Why Every Executive Should Be Social Selling

Social selling has finally taken hold within organizations. Salespeople who use social networks are outperforming their peers and proving out the effectiveness of this new approach to selling. IBM, for instance, increased their sales by a staggering 400% as a result of their inbound social selling program. But believe it or not, many social selling programs could be even more effective – if they just made one small change.

Social Selling Starts at the Top

Right now, many sales teams are engaging in social selling without the full support of their executive team. While your sales teams may be the ones closing deals, for social selling to be at its best, it needs to be promoted throughout the organization, and most especially at the top. This means not only serving as an executive sponsor of the program, but also being active on social networks themselves.

Having the C-suite actively participating in social selling may seem counterintuitive — after all, that’s why you’ve hired a sales team. Yet social selling is a far cry from traditional cold calling, or even the usual lead gen efforts that sales has deployed in the past. To understand social selling’s real value, and why it needs the attention of executives, we have to understand what social selling is at its core. It’s about building personalized relationships with potential customers. It’s about starting a dialogue so that when customers are ready to make purchasing decisions, you are top of mind and trusted.

Social networks, whether LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other platforms, have truly changed the game for how we think about sales. With social media, we are able to track conversations in real-time and participate in them. We are able to provide advice to potential customers, promote company and individual expertise, and open the dialogue and build trust with someone long before they become a lead in any traditional sense. The ability to attract potential customers, and start conversations with them earlier has become the backbone of the most effective social sellers. It defines what selling in our modern era looks like.

Once executives understand this new value of social, it becomes clearer why they need to be involved. As an executive, you have an inherent responsibility to represent and promote your organization no matter what department you lead. You may think that as head of human resources, sales is not your territory, and while on the books you may be right, you have expertise and knowledge to share that can help promote your company.

By sharing your knowledge on social networks, you will attract broad swaths of people. Unique insights, after all, are what drive relationships on social. In turn, you will have access to an entirely different network than your sales team and you can provide a credibility within the space that not only can your sales team leverage, but one that you can also use to build net-new connections and leads from your network. Your conversations contribute to the beginning of the buyer’s journey. When followed by best practices and managed programmatically in cooperation with your sales and marketing teams, your company can capture an executive’s social engagements and convert them to real leads.

On a personal note, being active on social builds your personal brand and expertise in the process. Employees with strong personal brands reflect positively on the companies they work for, but that cuts both ways. Companies thrive behind executives with strong visions; those executives that are engaged in sharing that vision and their expertise set an example that vibrates through the entire organization.

How Executives Can and Should Get Involved

So what should executives do to think more strategically about how to facilitate social selling throughout the company? The C-suite has little enough time on their hands to add tweeting to the mix, right? Fortunately, the benefits far outweigh even the most minimal efforts, but making social engagement a more integrated part of your daily leadership has truly remarkable upside and potential.

First of all, executives need to optimize their profiles. On LinkedIn and Twitter, create a bio and profile that reflects your leadership vision and the things you care about. You also have to consciously put in the effort to be active. Social at its most effective is a daily discipline, and you will be rewarded accordingly to the time you invest.

Perhaps most importantly, be authentic and original and interesting. Your goal is not to be a corporate bot and just tweet out the latest company white paper. You didn’t reach the executive level by lack of temerity, so display your charisma, expertise, and knowledge. It’s actually quite wonderful to step beyond the bubble of the C-suite and engage your ideas with new peers, or share your knowledge with those that follow you. Show some personality and show the world that your company is made up of real people, the kind of people other people want to do business with.

Equally important, however, is to understand that social isn’t just your personal soapbox to blast your own agenda. Add value. Don’t just promote your company, but contribute, curate and share what interests you, both with relevance to your business and beyond it. Engage with others and grow your audience and network, and even collaborate by sharing notable interactions, bringing others into the conversations you’re having, and asking important, defining questions.

Why Misalignment Causes Social Selling Programs to Crumble

There are many factors that can spoil your social selling program – a lack of content, a lack of training, a lack of KPIs, to cite a few examples.

But those factors are often a symptom of an even larger problem. Indeed, executive misalignment is sure to doom your program. For your social selling program to take off, marketing, sales, and sales enablement leaders need to be aligned. They need to understand why social selling is necessary within the company and how their individual departments contribute to social selling success.

Let’s take a look at how you can get started.

