You’ve probably heard the buzz about account-based marketing and sales. Implementing an account-based approach to sales can help you increase win rates and land key accounts. To be successful, though, you must tailor each piece of the buyer’s journey specifically for that account, which requires some planning.
Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get started with a plan. In this post, we’ll look at six steps that you can use to get started with account-based social selling (ABSS). (Not sure what ABSS is or whether it’s right for you? Check out this post.)
Step #1: Identify Target Accounts
Sales leaders need to sit down with reps and create a list of target accounts. Note that this process will differ from company to company, given that each company has its own set of criteria and priorities. Nevertheless, here are a few strategies that you can use when targeting accounts:
The Most Lucrative: Identify the big fish. These accounts are likely to result in humongous deals and have plenty of room for expansion. Typically, these accounts are given to an enterprise sales rep or a “named-account rep,” and they require extra attention.
Strategic Importance: Sometimes, sales teams need to target accounts that map onto their company’s strategic priorities. Let’s say that your company is entering a new vertical or a new geography. Acquiring new, big logos helps legitimize your company in those verticals or geographies.
Competitors: Target companies using competing products. Sometimes, it’s motivating for your sales team to steal customers and hit the competition where it hurts. Other times, it’s easier to sell to customers who are already educated and simply need a better product.
Quick Wins: Is there a type of company that has a short sales cycle? You may want your sales team to target those accounts.
Step #2: Understand Your Target Account
Once your sales reps have finalized their lists of target accounts, it’s time for them to understand the inner workings of their target companies. Creating an org chart is a great way to familiarize oneself with the company and determine the best way to engage the key stakeholders.
As sales reps dig into each company’s hierarchy, they should look into whether each stakeholder uses social networks and which networks each person uses. Sales reps can easily find people using LinkedIn’s search bar, and a simple Google search will bring up the person’s Twitter account. For example, it’s fairly easy to find Henry Nothhaft, Trapit’s CEO:
When it comes to account-based social selling, you want to engage with as many stakeholders as possible. Don’t connect with one person at your target accompany and think your one connection will be enough to win the account. (This is especially true if you’re trying to reel in one of the big fish). Try to connect with at least five key decision makers in each of your accounts.
Step #3: Listen and Observe Habits
Before reaching out to stakeholders in the target account, sales reps need to stop and listen. This means observing their prospects’ behavior.
What does my prospect post? How frequently does my prospect post? What are my prospects’ interests? How does my prospect interact with people? Also, research the topics that the prospects’ company discusses on social media, as those posts can illuminate the company’s strategic vision.
Listening to prospects on social sets clear expectations for sales reps. Let’s say a prospect doesn’t use social media regularly. Reps shouldn’t become discouraged if they don’t receive an immediate reaction from a prospect on social. Likewise, listening enables reps to create lists of topics that each prospect would like to discuss. You don’t want to discuss the wonders of artificial intelligence with someone who abhors AI.
A good social selling platform will assist sellers with their social listening. For example, sales reps should be able to import the latest tweets from a prospect and analyze what the prospect is saying.
Step #4: Organize Your Content
Now that you’ve researched your prospects, your sellers are almost ready to engage with buyers. But before they can engage, they need to be armed with the right content. For account-based social selling to work, sales reps need hyper-targeted content. Why? Because reps need to show a potential customer that they understand the customer’s industry and specific job function.
According to MarketingSherpa, 82% of prospects value content made for their specific industries, and 67% say the same of content created for their job functions. So, if your sales reps are targeting healthcare CMOs, your reps will want to post content about healthcare marketing to LinkedIn and Twitter, and they’ll want to use messaging that is tailored for executives.
Your social selling platform should make content targeting and tailored messaging easy. Using your platform, marketing and sales enablement teams should be able to organize content according to industry, consistently supply new content to reps, and craft sample messages that the sales reps can use.
Step #5: Engage Key Stakeholders with Insights and Content
At this stage in the game, your sales reps should be ready to engage. They just have to find their “in.” Did the prospect tweet an interesting article? Make a comment! Did the rep find an article that the prospect should read? Share that piece of content with the prospect!
In addition to one-on-one interactions with the prospect, sales reps should consistently share content that will resonate with their target accounts. On LinkedIn, sellers might want to update once or twice a day. On Twitter, they will want to update their profiles five to ten times a day. By consistently sharing content, sellers can establish themselves as trusted advisors and attract the attention of their target prospects.
Step #6: Log Activities in Your CRM
Logging CRM activities seems like a “no-duh” task, but many sales reps forget to do it. Sales reps need to add key stakeholders to the account in CRM. And they should log all interactions with people at the target account. This includes social engagements, phone calls, and emails.
And yes, your sales team will still need to make phone calls and emails. Using social networks for sales is another tool in your toolkit – not a replacement for the entire toolkit.
Ready to Get Started with ABSS?
Now that you’ve reviewed these six steps, we hope that building an account-based approach to social selling seems much more feasible. Use these six steps to guide your planning and to build consistent best practices across your sales team. With time, these six steps will become second nature for your sellers, and you will discover which accounts work best for social selling.
