Social Media Marketing Strategy:

How To Integrate Social Selling Into The Sales Process

by Michael Idinopulos


In this video, Michael Idinopulos teaches us about a social media marketing strategy that helps us integrate the social selling process into the overall sales process. Specifically, you will learn:

  • What is the sales maturity model and how does social selling fit into that
  • What is the relationship between sales and marketing and what does social selling have to do with it
  • Why sales training makes a big difference

About Michael Idinopulos

An executive, entrepreneur, and thought leader on a mission to make work more interesting and engaging for everyone. I love working with smart people on big ideas that might just change the world. He's been working in social business for pretty much as long as there's been social business to work in. He holds a BA in Philosophy from The University of Chicago and a Ph.D. also in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Webinar Transcript

Liz: Welcome everyone to another session in today's social selling summit. For next few minutes, we are lucky to have a pioneer in the social selling space speak before us. We've got Michael Idinopulos. He is the Chief Marketing Officer at PeopleLinx, and prior to this role PeopleLinx, he served as a Chief Customer Officer at Socialtext. He has been working in social business for pretty much as long as been in social business to work in. Welcome Michael, please take it away. 

Michael: Thanks Liz, and thank you to Jamie, to [inaudible 00:00:31], to all the good folks at Sales for Live and HireVue for putting together this summit. I think this is really fantastic event, absolutely topnotch speakers and kudos to you guys for making it happen. 

So I am going to be talking today about how to Integrate Social into the Sales Process and this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because I firmly believe, as I think many leaders in the enterprise believe that sales is really all about process. So when we talk about social selling and we think about the future of social selling, there really isn't going to be a future of selling unless and until social becomes a part of the sales process. My talk today is about how do we do that. How do we make that vision to reality? 

So just to give you little bit more context on me, Liz pointed out, I am Chief Marketing Officer at PeopleLinx. I have also spent 8 years in McKinsey & Company where, among other things, I am responsible for all the firm’s knowledge sharing and collaboration technology worldwide. That's where I first started to discovering and doing some of the earliest roll outs of social technology in the enterprise, got very excited about what I was seeing that I went on to places like Socialtext and then PeopleLinx. I have a TEDxTalk talking about social technologies within the enterprise. And on the personal side, I live in Philadelphia with my lovely wife and three children. We are currently digging out of the one inch of snow that the storm of the century has brought upon us, so that's me. 

Just a quick word about PeopleLinx, we make social selling easy that is our tagline. We worked with primarily Fortune 500 companies within key verticals like Technology, Financial Services, Professional Services, Logistics and others. You can see a few of the logos here on the slide and we were named a Cool Vendor in 2014 by Gartner Group. 

I am going to start with a conundrum. We did a survey recently of over 250 B2B sales professionals. And what we discovered was that the vast majority of them, 73%, think that social has real value for selling, but only 31% say it's part of their selling process. And that to me is really a conundrum. If there is one thing we know about sales people, it’s that they do the things they believe in. They like to succeed and they like to make quota, and they like to be successful, but here we have an example of a technology and a tool and set of strategies that sales people agree works but a relatively small percentage of them are actually using it as a part of their selling process. 

Now to me the big question here is why? Why are these reps not using these technologies? Here again, we did a little bit more research as part of the survey. And what we discovered that the only 26% of the respondents feel they know how to use social for selling, so what we have here really is a gap of knowledge and expertise. The reps don't know what to do. So they see the value but they don't know what to do, and as a result, it’s not a part of their core process. 

Now notice, I didn't say that only 31% of reps are on LinkedIn or only 31% of reps are on Twitter, because we know the numbers are higher than that. The 31% represents reps who see themselves as using social as part of their process. And again I'm going to keep coming back to that word process because it is so important. They’re not leaving it into their process even if they use the tools occasionally, even if they use them sporadically, even if they’re on the network, they’re not part of the selling process. 

