Future of Social Selling

by Jamie Shanks and Sales for Life

Jamie Shanks, Sales for Life, Future of Social Selling

Whether your company is ready for it or not, there is a progression happening. And the future of Social Selling lies in the creation of digital selling departments. Enterprise level organizations are already doing this, and over the next five years, it will be the norm. Join this session and discover digital-ready organizations should evolve in the next few years.

Webinar Transcript

You've already been listening to some amazing speakers on Social Selling Best Practices, but now I think it's time for you to start understanding where the future of all this thing is going. What is social selling? What is the future of social selling? We've developed an infographic that helps you understand there are five levels. For most organizations they're still at level one and two, but I want to break down in detail what are these levels so that you could do a self-assessment. I want you to be able to walk your sales floor, talk to some of the senior leaders, and get a sense of where you are in the pecking order, so that you can then bring that back to the organization and set goals and boundaries of how you're going to get from stage one to two to three and so forth.

The first stage that you need to understand is called Selective Social Activity. PeopleLinx did an amazing job of creating an e-book, and they called it Random Acts of Social. Here's the easiest way to determine that you're part of the Random Acts of Social. Here's what I'd like you to do, walk around your sales floor, talk to some of your marketing team and you'll know you're at Random Acts of Social if, as an example, there are couple sales professionals on your team that are really strong using LinkedIn. You hear stories about them booking meetings using LinkedIn or that you notice that they're much more active on social than anybody else, but here's the thing, internally there's no process. Your sales enablement team is not involved at all, marketing is creating content but there's no central library, there's no communication back and forth between marketing and sales, it's strictly a few rock stars in your organization are driving tons of business using LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is going to be the primary tool for these people and if you try to duplicate what they're doing, it's very difficult because they don't even know how to articulate what makes them successful. You might ask them to make a couple of screen casts or write down what they're doing. But here's what I'd like you to do, if you want to determine if you're in this particular stage, just take a look at your sales floor, identify the percentage of sales professionals that are using LinkedIn as a tool, and also leverage your CRM. Go into your CRM and determine are there any leads, opportunities, revenue tied to social? There's probably zero consistency or even best practices internally about identifying if that is true. I think back to when we started Sales for Life and we started doing basic training, basic tips, tricks and tactics. This is where the majority or basically every company in the world was at that time, because for the most part, everybody saw LinkedIn as a recruiting tool. There were the odd sales professional that was fairly strong, but there was no corporate governance nor is there a standard proficiency amongst the organization.

This is the stage you need to move out of immediately. This is the stage where all the writing around the topic of social selling is based upon. It's the scary zone because over the next couple of years, you're going to be absolutely overtaken by your competitors because they are finding ways to start at mass moving their sales organization out of a completely random set of actions and activities around social, so that's stage number one. Stage number two is very simple. It is LinkedIn tips, tricks and tactics. It's LinkedIn training. I look back at the history of our business, 2012 we released a curriculum, our very first curriculum, and we would go first with small businesses and then medium and enterprise companies. We would train them on tips, tricks, and tactics. I mean that was literally the slogan and we've done this for a couple of years. Here's how you know you're in this stage, you have hired a consultant, you brought them into your organization, you did a half-day workshop or a full-day workshop.

Perhaps even enablement developed its own first curriculum. It was like a social selling 101, it showed people how to get on Twitter, how to use LinkedIn, basic functionality or the most extreme versions of this is your organization is determined, yes, LinkedIn is a power tool. You bought LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and LinkedIn has done its two, three or four training sessions to help you understand best practices. This is the level of proficiency of most technology companies around the world right now. Technology, IT, IT services companies and telecom companies are really in this band right now, level number two. How do I know I'm also in this level? You have not integrated this into your CRM, marketing automation and marketing department in general, hasn't even come into part of the equation. All that you've done is selected a business unit whether it was inside sales or field sales, you gave them Navigator, you rolled it out and hopefully a few of the rock stars and some of your core performers will figure it all out and they'll drive business socially. That's stage number two.

Stage number three, stage number three is when the first time you've invested in what is now called social selling. Social selling has a proficiency. You've decided that you need to have a pragmatic process, a prescriptive process to being able to drive real business at a corporate level. What is social selling? Social selling is really simple. If you look at it from your perspective, social selling is made up of three types of sales tactics. Tactic number one is really where marketing starts to become really important. That is called insights based selling. For the very first time, you invited marketing into the mix. Marketing is going to be involved in creating content that aligns with your buyer. This is the very first time you started identifying a content library as an example but insights based selling means that your sales department is choosing very specific content at very specific times to share with very specific buyers. You could see the interrelationship between marketing and sales. That's insight based selling. That again has been around for a long time but has really become mechanized using tools like LinkedIn and content sharing platforms like Twitter or content aggregation tools like Feedly. 

