.
To effect change, learning and development and/or enablement teams need to realize that social selling is a long-term approach. You won’t ever have 100% adoption from sales professionals out of the gate. It takes time. These bold claims won’t do you justice.
In fact, the data is quite clear on this:
Training impacts learning by 10%
Application impacts learning by 20%
Reinforcement impacts learning by 70%
Most people are solely focused on training. And while it’s a great start (moving from inertia to action is a huge accomplishment), long-term pipeline and revenue impacts happen with a deep, relentless focus on application and reinforcement.
One of the biggest proponents of this view is Jill Rowley who frequently says, doing is the new learning. Reinforcing application in proven, sustainable ways that align to learning best practices will affect the change we’re looking for.
What we have in the market today is a confusion of definitions and meanings. While some may consider getting 100% of people into a training class as “100% adoption,” this certainly isn’t the case. Our advice is to always align yourself with classic adult-learning best practices; a field that is significantly mature, robust and evolving to help people learn.
Moreover, leadership plays a critical part in ensuring knowledge transfer. This includes executive leadership but also frontline sales as well. Again, the data around this is resoundingly strong.
Studies by Broad & Newstrom demonstrate that leadership’s input before and after a program are needed for buy-in and reinforcement. Hence, while training is important, the before and after matter, with leadership playing a vital role in success.
3) Enablement Effectiveness
Standing up a structure around social selling programs is a tough job. The team best equipped to handle this is enablement. I’d like to think that it’s sales enablement but in many orgs, marketing enablement exists and is also capable in program management.
The job of enablement (sales and/or marketing) is to clearly define the structure of the program, the people that need to be involved, the support they’ll need, and also how to scale the program to the largest group of people possible.
But enablement also plays another critical role. We’ve seen they’re the main ones that work with sales operations to create a way to measure success. Since metrics are important to any program, enablement will need to own:
Which metrics are needed over time;
How often to measure them; and,
When (and how often) to share metrics with the business.
This monitoring must be done with a view on scaling this across the org.
The Bottom Line
As you begin to stand up and build your very own social selling program, consider these three pillars. You’ll need to rally the right people, process and technology to these to ensure program longevity and success.
What’s your perception as you read this? Are these areas of focus that you have currently or are you not there quite yet?