So why don't reps know how to use social as part of sales? Well, there’s one thing we learned in the survey is that their companies are not helping them. So one of the questions we asked, in some ways, the most revealing question of the survey, we asked them how their companies help them use social for selling. Do they encourage you? Do they offer training? Do they measure your use of social? Only 22% said their companies encourage them to use social for selling. And we deliberately did not define the word encourage because we really were curious to gauge the rep’s perception rather than to kind of tell them what we thought were encouragement meant. But by that standard, 22% said they get encouragement. Only 11% said that their company even offers formal training. Not that 11% said they had actually taken the training, but only 11% said that the company even offers the training. When you go to the percentage that actually have gone through the training, it’s even lower than 11 percent. And finally measurement, only 6% said their company measures their activity on social. 

So if you look at this from a company enablement standpoint, what the company is doing to help the reps to use these tools to be more successful, the companies are kind of asleep at the wheel. So how do you get there from here? How do you fix that? And why is it that so few companies are enabling their sales reps? If you look on the marketing side, corporate marketing, there, companies have been very quick, or I should say relatively quick, to embrace social as a marketing tool. Maybe you can argue that B2B is not quite as fast as B2C, that our brothers and sisters in the B2C world led the way as far as social marketing, I think that's probably true. But most B2B companies are now in the social marketing game in a pretty significant way, so it's not as though companies don't understand the value of social. They do understand. In fact they're doing it on the marketing side. They don't seems to be doing on the sales side. And the reason is that social selling is whole lot harder to implement than social marketing. 

On the marketing side, the way you use social is to create one to many broadcast messaging about your brand. That’s not really very hard to do. Typically what most marketing departments will do is they go out, they hire few millennials who are very social-savvy. They give them some budget for advertising, maybe for some tools and they kind of let them loose. Give them some guidelines, give them some content, make sure that legal’s involved, but basically you’ve got a small group of core people who get it and their job is to broadcast on behalf of the brand. And as long as those core people get it, nobody else in the company even really needs to know that it’s happening or to participate in anyway. It is just all about that little social marketing team doing their job day in and day out. 

Social selling is completely different, because social selling is about one to one relationships between the reps and their buyers, their current customers or their prospects who are potential customers. And what you really trying to do on the social selling side is leverage the tools, the technologies to enhance the relationship that the reps are already building with those prospects. We’re talking now, not at the level of the brand, but the level of the individual both on the buyer side and on the seller side, and that relationship that they’re building up together. We’re talking about people who are by and large not millennials. They did not grow up with this technology. They probably use it a little bit but they’re not really kind of social natives, for lack of better word. These are people who – your most effective ones have probably been in field for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. Those are the people who really can do the most with social selling when they can be activated. 

In order to activate them, you need to change their behavior. And that is probably the single biggest difference is that in marketing, it's not about changing the behavior of rank and file, in selling, it is. In order to make social selling a reality, you've got to take the people who have done their jobs for years or even decades without the social tools and you've got to activate those people on social, help them understand why this is important, help them understand how to do it and most importantly, make it a part of their everyday habit so that it’s not something that's left to chance, but is actually part of the core social selling process. And there is that word again, process. 

So how do you get there from here? If you’re running a large sales organization, maybe you have 10,000 reps, 5000 reps, even 50 reps, any time you're talking about the changing behavior on a broad scale, you’re really talking about an enterprise journey. You’re talking about a change challenge. You’re talking about getting a whole organization to move in a somewhat different direction. Now I would argue this is not a radical departure from what people are doing. It's not as though these tools are telling them to forget everything that they've always done and do things in a completely different way. It’s not a complete revolution, but what it is is a whole new set of tools that need to be integrated into the way that people work. And people need to embrace it, day in day out, so that when they check their email in the morning, when they roll over out of bed and pick up that smart phone, when they turn on their computer in the morning when they get to the office and when they boot up the iPad late at night, that this is part of what they’re thinking about and this is part of what they’re doing. 

