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The Best Format for Social Selling Instruction
Blog / All About CRM / Sep 2, 2014 / Posted by Andrew Jenkins / 5241

The Best Format for Social Selling Instruction

Instructor-Based, Online, or Webcast?

A few weeks ago I was asked to be a part of the #SSHour Tweetchat hosted by Brian Fanzo from Broadsuite and Rachel Miller from Pipeliner CRM. The topics we were discussing were the differences between social selling workshops and programs including the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Similar themes were part of a conversation I had recently with Jill Rowley, another social selling evangelist, regarding social selling and various training formats (i.e. online video tutorials, webcasts, and instructor-based training in real life) including the advantages and disadvantages of each.

I thought it would be good to revisit the questions from the Tweetchat as well as parts of the conversation I had with Jill Rowley and discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs that should be considered regarding social selling and the necessary commitment(s) for adoption.

No Single, Right Answer

There is no real right or wrong when it comes to social selling workshops, programs, and training formats plus it is not necessarily about choosing one over another because more than one type or format may be required to address each circumstance.

Let’s start by jumping back to the #SSHour Tweetchat questions. Without the 140 character restriction of Twitter, I have taken the liberty to expand the answers to provide more context and information.

Q1: What are the main differences between a social selling workshop and a program?

Workshops tend to be one-off events delivered in smaller chunks of time (i.e. a few hours, ½ a day, or a full day) with lots of information shared and Q & A at the end while programs are broken into modules delivered over a longer period of time so participants can absorb the content, apply the knowledge in real-life situations, and bring those experiences back to the program and its participants.

Q2: Do workshops provide any value for sales professionals new to social selling concepts?

Workshops are great for exposing people to social selling, especially senior leaders who would be sponsoring a program for sales and marketing staff. Workshops are also great for refreshers or updates. Given the rate of change in social media, it is important to check back with past participants to share news related to technology, features, functions, networks, success stories, and best practices.

Q3: What fundamentals should a successful social selling program include?

Key fundamentals of a successful program should include accountability for the participants, ties to current sales and marketing activities, and clear objectives and outcomes. There needs to be conversation about expectations at the outset and by expectations I mean of the participants, the sponsor(s), and those involved in delivery.

If the participants are not committed, the sponsors are not tracking the progress of their staff, or the vendor(s) delivering the workshops or programs are not having their feet held to the fire, then there are risks of yet another sales training initiative coming up short.

When it comes to outcomes, ROI is not just about better LinkedIn profiles, but new mindsets, methods, and of course, sales. Inclusion of sales and marketing staff to establish a new operating model is also a key fundamental for social selling.

The onus is on the vendor to provide regular updates to the executive sponsor of the workshop or program. Participants should get homework to increase the likelihood of adoption of the social selling mindset and behavior. This means that they must understand that it’s about more than sales training. It’s about change management. It is important to highlight successes, especially the early ones, amongst peers.

Q4: Which carries more weight: personal branding, network education, tool education?

Personal branding, network education, and tool education are all important. Personal branding is more passive and tends to be about attracting people to you, while networking is more about proactive outreach. Tools support both. Furthermore, building a personal brand takes time. Strategic networking can pay off sooner with the right effort in the right places. Choosing the right tools and methods can save time, too.

Q5: Who should attend a company’s social selling program?  

Sales, Marketing, and senior leadership should attend a company’s social selling program. In the case of the senior leaders and/or sponsors, they should be there at least for the kickoff and periodically throughout the program to view progress. Also, experienced staff plus new hires should attend if the program goes beyond social selling to include employee advocacy.

Q6: Ideally, how much time should be invested into a successful social selling program?

The time to invest in a social selling program depends on the size of the group of participants, but a minimum of 8-12 hours is recommended, not counting homework between modules or after the program ends. Participants need to make social selling part of their sales and marketing meetings to track their progress, share what works amongst peers, and share industry/tool updates.

Q7: What are the short-term metrics of a social selling program?

The short-term performance metrics for a social selling program tend to be qualitative and focus more on personal branding such as LinkedIn profiles and achieving a minimum standard amongst participants — one that is also reflective of the corporate brand.

Q8: What are the long-term metrics of a #socialselling program? #SShour

The long-term performance metrics are more quantitative such as network growth rate, number of referrals, number of InMails/emails sent and their open rate, the number of calls/meetings scheduled, and, most importantly, the number of sales made with the associated amount of revenue.