Start Planning Your Social Selling Strategy
Being good at phone calls is no longer enough for a sales rep. The best salespeople position themselves as knowledgeable experts and consultants for their buyers.
As The Challenger Customer notes, the best sales reps push buyers to think differently and to engage buyers with new insights. They don’t just blast product messages at their customers. This transition can be tricky for many sales reps, but when salespeople are armed with relevant content, their job is much easier.
Here are a few ways that content can make the modern sales process run smoother.
Content Can Change Buyers’ Mental Models
All customers have a way of doing things. To win a deal, a sales rep must change the way customers currently do things. This requires reps to understand a customer’s current beliefs, gently demonstrate how those beliefs are flawed, and show the customer a better way. Moving customers from point A to point B requires content in the form of research, stories, and persuasive ebooks and blog posts.
Content Can Build Relationships
Think about your personal life. How many times do you say to yourself, “I should send this article to my friend,” or, “My mom would really get a kick out of this meme”? Well, that’s how we build relationships with our customers online, too.
Many of our leads aren’t ready to buy. Instead of ignoring those leads for the hotter leads, sales reps have the opportunity to build relationships with the leads who aren’t quite ready to buy. They can use content to educate leads and move them closer to purchase.
Content Can Lend Credibility to Your Sales Reps
Sales reps know their products. What they need to show to their buyers is an understanding of their buyers’ businesses and industries. According to Forrester, 57% of sales reps don’t understand their buyer’s industry, and 75% aren’t knowledgeable about their buyer’s specific business.
Content can help reps show that they have the expertise to solve a buyer’s problem. Good content doesn’t sell a product. It shows how a buyer can solve a business problem.
Content Can Turn Sales Reps into Resources
Many buyers try to avoid sales reps. That’s because many sales reps continue to pounce and pitch and push, which annoys buyers. Instead, sales reps should be helping buyers do their research.
In many ways, today’s sales reps need to act more like librarians who help their buyers research their problems, who share their buyers’ quest for more information, and who actively share great resources with their buyers – without making it feel like a proposal is always around the corner. That’s where content can help.
Content Can Make Sales Reps Findable
Sales reps can’t rely entirely on marketing to make their numbers. According to SiriusDecisions:
- Enterprise sales reps need to source roughly 90% of their own leads.
- Mid-market sales reps need to source between 75% and 85% of their own leads.
- SMB reps need to source between 55% and 70% of their own leads.
By sharing content regularly on social networks, salespeople can become findable by buyers who are looking for business solutions. Insightful and relevant content can help your sales reps build your company’s reputation as the industry leaders over your competitors.
Content Can Give Sales Reps an Excuse to Check In
Touching base with customers can be difficult. “Just checking in” messages annoy buyers. By sharing content, sales reps can add value and get on their customers’ radars without seeming obtrusive. A “Hey, I saw this and thought of you” message can go a long way when trying to re-engage prospects and current customers.
The word “marketing” is in the term “content marketing,” but that doesn’t mean sales can’t leverage content. Content can help generate better sales conversations, move buyers closer to purchase, and keep buyer’s engaged both before and after a sale. So, start sharing relevant content and start driving better results.
Some sales reps think that social selling will be a no-brainer. They use social media all the time in their personal lives. So, how hard can it be to use social media for professional purposes?
After a few weeks of social selling, it hits these reps: Oh, gee, this might not be as straightforward as it seems. Maybe I should learn how to do social selling correctly.
That’s okay. It happens to every beginning social seller. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid – if you know which roadblocks you should look for. Below are six common social selling mistakes most beginners make and tips for avoiding them.
Mistake 1: You don’t post content on a regular basis
Social selling requires reps to be proactive and initiate conversations with potential buyers. But it also requires sellers to attract potential buyers to them. In both instances, reps need to position themselves as knowledgeable experts, capable of helping buyers solve their organization’s problems and challenge their preexisting assumptions and beliefs about their businesses.
One way to establish expertise is by regularly sharing insightful content. As the book The Challenger Customer notes, content is “critical to teach customers, to change their direction while they are learning in a noisy information marketplace.” Forrester’s research supports this point of view. In Break through the Hype of Social Selling, Peter O’Neill writes, “Marketing and sales professionals tell us that a strong content strategy is core to a successful social selling program.”
Solution: Create a Content Publishing Schedule for Yourself
It’s important to create a publishing schedule. If you’re new to social selling, your cadence might be slower, but more advanced social sellers typically post an article once a day on LinkedIn and three to five times per day on Twitter.
As you post, pay attention to the quality of the content. Any piece of content won’t do. For example, if you sell a CRM solution, celebrity gossip blogs won’t help you engage your buyers in meaningful ways. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. That’s why content needs to be relevant to your market. It needs to make buyers say, “Dang! I had no idea we had this problem! I need to learn how to fix it!”
Mistake 2: You obsess over your profile
There’s a lot of hype surrounding social profiles. Many social selling gurus sell profile consultations to sales teams. They seize on the fear that sales reps are doing a very basic thing (i.e. writing a profile) incorrectly. And, if reps can’t do a basic thing correctly, what else will they do wrong?
Or so the guru’s logic goes… Don’t get me wrong. Having a buyer-centric profile is important, but it’s only a small part of the social selling process.