The Responsibilities of Your 3 Key Executives

To ensure that your social selling program takes off, you need to secure the support of your marketing, sales, and sales enablement leadership. A social selling program is not the responsibility of one single individual, but rather, it is the responsibility of many contributors.

Your sales leader is responsible for driving action and accountability to the sales team. Your marketing executive is responsible for developing the systems and content that creates opportunities for sales. Your enablement leader establishes the environment for continuous learning and development.

When one of those leaders falls out of step, things can go majorly wrong.

When Things Go Wrong

If your sales leader is not on board, your social selling program is bound to fail. Why? Because no one will hold the sales team accountable. In a top-notch social selling program, the sales leader will walk the walk. That is, he or she will set an example for his or her sales team. It’s difficult to manage a team if you don’t espouse the the ideas you’re promoting.

If your marketing leader does not support your social selling program, your salespeople will not have content to educate buyers, nor will they have the tools needed to create new opportunities. Marketing leaders need to ensure that salespeople have ample amounts of content, especially educational content for the top of the funnel. A healthy content strategy follows the 4-1-1 rule.

Finally, if your sales enablement leader shirks responsibility, you’ll have a sales force that never adopts to the new buyer and reverts back to old habits. Sales enablement leaders need to constantly offer opportunities for learning. A one-day workshop is not enough. As they say, repetition is the mother of all learning.

How Do You Align Your Executives?

So, how do you align your executives so that you can transform your sales team? Sales for Life and Trapit created an ebook that answers that question. The Executive Guide to Social Selling Success explains everything that your key executives need to know.

Why Giving Salespeople RSS Readers Is a Bad Idea

When companies start social selling programs, they often turn to their star social sellers for guidance. Sales leaders ask their top performers how they use social networks and what tools they use. With that intel, sales leaders ask the rest of their salespeople to replicate what their star social sellers are doing.

When sales reps don’t adopt these new tactics and tools, sales leaders jump to conclusions and decide that social selling doesn’t work.

Instead of ditching their programs, sales leaders should be asking themselves why their tactics and tools didn’t work. Often times, it’s because their early adopters rely on tools that don’t scale across the entire enterprise. Take RSS readers, for example.

Many companies give their salespeople RSS readers like Feedly, tell their reps to find their own content, write their own messages, and post updates on social media – all without any assistance from marketing. Not only is that your CMO’s worst nightmare. That’s a recipe for very low adoption rates. Here’s why.

The Keys to Getting Employees to Adopt Technology

Before we jump into RSS readers specifically, it’s important to understand why employees adopt technology. Researchers in management science have identified two key predictors:

  • Perceived usefulness of the technology
  • Perceived ease of use of the technology

In other words, employees are more likely to adopt a new solution if they think that the technology will help them do their jobs and if they think that the technology is easy to use.

RSS Readers Make Social Selling Complicated

The problem with RSS readers has to do with the second predictor: perceived ease of use. RSS readers are inherently tedious. To share one piece of content using an RSS reader, here are all the steps that salespeople must undertake:

  1. Set up an account
  2. Spend hours finding their own RSS feeds, importing the feeds, and building a library of RSS feeds
  3. Comb through hundreds of articles every day
  4. Decide which articles are relevant to their buyers and read them – every day
  5. Copy and paste the URLs into a social media management tool
  6. Write messages for social media updates
  7. Schedule and post their social updates

Sales reps get to steps 2, 3, and 4, and they think, “No, no, no, no, no, no! Too much work!” So, they quit before they even start, and your social selling program never takes off.

Sure, the go-getters will figure it out. Their eagerness to use social networks trumps any software problems. However, for the majority of your salespeople, there isn’t enough infrastructure in place to support their efforts on social. They need:

  • Hand-picked content delivered to them and stored in a central library
  • Sample messages written by marketing or sales enablement teams
  • Click-of-the-button sharing

And they need it all in one place.

With those elements in place, not only will your salespeople be more likely to participate in your social selling program; sales leaders can create a repeatable social selling process that can be scaled across the enterprise.

Moving Beyond RSS

There’s a reason that companies have stopped cobbling together social selling solutions. They’ve abandoned the “duct tape” combination of RSS feeds + social media management tools for their sales team. And it’s time that you did the same. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your team.

As social selling continues to produce revenue and as more salespeople share content on social media, you’ll want to look past RSS readers and find a product that is built for social selling.

