Digital Transformation and Social Selling
While classic sales tactics like cold calling, broadcasting ads, and email blasts still convert, they’re doing so at a rate that’s decreasing year-on-year.
To sell to today’s modern buyers, sales leaders must take a buyer-centric approach.
“As a salesperson, you need to go to the channel where your customers are now going,” says Amar Sheth, Partner, Customer Experience at Sales for Life. “It’s not that they’re not on the phone or they’re not on email, but they’re not waiting by the phone anymore.”
Instead of being fully reliant on email and phone, sales professionals are now encouraged to complement their cold-calling strategies with social selling campaigns.
After all, people purchase everything from clothes to electronics to food online. They also conduct online research on big-ticket items, from vehicles to vacation packages, before purchasing. What makes you think that they don’t also research software, HR best practices, insurance, or corporate healthcare policies online?
The Impact of Social
Social selling is also not exclusively applicable to the tech industry. In fact, when used alongside traditional sales methods such as email and phone, social selling contributed more than 50% of revenue in several industries.
However, what many sales professionals don’t realize is that social selling cannot be solely confined in a box. In order to be successful, an organization’s social selling efforts must be supported from top to bottom.
Before you proceed, you should first identify where your organization is in the digital transformation process.
Digital Sales Transformation: Where are you now?
The sales maturity curve below is a great way to identify where your organization is. According to Lipp, change usually starts within a few individuals experimenting with social methods and having some degree of success. The social selling practices that work eventually get adopted by their whole sales team, With continued success, it eventually becomes a fully operationalized and cross-functional process with full support from top stakeholders.
The Sales Maturity Curve
You have not established with your sales team the mindset that social and digital communication will have a positive impact on the business. There is little to no buy-in from commercial leaders on the effectiveness of social, no social governance, and no formal training on social.
Your company has no formalized social training program, governance, or best practices. Only a small number of sales professionals are meeting their goals via LinkedIn networking.
“Often you’ll see in a sales team the top performers, the people who are meeting quota and hitting their numbers,” says Lipp. “These are the people who are studying their craft: They’re reading books, they’re learning. That’s part of why they’re better at researching the market, mapping relationships, learning how to engage.”
These individuals are the key to scaling up your social selling efforts.
“As a sales leader, take a pulse of your current state, not only from a metrics and goals point of view but also of your actual people,” says Lipp. “Who are the real changers internally? Who are the real people that are willing to learn and stick their necks out for the greater good of the organization?”
You’ve probably done or are doing at least one of the following:
- Your department’s sales tool stack needs to standardize a LinkedIn product, so you invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
- You have started training workshops. You have tapped a Social Media Marketer or a “digitally native” sales professional to facilitate training.
- Your sales enablement team is trying to gather ideas for a “Social Selling 101” workshop filled with a basic assortment of tips, tricks and tactics.
Social selling has increasingly become a priority.
Your frontline sales leaders are driving accountability throughout their sales forces to ensure social actions are reaching the defined measurable milestones.
The digital marketing team is working side by side with sales to fuel the insights (content) that sales professionals will use to engage their buyer.
Social selling is now a by-product of your organization’s effective sales and marketing alignment, and the two teams are formulating new ways to measure success.
You have established an insights committee to further fuel sales conversions.
Everyone in digital marketing and sales is accountable for helping buyers throughout their journey. The marketing and sales teams are generating “team revenue” together.
At this level, it’s imperative that your social selling efforts have full support from your organization’s top executives and stakeholders.
“At the highest level, you have to demonstrate that social selling will help you grow pipeline or improve win rates; commercial performance will be improved,” says Lipp.
“Start with the outcomes. Defend them well, outline that you’ve tailored the outcomes to what their growth priorities are or where they’re trying to go so it becomes infused with the top growth strategy of an organization. Pending that buy-in, you could then show people how to get there or how to do the work to make it happen.”
Break Down The Silos To Succeed
Social Selling vs. Social Media Marketing
While social selling and social media marketing are both done on basically the same platforms, their methods and goals are different. Think of social media as a telephone, says Sheth. “There are two people using the telephone for different means. There’s one person using the phone to call a certain person–that’s social media marketing. And another person, social selling, is calling another group of people for different reasons.”
Social selling, on the other hand, is needed to ensure that your prospects buy from you and not from your competitors. It’s all about establishing relationships with the right people within a buying committee, and involves targeted content marketing, meetings with prospects, and personal branding.