Truth be told, there’s always something you could do to improve your profile. A different profile picture. More keywords. Wittier phrasing. But to really do social selling, you will have to stop obsessing over your bio and hit the “publish” button. That way, you can get onto more important things, such as interacting with buyers.
Solution: Just Hit the Blasted “Publish” Button
Your profile is never going to be perfect. Yes, you don’t want a bio that reads like a resume, nor do you want one that is rife with grammatical errors. But eventually, you need to stop proofreading and start hitting the publish button. Your bio is not going to make or break most of your deals, nor is it set in stone. You can always return to your profile and update it later on.
Not sure how to write a good bio for social selling? Here are a few tips.
Mistake 3: You don’t listen and research
Some people view social networks only as a broadcasting channel. They only share content, and they overlook the gold mine of research that social networks offer them.
To be effective at their jobs, reps need to deeply understand their accounts because in researching their accounts, they will be able to better position their product and services for their individual buyers. Fortunately, social networks can tell reps a lot about:
- The Market
- Their Target Companies
- The Buying Committee at Each Target Company
- The Reps’ Connection to Each Account
But you have to listen to find out that information.
Solution: Shut up, and listen!
Those words of wisdom come from Ted Rubin, and while blunt, those words encapsulate a mantra that many reps need to embrace. Before you engage buyers on social media, research them. Listen to what they’re saying. Understand their interests and what makes them tick. There’s a lot you can learn by sitting back and observing.
Mistake 4: You don’t engage in conversations
While some reps have trouble listening, there are other reps who listen too much. That is to say, they are passive observers who never engage with their prospects on social networks.
Social selling is a balancing act. Reps need to listen, but they also need to engage. After all, social selling is about being social, and that requires reps to engage in conversations.
Solution: Be brave, and jump into conversations
When you see the opportunity to add value, don’t let it go to waste. Add an insightful comment. Link to a relevant piece of content. That will help you get buyers’ attention and, if your comments are incisive, you will start building trust with buyers, who are looking for guidance as they navigate the noisy marketplace.
Whatever you do, remember to be a good social citizen. Don’t comment just to comment. Don’t try to relate every conversation to you and your company. And don’t serve up canned responses that you copy and paste everywhere.
Mistake 5: You don’t have a plan
Many sales reps commit random acts of social. They post a thing here. They send a connection request to a person there. They write a comment over there.
In short, they’re using social networks, but they don’t have a strategy guiding them. Sound familiar?
Solution: Ask your sales leader for a plan.
Your sales team should have a playbook, and social selling should be a part of it. Social selling should not be something that reps should have to figure out on their own. It should be a mandate that comes down from the leadership within the sales organization.
If you’re feeling lost when it comes to social, talk to your sales leader. See if you can get training and guidance on working LinkedIn and Twitter into your playbook. If your sales leader needs help, here are a few resources that can help:
Mistake 6: You talk about your business and products non-stop
When some reps start using social, they are hopeful that everyone will be interested in their business and their products. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Before reps can talk about their businesses with someone, they need to build a relationship and establish their credibility.
Solution A: Treat social like a dinner party
Sure, every sales rep wants to announce new product features. Sure, every sales rep wants to share exciting company news. But don’t spend your days tweeting press releases and promoting demos. Ultimately, you want to gain your audience’s trust, and unrestrained self-promotion is only going to annoy your followers.
Think of social like going to a dinner party. You don’t want to be the loathsome guest who can speak about only one topic: himself. Blech.
Solution B: Use third-party content
One way to avoid talking about yourself is to talk about other people, specifically about what other people are saying. In fact, it’s a social selling best practice. Social selling experts recommend that 80% of the content shared by reps comes from third parties (e.g. other people’s blogs, insights, reports, etc.)
Only 20% of the content should come from the rep’s company. That’s because you lose credibility with your buyers, if you only share your company’s content. You come across as biased. By sharing other people’s content, you project expertise, not just blind loyalty to your company.
Mistake 6.5: You Beat Yourself up for Making These Mistakes
Maybe you read this list and thought, Blerg, I’ve made those mistakes before. That’s okay. They are called “common” mistakes for a reason. Rest assured that the more you use social, the better you’ll get at it.
Want some more help with social selling? Check out our definitive cheat sheet on the subject.
Posted byMark Bajus
Have you ever looked up a buyer or customer on LinkedIn? My guess is that you have, and chances are good that your buyers and customers have done the same to you. They’ve researched you to see what kind of person and what kind of company they’re dealing with.
How you portray yourself on social media matters. So, with no further ado, here are six tips to get the most out of your profile.
1. Include a Professional Photo
Profiles with photos receive a 40% higher InMail response rate. Why? People like to see to whom they are speaking. So, include a professional photo of yourself.
Operative word: professional. LinkedIn tends to be a more buttoned-up social network. So, it’s worth having a quality head shot taken. In other words, don’t choose a photo from your college spring break or one from your sister’s wedding where you had to crop the rest of the bridal party out of frame.
2. Write a Descriptive Headline
The text underneath your name is your headline. After your photo, it’s the first thing people see when looking at your profile.
