Social Selling Examples that Work

by Tim Hughes, Oracle Business Development Director

Oracle Social Selling Examples

Tim’s practical hands on style is well known, having a 27 year track record in sales, helps. His blog shares with Sales People, not slogans, but Social Selling examples that work. Tim will talk through his 5 Pillars Methodology and give practical examples of how the Modern Sales person can over achieve their number quicker.

Webinar Transcript

Hello, my name is Tim Hughes, and I work at Oracle. I am also the founder of the Social Selling Lounge. My details are at the bottom of the screen. My Twitter address is @Timothy_Hughes, and my website is My role at Oracle has been to roll out social selling across 2,000 people, so 600 salespeople across Western Europe and then to various managers and pre-sales people, so about 2,000 people all told.

What I'm going to talk to you about today is the learnings from that and the methodology that I put together to enable you and your organization to start implementing social selling. Whether you're new to social selling or already down the journey, there is going to be things that you can actually gain from today. All of the things I'm going to talk to you about are going to give you...I'm going to talk about ROI, the return of investment that we've gained. So you should be able to pick up some things, maybe take away certainly some learnings to your organization.

In terms of the Social Selling Lounge, we're a training company that allows and supports people going on that social selling journey. So we start off very much with the methodology and strategy, and then we work out how that can work for your organization. Whether you're a small, a medium enterprise or whether you're a large organization, either way, social selling is applicable to you.

Some of the things that might be of interest to you at the Social Selling Lounge is my blog. I've been blogging now for about 18 months, and I write in a particular style, which is with my background, which I have been in sales for 27 years. And what I try and do is write in a way that could help other salespeople achieve their quota or, better still, overachieve their quota. So if you get to, there is a number of hints. There's a number of tips. And I generally post a blog about every week. So there's things recently. For example, I posted how a friend of mine who is getting 10 C-level meetings a week by using Twitter, and I'll talk about that during the presentation. I've also blogged about the pros and cons of automation, and you can get that from the blog. And most recently I posted a blog last week about how a friend of mine is using social selling to support small businesses, and he's doing that in a particular way which I know has caused quite a lot of discussion and interest because he's using Google+ to actually do that.

So I want to move on now and talk a little about why social selling and what do I mean by social selling. We have a situation where the buyer now is more informed than ever before. I recently bought a car, and in the past whenever I used to go buy the car, I used to have to go and talk to car salespeople. And the salespeople would talk about the car, its features and functions, and it would take me weekends to go and see all these people. Now what I am able to do is go online and actually research. I can configure the car online, and if it wasn't for the fact that I needed to do a part exchange and get the garage to buy the old one off me and actually wanting to actually get a decent discount on the one that I was going to buy, I wouldn't actually need to talk to the salesperson.

What we are seeing is that buyers are going online and doing more and more of their research online, rather than in the past where they had done it offline. So for example, certainly in the enterprise software space, going back 10 or 20 years, the buyer would be looking to the supplier like ourselves for just about 80% of the information. Now what they're doing is they're actually now looking at something like 20% of the information. And as the buyer goes through the buyer journey, it can be anything like up to 60%. I've even got research from SAP that says actually the buyer's journey is 85% of the time before they actually make a contact with the supplier.

I'm aware of one enterprise deal where they actually went all the way through the process and actually phoned up the company and said, "We actually want to buy your products." And when the salesperson at the other end of the phone said, "Well, don't you want to demo anything?" they said, "No, we've seen all your videos online. We've seen all your white papers. We just want to know how to buy it, and how much is it going to cost?" And as time goes on, the buyers that we have that are used to buying things online, over mobile, this will accelerate. And what we need to do as salespeople is we need to react to that.

So social selling partly is our reaction to the buying process and the way that's changed, but also, social selling is a way that we can actually get things back on our terms. And what we talk about at the Social Selling Lounge is how we can start moving the needle back to supporting salespeople, either using the strategy or certainly using tools and techniques to get your sales in front of buyers earlier or working with buyers earlier in the buying process.

