Of all the departments to transform into advocates, the sales team – your company’s revenue generators – should be the easiest and most compelling. Sales quota carriers and business development experts thrive on promoting your brand and products to the outside world.
But sales professionals can be especially resistant to learning and adopting new practices and technology, especially when they are making their numbers without them.
Here are some ideas on what you can do to make social selling work:
Get sales executives and first line managers excited – or scared.
Whether you use industry data, stories of social selling wins, or losses to the competition, give sales leaders reasons to be champions of social selling. One large technology company’s executive team famously got on board when the company lost a big deal to a competitor because the buyers couldn’t find any executive team members on LinkedIn.
Enable most-likely-to-succeed territories first.
Using a combination of data on your most social customers and markets and the sales teams who are most enthusiastic about opting in to social selling, start your support and enablement programs in territories and selling roles that have the most upside potential. In many companies, inside sales is a logical place to start, given these reps already use a wide range of technology and a measurable process to connect with buyers who are already engaging on digital and social platforms.
Involve sales people in your program, content design and enablement.
Rather than issuing one-way directives, ask sales people for their ideas. What kind of training, tools and content do they find most helpful? What input are they getting from customers on content or events? What obstacles have to be removed in order for social selling to be embraced? Fast-growing social companies facilitate regular communication and collaboration between marketing and sales – or invest in marketing resources that report (or are dedicated resources) to sales – to continuously improve programs and accelerate results. Some companies have identified program-stopping roadblocks in compensation plan design, systems access or performance that had to be addressed before having any hope of getting sales to buy in.
Make heroes and advocates out of the early social sellers.
Put your marketing skills to use and promote social selling programs and results company wide, highlighting the reps that are social selling leaders. Research shows a correlation between top performing reps and social selling usage, so you should also be able to show that social sellers make more money. Top companies know the power of peer influence and have created social seller champion programs. Reps are teaching other reps why and how it’s worth learning new ways to sell socially.
Design and build a measurable, scalable program.
It’s not hard to find one-off anecdotes about how sales people are closing deals using some form of social selling. But few companies have built repeatable processes that are followed predictably by teams or the entire sales force. Social selling leaders are clear about the measurable business outcomes they expect from investments in social selling, by when, and from whom as well as the plan for expansion.
Define what you mean by social selling – and where it fits within sales process.
What does social selling mean in your company – sharing valuable content with buyers? Having a customer-centric profile on social networks? Using connections for introductions? Listening to buyers who engage in social platforms? Knowing a buyer’s influencers? Researching industry trends to provide insights? Following trigger events? Sharing insights in online communities? Using video chat? All of these have been described as social selling, so sales professionals need guidance on where to focus. Social selling playbooks by selling role are a way to visually document where, when and how sellers should use social practices.
Enable social selling with technology, but don’t overdo it.
Choose technology very selectively. Results-driven sales reps will gravitate to the tools that are easiest to learn and use. Tools that integrate with CRM will have a leg up on other products, too, as this is where sales teams track and forecast their opportunities. This means it will be easier for you to measure the influence of social selling on revenue – assuming you’ve set up the system in such as way that you can track the business impact.
Marketing plays a crucial role in social selling programs with the best results. By following these suggestions and getting inside the minds of your sellers, you should be able to transform your sales team into your most enthusiastic and successful of all employee advocates.
By Anneke Seley
Anneke Seley is founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, a digital/social and inside sales strategy and implementation consultancy. Anneke is recognized as a pioneer and thought leader in the field of inside sales, as the designer of Oracle’s global multibillion dollar inside sales organization and coauthor of “Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices.” Reality Works Group helps companies from start-ups to global enterprises design, launch and measurably improve process-driven and technology-enabled sales teams.