The second part to this is trigger based selling. Trigger based selling has been around a lot longer than I have, but the difference here is you can mechanize this using tools like LinkedIn and Google. I could see job change alerts, I could see mergers and acquisitions, I could see capital raises going on in businesses in my territory or industries that I serve. The final piece is referral based selling. This has been around for 50 or a hundred years, but the difference is tools like LinkedIn allow me to determine the road map and relationships of people in various different companies or people in your university alumni that know each other. I could see people that used to work at some of your customers and who they know. All three of these components; insights based, trigger based and referral based selling is now encompassing social selling.

How do I know that I'm in this stage? This is when you started to bring in an enablement platform, whether you are using your internal enablement team or you're using a third party firm like ours, you've decided that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That you could no longer have a skill gap between your new hires or some of your less performing sales professionals and your rock stars. You've decided that at mass, you needed to ensure that the skill proficiency of everybody is equal. What you've done is you've brought in training. This is the first time you really invested in a platform that changes behavior. If you looked at this as kind of a long-term goal, this isn't about one workshop or two workshops, this is something that you're going to do over the course of the year and years as you hire new employees. 

Now, the most important piece and where you know that you've really started to dive into social selling beyond the enablement piece is you brought in marketing. It's not that you just brought in marketing. It's that marketing is now sitting at the table with you. Marketing is going to help you identify where are our content gaps? We're going to build content that answers questions for your buyer. Number two, we're going to take that content and put it into a library system that's easy for your sales team to be able to find the content and share it with the customer. Finally, marketing is going to teach sales how important all of this plays at the top of the sales funnel. All of these sales professionals, sharing content to either individuals or to an entire market or industry are now pushing people to the top of the funnel, drive in more leads into the system, because ultimately as a sales professional, I would love to wake up every morning and start seeing inbound lead after inbound lead and that's because we at mass are actually shaping the buyer's journey throughout various industries.

We created an e-book called Beyond LinkedIn and it's for stage three, so you can get a better appreciation of the details within stage three. Here's the first place, this is where you know you're in stage three. You understand that LinkedIn is a toolset, a tool, and you want to go beyond that to a mindset shift. It's mindset, skillset, toolset. So what have you done, you took enablement either internally or you brought in a third party consulting firm to really change the behavior of the sales professionals first. That's most important. You change the way that they thought of their process and you integrated a methodology, a social selling methodology into your existing sales methodology or process. You interweave them together to ensure that part of their daily cadence is applying social amongst the other things that they're doing. You decided, okay we are going to change the behavior because we cannot afford to have a skillset gap between new hires or our weakest sales professionals all the way to our rock stars. We need uniformity, we need everybody to be the same. Okay, you have that.

Now you brought three really important parties to the table. You remember back in LinkedIn training in stage number two, this is where a sales department is leveraging tools like LinkedIn Navigator. But at level three, you recognize that there are three parties that need to be involved. You number one, sales leader, number two, the marketing leader, and number three enablement. They all play a vital role. A sales leader as an example, your job is to create accountability amongst your sales force. The marketing leader is going to build the content machine and ensure the lines to a conversion funnel. You're creating content that converts, and then finally enablement looks at the way you sell today and ensure there is no skill gap amongst new employees, and you're interweaving social into your current sales process.

Now as we go through that, the next piece is looking at the way that you're going to teach and learn, and this is what level three companies understand that back at level two, you did a workshop or a series of workshops to ensure that you got everybody proficient with tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. But now you recognize that every student or every sales and marketing professional on your team learns completely different. You want to apply blended learning. You've decided that you're going to incorporate workshops with mentoring and coaching and e-learning in a variety of different ways to ensure that the skill gap is never shortened. You want to make sure that you bridge that gap completely. You've looked at all these different ways of creating behavioral change and then finally you've decided to figure out a way to measure all of this. 

Let me give you the best advice, even if you're not at level three yet, this is how you're going to measure things. You have leading, and you have current, and you have lagging indicators. Your leading indicator to success is going to be learning behavior. I love to use this analogy. Think back when we were in school, the kids that sat in front of the room that raised their hands were showing a leading indicator that they understood what was going on. In a sales context, your sales professionals that are sponges that want to be there, that are trying to learn, they're through probability are going to show the lagging of creating this greater sales pipeline and revenue, but the leading indicator that you want to measure, are my students learning? Do they care? Are they digesting what we're giving them?

The second is the current indicator. This is where you're going to use your existing CRM, LinkedIn Social Selling Index Score. You might be using your marketing automation tool to track campaigns, you could be using employee advocacy tools to attract engagement, all of these are current indicators. What I mean by that are people taking learning behavior and turning it into sales outcomes? Are they starting conversations? Are they sharing content? Are they creating engagement? Measure that and you'll be able to see the difference between students that actually are understanding what you're teaching them and applying this, and ones that just don't care.

The final piece is the lagging indicator. The lagging indicator is critical because it's your CRM and it's free. In your own CRM you could measure leads, opportunities, revenue, social activity. If you just restructure the way that you tag things in LinkedIn, or tag things in your CRMs such as sales force or Microsoft Dynamics, you're going to be able to identify from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, are people taking that learning applying it and turning it into real revenue, so that's stage three and please check out that e-book Beyond LinkedIn. This is really going to help you understand stage three of Social Selling Best Practices.

