elements-buy-in-social-selling.jpgDo you believe in social selling, but the rest of your team doesn’t? You see your kids using their mobile devices every day, your customers interacting on Twitter and LinkedIn, and your employees scrolling through their social feeds at lunchtime, but for some reason, your boss won’t hear you out. What now?

Getting leadership buy-in for a social selling program requires a two-pronged approach using data and behaviour. But before we dive into those two areas, there is an overarching strategy you as a leader (or individual contributor) first need to understand.

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The most important piece to getting your leadership team to buy into a social selling program is you need to find a mobilizer. As we examine the 300 customers we’ve had, the one constant is that there’s always a senior leader who’s a mobilizer. This person always inherently believes that social is critical.

This post doesn’t provide tips on finding mobilizers within a buying committee, but if you’d like learn how to do that, I’d suggest picking up a copy of The Challenger Customer

1) THE DATA — BUILDING A BUSINESS CASE

What that mobilizer is tasked to do is build a business case for social. The business case has to prove a concept by taking a group of sales professionals and empirically showing how learning new skill, ie social selling, will translate into behavioral change. And that behavioral change will turn into sales outcomes that achieve incremental pipeline lift, net-new logo acquisition, greater customer retention — whatever the goal they want to achieve in their business unit.

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The mobilizer needs to conduct a test, called a status quo test, that captures where the business was before it decided to embark on becoming a digital sales force.

He or she then increases the skillset of the given group of sales professionals, reinforces that skillset and measures their performance afterwards. The above illustrates an audit we typically do, which measures content sharing and SSI score change over a period of time. 

The idea then is to compare the metrics that you use in that business unit, which are activities and opportunities and revenue, and gather empirical evidence to show that, again, learning translates to behavior, and that behavior translates to the sales outcomes that move the needle for the business.

2) THE DOG FOOD — ENACTING CHANGE

Now you have a document that actually is showing the granular data of how social selling is tied to the main business units.

But this isn’t all you need. At the same time, the senior leaders need to demonstrate that social is important to the business by eating their own dog food; by doing it themselves.

If you’re an individual contributor trying to create groundswell, notice your leaders’ digital behavior. The more digital they are, the better chance you have at convincing them the value of social. Some companies are naturally more active than others. See below. 

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So whether you’re the CEO or Chief Revenue Officer, you need to show that digital is important to you through the little things you do in the business. Trust me, this will make a huge impact on the sales team.

Basically you’re a content concierge; you’re taking third-party content and you’re sharing it with the sales force, you’re making videos of customer experiences and putting them on YouTube, you’re tweeting customer success, and you’re sharing content internally. Show your team that you are becoming a digital connoisseur.

You’ve got to remember that your sales force looks up to you. They look up to you, and they want to emulate your actions. So if your actions show that well, I’m asking you to be social, but it’s really not important to me, why would they do it?

Think of your own parent-child relationship with your children. If you tell them to do something but aren’t willing to do it yourself, do you really think they’re going to follow? A real leader needs to enact change.

Ultimately, getting buy-in from leadership for a social selling program is a two-part series. You need to build empirical evidence that this actually works. And at the same time, you have to demonstrate that you yourself are willing to change, thus if you’re asking other people to do it, they will follow.

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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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