RSS Feeds + Social Media Management Tools Can’t Do It All…

Find out how Trapit’s platform can help your sales team spark engagement and drive revenue on social. Contact us to find out more.

Why Should Companies Care about Their Employees’ Personal Brands?

For some companies, personal branding is a dirty phrase. Scared of losing their top talent, executives discourage their employees from being active on social media and sharing their expertise.

But here’s the thing: those naysayers of personal branding miss out on great opportunities. Believe it or not, personal branding on social media brings multiple benefits to companies–not just to their employees. In this post, I’ll share six key benefits that come from building professional brands on social media.

1. …humanize your company.

Among marketers, humanization is the topic du jour. Countless blog posts and articles have been written in an attempt to help brands become more human. We, marketers, are told to include photos of our employees, add humor to our social posts, write in a different tone, include emoticons and emojis… And the list goes on.

Truth be told, those tactics will help your company sound more human. But they won’t make your company more human.

The only way to truly humanize your brand is through the people behind your company. Let your employees lead the way. Put them at the forefront of your marketing and sales efforts. And empower them to build their online presence.

2. …build trust with buyers.

As buyers do research online, trust is one of their key criteria. In the process of evaluating solutions, buyers look for:

  • Expertise – Communicates a sense of authority
  • Fairness – Provides buyers with a balanced picture of their options – complete with pros and cons
  • Relevance – Messages targeted towards consumers’ needs and wants
  • Choice – Gives buyers a complete vision of their journey, with multiple paths to a solution
  • Relatability – Leads like a wise friend

Sure, a corporate brand account can offer expertise, fairness, relevance, and choice. (Relatability is harder to develop for brands since brands aren’t human.) But can a corporate brand offer those traits as effectively as an employee can?

Research from Nielsen would suggest that, no, companies are not as impactful as their employees. Human-to-human interactions are the most trustworthy source of information when it comes to a buyer’s decision-making process.

So, empower your employees to build an online presence. In so doing, your employees can establish trust with your buyers.

3. …are more likely to promote your product and services.

When companies encourage employees to be active on social media and to build their brands, positive things happen as a result.

Weber Shandwick has found that 72% of socially-encouraged employees will recommend their company’s product or services.

When employees are not encouraged to use social media, only 48% of them will recommend their company’s product or services. As a result, those companies without socially-active employees are missing key sales opportunities.

4. …attract more top-notch talent.

Much of this post has been focused on potential buyers. But personal branding is not just about creating positive interactions with buyers. It’s also about creating positive interactions with potential hires, and in that sense, HR should be invested in employees’ personal brands.

When employees are encouraged to be active on social media, they attract more top-notch employees. Why? In part, it’s because socially-encouraged employees are more likely to recommend their company as a place to work. (To be precise, 68% of socially-encouraged employees will recommend their employer as a place to work.)

Moreover, top job candidates want to work for a company full of experts. When your employees are active on social media, potential hires can see your company’s culture and expertise in action.

5. …gain the attention of influencers.

On social media, like-minded people attract like-minded people. Influencers are experts in their field, and they want to surround themselves with other experts. This means that employees who stand out on social are more likely to attract the attention of influencers.

When your employees and industry influencers partner on projects, your employees are not the only ones who receive attention. Your company builds awareness, too, which brings me to my final point…

A long, long time ago, in 1915, Edward Thorndike conducted research that studied how people perceive one another. He found that, if people perceive you as smart, they are more likely to attribute other positive traits to you – like you’re attractive or funny.

In social psychology, this is called the Halo Effect.

When it comes to employee advocacy and personal branding, the Halo Effect is important for your company. If buyers perceive one of your employees as an expert in your industry, they will also hold a positive opinion of your company. In other words, by having strong personal brands, employees elevate your company in your buyers’ eyes.

Or, as the adage goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

We’ve created a workbook that will help your employees build their personal brands on social media. Download the Sample Social Media Plan to help your employees:

Why Your C-Suite Should Care about Employee Advocacy [Part 2]

A few days ago, we talked about the benefits of employee advocacy from a marketing and sales perspective.

While your CMO and VP of Sales should be key stakeholders for your advocacy program, they are not the only ones. Other members of your C-suite should have a keen interest in advocacy, as well.

Let’s take a look at why your CHRO and CEO should care about advocacy.