“Social media marketing has to be done to get the broader brand of the company out there, to let people know what the brand is, what the company believes in, their vision, mission, purpose, customer stories, etc., which is one type of advertising,” explains Sheth. “And then social selling is just something that’s done by the revenue-driving team, primarily for the reason of building relationships that ultimately lead to revenue.”
The Benefits of Social Selling
“In 2012, something like 72% of salespeople made quota. Now it’s 56%, and some studies say it’s 46% or 50%,” says Sheth. “So if customers are actually not responding to you, how are you going to make quota?”
Below, we take a look at some statistics that should make a compelling case for social selling.
01 Revenue Growth
Social selling enables sales professionals to better qualify leads, write bids, and adjust deal renewal language—which has been correlated to 40 to 50% more new business and 80-90% retention rates.
02 Quota Attainment
- Sales reps who are sending out cold calls and emails struggle to talk to people in the market
- Modern buyers are wary of sales professionals and tired of hearing sales pitches
- Most reps don’t do enough research on prospects and are stumped when it comes to starting conversations
- Enables sales professionals to start conversations with prospects based on proper research on prospects’ known interest points
- They offer relevant content, which helps your reps form strong connections
03 Customer Retention
As a result, over 33% of a company’s customers are less likely to cancel or churn after the adoption of social selling.
04 Building Relationships
Modern buyers demand information to make informed decisions. They’ll only engage with sales professionals who are willing and able to provide insights along their journey. 62% of sales pros at large companies agree social selling helps them build stronger and more authentic relationships.
05 Educating Customers
Today’s buyer is looking for a partner who provides true insight. Don’t sell to them. Instead, educate them. Explain how you have addressed their challenges by using e-books, blogs, tip sheets, and more. When you establish yourself as a helpful expert in the field, your prospects will remember you before making a buying decision.
06 Competitive Advantage
07 Engaging Buyers Online
With social selling proving to be clearly beneficial to any company, regardless of the industry, how can sales leaders properly integrate this strategy into their existing sales methodologies?
Integrating Social Selling Into Your Sales Process
How to Create the Ideal Customer Profile
The sales and marketing teams should work together to gather information about the target buyer, sifting through the buyer representatives to get to the actual decision-makers. You will need data on their skills, day-to-day activities, and professional goals and challenges, plus their companies’ key business priorities, organizational structure, and more. The output is what you call the ideal customer profile.
In some instances, target customers might not be very visible online. A workaround is to use social media to surround your buyers.
“If they’re not overly social, are they mentioned socially online?” asks Sheth. “Find that out first. Then find out about the company using publicly available information. Your company, your target prospects, your current accounts are putting up so much information online. Use that to bring greater relevance and context to your sales process.”
If neither your target buyer nor their company has a strong online presence, you can try learning about the industry that your prospect or target account lives in.
“Know everything about them. Find out what makes them tick, what makes them move, what drives them,” says Sheth. “Use all of this information and package it to power your sales process with one simple goal: Greater relevance and greater context with every interaction.”
A Step-by-Step Guide
Top-to-bottom digital sales transformation is the first and the most crucial step in social selling integration. The executive team needs to truly believe that social selling will positively impact the business. You also need triple-alignment: the sales, marketing, and sales enablement leaders must all work together.
The Role of the Sales Leader: With proper sales leadership accountability, a sales professional will learn a new skill, and the sales leader will be responsible for helping to ensure that newly acquired skill is actioned into a sales outcome.
The Role of the Marketing Leader: The marketing team must become the factory that creates, organizes, helps expand discovery of and measures the engagement of all insights consumed by your buyers.
The Role of the Sales Enablement Leader: Makes sure that the sales and marketing teams are working together harmoniously by 1) Visualizing and documenting current sales process for both sales and marketing, 2) Confirming the sales process with the sales and marketing team, 3)Interweaving social selling tactics in the process
Sales leaders should ensure sales professionals implement social selling into their daily cadence through one-on-one meetings and constant coaching. They should examine learning behaviour and translate it into sales outcomes. Most importantly, sales leaders must demonstrate they believe in social selling through their own actions.
“Training and coaching all starts with sales leadership,” says Shanks. “Sales leaders need to understand why they’re doing this, the impact this will have, and how they will drive accountability to their frontline sales managers.
“They will also enable the frontline sales managers to incorporate everything that they’re learning into their one-on-ones.”