Many people use their job title as their headline, but don’t follow the crowd. Be different. Explain how you can help your clients. For example, you might write, “Helping financial services organizations transform their hiring practices.”
Bonus tip: Use keywords that your buyers may search for. That way, your profile is easily discoverable.
3. Customize Your URL
Each profile has a public URL (a.k.a. a web address). By creating a custom URL, people can find you easier when they use search engines. Plus, your URL looks great on a business card. For example, here’s mine: http://www.linkedin.com/in/markbajus
Need help? Check out this resource from LinkedIn.
4. Spend Time on Your Summary
After your photo and headline, your summary (a.k.a. your bio) is the most commonly read portion of your profile.
Use this area to tell your story to your buyer – not a hiring manager. Your buyer doesn’t care whether you crushed your quota. Instead, your buyer wants to know how you can add value and what insights you can offer. Focus on those questions.
5. Add Your Contact Information
Once you connect with a prospect or colleague, you’ll want to make it easy for them to contact you. Add your company email address and phone number. And don’t worry about spammers. Your contact information is visible only to your connections.
6. Add Links and Rich Media to Your Profile
Your marketing department has created fantastic content for you. Make your LinkedIn profile one more place where prospects can access and download ebooks, presentations, and success stories. Upload files from your computer or link to them.
Not sure how? Here’s a resource for you.
Ready for More?
Now that you know how to make a good first impression on LinkedIn, it’s time to expand. Check out our Definitive Cheat Sheet for Social Sellers to learn more tips and tricks.
Since 100% of B2B decision-makers use social media for work, social media marketing is a big deal.
But the world is changing. It has become increasingly harder for companies to stand out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. More companies and more people continuously join the networks, increasing the number of posts sent every minute. To get noticed, companies have to consistently deliver relevant content and find ways to reach more people. And, to reach more people, companies often have to pay.
The answer to your problems is to alter your social media strategy. Expand beyond one corporate account. Empower your employees – actual human beings who do not have to pay to play. Have them build trust with buyers, reach more prospects, and drive sales. That’s where employee advocacy comes in.
Here are six signs that your company needs to upgrade from a branded social strategy to an employee advocacy strategy.
1. Advertising is your primary way of reaching new audiences.
In the golden age of social media, you could grow your audience organically. Now, with social reach on a downward trajectory, marketers have to pay to play, and it isn’t cheap. In the U.S. alone, social media ad spend topped $8.5 billion in 2014, and it could reach $14 billion by 2018.
That’s a lot of cash. And here’s the thing: paid promotion does not help your brand reputation. Less than half of social media users actually trust ads on social media. They do, however, trust your employees, and your employees can reach just as many – if not more – people. And they can do it organically.
2. You spam your followers with sales pitches.
Social media users are savvy. They don’t want to receive hard pitch after hard pitch. At best, they ignore your pitch-slapping, and at worst, they unfollow you – never to hear from you again.
Think about it this way: Most people wouldn’t walk up to a stranger in a happy hour and say, “I don’t know anything about you. But I work for this company. And I would really like to sell to you.” And then repeat that message over and over and over.
Instead, your buyers want to digest content that is relevant to them, and not every person on social media is ready to buy. People want to learn. They want to discuss. They want to be entertained. They want to feel like they can trust you.
When you have humans behind your marketing messages, they can get to know their followers personally. They can build a 1:1 relationship. Through that personal relationship, your advocates can nurture customers, patiently, over time, and move them through their purchase journey.
3. Social media exists in a silo.
Marketing is in charge of your social media strategy. All other customer-facing departments do not have any say. Your sales teams and customer service teams – people who deal with your customers on a regular basis – do not get to have any input.
What you need to do is align your customer-facing teams, build a centralized content library, and empower your employees to share your content. If you don’t, your content will go unused. 70% of B2B content on the internet is wasted.
4. You’re struggling to create enough content at scale.
Consider HD Vest, a company that provides broker/dealer operations and office support for independent financial advisors across all 50 states. Many of their financial advisors are CPAs and tax professionals, who want to stand out as thought leaders and generate new business.
With over 4,500 independent financial advisors, there’s no way that HD Vest could write and publish enough content to keep their advisors happy. They needed a platform that could provide them with new, fresh content on topics like wealth management, retirement planning, and economic updates.
A good employee advocacy platform will supply you with a scalable content that is proven to increase engagement and drive sales. As your company grows its products and workforce, the platform will be able to grow with you.
5. Engagement is nonexistent or inauthentic.
Communicating with a corporate social media account is awkward. As the follower of a brand on social, you understand that there’s a human speaking with you. (Someone has to be typing those messages!) But the corporate social account does not have a face or a name, and many times, brand messages are automated.
By empowering your employees to advocate for your company, you remove that level of awkwardness. Your potential buyers can communicate directly with other humans when you enable your employees to act as marketers.
In fact, your employees can be quite persuasive. Recommendations from other people is the most trusted form of advertising.
6. You are not empowering your most valuable influencers.
To reach more people and to lend credibility to their brand, many companies turn to influencer marketing. They identify influencers in their industry. They market to the influencers to increase awareness around their brand. They market through influencers to spread their marketing messages.