Human Resources

Human resources executives have to wear many hats. Your CHRO or VP of Human Resources oversees hiring, compensation, training, and employee performance. Many times, the umbrella term “company culture” falls under their purview, as well. Human resources professionals have to find ways to build leaders, mobilize their employees, and increase collaboration.

As you talk to your human resources executives about your plans for advocacy, keep some of these statistics in mind:

1. Only 13% of employees are engaged in the workplace (Source).

That’s it! Almost 9 out of 10 workers are unhappy in their work environment, and they do the bare minimum at work.

That’s a real problem for people in human resources. An HR professional’s job is to ensure that employees are doing their jobs effectively.

Believe it or not, using social media can help remedy this engagement problem. According to the researchers Niran Subramaniam, Joe Nandhakumar, and João Baptista, employees that use social media at work are more creative, collaborative, and productive.

So, why not start an advocacy program and make social media a more integral part of your work environment?

2. Using social media can raise the productivity of employees by 20 to 25 percent (Source).

The McKinsey Global Institute has found that social media saves your employees time. When used correctly, social networking can help workers communicate with others more efficiently, find information faster, and be more effective collaborators.

A good employee advocacy platform is sure to boost the productivity of your employees. The tool will allow you to create a centralized library with content and sample messages. By placing those resources in a library, everyone can save time, and employees will easily update their social media networks.

3. 68% of employee advocates recommend their company as a place to work (Source).

Who would have thought that employee advocacy would affect recruiting? Well, it does.

When employers encourage their employees to use social media, employees feel in touch with the company culture. And since they are happy at work, they are more willing to recommend their company to job seekers.

When employees do not encourage advocacy, only 54% of employees will give their company a glowing review to a job seeker.

CEO

Most CEOs are measured based on earnings growth. Earnings can be everything from return on assets to return revenue growth. Since revenue is a concern of your CEO, many of the same stats that will entice a CMO or a VP of Sales should also be of interest to your CEO.

But there’s an additional angle that you can use when getting buy-in from your CEO. A socially active CEO brings a plethora of benefits to your company. In fact, your CEO should be your company’s most prominent and visible advocate on social.

Let’s take a look at why…

1. 77% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media (Source).

Having your CEO on social media communicates transparency, openness, and innovation to buyers. It creates trust with them, and people want to buy from people they trust.

Speaking of which…

2. 75% of executives believe that a socially active CEO gives the company a human face and personality (Source).

You cannot underestimate the value of engagement and humanization. A company that maximizes personal and emotional connections with buyers will outperform the companies that are cold and emotionless. To be more precise, warm, human companies tend to experience a 75% increase in sales (Gallup).

3. Only 16% of CEOs use social media to connect with customers (Source).

Despite all the benefits, most CEOs are not using social media to connect with customers. They are missing out on opportunities to find out what their customers want – crucial feedback that helps CEOs strategize and articulate a vision for your company.

Get Buy-in

Speaking to members of the C-suite can be intimidating. However, getting executive sponsorship of your program is essential. By having the support of a CMO or a CHRO or a CEO, you legitimize your project, and it communicates to your employees that they should take advocacy seriously.

Good luck!

-Mark

Are you ready to get started with employee advocacy?

Your 5 Favorite Digital Marketing Articles of the Week

It’s hard to keep up with the latest news in the world of digital marketing, isn’t it?

We curate content using Trapit all week long, and we keep track of which stories you’re reading and sharing. It’s always fun to see which stories resonate with our audience. This week, I thought that I’d share the most-read stories with you.

With no further ado, here are the articles that you and your fellow marketers couldn’t get enough of.

Enjoy!

1. 6 Key Shifts in Thinking about Social Media

By Donna Moritz on Entreprenuer

Social Media Examiner released its 2014 Social Media Industry Report. The 52-page report is a lot of text for a social media manager to digest – given that we, social media managers, tend to think in 140 characters.

Fear not, though! Donna Moritz highlighted a few of Social Media Examiner’s findings. For instance…

  • 68% of marketers plan to increase their blogging efforts
  • Facebook is losing its sexiness. Only 43% of marketers believe that their Facebook marketing is effective.
  • Nevertheless, Facebook continues to be the social media channel of choice for B2C marketers. For B2B marketers, however, LinkedIn is at the top of the list.