Q9: What sort of tactics do you share during your programs for profiling prospects on social?

I show how to:

  • profile prospects beyond information found on LinkedIn
  • find rapport-building insights
  • listen for conversation triggers and data mining
  • use tools and methods to gather competitive intelligence
  • get more referrals from their networks
  • find insights and prospects in unusual places
  • outsmart the competition

Q10: What are the most common objections for implementing a social selling program?

The most common objections I get are:

  • No time
  • Our customers don’t use social media
  • Our sales team isn’t technical
  • We can see using LinkedIn but Twitter?
  • No budget
  • That’s done by marketing
  • We are still figuring out our social media policy
  • Too risky
  • Don’t see the need or the chance for ROI

You can deal with objections by translating investment in the program to revenue and showing insights from preliminary listening — including customers and prospects having relevant conversations to the company’s interests and objectives. If the right kind of conversations were had up front regarding current sales and marketing efforts as well as outcomes, then overcoming objections should be possible.

Advantages/Disadvantages of Approaches

Many of us have experienced training in person with an instructor, via an online learning platform that provides access to videos and other learning content, or with an instructor via remote webcast.

Each approach has strengths and weaknesses but it comes down to what trade-offs you are prepared to accept. This is not an exhaustive list of advantages and disadvantages, but let me explain what I mean by looking more closely at each training method from a social selling perspective.



  • Real-time interaction with the instructor and other participants
  • Collective learning through sharing amongst participants
  • Curriculum is more current
  • Timely, real-world examples are integrated into the discussions
  • Participants are more engaged


  • Doesn’t scale easily without more instructors, train-the-trainer, or online access
  • Limited access of participants to instructors and content
  • No ability to replay content to see/hear what you may have missed
  • Need to limit the number of participants
  • Providing refreshed or new content after original program can be difficult

Online Learning (Video/Learning Modules)


  • Scalable in terms of the number of participants and geographic reach
  • Participants can replay or revisit content to see/hear what they missed and compound their learning
  • New or refreshed content can be easily distributed to past participants
  • Convenient access


  • Risk of out-of-date content
  • Risk of lower engagement of participants
  • Some participants may not be accustomed to online learning or prefer other formats
  • Initial and ongoing production costs
  • Reliance on technology for access

Remote Webcast Instruction


  • Scalable to some degree in terms of the number of participants and geographic reach
  • Participants can replay or revisit content to see/hear what they missed and compound their learning (assuming each session is recorded)
  • Convenient access


  • Risk of lower engagement of participants
  • Some participants may not be accustomed to online learning or prefer other formats
  • Reliance on technology for access

As you can see, a case can be made for each format so I am not going to say that one should win. Frankly, there is a potential need for all of them depending on the situation.

An Educational Perspective

I teach at two different universities, and both are rolling out online programs to complement in-class, instructor-based courses. Notice I said complement rather than replace because it is not about one or the other. Different student types and circumstances drive the need for different training formats and, in the case of enterprise training, a case can probably be made for two or more delivery methods.

Historically, I have been responsible for instructor-based training but increasingly I am being asked to develop online curriculum to address the access, convenience, and scaling issues. The instructor-based approach ensures very current curriculum and maintains a high level of quality related to content and participant engagement.

In the past month alone, LinkedIn has released an updated mobile app, introduced an entirely new mobile app called Connected, and launched the new Sales Navigator premium account as a distinctly separate platform. That’s a great deal of change in a short period of time — and difficult to incorporate into online learning platforms and their associated content. However, if those changes were the only major ones for LinkedIn for a while, the online platforms could update content and be current for a while.

Deciding which method(s) to go with won’t be easy. Every situation is different and there is a great deal to consider. Organizations need to look at the number of people to be trained in the near and long-term, their location, their learning preferences, budget, and more.

The Potential of Social Selling

Old-school selling and the associated cold calling don’t work as well as they used to. Social selling has the potential to increase referrals, turn cold calls into warm ones, add prospects to the top of the funnel, and move them along their decision journey to closure. No matter the training method, exposing salespeople to social selling can only help offset the diminishing returns of the old ways of doing things.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about training, trade-offs, and social selling. Please comment below or reach out through your preferred channel. I look forward to hearing from you.

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About Author

Andrew Jenkins helps companies grow revenue by embracing social media and social selling strategies. He regularly speaks and presents at the top business schools and is a professor at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.

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