While influencer programs can bring results (often at an extra cost), don’t forget that your workplace is full of influencers who are already on your payroll. Your employees are your most valuable influencers. They are smart and passionate about their work. They have their own networks of people who trust them. They are capable of sharing your company’s messages, and many of them (50%) are already doing it.
In fact, your employees can reach many more people than a single corporate account. Studies have shown that they can reach between seven and ten times more people than your company.
Are you ready to learn more?
Download our newest ebook on employee advocacy.
Some consultancies are reluctant to empower their employees on social. Yet, management consultancies that have implemented employee advocacy programs have seen major improvements in brand reach, revenue growth, and recruiting. So, what’s holding you back from asking your employees to use social for business?
This post takes a look at the frequently asked questions that consultancies have about employee advocacy. We hope that our answers help you understand why employee advocacy is a good fit for your firm.
Question 1: What Is Employee Advocacy?
Clients don’t want to hear one blanket marketing message. They want to receive messages tailored specifically for them, and they want to hear it from someone they can trust.
That’s where employee advocacy comes in. More and more consultancies are empowering their employees to act as thought leaders and representatives of their companies on social media. Rather than interacting with clients solely through their corporate social channels, firms are relying on employees to be the human faces of their companies and to build relationships with clients through social networks.
Ultimately, that’s what employee advocacy is all about: building human-to-human relationships with clients – past, present, and future.
Question 2: Is Advocacy Just for Partners at the Firm?
Without a doubt, your firm’s partners are some of your best advocates. As executives, they have a responsibility to represent and promote their organization. Plus, they have the most expertise and knowledge to share with their industry.
But don’t discount all the non-partners in your firm. First-year associates may not have illustrious titles, but on a daily basis, those associates are building relationships with people at their client sites. Social media is a great way for consultants to strengthen their relationships at current engagements and continue to build relationships with people from previous engagements.
Question 3: How Can Employee Advocacy Help Management Consultancies?
Savvy firms have realized that employee advocacy is a powerful strategy that helps them grow. For instance, empowering employees on social can…
Increase firm visibility
Your people are your product. By increasing the visibility of your employees on social, you increase the visibility of your firm.
Attract new clients
With visibility and expertise come new clients. Potential customers see your employees’ expertise, and they begin to trust your employees and believe that your firm can solve their problems.
Maintain relationships with former clients
Once an engagement ends, the client-consultant relationship should not end. Social provides an opportunity to stay in touch and continue to add value.
Make recruiting easier
The best job candidates want to work the best and brightest consultants. Showing off your employees’ expertise and your company’s culture can help attract your top recruits.
Question 4: What Tips Do You Have for Nurturing Relationships with Clients?
Former clients hate receiving the “just checking in” email. A relationship should be on-going. You shouldn’t contact clients only when you need something from them.
Social is a low-pressure way of maintaining relationships over a long period of time. Here are a few tactics that your consultants can try:
Keep tabs on their clients
Consultants should take time to read about their former clients in the news, looking for opportunities to engage them. For example, when something good happens, they should congratulate their clients.
It’s often easier to send those congratulatory remarks through LinkedIn or Twitter because social networks don’t feel as formal as email. Unlike email, a message on social doesn’t always need an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Share relevant content
Consultants should keep their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles fresh. On a regular basis, they should share content about their industry. That way, they’re always serving their clients by keeping them up-to-date on what’s happening in their sector.
Comment on social media posts
Consultants don’t have to comment on everything that clients post. That would be creepy. But consultants should take the time to give thoughtful responses to a client’s post every now and then. It’s the modern way of staying in touch with business contacts.
Question 5: What Should I Share On Social Media?
For employees to become thought leaders on social, they need the right content. They need articles, reports, blog posts, webinars, and infographics that help showcase their knowledge. Here are three types of content that can help:
Company-Branded Research and Thought Leadership
Clients hire consultancies for their wisdom and insights. This type of content is vital for your team to share.
Promotions for Upcoming Events
Events are the bread and butter of every consultancy’s marketing plan. Between speaking at conferences, hosting seminars, or launching a webinar series, there’s always something going on. Encourage your employees to publicize those events.
Industry News and Research
The majority of employees (55%) want to share a mixture of company-created and third-party content to build their professional brands. While employees want to promote the thought leadership produced by their companies, they don’t want to sound like corporate parrots in front of their professional networks. That’s why we recommend sharing a variety of content from around the web.
To learn more, check out this post: 3 Types of Content Management Consultants Should Share on Social.
Question 6: Is Employee Advocacy a Time Suck for My Consultants?
Employee advocacy does not entail spending all day on Facebook. That’s a common misconception. Most consultants spend only a few minutes every day building and maintaining their professional relationships on social.
Creating a short daily routine is possible if you have the right technology and workflow in place. To minimize the work for your advocates, your technology should enable you to:
- Add, organize, and discover content
- Distribute that content to employees on channels like web, mobile, email, and more
- Include sample copy that employees can use when sharing content
- Enable employees to share content with the click of a button or the swipe of a finger
- Measure the effectiveness of your program
- Empower your employees to research their clients and their clients’ firms
Without technology in place, employees lose time searching for content in the black hole of their email inboxes, and marketers waste hours of their day copying and pasting links so that their advocates can share content. Without the right technology, advocacy becomes a time suck.