2. 72 Hours in the Life of Content on Twitter and other Social Media

By Adam Charles on Social Media Today

What happens to your content after its posted online? Adam Charles looked at his articles on Social Media Today and examined their lifespan over 72 hours. For him, Twitter was his most popular platform.

Adam offers some logical explanations for this:

It’s really easy to push out tweets and the nature of it means we often don’t think twice about tweeting. It requires less thought if something is within our sphere of interest to share it. Whereas, perhaps there is an extra layer of decision before posting it on narrower networks.

It makes sense, but what does that say about a site like ours? At Trapit, we typically have more shares on LinkedIn than any other network. Does that mean that our readers are less capricious than Twitterers?

Just something to think about. (By the way, you can read that article about content curation here.)

3. 6 Digital Challenges for the New York Times’ New Editor

By Seth Fiegerman on Mashable

The content marketing world was abuzz this week because a 97-page NYT report was leaked. Again, for those of us who are used to reading 1,200-word op-ed pieces, trudging through a 97-page report is akin to climbing Mount Everest. Thankfully, the internet has distilled the report.

For me, the key takeaway had to do with the idea of recycling and repurposing old content. Though the NYT has over 14.7 million articles in its archives, the editors “rarely think to mine our archive, largely because we are so focused on news and features.”

That certainly got me thinking: How can we repurpose some of our old content?

4. Want a job in media? Think digital

By David Amrani on Digiday

Even if you’re not looking for a job, this article has some good reminders. For example, our society has created a dichotomy: On the fuzzy end of the spectrum, we have the artsy and writerly types, and on the hard, techy end of the spectrum, we have the math and science types.

But as this article reminds us, the writerly types need to be able to do math nowadays. Whether you’re a writer, an editor, or a content marketer, analytics are “part of the job.” C’est la vie.

5. How do we measure the value of content? A Look at Coca-Cola

By Richard Stacy on his blog

Are social shares an indicator of effective content?

Mark Higgison of the University of Brighton seems to think so. He criticized Coke’s new content marketing strategy. As Mark points out, the number of social shares for Coca-Cola’s branded content aren’t really that impressive. This led to a snappy exchange between Mark and Ashley Brown, Coke’s Director of Digital Communications and Social Media.

If you like a good fight, you’ll like this article. For me, what I found interesting was Richard Stacy’s take on all this:

Consumers rarely want content, they want information. They want answers to questions. They want response to complaints or suggestions.

In their books and blog posts, content marketers always instruct us to educate or entertain our audiences, and at times, the advice of B2C marketers can lean towards the entertainment side of things. It’s nice to read about someone emphasizing the educational aspects of content marketing.

So there you have it…

5 breakdowns of 5 content marketing posts from the last week. If you’d like to discuss any of these stories or add an article to the list, leave a comment below.

Until next time,

-Mark

You Can’t Do Account-Based Sales without Social Listening

“Flip your funnel.”

“Fish with spears instead of nets.”

“Bring your marketing and sales teams into total alignment.”

There are many descriptors attached to the account-based movement that is swirling through the marketing and sales space. Never heard of it? Here’s a quick recap: Whereas traditional demand generation requires teams to do broad-reaching campaigns, account-based sales and marketing strategies require more targeted approaches. Marketing and sales teams use their limited resources to engage the biggest accounts that are most likely to buy their products or services.

Doing so requires extensive research, and social networks are gold mines for gathering insights about accounts. Let’s take a closer look at why that is.

Why Do Reps Need to Research Your Accounts?

An account-based strategy is not built on one-size-fits-all messaging that reps copy and paste. Rather, this type of strategy hinges on a rep’s ability to do his or her homework. By learning deeply about target accounts, reps are better equipped to position their products and services at each account, and they’ll increase their chances of winning accounts.

According to Harvard Business Review, top sales performers interact with 40% fewer accounts per quarter. By prioritizing quality over quantity, top sales reps are able to build deeper knowledge of their markets, as well as their accounts. Moreover, they can tailor their interactions so that their key accounts continuously move to the next stage in the buying journey.

What Are Reps Looking for?

All right, you get it. Reps need to do research on their accounts. But what exactly do they need to know about those accounts? Here are a few of the topics they need to investigate:

1. The Market

Reps need to stay up to date on what’s happening in their market and in the markets of their target accounts. They should look for trends, insights, growth drivers, M&A activity, etc.