It’s a journey and we worked with hundreds of companies to study kind of how they progress through that journey. And what we found, and part of it is through the survey results, part of it is just our experience working with sales executive, is that there are really five phases that organization typically go through in the journey to what I would consider to be kind of social selling maturity or social selling excellence. 

The first step and this is where everybody starts is random access social. You’ve got lots of reps out there. Most of them are on LinkedIn, some of them are on Twitter, a few of them are using the tools for business, many of them aren't. Some of them are just using it to try to find a new job. Some of them are using to find prospects. They are sharing kind of whatever they come across that they think that might be cool to share, a lot of them aren't sharing at all. It’s really a dog’s breakfast of activity. You have no real visibility into what people are doing. You have no idea if they’re effective. It's all over the place. It’s where everyone starts. 

What then happens invariably is that somebody within the organization wakes up and says, "Oh my god, we got a problem." All these people who are on social media, they are doing things; we're not exactly sure what they’re doing, we’ve got to our arms around this. And that is when organizations step up the level two which is policy. They form a committee. They write a social media policy. And that’s a good thing to do, but the problem with the social media policy is they don't actually encourage behavior, because they’re really just risk mitigation devices. In most organization, the social media policy is primarily there as a kind of CYA move for the company in case somebody tweets or shares something stupid or confidential or proprietary or offensive or whatever. 

So policy is good in that it enables the third step which is training. And this is when organization are really start getting serious about social selling. It’s when they say we've got the policy in place, but we’ve got to start driving behavior. And that's when a lot of companies are going out – well, I shouldn't say a lot -- some companies are going out and hiring great organizations like Sales for Life, and bringing in Joe Rowley and other terrific evangelists to speak to them about what social selling is and just start to train their reps on how to do it. Training is awesome. I’m going to talk in a minute about just how awesome it is and the effect that training has on numbers, but training is not the last stop in this journey. Because training, as wonderful as it can be, is not sticky. Any kind of training you’re going to have, you’re going to have a degradation problem. 

As soon as the training ends, people go out into the field and yes, some of them do what they learn to do in the training, but all of them do. And then over time, the skills degrade, they lose them, they forget about them. The fog of war gets in the way as people are trying to create opportunities and close deals, and they just don't follow up on the things that they learned in the training. So that kind of retention and recidivism really only happens when you get to the fourth stage in the process which is integration -- integrating into sales process, sales metrics, sales tool, integrating into CRM. That's where you start to do the constant reinforcement of the principles and techniques that people acquired in the training. And that's where we see another bump up in terms of the productivity that generate about social selling.

And then the last stage, optimization, still largely aspirational at this point, but this is where organizations are starting to gather enough data on who is doing what on social and how it’s working that they can actually begin to guide their reps by steering them to the content, the techniques, the timing, the connection that has empirically been shown to be most effective for them in terms of driving close to one rates. 

As you move up this journey, the value to the organization increases dramatically. So random access social, you’re talking about a negligible lift in sales performance. When you've got people who are kind of playing around on LinkedIn and Twitter, you have a few people who see increases to their productivity, but the team as a whole is really only going to increase 1% or, at most, 2% in terms of their effectiveness. You introduce training, that number suddenly jumps up to 7% to 8 %. You introduce integration, all of sudden, now you are talking double digit-improvement in terms of top line performance, and it only continues with optimization. 

But unfortunately, if you look at where organizations are today, companies, they’re all at the bottom or almost all at the bottom. So the first two categories, random access social and policy are found that roughly 85% of organizations fall into one of those two buckets. Training, you start getting into about 10% of organization, and this is why we’re saying it’s not a lot of companies who are using social sales training organization. That number is going to continue to grow, but currently we are around at 10%. And then you get into integration and optimization and it’s a tiny fraction. We estimate that you got 5% who are in the integration phase. Even that number may be a little bit aggressive, although we do see some very fantastic companies like RedHat, Sebiz, ADP who are really starting to push the bounds in terms of the way they integrate, the way they track deals that are associated with social and the way they've kind of integrated all of this into their sales operation metrics. So that's kind of journey. 