It’s Time to Give Employee Advocacy a Try
I hope that these six questions help you understand what employee advocacy can do for your company. To review, an advocacy program can help you increase your firm’s visibility, attract and retain clients, and assist with recruiting. But to fully tap into the power of your employees, you need the right technology provider – one that not only offers a powerful platform, but also serves as your trusted partner and expert advisor.
If you’d like to learn more about how Trapit can help, feel free to contact us. We’d love to speak with you.
Posted byMark Bajus
Without an executive champion, your social selling program won’t make it very far. Gaining the support of an executive will boost your program’s visibility and reputation within your company. Plus, executives will be better able to communicate the importance of your program to the rest of the organization.
In sum, recruiting an executive champion is one of the best things you can do for your social sales program. And who better to champion your sales program than the VP of Sales? After all, the VP of Sales is responsible for sales growth and developing their teams. To help you sway the opinion of your VP of Sales, we’ve compiled a list of FAQs about social selling. We hope that they help you gain executive buy-in.
Q1: What is social selling?
There’s a lot of talk about social selling, and your sales leadership might have preconceived notions about what social selling is. To get everyone on the same page, make sure you have a definition. Here’s one you can use:
Social selling is when salespeople use social networks to build relationships with the end goal of selling more. Typically, this involves supplying and discussing content, which generates leads and opportunities, drives revenue, and increases customer lifetime value.
Q2: Will social selling generate revenue?
The short answer: Yes, social selling generates revenue. Sales teams that leverage social networks tend to outperform their peers.
The longer answer: According to LinkedIn’s research, social selling leaders have 45% more opportunities per quarter than social selling laggards. And according to Sales Benchmark Index, social sellers reach 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional prospecting methods.
Before you launch your social selling program, do some research and find some great industry stats that will help tip the scales in your favor. Here are two resources that might help:
Q3: Will this take time away from selling?
Social selling shouldn’t take time away from selling for two reasons. First, using social networks shouldn’t occupy a sale rep’s entire day. Rather, it should take a few minutes every day, leaving plenty of time for other sales activities.
Second, social selling is selling. To be sure, a sales rep is not going to close a deal on LinkedIn or Twitter. However, the use of social networks is one of the best sales tactics. In fact, social selling separates the top reps from everyone else:
The CEB interviewed over 1,000 sales reps, and they found that the best sales reps use social media to:
- Connect with potential customers
- Share points of view valuable to customers
- Generate leads
In other words, social sellers aren’t just chatting with their buddies on Facebook. They are using social networks to add value and move deals forward. That’s an important distinction that you need to convey to your sales leaders.
Q4: How many resources do we need?
A VP of Sales is likely to be interested in how implementing a social selling program will impact the department’s structure. Will you need to hire more sales development reps, account executives, sales enablement professionals, or sales managers?
Generally speaking, there are 8 roles that you need to fill, and most of them can be filled by your current staff:
- An executive sponsor
- A project manager
- A content creator
- A content curator
- Social listeners
- Social sellers
- Metrics and analytics
- Your vendor’s customer service
In addition to discussing your personnel, highlight your plans for technological support. Note that a good social selling platform will help streamline the process. A user-friendly platform will make it easy to train your reps, get everyone up to speed quickly, and ensure that best practices are being followed. As a result, each sales rep will be more productive, decreasing the need to hire more sales reps to hit your revenue goals.
Q5: How will this complement our existing sales playbook?
Creating best practices is one of the most difficult tasks of a sales leader. So, many VPs of Sales will be scared to throw out their old playbook. There’s good news, though! Sales teams don’t need to discard their old playbooks. Instead, they should think of social selling as a way to augment their sales process.
If you’re struggling to imagine how social selling can enhance your current playbook, don’t worry. We have a few resources to help you:
Q6: What is our change management plan?
One of the biggest obstacles to change can be the team itself. It can be hard to introduce new best practices and new technologies that disrupt the current status quo, even if the new best practices and new technologies will eventually improve the sales process. So, before you pitch social selling to your VP of Sales, come up with a change management plan.
For example, you’ll want to have answers to questions like the following:
- What are our business objectives and how are they connected to social selling?
- What is our roadmap for implementation?
- What are our KPIs?
- How will we introduce social selling and social selling technology to our team?
- Do we need a governance board?
- When will we start executing on our plan?
- How will we optimize our program?
Over to You
Convincing your VP of Sales to see the benefits of social selling is a pivotal moment. Every sales organization is slightly different, and every sales leader has a unique perspective. To sway opinion, you need to understand the unique pain points of your organization. Overall, these questions should help point you in the right direction and enable to argue for the importance of social selling from many different perspectives.
When you’re trying to gain internal support for employee advocacy, think about who is poised to see the value of your project. For example, the CMO or the VP of Marketing is typically a great person to approach.
When you’re approaching the marketing leaders at your company, it’s a good idea to anticipate some of the questions and objections that they might have. To be successful, you’ll need to understand who the stakeholders are, what they care about, and how they make decisions. We’ve prepared some questions and tips to get you started.
