Today’s buyer is becoming increasingly elusive and difficult to reach on a personal level. Social media has opened a powerful new communication channel where Salespeople can engage prospects directly. A Salesperson’s social presence is a unique digital brand that buyers engage with like a corporate brand. Marketing now has the mandate to help build the personal brands of every Salesperson and deliver meaningful content for Sales to use. This content is the lifeblood of any successful social selling program and must reflect both the corporate and the personal brand.
Communicate value in your social profile
The foundation of the Salesperson’s digital brand is the social profile. The social profile needs to speak to the Salesperson’s expertise and how they themselves add value to their client relationships. It’s about communicating their values and the values of the organization. The Sales profile must incorporate the corporate brand promise and personalize the message in line with the Salesperson’s specific interests and expertise.
The starting point for Marketing is to guide the social selling program to the platforms that are most appropriate for their client relationships. Often LinkedIn is the core for B2B Sales and Facebook for B2C, but it varies, depending on the nature of the relationships and businesses involved.
The next step is to audit the maturity of the current Sales organization on their use of and comfort with social platforms and tailoring a training and enablement program to the Sales team. Education should be a mix of media training, brand messaging, and Sales tactics. Designing the educational curriculum and communication strategy is a unique opportunity for collaboration between the organization’s Sales and Marketing leaders. How well Marketing is able to support Sales in these efforts is critical to creating and executing a successful social selling program. At the same time, Sales must clearly communicate their needs and provide feedback on interactions with prospective buyers and clients.
Share content to drive adoption
It’s amazing how often Salespeople forget about the media part of social media! The platforms are all designed to share content with your network, but a recent Vengreso report (The State of Digital Selling with LinkedIn 2019) found that a third of Salespeople never share any content and an additional third share infrequently. This is a big gap for Salespeople. Every share of relevant content and commentary builds the credibility of their brand promise and creates an opportunity to:
- Get in front of and engage prospects by appearing in their newsfeed
- Generate awareness in the decision influencer network connected to their prospects
- Keep their profile current to make an impactful first impression
When we talk with clients about why Salespeople aren’t sharing content it’s usually because Marketing is only curating branded content to share and it’s often not relevant to their audiences. Sales does want to share branded content, but it can’t be the only thing they share. Mix it up with personalized content such as from thought leaders and industry experts, including bylined articles from your own company leaders that have been published by a third-party (earned media), for maximum impact.
Need more evidence? A recent LinkedIn study supports the value of engaging in social – B2B buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a Sales professional who provides new insights about their business.
Tools and Technology: Making an impact at scale
Forrester is leading the research effort in this space and documented the underinvestment in social engagement tools despite the tremendous potential in developing B2B relationships (B2B Consultant Sellers Reign In The 21st Century). A key part of designing a successful social selling program is partnering with the right vendors. Look for vendors that are creating products specifically designed for Sales and used by Sales organizations, especially if you are a large, complex enterprise.
AI is another key consideration in enabling social selling programs. Putting the right content, at the right time at the fingertips of the Salesperson demands more than a great Content Strategy and Production team. Broadly the tools that solve content relevance fall into two categories: 1) Sales Enablement and 2) Social Sales Engagement (including tools like Grapevine6). Mary Shea at Forrester covers both technologies and I highly recommend her Wave reports on both (Access a complimentary Sales Social Engagement Tools New Wave Report here).
Sales Enablement tools provide sellers with content that enables one-to-one conversations. These may be pitch decks, data sheets or other collateral that’s assembled for the specific opportunity or lead. This content can be delivered electronically with the engagement tracked much like a website.
Social Sales Engagement tools are designed to provide sellers with content for one-to-many conversations. Some will be branded, first-party content, and equally important third-party content. Remember the objective is not amplifying your website impressions, it’s amplifying the impression your Sales team makes in the market. Find a tool that tailors the content to each individual Salesperson’s brand to ensure authenticity.
Executing a successful social selling program is now table stakes for generating revenue. From early adopter to early majority, social selling is the optimal entry point for aligning Marketing and Sales to close business. Now is the time for Marketing to get onboard and facilitate this dramatic Sales transformation.
I welcome your feedback in the comments below OR at firstname.lastname@example.org.