According to Forrester’s Report Embrace B2B Social And Meet Buyers On Their Terms, 67% of companies need marketing to support social selling activities with content. Sales professionals rely on the marketing team to create content they can share with prospects that will provide real value. Integrating the sales and marketing departments will result in an influx of new ideas for digital insights.
Sales enablement helps connect the sales and marketing teams and bring them together into one workable system. They find the people, processes, and technology to ensure social selling can be fully integrated into their current sales processes.
The most successful social selling implementations come from progressive enablement teams that have no fear pushing the internal sales status quo. Their enablement leaders know that learning behavior is a leading indicator to future sales success.
Without enablement, there would be no long-term behavioral strategy that will ensure a sustainable cultural shift.
Methods of Alignment
The sales, marketing and enablement departments all fall under the revenue team. As they play an integral role in an organization’s structure, they need to build trust, rapport, and accountability within themselves. Here are some ways to facilitate this.
- Leadership: Team leaders should provide accountability to their sales professionals.
- Buying Journey: The revenue team should create a clear picture of the customer. This helps them gain insight into your ideal customer profile, define common goals, and the milestones in your buyer’s journey.
- People: Team building events, such as team lunches and outside-of-the-office gatherings, go a long way in establishing trust and rapport between all members of the revenue team.
- Service Level Agreements: These are outlined for each stage of the revenue cycle. These determine how quickly the sales team will respond to an MQL and the consequences if they don’t do so. It encourages accountability and makes measuring results easier.
- Common Metrics: Each department will have similar activities. These are best measured together to better predict sales impact.
- Technology: While not directly responsible for alignment, the right software and tools can effectively accelerate and scale your sales strategy.
- Content Creation Process: Establishing an Insights Committee gets sales involved and ensures that marketing is always creating content that buyers are looking for.
- Common Set of Definitions: Minimize misunderstandings by properly defining terms, processes, and other important details. This fosters effective, clear communication between the departments.
- Define Your Ideal Customer Profile: Who does your sales and marketing team really want to target? The revenue team as a whole should be able to define who their ideal customer is.
Once the sales, marketing, and enablement teams are aligned, the next important step is to create a department that concentrates on creating content and research, working alongside sales professionals to help them in their territory. Include a content marketer, a sales development representative, and a sales executive in your digital selling environment.
Rather than marketing on a massive scale, they focus on creating specific content for a specific audience. Together, the digital selling team measures your buyer’s digital footprints and monitors buyers’ content consumption.
A tactical sales leader at the Regional VP or SVP level will drive accountability and bring awareness to the leadership team, the board, and advisors. When the highest echelons of leadership communicate a clear and strong vision, sales professionals will grasp the importance of social selling. Plus, sales professionals will emulate you since they assume your actions are a reflection of what made you so successful.
Shanks emphasizes that the sales team should take the lead in the whole initiative—not the marketing leader, nor the enablement leader. This drives accountability from sales leaders, down to the frontline sales managers and representatives.
“The sales professional reports to the sales managers, who report to the chief sales officer. Only that hierarchy can truly own the program,” Shanks explains. “The marketing function and sales operations and sales enablement are supporting functions of a social selling program…they can only be a part of the buying committee and the steering committee that makes this a reality within the sales organization.”
To ensure that all departments are working towards the same goals, get sales, marketing, and sales enablement leaders to define what success looks like for them. You can first craft a common goal, then create more tactical goals for each individual department. Make sure to set a defined timeline, quantifiable for your goals.
“Recognize that the only things you can control are actions and activities. Everything else is an influence, an alignment to something greater,” says Shanks.
To figure out how to achieve—and exceed—your targets, reverse-engineer your goals. Figure out what you need to do every day, week, and month to get where you need to be.
Set reasonable yet challenging targets around the following:
- Messages sent
- Content shared
- LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) Score
“That target may be a revenue goal or a volume goal—a deal flow, as an example—and those are called business outcomes, or goals,” continues Shanks. “And these business outcomes, you cannot achieve directly. You can only highly influence them, align with them.”
Your sales actions and activities will impact how you achieve your sales objectives. To see if you’re on track to achieving your desired business outcomes, you need to establish milestones: stages where you should be at during a certain time in order to highly influence your goal.
Here’s another reason for the sales team to take the lead in social selling: Only the sales team knows the right sales actions and can set the right goals in order to achieve the desired business outcomes.