Question 1: Why does employee advocacy work?
Like consumers, B2B buyers are more likely to trust a brand or product recommendation from friends or family. In fact, Forrester’s research on software purchasers in North America shows that peers have lots of sway in the purchasing decision.
Your employees are your buyers’ peers. By encouraging your employees to act as advocates, your company can influence the discover and explore stages of the buying process.
Question 2: What is the ROI of employee advocacy?
To answer this question, be prepared to talk about ROI estimates, and know which metrics are important to your marketing leaders. As Forrester has noted, “Most B2B marketers told us they can tie revenue directly to advocate participation.” But companies with employee advocacy programs also see benefits like:
- Higher conversion rates
- More qualified leads
- Better customer relationships
- Brand amplification
- More social engagement
- Increased retention of customers
- Higher customer lifetime value
To help you create your ROI estimates, you may want to consult these resources:
Question 3: Which additional resources will be needed?
Marketing leaders want to know how an employee advocacy program will impact the marketing department’s structure. It’s likely that your company already has many of the resources you need. For example, you probably have a content team and a team dedicated to analytics and metrics.
As you think through your program, remember that one of your biggest challenges will be training your advocates on social media and reenforcing best practices. If you choose the right vendor, it will be easy to train your current team and get them up to speed. Not only will your vendor’s platform be user-friendly; its customer success team will support your training efforts.
Question 4: How will we protect our brand?
It’s fairly easy for a CMO to control a brand’s reputation if the company has a handful of corporate social accounts. But what happens if a company suddenly has thousands of advocates tweeting about the company? How can the marketing department ensure that those people are building a positive brand image?
To allay your CMO’s worries, you may want to prepare a mental script – like this one:
“If you are concerned about the brand’s reputation, the marketing team can build a content library. You can pre-approve the content, and you can pre-approve messages.
“Don’t worry. This won’t add more work for you. A good social selling platform will allow the marketing department to share pre-approved content – with the click of a button. In turn, advocates can share those messages and amplify your company’s message.
“Just think of how many more people will see our organization’s messages if we have everyone posting about it – not just our corporate account.”
Question 5: How does this fit with our current plans?
Understand your CMO’s strategic vision for your department, and then, align your response to that vision. Each marketing department will be slightly different. For example, if your company is trying to humanize its brand, point out that advocacy puts a human face on your brand. Or let’s say that your CMO is putting more emphasis on content marketing. Show how your employees can act as content amplifiers.
Question 6: What is our timeline for success?
Prepare a timeline that lays out how long it will take to roll out your employee advocacy program. As you build your timeline, take stock of all the tasks that you must accomplish. (You can find a checklist of tasks here.) And make note of any competing initiatives that could delay your launch.
Oh, and one more tip: As you’re selecting a software partner, ask them about their time to deployment. Stay clear of vendors who take a long time to launch.
Remember that employee advocacy is not a one-person show. You’ll need the support of your executive team. To do so, you need to understand your stakeholders and what makes them tick. If you can address their pain points and concerns, you can win them over. Good luck!
If you’d like to learn more about employee advocacy, check out The Rise of the Employee Marketer.
Before your sales team jumps into social selling, you need a social media policy in place. Your policy should outline what employees shouldn’t do, but it should also emphasize what your employees should do. According to CSO Insight’s research, 71% of world-class sales organizations have implemented social media policies and guidelines for their customer-facing staff.
When you create your policy, it’s tempting to Google “social media policies” and borrow heavily from other companies. But it’s important to take time and draft something that fits with your sales team and your company. Here are six things you should consider as you go about forming a policy for your sales team.
1. Understand the Risks and Regulatory Environment
Some of the risks will be specific to your industry. For example, in financial services, a customer’s privacy is paramount. It might be cool to see a celebrity at a bank, but employees should not be tweeting about it or snapping videos for Snapchat.
But don’t forget about the risks that are applicable to all companies, regardless of industry. For example, having employees on social media pose brand and reputational risks, which can be mitigated through the policy and social training (more on this below).
2. Write a Policy that Enables Salespeople and Communicates Your Trust in Them
It’s easy to write a social media policy that is full of “don’ts.” But if you only mention what is prohibited, your sales reps will be afraid to use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for business purposes, and your social selling program will never take off.
For social selling to work, you need salespeople to embrace social media and be excited about it. So, take the time to tell salespeople what they should do, and try to frame your don’ts in a positive manner.
For example, instead of including a rule like, “Don’t pick fights on social media,” you could write, “Be a good online citizen” or “Ponder before You Post.” Both of those options express the etiquette and mentality required for social selling, but they do not dwell on the negative.
3. Include Key Stakeholders in the Process
Don’t build a silo around your social media policy. Talk to your marketing department, which has extensive experience with social media. Talk to your HR department, which is familiar with your corporate culture and employee guidelines. Talk to your legal and compliance departments, which can help you navigate the legal and compliance issues related to your verticals and countries. For example, in the United States, companies have to consider the National Labor Relations Act’s implications for social media.
Not only will your policy be better as a result; your social selling program will gain visibility within the organization. And visibility is necessary for your program to thrive.
