Dear Sales, Marketing & Enablement Leadership,
When it comes to social selling, we’re not doing a good job and we’re not moving fast enough.
The reason I’m so adamant about this is simple: the buyer today is moving faster and we’re not catching up. Sorry if I sound impatient but we’re losing opportunity. And for many of us, our competitors are outshining us.
Okay great, you’ve got a social selling program in place. The challenge with this statement is its generic nature. “Social selling program” can mean virtually anything these days. While some claim employee advocacy is social selling, others claim it’s the usage of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. And let’s not forget those that make it their life’s mission to find cool and obscure little tools with features that 99.98% of sales professionals may not even use.
While these are great starts, this is not the end-state of social selling my friends. So invariably what occurs is a minor surge of activity on social media for the company leadership to feel like they’ve done an incredible job. Time to move on to the next initiative.
There’s only one problem with this: that’s not social selling.
Social Selling – One Stitch At A Time
The reality is that social selling principles must be weaved into the overall fabric of your sales process/methodology. Without this integration, it’ll be viewed as “more work” when in fact it’s just a part of our work.
This requires long-term thinking. Social selling, therefore, isn’t an event.
This is why we say we’re not in the social selling business. We’re in the change management business.
What are they failing at? Effective, long-term change. And who are they ultimately failing? Those that impact the profit center; sales professionals.
As a part of this, outside parties can only play so much of a role. Leadership must play a role, too. They have to, dare I say it… lead. We’ve been roped into enough situations where leadership thinks this is a one-sided initiative. So whether you’re hiring an outside consultancy or building in-house efforts, you’ll need buy-in from leadership to effect change.
That said, I want to explore 3 key reasons why change is so difficult when it comes to social selling.
If you’re reading this, pass this onto your leadership to see if it resonates.
1. There’s No Compelling Reason to Change
Change is a term thrown around mercilessly in business circles. Leadership is there to stay the course and ensure execution of strategy. I completely agree with this approach. It’s the job of initiating party to cause a shift in priorities. Without that, expect no movement or limited movement at best.
This may shock you. Despite leadership being aware of transformation and compelling data, without a justifiable plan for change, things will not happen.
2. No Coherent Plan
Even after a compelling reason may present itself, does leadership understand how to bring about and effect that change?
Like any other initiative, there must be a plan in place. One that not only addresses filling the gap in skills but long-term reinforcement. And like any effective plan, it must tie into the overall goals of the company.
For example, in one instance, we witnessed a company’s VP of Sales completely buy into social selling. He was pressing regional sales leaders to “get on board,” but without any plan whatsoever. Without direction, regional leadership all handled social differently.
The result was everyone practicing social selling in their own unique way.
3. No Daily Execution
As said, if leaders are not given a clear vision on how social selling will help them, they will take haphazard measures and do things to “check the box” and keep pressure from higher-ups at bay. This way they can at least claim they’re trying.
But without daily focus on making social a part of your overall sales process, it just won’t work. This daily practise requires scheduling time in your calendar and then executing against a plan that ties in with your company’s goals.
This is the level of change management required at the departmental level in sales, marketing and enablement for a successful social selling program.
As much as any outside consultancy would like to effect this level of transformation by themselves, it’s an unrealistic expectation. Internal company leadership must be involved.
I leave you with some parting words of an unnamed sales professional on LinkedIn that speaks to one facet of our discussion here: that leadership pays lip service by giving tools to sales people.
“Were were given LI [LinkedIn] Navigator licenses, a link to a recorded “training” webinar and… well that was that. Doomed to be unsuccessful. Myself and a colleague took it upon ourselves to work together to learn how to be successful – it works but requires investment, time, effort and sponsorship – the latter is crucial."
The Bottom Line
Leaders, when it comes to social selling are you in the business to train or impact long-term transformation?
I applaud the willingness and desire to start social selling – remember, however, that this is not a one-time event. We’re in the change management business!