Stage four is one of my favorite. It's called Digital Selling. This is where you're going beyond Social Selling. This has many major components of sales and marketing complete alignment. Let me go into detail around this. Some of the best organizations in the world have raised the skill gap to a proficiency where they certified their sales team on Social Selling, but then they've looked at it as an ecosystem and want to go into an advanced system within their organization. Where I mean by sales and marketing alignment, that means that together the sales and marketing team have discovered that they have created one funnel, okay. One funnel from subscribers and contacts in the marketing automation platform all the way to the customer. What they do is they build the buyer's journey together. They always make sure that they have the same language, the same way to describe the buyer, the same buyer personas. They developed the funnel together. Through that funnel, they then create content and they see where their content gaps are.

Are there questions going unanswered that we can create digital assets that would help those particular buyers? Then they take these assets and they put them into a content library that is so dead simple for the sales team no matter if you're a new hire or an existing sales professional to be able to leverage. Then with digital selling, that doesn't mean that they have to share the content socially. Some of that content can be shared via e-mail. Some of it through face-to-face conversations, but what they're doing is creating an insights library, an insights factory as some of our clients have called it, and now your sales professionals are true consultants and coaches. Digital selling is so important because now you start understanding that you could create war rooms around the topic of digital. What I mean by that is instead of just concentrating on inbound leads coming through social, through the conversion funnel, you could now use these best practices to create outbound campaigns.

The best organizations in the world are starting to take an SDR, a marketer, and a field sales professional and putting them on one team together and their goal is to go after a geographic territory or an industry, but together they're using these digital assets to do outbound campaigns not just inbound. These three people together, here's what they're doing together, they're using triggers such as mergers and acquisitions and job change alerts inside a specific geographic region or a type of buyer persona, and they're leveraging digital assets to start conversations via e-mail or the phone or whatever they need to do. They're using referral based selling. They're looking at the networks of people within the organization which are all interconnected to see who can help them open up doors in their territory or patch on land.

It goes further and further, but now what you have is marketing and sales starting to sit together, think together, and start realizing that we all work one funnel together. Wouldn't it be amazing as kind of a micromarketing strategy where a marketer is creating digital assets for you, the specific sales professional, because you have a very unique territory that needs answering on certain topics. That's stage four of digital selling.

Level five is digital integration, and as a business owner, with the company at Sales For Life, we've strived to be level five. I want to talk to you about what we do here internally. Some organizations call this smarketing but all that means is that our sales professionals and our marketing professionals are one and the same. Now let's think about it. Of course we have job posts as we build our team there are marketing posts, there are sales posts, but once you become part of the organization, you're on team revenue that's all that matters. You're on team revenue and no matter if traditionally you are a content marketer or an SDR or a field sales professional or even beyond the customer into customer experience, you're all looking at this of saying, "How do we help the customer?" It's the only thing that matters.

Digital integration, and I want to talk to you about some of the things we do internally, is where all of us are thinking about creating digital assets that service the customer and answer the questions that they have. Let me give you an example. Every week, every Monday morning, we get together and we review the assets that are created for this week, and of course remember these assets are created because we are crowd sourcing the objections and the problems and the questions that our customers or prospective customers have every single day. We put them into file folders and week by week we ensure we create assets that align to that buyer's journey and answer the nuances of some of those obscure questions.

Monday morning call, we're getting together and we're reviewing what are the assets that are going to go into the asset library. At the same time together as a team we are actually coming up with the social posts, that means the headlines and that means the social messaging that's going to go out into the market as a macro strategy. Of course, as a micro strategy, we'll share some of these assets one by one. What I also mean by creating a real system of measuring one funnel is we've integrated even tools to measure all of this. So we, as an example, use HubSpot as our marketing automation platform to track the content consumption story of every buyer. 

We use ClearSlide, as an example, to share content and assets with everybody to track opens, clicks, engagements in contacts, we can see the digital history of every single buyer. That's the Monday morning meeting, and at the end of every month we get together and we build the library and we build the marketing calendar together. What are the assets we need to cover next month? What are the campaigns we're going to go through? We talk about creating and pushing the envelope of continuously helping the customer feeding this machine of content. Digital integration means that we actually sit together. We're not in different cities or different countries, we actually sit together and create everything as one business unit.

If you want to get to level five, you will have your marketer and your sales sit next to each other and build everything together because the marketer has the creative genius, and the sales professional has the intellectual property. All of the problems, challenges, pitfalls, objections that the customer is saying, think of all of that intellectual property in the sales professional's mind that they can relay to the marketer in video, infographics, e-books, blogs, all needs to come together.

I want you to understand the reason we wanted to do this is to help you understand the future of social selling. The future of social selling is going to go beyond the topic of social selling. One day social selling will just be selling and it's going to go beyond that to a digital transformation where the organization as a whole understands that every employee is part of the sales process. Every employee is part of helping the customer and every employee can be part of the digital creation of assets that actually help a buyer through that buyer's journey. That intellectual property sitting in your company, everyone can be involved in creating. In the next couple of years, be prepared that social selling is going to migrate into an entire ecosystem of digital transformation for your entire organization.