“A common mistake that marketing or enablement teams make is they will create arbitrary actions and activities that they think are important and are aligned to their own goals,” says Shanks. “Marketers will say, ‘I need you to share so much content.’ Enablement will say, ‘I need you to do this.’ None of these are sales actions that highly influence objectives that are aligned with business outcomes.”
Each sales professional should schedule 30 to 60 minutes per day for social selling. During this time, they should have a set of repeatable tasks they can execute that are tied to sales results.
Once it’s part of sales professionals’ routines, social selling activities will be nearly impossible for them to give up.
Sales training and coaching should start from the top.
“The frontline sales managers should have the capability to inspect green flags or the red flags, the right things or the wrong things,” says Shanks. “Being able to coach their sellers, and hold them accountable to those green and red flags—that is the start of every program.”
“Once the sales managers are ready to be an accountability coach and leader, they can then pass on their knowledge into the sellers’ hands to be consumed in bite-sized chunks every week. They learn a skill, apply it in the market, and amplify that skill with other skills.”
With successful one-on-one coaching, you get the results that you measure and coach toward. If you’re constantly reinforcing elements of social selling to go deeper and wider into accounts, expect that social selling will become part of their daily cadence.
Steps for successful coaching:
- Learn First: Before your sales professionals learn a new social selling action, you should learn the action first.
- Add context: You then contextualize the action for the sales team (why it’s important, how it works within your sales process, what value it will provide).
- Reinforcement: Later, reinforce that same social selling action at each one-on-one meeting until you feel each sales professional has incorporated this action into his or her sales DNA.
- Build Habits: Once the previous action has become habitual, layer on a new social selling action into a sales professional’s daily cadence.
The Importance of Content in Social Selling
In order to produce content that customers want and need, Marketing should bring Sales into the content creation process. The integration of the two teams will also increase the flow of new ideas for digital insights, which drive conversions.
The 4 Pillars of Insight Production
- Create a foundation for developing new insights at scale. This will accelerate depending on how much you invest in people, processes, and technology.
- Organize insights, which need to be exposed to your buyers fast. Use tools to capture and share insights in a seamless motion.
- Discover innovative “guerrilla marketing-like” ways that you grow sales pipeline. Experiment, measure, rinse, and repeat.
- Evaluate every interaction your insights are having with buyers. By compounding these interactions together, you will uncover trends that help you roadmap a prescriptive way to make incremental improvements to your Insights Factory.
Is Social Selling Training Really Necessary?
But this is why not everyone who tries to integrate social selling into their sales strategies succeeds.
“To learn it in a sequenced and proper chronological manner that has a proven success record, that takes into account time so you’re not spending 2, 3, 4, 500 hours figuring the stuff out—that’s what makes training crucial,” says Sheth.
Here’s what a great sales training program can do for your organization:
- Educates the Company on the Value of Social Selling Executive buy-in is critical for social selling success. It’s necessary for reinforcement and support, which then trickles down throughout the entire salesforce. A sales training company should help you convince your sales professionals why social selling works and how it will benefit them. The most successful companies see social selling as one piece of their larger digital selling organization.
- Trains All Levels Just because your salespeople are successful doesn’t mean they’ll be naturally great in a leadership role. They need training too. Additionally, social selling training can become a two-way street. Sales leaders should stay open to learning new techniques from salespeople.
- Aligns Departments Properly To increase adoption levels of social selling, include the sales operations, enablement, and marketing teams in training. Doing so will help embed the new way of selling into your company’s DNA.
- Streamlines Sales Processes Sales professionals spend, on average, 65% of their time on activities other than sales. A sales training company will help you determine which activities your sales reps are spending the majority of their time on. They’ll help address any skills gaps and elevate the performance of your team. The most effective sales teams apply one methodology consistently. Continuous sales training ensures your team members will keep improving, thus boosting your sales effectiveness results.
- Set Goals and Measure Results A sales training company will help you set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals that align with your company’s priorities. In addition to allowing you to measure your efforts, setting goals will also motivate your sales people. They can provide your sales reps with a self-service metric dashboard so they can check their individual performance and progress towards goals.
Tools For Social Selling Success
“For me personally, the challenges that exist in social selling adoption are actually challenges of the human condition, which is not having a proper mindset. This means not acknowledging the problem on purpose or not genuinely being able to identify the problem. Second, not having the courage or the willingness to learn what it takes to solve the problem.”
Once you’ve fixed these two mindset issues, Amar continues, how do you use tools to achieve that?