If you think about most buying processes generally starts on Google...I don't know about you, but sitting in front of my laptop, if I suddenly get the urge to buy something, I'll immediately go on to Google and search for it, whether it's on my iPhone again. And in some cases, I even make the purchase there and then, either on the PC or on mobile. If you look at research from Google, most people, certainly from an enterprise perspective, usually consume about 12 pieces of content. So what happens is that there's been an influx of people going to websites. The number of people, or the website traffic, has gone up something like 100% over the last two years, and that's really about people going through a process of doing their research online and making a judgment of your organization and your products and services based on your website. They're also going online, and as I said, consuming something like 12 pieces of content.

In many cases, what's happening is that when they get through the 65% of the journey, they're actually coming up with short lists of two or three, and what we need to do as salespeople is make sure that we're on that short list of two or three. Or even what we're trying to do is engage with buyers as they're doing their research and actually shortcutting the buying process and making sure that we're in early, maybe even actually being able to close the customer before they make that short list of two or three. So it's no different from what we've done before in terms of going into clients, helping them, and working with them but closing them down and obviously doing it before the competition.

So what I'm going to talk about now is the methodology that I put together, which we call the five pillars of social selling. And I'll take you through those, and I'll talk about the ROI and the things that you can do to implement this. And also, you may have already been doing some of these things already, which is fine. What you can do is actually broaden out to make sure that you have a social selling program that will actually scale.

So the first thing you should do is look at your own personal branding, and the key to that is, my recommendation, is to look at LinkedIn and build what I would call a buyer-centric profile. So you need to think about, what is it that you do for your clients? What's the value that you're adding? What's the end point? Are you increasing their revenue or reducing their inventory? What is it that you're doing? That is, in essence, the buyer profile that you need to come across. So move away from the online CV that people have had over the last few years and move to this buyer-centric element.

Why do you want to do that? Because when people are going on and doing their research, most people will actually be in salesperson-avoidance mode. They're not looking to engage with salespeople. They see that there's a time and a place for that. And what you're looking to do is try and find those people that are doing the research, and they actually come to you and go, "Oh, you're interesting. I'm actually researching about a telephone system. You seem to know a lot about telephone systems. I'll engage with you and have a conversation, and maybe you can help me."

I'm in a situation, as Tim Hughes, in the area that I work in, when I go to Google and I type in the particular keywords into Google, I actually come up on page 1 of Google. And I've also made sure in LinkedIn, not only do I have the buyer-centric profile, but I also have the keywords that should people be actually typing those into Google, my LinkedIn profile should pop up in front of them. Then if I've got engaging content and I've got a profile that shows that, not necessarily being a thought leader, but knowing about the area that you're investigating, then that would be something that people would want to come and engage with. I do actually have people coming to me and saying, "I'm looking for a new CRM system. Would you recommend one?" So from a sales perspective, having leads coming to you is well worth the investment and the time of building that profile.

And I will say that you need to do things in terms of having a picture. You need to have a buyer-centric job title. You need to have content. Don't necessarily be a corporate suit and put corporate stuff up there, but put content that if you were a buyer and you were looking for telephone systems, what are the questions that you would want to be answered. Don't forget, LinkedIn is your shop window to the world. Whether people are going to have meetings with you or they hear about you in the marketplace, the first thing they'll do is they'll come to LinkedIn and they'll look you up. It's kind of like 20 years ago, we would have telephone directors, and people would go and look people up. And if you didn't appear in the telephone directory, you didn't exist. Now with LinkedIn, it is exactly the same, and people will be looking at your details before meetings. And I would say that, certainly from my learnings, is that people are actually making decisions about probably the first meeting with you about whether that's going to be a success or failure from how engaging and how interesting your LinkedIn profile is. It's really important that you nail that.

The second thing that you should do is listen, and there are a number of ways you can do that. I would open up a Twitter account and follow all of your customers, not only the companies but the people that are in those particular companies. You don't need to tweet if you haven't tweeted before. There is actually a whole bunch of reasons why you could tweet, but to start off, you should actually listen to what people are saying and what your customers are saying and get a view from them in terms of what's happening.