Let me talk a little bit more about the impact of the third and fourth stages here, because that’s where, for most organizations today, that's where they’re trying to get to and that is where the next horizon is. So our survey data very clearly showed that training makes a big difference in terms of the way that reps use social. We did a side by side comparison where we asked about some key indicators of social success to recent business. How much of your recent business is influenced by social? We defined recent as businesses that closed within the last three months. Do you see value in social and does your selling process includes social? If you look at any and all of those metrics, and you compare the people whose organizations offer training to the people’s organizations don't offer training, you see a huge difference. 

So recent business influenced by social without training, 38% say it was. You look at with training, that number jumps up to 74%, similarly on see value. Process includes social, the differences are even more dramatic. You go from 28% for those people whose organizations don't offer training to 74% for those whose organizations do. Now again, this is just the organization offers training. So when we say which training, we’re not even necessarily saying that the rep took the training. And we actually know that a lot of these reps never actually took the training, but even the fact that the company offers training has significant signaling value and significant motivational value to the individual rep who is now using the social tools as part of their sales process. So training makes a big difference.

But as I said in the opening of the talk, B2B selling is all about process. First, as a McKinsey consultant myself, I found this working with very large companies, then as a startup executive, I found in my own case where what you're doing is you’re constantly trying in the sales role to number one, achieve scale, so that you can actually grow the organization and grow your revenues, and to do things consistently, repetitively over and over again, so that every rep, every deal, every opportunity, every meeting, every demo, you are repeating the same things, so that you can then measure what works and you can improve upon it. You can double down on the techniques that are working, you can eliminate the things that aren't working and improve upon the things that could be working better. So that's what enterprise selling and sales leadership is all about. It's about the process. And as I said before, in my opinion, that's the piece that's sort of missing from the training story. 

So the way we get that piece is by embedding social into the enterprise sales process. I like use the acronym AIM, A-I-M, to think about how to do that. AIM stands for Automate, Integrate and Measure. So A, Automate, there are all sorts of things that we want sales people to do on social. We have actions we want them to take. We want them to do certain things as far as upgrading their profiles in ways that will represent themselves well, help them build their professional brand, and also be on brand as far as the company is concerned. There are tags we want them to use. There is content that we want them to post. There are taglines and language we want them to use, URLs we want them to link to. So in order to get them to do those things, let's automate the process of reminding them that they need to do it. 

Approve content, there is content that we want them to share. The marketing team has put out a great new white paper or The New York Times just published an article in the industry that represented our company favorably. Let's automatically get that approved content into the hands of sales reps and make it very easy for them to share with their social network. And again let's automate that process, so that the sales rep doesn't have to go to looking for that stuff and the sales rep doesn't have to worry that they might be sharing something that they not supposed to share. We automate the process of delivering the content to them and making it really easy for them to share just with a tap on a smart phone or click of the mouse. 

Connections we're recommending, let's automatically recommend to sales reps that they connect on social networks with their customers and their prospects. If you’re working with a deal with somebody, you probably ought to be connected to that personal on LinkedIn. If you are working in account, you probably ought to be following that company on Twitter and liking their LinkedIn page and their Facebook page. So let's automate all those actions that we want people to take. That’s the A in automate.

Integrate, integration, single most important integration you can do is CRM integration. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a hundred times. Don't give me more tools to use. I've already got email. I've already got my CRM. I don't want to have to go into more tools. So let's take this guidance that I’m talking about in the automate piece, and let's integrate that directly into the CRM experience, so that it’s not another tools to log in to. Let’s integrate with the marketing systems and metrics, so that when the marketing team, the social marketing team is doing things like loading up content that they are sharing out from the corporate brand, let's automatically integrate that into our social selling tools and processes, so that content automatically becomes available to reps to share and to re-share. 

