While Social Selling gains steam and mindshare with company leaders, very few of them are approaching the subject in a strategic way.
Peter O'Neill of Forrester says it clearly, "Mandating that your sales teams use their social networks to meet sales goals will ultimately backfire! Instead, you must partner with your sales organization and put processes, tools, and content in place that will enable them to tap into their social networks without making dramatic changes to their existing work."
Despite this, however, there are some glaring facts that many aren’t aware of on the implementation side. So, whether you’re in sales, marketing or enablement, the list below serves as your binoculars so that you enter into the world of Social Selling with more purpose.
It’s a Sales Process, Not Just Connecting
Social Selling is a legitimate form of sales. As such, it needs to be integrated into your overall sales process. It’s surprising in many ways to still hear questions from sales and enablement leaders on how Social Selling can live in a silo. If this is your intent, it’s best to invest your budget into other initiatives.
Social Selling isn’t just connecting with prospects on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter. It requires action and strategies on how to open new doors, nurture effectively and should be used in an overall sales process with other mediums such as the phone, e-mail, personal visits, etc.
Whatever your sales methodology of choice is (Solution Selling, SPIN Selling, SOAR, etc.) it needs to reflect social outreach, activity monitoring, measurements, reinforcement and beyond.
Recent research by Forrester suggests that,"Training is mandatory to develop your sales team’s social media capabilities, but it must be ongoing and include frequent check-ins."
This should provide insights into why process around Social Selling should be a priority. Connections are good but networking and sparking relevant sales conversations is the goal.
Tools Aren’t Enough
Often times we believe that software platforms will be our silver bullet. Alas, they never are. They can help us accelerate results and conduct certain tasks with speed, but never can they be a replacement for education.
To our surprise, many leaders believe that investment into a Social Selling tool is sufficient to label their sales team as “social sellers.” Or, they feel that limited training provided from Social Selling tool manufacturers is satisfactory.
Ask yourself if you’d ever get cold calling training from the company that makes your phones or messaging training from the company that powers your e-mail? The answer is obvious.
Forrester's methodology argues that only after understanding who your buyers are, solidifying objectives and creating a strategy, you can then truly evaluate technology solutions to support your plans.
Education Is Ongoing, Not an Event
Now, let’s expand on the last point. It’s understandable that sales professionals are busy and that mindshare is limited. Social isn’t something that should be done without having a formal program in place. In fact, without company policies, procedures and programs in place, there is evidence of Social Selling having negative consequences. While this may not seem harmful, buyers are formulating opinions and being influenced by every move your sales team makes in the marketplace.
Therefore, workshop-based training shouldn’t be the end to your social efforts. They should be only the start. Training for a few weeks, also, can’t equate to ongoing Social Selling effectiveness.
Make no mistake about it, there is no sugarcoating the fact that education must be ongoing to cause a structural sales shift within the organization. While this may cause panic among some, have no fear as proven leaders have executed on this philosophy. Carl Farrell at SAS is a great example of this, where social is now becoming pervasive in the sales professional’s mindset, practice and market execution.
Curriculum Creation & Maintenance Will Be a Challenge
Unlike other sales training initiatives, Social Selling training provides an extra spin: curriculum will need to change and be updated constantly. The frequency is something that can be programmatic, however.
Due to the dynamic nature of social platforms, feature changes will impact the way you find, disseminate, reinforce and measure learning. Now imagine doing this with multiple moving targets.
Sales departments not only need to be trained on the “latest and greatest” but they need top-up and reinforcement at regular intervals to ensure they’re meeting buyers effectively without any obstacles.
As an example, LinkedIn changes features, the user interface and even placement of certain items regularly. Thus, in the case of Social Selling, the first impression is not only the last one. Impressions are created each and every time. Your program must follow suit to keep users interested, engaged and, most importantly, generating pipeline and revenue.
The Bottom Line
This list isn’t exhaustive and there are many other lessons to keep in mind as you begin to think about implementing Social Selling within your organization.
The key factor to remember is that contingency plans need to be in place for each element of the program. If you think there may be a hiccup, not only may it happen, it may cause confusion and loss of interest.