So for example, my friend who's getting 10 C-level meetings a week, what he did was that he needed to get into the U.K. Post Office. So he wanted to talk to a particular senior person. So he found out that that person was involved in rolling out a piece of technology across all of the U.K. Post Offices. What he did was that he went into a post office, took a picture of the piece of technology with his iPhone, and happened to say to the person over Twitter, "Hey, I'm seeing this roll out. Really good news, looks like the roll out is going really well." And this person, who is a C-level person within the post office, who you could never get to by ringing them up because all the barriers of voicemail and personal assistants, basically responded within a couple of hours and said, "Yeah, thanks very much. Thanks for the support."

What my friend then did was that he went to him and said, "We actually had a presentation the other week, and I've got a presentation, the output from that you may be interested in." The guy came back and said, "Will it cost me?" And my friend said, "No, not at all." The guy from the post office followed my friend, and immediately there was a bonding in terms of Twitter, in terms of following. And what they did was that they went into a direct messaging conversation, a DM. And they then had a conversation, and my friend passed him the particular presentation. That got him a meeting, and that actually got him to sell his service. Now he's selling a service which is about $4,500, which is about 3,000 pounds, and he's making 10 meetings with C-level people a week. Now as I say to my salespeople, even if you were making one of those a week, you'd be in quite a different place.

So Twitter is something also that you need to think about and putting out and engaging with and working with and being in a situation when your buyers are actually looking for that telephone system, if they come to Twitter or when they see you and they see you again as a thought leader, they will want to engage with you. But you can also use it as a way of actually proactively going to people and talking to them and prospecting through the medium of Twitter.

You also need to think about influencers. These are people that may be influences in your accounts, but they will also be people who will be influences maybe within your particular subject area. One of the things you can do to find out what's going on, how to be a thought leader, what works, what doesn't work is actually to go on and follow those influencers and maybe even engage with them. Engaging with them may be very simply saying, "That's a fantastic report," "That's really interesting," or, "What was the best thing that you thought from that report?" But what we're seeing within the buying process is as people go through and they do their research, what they're doing is that they're consuming certain pieces of content. They are also going to influencers and finding out what their opinion is. And in my sector, for example, in the past the influencers would be people Gartner. They would be people like IDC. And now what we're finding is that there are other influencers in the market like Ted Rubin, Brian Solis, and even myself. And they're actually going to those people, and they're asking their opinion.

No real different than the way that I would actually buy a car and I would go online and I would do my research and I would configure it. I would then turn around to people in the office and say, "You've got one of these particular cars. What do you think of it?" Most people will tell you that it works and stuff. You would actually use that information as part of your research process. Someone may tell you, "Well, I didn't find it very reliable," and again, you would use that as part of the research process.

So you need to look at influencers, and influencers and being an influencer yourself enables you to shortcut the buying process, because if you are a though leader or an influencer within your area, what will happen is these researchers, not wanting to be in sales engagement mode, may actually come to you and ask you your opinion. And at that point, you're able to make your opinion known, and that will enable those people to come up with a short list. You may actually, if you're a good salesperson, engage with that person and actually be able to close them down. So there's two types of influencers: the influence that you can have and the way you can shortcut the buying process, and the influencers that you need to be aware of, that you need to engage with because they could actually have an influence on other buyers and ultimately the short list they're drawing up.

Now we actually used marking automation. And the reason why we do that was that, as people are moving through the buying process, what we will do is actually try and pick them at the top of the funnel, either through work with influencers or work ourselves. As people are doing their research, they would pick up off of Google. They would pick us off of LinkedIn or Twitter. Now people are generally going to go through that. If you're not able to close them down, immediately people will still go through that research process. So you need to actually nurture those, now whether you want to do that manually, you put them and say, "Right, I'll put a calendar entry in my Outlook for a month's time and give them a call." You can do that. Or you can actually put them through an automated lead nurturing system, for example, in this case, what we would call marketing automation.