2. The Target Companies

It goes without saying that reps should learn everything about their target accounts. Salespeople need to dive into a company’s corporate strategy, its strengths, its weaknesses, its competitors, its org chart, its culture and values – everything a rep can think of.

3. The Buying Committee at Each Target Company

How is each key contact related to the other members of the team? Who reports to whom? Who holds budget? What are each member’s priorities, biases, preferences, and styles? Where did they work in the past? What’s their past experience with a product or service like your own?

4. The Reps’ Connections to the Account

Reps should ask themselves questions, such as: Do I have any existing contacts at the company? Have I done previous deals with the company? Have my coworkers done deals with the company? How am I connected to the buying committee on social? Do I have experience working with any of their competitors?

Where Do Reps Find Insights on Social?

Okay, you have an idea of what reps should be looking for. Now, where do reps find that information? Salespeople have many resources at their disposal, but there’s nothing quite like social for gathering insight. Here are just a few places to look for information:

1. LinkedIn Recent Activity

To see someone’s recent activity while using a desktop computer, navigate to the person’s profile. Then, move your cursor to the down arrow in the top part of their profile. Finally, click on “View recent activity.”

By looking at this section, you start to learn more about the members of your buying committee. You can see with whom they interact on LinkedIn. You can see what type of content they consume, which tells you a lot about their current interests, which are great fodder for sales conversations.

We wrote a whole post about using LinkedIn’s Recent Activity feature for social selling. Check it out!

2. The Company’s Social Channels

Annual and quarterly reports, letters to shareholders, investor calls, every page on the website – all those items provide great insight into the company, but don’t forget to peruse a company’s social media posts.

For example, let’s say that the CEO of a target company writes a blog post, and the company shares that post on its social channels. A rep needs to read that post. The CEO’s thoughts might give the rep an idea of the company’s strategic vision, and if the rep can show how your company’s product aligns with the target company’s strategic vision, the rep is more likely to win the deal.

3. Twitter Hashtags

Account-based sales requires you to understand the market, and Twitter can be a great source of information about the market. On an ongoing basis, there are Twitter conversations about nearly every topic. For example, #IoT (Internet of Things) or #RenewableEnergy.

By choosing hashtags and following the conversations related to those hashtags, reps will keep their finger on the pulse of the market. They will be armed with more knowledge, and in turn, they will have more relevant conversations with their buyers and position themselves as trusted sources of information for customers.

And as the saying goes, people buy from people they like and trust…

4. The Twitter Accounts of Your Buying Committee

If your buyers are on Twitter, reps should follow them. Like LinkedIn, Twitter can help reps better understand their buying committees. Reps can see with whom their buyers interact on Twitter. They can see what types of content their buyers consume, and they can glean information about their buyers’ current interests based on the content they share.

Since people tend to mix personal and professional on Twitter, salespeople see a different side of their buyers on Twitter. Compared to LinkedIn, that portrait is often a fuller, more human version of your buyers.

And here’s the best part: On Twitter, reps can interact with the members of their buying committees without jumping through hoops. On LinkedIn, you need to send a connection request and hope that the recipient accepts your request. On Twitter, things are much easier. Find the person on Twitter, click “follow,” and start seeing all their updates in your Twitter feed.

When it comes to account-based sales, there are some tools that make your life easier. For example, platforms like Trapit bring market insights and buying committee insights directly to the sales rep. That way, salespeople don’t need to go out and forage for information.

That said, sales reps still have to put in effort and extract insights from the data points that they have. Remember that an account-based approach to sales requires due diligence. Nevertheless, an account-based approach is about targeting the biggest, most lucrative accounts. And in the end, the effort will pay off.

Will Content Marketing Replace Advertising?

Image via

By now we can all see that content marketing is playing a bigger and bigger role in the successes or failures of almost every company trying to make it in this internet-crazed world, but what is the end goal of content marketing? The easiest answer is that content marketing is there to affect each and every company’s bottom-line: to help make money. As Trapit CEO Gary Griffiths points out over on Wired Innovation Insights, the rise of content marketing marks “The end of advertising as we’ve known it.” If you take one more step back, a big part of the company’s bottom-line goal is to gain a loyal following by providing your audience with something of utility or interest. If someone is coming back to you for content over and over again, the chances are high that you have given that person one of those two things – either something that is of great usefulness to them, or something that is just plain fascinating. Of course, both are subjective, but marketers should keep this in mind when crafting any kind of content for their audience. Is it useful? Is it interesting?