4. Draw from Your Existing Guidelines and Policies
Your company may have existing policies in place – like an electronic communications policy or a code of conduct. Leveraging those policies is helpful when creating your social media policy. Here’s why.
First, your employees are already familiar with those policies. So, when you show them the social media policy, the concepts will not be completely foreign to them. Instead, you are simply reinforcing existing guidelines in the context of social media.
Second, it is an opportunity to position your social selling program in the context of larger corporate objectives. This helps validate your program in the eyes of your executives and sales reps, alike.
5. Align the Policy to Your Corporate Culture
There’s no one-size-fits-all social media policy because there’s no one-size-fits-all corporate culture. How you want your sales reps to use social media will be different from how your peer wants reps to use social media at a different company.
For instance, you might encourage your employees to share unicorn and rainbow GIFs on Twitter, but your peer might discourage employees from sharing such things. Or, talking about politics on social media might be acceptable at your peer’s company, but not at yours.
Bottom line: For social selling to be successful, customers must perceive your reps as authentic. Which means, the culture and brand your employees project online must match the culture and brand your employees live offline, in the workplace.
6. Use Training to Help Bring the Policy to Life
Your social media policy should not be a document that gathers digital dust in a hidden corner of a shared drive. Instead, it should be a document that is revisited on a regular basis. A good way to make your policy come to life is through social media training.
Let’s say that your policy asks employees to be “good online citizens.” During training, bring examples of people being good online citizens, and bring examples of people being bad online citizens. Help your employees see the difference.
Want to Learn More about Social Selling?
Check out our cheat sheet for social sellers.
It’s one thing to have a small group of salespeople use social media. It’s another thing to expand social selling across your entire sales team.
So, how do you make that leap? How do you scale a social selling program across the enterprise? Here are six of our best tips.
1. Document Your Social Selling Strategy
If you haven’t done so already, take the time to document your social selling strategy. Put an end to confusion and random acts of social. Stop praying that a social sales strategy will happen “organically.” Take the time to write a plan.
A thorough social selling strategy will help you:
- Align your marketing, sales, and sales enablement teams
- Allocate internal resources
- Identify key stakeholders and roles
- Set clear objectives for your team members
A detailed yet agile strategy is best. As your program matures, your documented strategy must adopt and change.
2. Clearly Define Roles
As you document your strategy, create a list of the key roles that your program needs. Without clear role differentiation, your employees may step on each other’s toes; tasks may slip through the cracks; and your sellers will not know where they should turn for help. By clearly assigning roles and communicating those roles to your team, you will nip confusion in the bud.
Here are eight key roles that you must fill:
3. Take the Time to Train Your Employees
We aren’t born with LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. The ability to use social networks is not innate. So, many employees have a learning curve ahead of them. For social sales to scale, you need to train your employees.
A good training program will:
- Address different learning styles (kinesthetic, auditory, visual, etc.)
- Be attuned to varying levels of knowledge
- Be offered on a continuous basis – rather than a one-time deal
- Take place in a variety of learning environments (online classes, in-person meetings, office hours with subject matter experts, etc.)
Without training, there won’t be adoption, and without adoption, your social selling program won’t take off.
4. Befriend Tactical KPIs
It is tempting to care only about the revenue metrics – how much pipeline is being generated and how many deals are being closed. But before you can think about revenue metrics, you need to standardize best practices across the sales team, and standardizing best practices requires tactical metrics.
These metrics help you gauge whether your best practices are working. They tell you whether your employees are using their social networks, whether certain types of content are getting more engagement, or whether certain types of messaging work better than others.
Once you have strong tactics in place across your entire team, then, you can see how they translate into revenue.
5. Supply Great Content to Your Sellers
Content is a must-have for social selling. Content is how we start conversations and build relationships in the virtual world. As you think about your content strategy, keep these items in mind:
- Content Library: Your content needs to be easily findable for your sales team. If your salespeople have to search for content, they will not be active on social, and your program will not take off.
- Third-Party Content: Employees want to share a combination of third-party and company-created content. This is especially true of salespeople who need to gain the trust of buyers. If they share only company-created content, they will look biased.
- Teams: Divide sellers into teams. Ensure that your sellers receive content that is relevant to their verticals, geographies, and/or products. When content is relevant, employees are more likely to share.
6. Invest in a Platform Built for Social Selling
To scale your program, you need to invest in a platform that was built for social selling at the enterprise level. Such a tool will allow you to:
- Build a content library and discover great third-party content
- Assign roles in your program
- Split your sellers into teams
- Measure results
- Reach your salespeople in ways they want to be reached (mobile, email, CRM, web)
This piece of advice might seem like a no-brainer, but many companies run into problems when they rely on point solutions that weren’t build to accommodate salespeople and their needs. Salespeople grow frustrated, and adoption never happens.
If you want social selling to scale, you need the right infrastructure in place.
It’s Time to Take the First Step
Documenting a social selling strategy may seem overwhelming at first. But if your social selling program is not scaling, it is a step that you cannot ignore.
To scale your program across your entire sales team, you need to prepare your team with the right tactics, efficient processes, integrated technology, and a smart, agile strategy.
Our social sales workbook can help you get started.