There's a number of different marketing automation systems that you can use to do that. But again, if you're putting them into a marketing automation system, what that's doing is you're letting the system take the load, and that's freeing you up to do other things, whether that's prospecting, closing, or working all the other tasks that a salesperson has. And what we're finding from a marketing automation perspective is that in the past if we, for example, did a telesales campaign, if we rang 100 organizations, we would get a response of about 5%. Five percent, that is, that would say, "Yeah, kind of interested. Can you come in and have a conversation with us?" What we're finding is that we would have another 25% that actually say, "Yeah, maybe in another three months or another six months." So what we've done is that we actually now put those in nurture. So what we've been able to do is that we've been able to increase our telesales response from 5 in 100 to now 13 in 100. So that's quite a massive increase in terms of the ROI.

Finally, one of the things we found working within social selling is actually bringing the marketing department and sales department together and getting them to work and collaborate. So what we have done is implement our own internal Facebook product, known externally as Enterprise Social Networks. That's allowed us to increase our efficiency. I did some measurements recently. When we implemented our internal Facebook, we actually found that it increased employer efficiency by something like 25%. So Oracle has about 100,000 employees, so we got an extra 25,000 employees. It just so happens that the social element and the Enterprise Social Network is embedded into our applications, and that actually comes free of charge. So we've been able to increase our employer efficiency and get an extra 25,000 employees for nothing.

We now run our business on our Enterprise Social Network, and we're able to do some really cool things around making sure that we involve people faster. One of the things we wanted to do around social selling was actually make sure that when salespeople come on board, they hit the ground running as fast as we can. Especially in the current world is fast, where were getting sales cycles coming down from 18 months in the past now to weeks. We're trying to get new salespeople running as quickly as we can, and what we're doing is we're using our Enterprise Social Network as a mechanism of doing that. We're also using the Enterprise Social Network as a way of enabling us to get a far more accurate forecast. So for example, in the past, if you are looking at a salesperson and they're saying, "Well, I'm going to close this deal. It's going to be in Q2, and it's $250K," how can you actually believe that they're actually going to bring that in? Well, you believe them because in the past they've rather been very good at forecasting or in the past they haven't.

So your sales is kind of art and science. So there's the science, which is they've got it in the forecast, but the art is, what's their past track record of closing on time? What we've been able to do with the Enterprise Social Network is actually use that as a way of seeing if there's a velocity taking place within the deal. If you think about having a Facebook group and having the sales team on that group and seeing people post to that, if there's a velocity and people are posting and they're going to meetings, you can get a feeling for whether that deal is going to take place. Whereas people may be saying that something is going to happen, and if there isn't the velocity and the actions taking place within that group, it's very obvious that that's not going to close. So we've actually used that as a mechanism to enable our forecast to get even more accurate.

So what I wanted to do in the presentation was talk about some of the things that we're doing around social selling, some of the methodology that we've implemented. Now some organizations may feel that they're too small for this, but actually, using something like Twitter, which is free of charge, the only cost to you is your time. And same with LinkedIn, you can actually use those tools and techniques to enable you to actually punch above your weight from a marketing perspective. There's other organizations that may actually want to implement enterprise social networks and enable you to get the scalability from actually working closer with the different departments to enable you to, in effect, merge together to win business.

We've also been doing things around the social selling process. We've completely reengineered the way that the people sell. We've implemented storytelling. We've been implementing a completely different way of running meetings, getting people to throw away the PowerPoints and actually go to meetings and stand up and be very passionate. And at the end of the day, from a sales perspective, it's about that differential, that very, very little bit in the difference between the way that we present and the way that we can come across, in effect, as human beings, as people by people and the way that our competition work. And we're certainly seeing that as a real key, competitive edge in the way that we're selling right now and certainly reacting to the different market conditions that we have around cloud and digital disruption.

So that's what I was going to talk to you about today. If you want to contact me, I'm more than happy to take questions on my Twitter account, which is @Timothy_Hughes. And if you're interested more in terms of how we can actually come and help you, then please come and see us at the Social Selling Lounge, and we'd be more than happy to take your questions. Thank you for listening.