The natural inclination for most marketers is probably to lean towards content that is useful and informative. Of course there is nothing wrong with some good helpful content based on your industry, but sometimes a simple dose of interesting can give you an even bigger return. This past Spring, the advertising world and Pepsi MAX gave us a great example of how something purely fun and interesting can be a great marketing tactic. With the help of Gifted Youth (part of Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die company), Pepsi MAX created a video that seemed to show famous driver Jeff Gordon, in disguise, taking an unsuspecting car salesman out for a joy ride. While the video is presumed to be less-than-authentic for a handful of reasons, the results remain the same. The supposed prank went viral, and over 40 million YouTube views later, Pepsi MAX can sit back and admire their content marketing handiwork.

Pepsi MAX did two notable things with this video ad. First, they decided to focus on entertaining their audience – providing something of interest – and run with it. They chose interesting over useful and went as far with it as they possibly could. They created something purely in the hopes of entertaining their audience with a piece of surprising and fun content, and then attached their brand name to it. Second, they did it in a format that they knew their audience already loved. They took the strategy and shock value of Punk’d and combined it with the viral nature of the internet with smashing success. Even though the video is clearly an ad, it’s also something that would fit right in on the Reddit front page or the Facebook news feeds of everyone you know. And that’s what made it such a success.

The takeaway here is that sometimes giving your audience exactly what they want is the best way to make an impact. Sure, give them what they need, too, but there’s no harm in creating a piece of content solely to entertain your followers. In fact, if it can get you 40 million YouTube views, it’s probably a fantastic idea. Deliver it in a format that you know your audience is accustomed to, and watch it go.

-Kelly

Why Sales Leaders Are Reluctant to Adapt to the Digital Age

“By 2020, every company that exists today will have become a digital predator or digital prey,” writes Forrester. In short, companies that adapt to their customers’ digital journeys will succeed, while the laggards will risk extinction.

Unfortunately, many sales teams have not heeded the warnings, and they find themselves in the dinosaur category. They don’t have digital and social sales strategies in place, and they are reluctant to use digital to create value for their customers.

Sound familiar? Perhaps you find yourself on one of those dinosaur teams. Well, this post is for you. To change your sales team’s culture, you have to understand why the team has not evolved over time. Here are some of the most common reasons for cultural inertia in sales.

Finding the Origins of Your Sales Team’s Inertia

Today, many sales teams are still using playbooks from the early aughts. They pitch and pounce. They cold call and cold email, even though there’s plenty of research to the contrary. Here are a few of the common reasons for this:

  • Many sales teams are set up to pitch products – not to provide valuable information to customers and prospects. Sales reps aren’t supplied with content, nor are they taught how to leverage content in sales conversations.
  • Sales teams have longstanding playbooks in place. It’s much easy to continue to use an old playbook than write a new one.
  • Many sales leaders were trained in traditional pitch and pounce methods. So, they teach what they know.
  • The reduced effectiveness of traditional sales tactics may have occurred so slowly that no one has noticed the diminishing returns.
  • The digital era requires between communication between sales and marketing teams. But many sales and marketing teams are still at odds.
  • Some sales teams aren’t tracking what’s working and what isn’t. So, they have no clue whether their traditional methods are paying dividends.
  • Many sales teams lack the right people and the right processes to implement a new kind of sales strategy.
  • It’s easy to become disconnected from the customer’s reality, especially if sales leaders are not engaged in ongoing conversations with the customers.

Finding the Impetus for Change

So, what has to happen for sales organizations to change? In order for a sales team to change its mindset about social selling, one of a few things needs to happen:

  • Business gets so bad that they have to try new things. (Fingers crossed that your business is not in this situation.)
  • A staffing turnover generates new thinking in the organization.
  • A culture change is sparked through external customer demands.
  • A culture change is sparked through an internal champion. For example, the CEO prioritizes creating a social business, and the sales team maps their strategy onto the CEO’s vision.

If you’re looking to modernize your sales organization, the last option is often the easiest path. It’s much easier to sway the opinion of an internal champion than to, say, overhaul your sales leadership. To win over the hearts and minds of your leadership, you’ll need to build a compelling business case for modernizing your sales team. Here are some resources that can get you started:

For any sales team, there is great opportunity in embracing their customers’ digital journeys. There’s opportunity for small sales teams that are nimble and capable of adapting faster than their larger competitors. But there’s also opportunity for medium and large businesses that have budget and are empowered to make decisions based on how their customers want to engage with them rather than sticking with the status quo.