Sales acceleration happens only when the mindset is shifted first. Oftentimes, the challenge in any organization is the sales teams’ low technology and tool adoption, even social selling tools. Focus on retooling the mindset first before offering any technology to sales.
- Sidekick: Alerts you when someone interacts with your content and helps you find out if a prospect is worth pursuing
- Timetrade: A scheduling app where prospects can schedule themselves on your calendar, and you can include a link within your emails as a call to action
- Rapportive: A free Gmail plugin that searches the social web for information about your prospect to qualify them and give you insights into how to get their attention
- Boomerang: A free Gmail plugin lets you write all your emails at once, schedule them to send at the most effective times, and remind you when to follow up
- Nimble: Automatically pulls social insights for your contacts so your sales team can get all the information they need on prospects in one place
- Datanyze: Lets you know who has started or stopped using products or services from your competitors
- Feedly: Can be used as your main hub to search, organize, and share articles with your audience on social media
- Clearslide: A sales engagement platform that delivers the right content at the right time and provides analytics to help you improve your customer communications
- Engagio: Account-based analytics platform that helps you understand the impact your marketing has on your audience
- Prezi: Presentation tool that helps you articulate the value of your products or services in an engaging and persuasive way
- Brainshark: Sales enablement software that transforms static content into interactive video presentations
- Canva: Offers professionally designed business presentation templates
- Gotomeeting: Enables online collaboration between customers and colleagues in real time
- Docusign: Online signature tool
- Savo: Offers a range of sales enablement tools that help you align your sales and marketing teams, deliver the right message at the right time, and measure the impact of your marketing efforts on sales
- Microsoft Dynamics
- HubSpot CRM
One of the most important social selling tools you can have in your arsenal is LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It aggregates many of the processes that your sales team has been doing with a regular LinkedIn account, but packages the process for Account-based selling.
The Social Selling Index Score (SSI Score)
A gauge for your team to stack rank team members, and against industry peers.
Has a total score of 100 and is weighted equally across 4 areas:
- Establishing your professional brand
- Finding the right people
- Engaging with insights
- Building relationships
Social Selling Metrics
Creating Quantifiable Goals
“It all starts with where you’re trying to go,” says Lipp. “Are you trying to grow new business, land new logos, or expand in, say new markets, things like that? Or are you much more focused on protecting renewals and revenue churn, going further and deeper into your existing base?”
From there, you can craft common goals for the whole organization, as well as tactical goals for each department. These goals should be quantifiable: Numbers don’t lie.
Measuring Your Efforts
A sales training company can guide you in selecting three levels of indicators:
- The tools and processes you can implement to help you understand if sales and marketing professionals are digesting new ideas and applying those ideas to their daily activity. Helps you determine if your sales reps are taking full advantage of social selling.
- Measured by leveraging learning management systems during training programs (e.g. assignments, exams)
- CRM: Are social conversations being logged as activity?
- Marketing Automation: Are social campaigns driving new leads? What impact is social having on lead generation?
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator: Are representatives leveraging this tool on a day-to-day basis? Which sales team members are consistent users and are driving new social conversations?
- Employee Advocacy: Are your sales representatives frequently sharing insights? How are their social networks becoming lead-generation machines for your company?
- Are you trying to hit a certain sales quota attainment with a certain percentage being social selling?
- What percentage of your pipeline is attributable to social?
- Is there an incremental change in the pipeline because of social?
- What net new bookings and conversations can be attributed to social conversations?
Maintaining A Cadence
A defined cadence isn’t about barraging a buyer via all mediums, all the time. But it does require you to be fluid and to experiment with different content: Articles, video messages and email templates that include a digital insight attached, voicemail messages leading to a landing page, and so on. What’s important is that you are adding value at every touchpoint.
From there, the seller moves on to Planning—developing executive business plans for the top accounts. Engagement starts after, powered by synchronous and asynchronous video.
Next, the seller Activates customers by applying the signal intelligence and the stories they have created against their accounts. The seller should gauge the customers’ feedback—also known as buying intent—before moving to the Reprioritize phase, wherein the seller will redevelop their TAM based on all the data they have gleaned.
“What was really interesting to me in 2020 is that we had over half a dozen customers that had 100% of their team complete their learning,” recalls Lipp.
As the nature of social media is guaranteed to evolve in the future, continuous social selling training is a crucial investment for any company, future-proofing your pipeline and revenue growth.