How to Budget for Social Selling in 2017
Budget season is fast approaching, and it’s never easy, given that there are so many moving parts. You have to use revenue goals and work backwards, determining which technologies to implement and which ones you should ditch.
According to Forrester’s TechRadar for Q3 2016, social engagement and advocacy platforms are delivering significant business benefits for sales and marketing teams. That’s because many companies are struggling to engage their prospects and current customers, and social gives them another channel to use. By implementing social selling technology, companies are able to add value, shape the buyer’s journey, and create authentic interactions between sales reps and their buyers.
As companies look ahead to 2017, many of them are planning to add social selling to their budgets, but some are unsure how to allocate their funds. Here are a few suggestions.
Content should be at the heart of your social selling program. As Jeff Marcoux of Microsoft put it, “Social sellers need to share a mix of company-owned and third-party external content to be effective and authentic.” Without content, your sales reps won’t have anything to post on social media, and without anything to post, your sales reps won’t be able to add value, attract buyers, and nurture their current customers.
Luckily, many marketing teams are already on board with content marketing. 89% of B2B organizations have a content marketing program in place. That’s good news. Your company may not need to add staff to accommodate your sales team’s content needs.
Make sure you partner with your marketing team to discuss the sales team’s content needs. Remember that your sales team’s needs may be slightly different from your marketing team’s needs. Here are a few things to consider:
- Develop your branded thought leadership content – Yes, your sales need product-related content, but that’s not the type of content that’s most effective on social media. Thought leadership content that educates and challenges the status quo will drive engagement.
- Leverage existing content – Repurpose, and recycle. Don’t let your existing content go to waste. Think about ways you can reuse it. For example, can you a long video and break it into shorter, more digestible videos?
- Sprinkle in third-party content – Your company should not create all the content that your reps share. Social selling experts recommend an 80/20 split: 80% from third parties and 20% from your company. If reps share only company content, they look like corporate parrots, but when they can engage with other people’s ideas, they look less biased and more trustworthy.
- Put content in a sales-friendly format – Curate content in a way that enables sales teams to easily discover, read, and distribute it through their social networks. Otherwise, your social selling program will never take off.
Like content, technology presents one of the biggest challenges for social selling teams. Some sales organizations try to cobble together makeshift solutions, where they use email and Google alerts to encourage reps to be active on social. In the end, the program fails because adoption never happens. Reps find the duct tape workflow to be too tedious, inefficient, and cumbersome.
When looking for a solution, here are some things you should avoid at all costs:
- Companies that offer little support for your social selling strategy – Many solution providers are great at selling software, but they don’t offer customers any help with training and strategy. As a result, you have a social selling platform, but you have little guidance on social selling best practices. That’s a recipe for disaster.
- Bring Your Own Content – As we said above, social selling needs content, and “good enough” solutions require marketers and sales teams to supply all their own content. They don’t offer a library of content that marketing and sales teams can use out of the box. Or, if they do offer a content solution, it often involves manually importing dozens of RSS feeds. Yuck.
- Lack of flexibility with segmentation – Different groups of sales reps should see different pieces of content. A good social selling platform allows you to segment your sales reps into teams based on geography, role, vertical, and more. That way, your sales reps are always getting the content that is right for them.
- Few social listening features – Social selling is about listening as much as it is about broadcasting. Without social listening features, your sales team won’t be able to understand their buyers and engage properly with them.
- Confusing interfaces – “Good enough” solutions put a lot of the onus on the individual sales rep to configure their instances and find content. Complete social selling platforms are user-friendly and intuitive, thus promoting program adoption among sales reps.
If you want social selling to work, you need to have a solid leader at the helm. Depending on the maturity of your program, you may or may not need to hire someone for this position.
At fledgling programs, it’s often best to start small and then expand. That means relying on existing resources. Think about which employee is primed to lead the program through its early stages. Perhaps you have a Director of Sales Enablement who is socially and digitally savvy. Or perhaps your Senior Social Media Marketing Manager is eager to launch a social selling program. Whatever the case may be, don’t assume that you need to spool up a VP of Social Selling job description, especially when you’re just starting out.
As your social selling program expands, revisit your staffing requirements. Identify the areas where your team could use more help. For example, do you need better executive support? More content creators? What about content curators? Do you have a training program in place? How’s your metrics team looking? Are you hiring sales reps who have social selling experience? You may need to hire more staff to fill in the gaps in your program.
All right, you’ve thought about your program requirements. You know where your company may need to spend money to launch its social selling program. Now, it’s time to go out and secure budget for 2017! Good luck!