Just beware: Some companies think that texting, social media, and other digital tactics aren’t for sales teams. Those companies are the ones that are on the verge of extinction.

Why LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index Shouldn’t Be Your Metric for Success

There has been much hullabaloo about LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI). Sales reps and thought leaders like to brag about their SSI numbers.

“I’m in the top 1% of my industry!”

“I max out around 97. What about you? Oh, you’re only at 68? Oh…”

Sure, who doesn’t like bragging rights? But therein lies the problem. Bragging rights are not meaningful business metrics. If the SSI is your sales organization’s success metric for social selling, something is terribly wrong. Let’s take a look at a few problems with the SSI.

Problem #1: It’s Easy to Game the System

If you’re familiar with the SSI, you know that one of the four pillars is “Engage with Insights.” Here’s a slide deck from LinkedIn on the topic:

To improve the “insights” score, reps should share content, and they should engage with other people’s updates.

Those sound like admirable goals. For sales reps, content is great for building rapport and challenging a customer’s current way of thinking. Sales reps should share industry insights, as well as thought leadership pieces that challenge a potential buyer’s status quo.

Ultimately, those are the types of content that will help sales reps build trust and move potential buyers along their journey. However, the SSI does not measure quality. Sales reps could easily game the system by sharing cat memes all day, every day (or any other type of content that won’t help buyers solve business problems).

And the same could be said for engaging with other people’s content. Sales reps can “like” a lot of content, or they can write, “Great post” on anything a prospect shares. But in the the end, that type of engagement won’t help build relationships or move buyers closer to a purchasing decision.

Problem #2: The SSI Measures Activity on One Network

No surprise: LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index is limited to, well, LinkedIn.

While LinkedIn is the professional network of record, it should not be your only social selling network. A good social selling strategy will span several networks. Twitter, for instance, makes a great social selling network.

For starters, Twitter makes it easier to connect with your buyers, and it’s easier for buyers on Twitter to find you. Moreover, Twitter users tend to present a more well-rounded picture of themselves, which is helpful when it comes time to build rapport with potential customers.

LinkedIn’s social selling index can’t take into account your performance on Twitter. To effectively track social selling performance across platforms, sales leaders need more holistic metrics.

The Solution: Establishing Better Leading and Lagging KPIs

To recap, LinkedIn’s SSI is easy to game, and more importantly, it only speaks to your sales team’s efforts on one network. If you’re only using LinkedIn for social selling, something’s wrong.

So, what’s a sales leader supposed to do? if LinkedIn’s SSI is not the right metric, how do you prove the value of your social selling program? How should you measure success?

Without a doubt, the executives within your company want to hear about revenue metrics. They want to know that your social selling program can contribute to growing sales pipeline, improving conversion rates, and generating more revenue. After all, that’s what social selling – and sales, in general – is about. It’s about revenue.

However, bear in mind that revenue metrics are lagging indicators. It will take time to build a social selling program and to see its impact on your top line. If you measure only pipeline growth and revenue, you won’t know whether your tactics are working and whether your program is heading in the right direction.

That’s why you also need leading indicators. When it comes to social selling, your leading indicators are tactical metrics. These metrics measure how your reps’ prospects are responding to their activity on social. They help you understand how many people clicked on a link, or how many people your reps reached, or how many people retweeted a tweet.

Tactical metrics (i.e. leading indicators) are especially important at the beginning of a social selling program, when you’re trying to establish best practices. If people aren’t clicking on your reps’ links when you have 50 social sellers, you might want to rethink your approach to social sharing before you enlist 1,000 sales reps.

The Bottom Line

As you think about measuring the success of your social selling program, don’t rely on one KPI like the SSI. Include both leading indicators and lagging indicators. Determine which metrics indicate whether your social selling program is heading in the right direction, and determine which metrics will define your long-term success. These metrics shouldn’t be easy to game, nor should they be limited to a single social network.

Want More Social Selling Tips?

Check out the Executive Guide to Social Selling Success. This ebook covers everything marketing, sales, and sales enablement leaders need to know about social selling.

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