I will be the first one to say that social selling can be an overused expression. It is unfortunate that many see social selling as something unique or distinctly different than traditional or historical sales methods. In one particular instance, it is describing what is fundamentally something we have been doing all along – seeking warm referrals.
While social selling can be the new manifestation of traditional or common sales behavior, it is not the salvation for poor sales skills or efforts. If you suck at sales, then social selling cannot save you. If you put forth poor sales efforts then, again, social selling cannot address your shortcomings. In some cases, social selling requires more effort but the payoff can be bigger. If you want the bigger payoff but are not willing to do the work then you only going to be disappointed.
LinkedIn has found that those who do put in the effort experience a greater likelihood of meeting or exceeding quota. According to LinkedIn, social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities per quarter and are 51% more likely to hit quota than social selling laggards.
So if that is a bit about what social selling is and isn’t to properly set your expectations then how do you set the expectations of your management and build a case for adopting social selling activities. Here are some suggestions for you to consider.
Be The Bright Spot
The Heath Brothers wrote a book about change management called Switch and one of the things the highlighted within the book was the idea of a bright spot. They defined a bright spot as someone or some people exhibiting the target behavior or attitude. By exhibiting the target behavior or attitude, they were more likely to influence their colleagues and peers to adopt the same behavior and/or attitude.
If you want to be a catalyst for change, then be the change. Be the bright spot that exemplifies what you want others to do or be. By show where and how social selling efforts positively benefited you, it will be much easier to convince others such as your colleagues and your leadership.
Your Competitors Are Doing It
See what your competitors are doing and flag any and all signs that they have already started to incorporate social selling strategies into the sales and marketing efforts. They may not have adopted social selling company wide but see if particular members of their sales or marketing teams are actively selling socially. Nothing can fire up support than the notion that your competitors are ahead of you in one or more areas.
The beauty of social media and social selling more specifically is that you can easily discover and monitor what you competitors are doing. Granted, they can do the same on you but the key is not to stick your head in the sand and think that neither you nor your competitors are considering social selling now or need to for the future. The competitive landscape is changing, and you need to change with it. Adapt or die is an aggressive expression but it seems to be an appropriate expression in this case.
Show Proof That Your Customers Are Active In Social Media
You have probably heard a lot of people talk about social media listening and meeting customers at their point of need. You may have wondered what it means and/or how to do it. It is about monitoring social media for mentions or updates that indicate a need or want on the part of a prospective customer. Ideally, proactive listening enables you to respond promptly, perhaps even ahead of your competition.
I should clarify that by “responding” I mean answering their questions or directing them to resources that can help them in their time of need. I do not mean that you try to close them on the first tweet response you put forth. They are seeking assistance rather than a sales pitch. Being helpful will differentiate you from those that elect to cut to the end and try to close.
I was working with a co-location company a few years ago, and some of the sales staff were skeptical about social selling and I showed them this query from Quora where someone was asking others, possibly even strangers, for recommendations for a co-location service provider where they might move there 1000+ servers.
Here was a prospective customer asking for co-location service provider recommendations and the salespeople that I was presenting to were floored. I was able to highlight a site, Quora, that they didn’t even know about where people sought information and assistance and that, in this case, had sales prospects amongst their users.
Again, the key would have been to respond with helpful information and some clarifying questions to better assist them rather than asking for the order. That’s not what people go to Quora seeking. They are seeking recommendations from their social networks.
People will use Google to answer questions and to gather information, but they will also ask their networks for help and recommendations. Social selling serves the latter where social savvy salespeople can identify inquiries and join the conversation by being helpful.
The question of ROI always comes up in the discussion of social selling. Let me clear up a common misconception. Social selling is not about closing more deals. You will not close a sale over Twitter. You will still have to meet someone face to face or over the phone to close the deal. Having said that, don’t be discouraged if you think ROI will be hard to prove. The goal is to show that social selling efforts led to more leads identified, more prospects engaged and added to your funnel, and ultimately more customers influenced over their decision-making journey through your content marketing efforts.
You can prove ROI by designing it into your efforts. You want to be able to approve a correlation or specific attribution between your actions and the outcomes. By that I mean, you want to be able to show that your social selling efforts expanded your network (i.e. prospects and referral sources), led to more calls, meetings, demos, and proposals, and, finally, more closed deals. For example, be sure that you can show how your outreach on LinkedIn or Twitter led to an initial engagement with a prospect and then how you continued to nurture that relationship that ultimately resulted in a sale.
Collaborate with your marketing team to ensure that your efforts are translating to click-throughs to downloadable content or to landing pages where calls-to-action are getting responses. Confirm that the content you are sharing, whether yours or from others, is resonating with your audience. You want to prove that your output is producing outcomes.
I think it was Peter Drucker who said, and I am paraphrasing here, “that which is measured is managed”. For the sake of this conversation, it is about measuring your social selling efforts to show management that what you are doing is working. Ideally, you want to be able to show growth in your funnel and sales calls, meetings, demos, and proposals.
Sales are metrics-driven so make sure your social selling efforts are the same. Your management will grateful to you for doing so and more easily convinced that social selling can complement, but not replace, your efforts and that of the rest of the sales and marketing teams.
Change is hard. Many support change as long as it does not impact them. Not everyone changes or adopts new behavior at the same rate. Patience is required to set the change in motion and see it through to the point where it is now standard operating procedure.
I hope these recommendations will help you build a strong enough case for social selling. If you have tried some of these or something else, then I would love to hear more about it. Maybe you have some experience that can help somebody else make the case for social selling in their organization.
Good luck and good selling.