And finally mobile, I don't know mobile even counts as integration anymore, but it was so important that I felt I ought to talk about it. Mobile, mobile, mobile, can't stress that enough. Altimeter Group just put out a research report that said, “Forget about mobile first. You should now be thinking about mobile only.” Certainly in the sales world, where you got a lot of people who are on the go, out visiting customers, out on the road, anything they can't do from a mobile phone, you should assume that it's not going to get done. So the most successful companies who are integrating social selling into their processes, they are doing it with mobile friendly tools that, as I said, integrate with their systems to automate all the actions that they want their reps to take. 

And then finally measure. I can do whole talk just on social selling measurement, because I think it's an area where there is a lot of confusion, but I won't do that. I would spare you. I won't talk on this. Just sum it up this way -- there are really three things that you want to measure. Number one, social activity. Who’s on social? Who is connecting? What people are they connecting to and how much? Are they sharing content? Are they updating their profiles on a regular basis? Measuring social activity is an important thing to do. It is not the be all and end all metric, because social activity does not directly contribute to revenue, but just like measuring things like webinars or customer meetings, it is an important metric of engagement, activity and, generally gauge of a rep’s attitude towards social, whether or not they’re actively engage on these platforms. So that's metric number one. 

Metric number two is sales outcomes. You do want to be able to track the extent to which social actions, social content, social connections are driving deal flow for you. So this is where we’re seen more and more companies adding fields in their CRM that directly attribute the source of a lead when that lead’s coming from social, from LinkedIn, Twitter or any other network, and we’re seeing more and more companies start to generates report that draw correlations between actions that the reps are taking on social and deals that had been closed one. 

And the third is measuring what worth and this goes right to the point about improvement that I made on previous slide. You want to be able to measure which deals are being influenced by, which actions or which content, so that you can then go back and say, "Okay, these pieces of content are the ones that are really driving higher win rates for us or connecting to these kinds of people at this stage in process is what's driving higher win rates for us." That's the Holy Grail, that's ultimately what everybody in sales, leadership in sales, ops in sales, enablement in sales, excellence in learning and development, that is where everyone is trying to get to because that’s how you actually start to improve performance. And we are beginning, it's still early days, but we are beginning to see the organizations who are really driving those sorts of inclusions in a way that makes a meaningful difference for their companies and for their performance. 

So AIM to embed social in your process. Training is great. I love training. It’s a really important step, but you want to continue to value, deliver in the training, by making social selling part of the standard sales process. 

And just to close with kind of a quick summary at PeopleLinx and what we do, we deliver the tools that allow you to do exactly that kind of integration. So we like to think it as GPS for social selling. A GPS system tells the driver when to turn left, when to turn right, when to go to straight, means you don't have to read a map anymore. Similarly for social selling, what PeopleLinx does is it tells the individual rep automatically who they should be connecting with, what upgrades they should be making to their social profiles, what content they should be sharing, also tells them things like what groups to connect to, provides analytics, integrates with CRM and Salesforce so that the reps don't have multiple destinations to go. Obviously we work with the marketing team to make sure that everything is on brand, on message, aligned with campaigns, and it’s a way to take the whole process and make it incredibly easy for the rep, while at the same time embedding it into the sales process and making it measurable for the sales leader. 

So that's really what I wanted to talk about. Again if I were to sum it up, I would say in a word, "Reps today see the value of social, but they’re not using. They are not using it because they don't know what to do and their companies aren't helping them. Companies can and should be doing that by embracing the social selling journey going up through the five phases that I talked about starting with policy and then training and tools that embed social selling into the sales process.” That's ultimately how social selling is going to become a part of standard operating procedure. I firmly believe that within the next two to three years, we will get there in a meaningful way and we will see meaningful results to sales performance when we do.

Again my name is Michael Idinopulos, Chief Marketing Officer at PeopleLinx. If you want to learn more, contact information is on the screen. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter and to our company at Thank you so much everyone. Happy selling.