What are the top companies doing to effectively implement a social selling program?

If you’re not considering objections, considering the right sales team and shifting behaviour, you’re missing out on what you need to drive revenue with your social selling program.

We’ve done 250 customer launches around the world, and I’ll tell you, we’ve seen it all—great successes and also failures. And it all comes down to that first initiative.

Just like anything else, first impressions are everything. If your initiative is a success, you’ve now created the path and business case for global expansion. If it fails? You’ve now lost the credibility to prove that social selling can be a valuable part of your organization. So choosing the right sales professionals to participate in the initiative is critical.

How do you decide?

Companies use a number of ways to decide on which sales pros will participate in the first initiative, including:

  • Geography,

  • The roles, titles, and groups of sales pros,

  • Performance criteria, such as LinkedIn SSI score, percentage of sales quota attainment,

  • Other factors such as age, industry subset or business units.

However, there’s more to creating a successful initiative program. There are also three steps you should take if you want your social selling initiative program to be successful.

Three steps to social selling initiative success

Step 1: Reverse engineer future objections.
This step is critical because if you don’t predict the objections, you’re doomed to fail. For example, if you run a program in the Americas as a geography-based initiative and you didn’t include Asia Pacific and Japan, then the Europe office will use the excuse that it works in America but doesn’t work there. Likewise, if you decide to train a certain business unit or job function, such as your demand generation sales pros, the sales pros who aren’t part of that department will say it doesn’t work for their department.

Take action and consider the culture of your own company as well as the potential pitfalls and landmines. Collaborate with various team members to gain insight before starting your initiative so you can foresee these objections as you deploy and scale.

Step 2: Choose people wisely.
After doing this 250 times, I can say that of course, most companies will choose to do a certain business unit or certain grouping of sales pros. They might choose to do the initiative with the inside sales team first and then the field sales team. But if you want to run a really effective program, you need to realize you only get one crack at it.

Some of the best programs concentrate on those that are most likely to succeed. But we’ve found that learning is in direct correlation to success – meaning those that are willing to learn are most likely to be successful.

A lot of companies focus their initiatives on their high achievers. That means they choose sales reps that have high SSI scores, a high percentage of sales quota attainment, because it’s their successes that will help the peer-to-peer learning, and the adoption of the program. But as you’ll see in the next step, only choosing your high achievers may not be the best strategy.

Step 3: Understand your core performers are your biggest impactors.
By definition, your core performers are like your B students. They’re your average sales pros that may or may not make quota. They may be a few deals away from quota. They’re hungry to improve but haven’t become your rock stars yet.

Sales Performance Curve

CEB stats show that if you can improve the skillset of these core performers by 5%, if you can get your core performers to achieve 5% better individually (remember your core performers make up 50-70% of your total sales force!) that can have up to a 60-70% revenue increase for your business perhaps in a year or two.

Why? Choosing your core performers is moving the biggest subset of your sales professional.

When you’re building a initiative program, you need to look at a demand curve. On average, 15% of your team will be laggards; 50-70% of your team are your core performers; and 15% are your rock stars.

Sprinkle the rock stars in, but DON’T train only them. This goes back to Step 1: the excuse can be made that even if the rock stars succeed in the initiative program, your internal sales enablement and operations will say the rock stars already being successful despite social selling, and it didn’t seem to make a massive incremental uplift of those people.

And that’s true – they’re already doing well and you’re just giving them a few more tools in their toolkit. But the core performers are where you can make the biggest dent. They are by nature still willing to learn and willing to improve themselves – they will ingest the knowledge, and are most likely to succeed.

Considering objections, choosing the right sales team and understanding how to shift sales performance are what the top companies do to effectively implement a social selling program. And remember, because they make up the majority of your sales force, your core performers are your biggest investment. 

Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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