Sales

How to Implement a Social Selling Strategy

By:

Social selling—where salespeople leverage social networking to connect with the right prospects and forge deeper, more meaningful relationships—has emerged as one of the hottest sales industry trends in recent times. This is mostly thanks to the growth of social media. However, many organizations are finding the process of actually implementing a social selling methodology into their sales training programs to be a challenge.

According to the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, 43.1% of respondents felt their social selling training needed improvement. In addition, 30.4% felt social selling training required significant redesign; more than any other training process.

“Today’s buyers are more empowered and increasingly self-educating when evaluating options. Traditional channels like phone and email are fatigued. Getting someone’s attention requires leading with insight, relevance, and value,” says expert social seller, Jill Rowley. “The modern buyer is digitally-driven and socially connected, your salespeople need to be too. Digital and social selling capabilities must be integrated into your existing sales motions. Investments in new skills and tools are no longer optional. Companies must address digital disruption head-on. Like any new initiative, you must measure your company’s digital and social selling performance to continually improve the effectiveness and optimize for revenue results.”

In this blog, we take a closer look at how to successfully implement a social selling methodology into your sales training.

1. Go Beyond Social Media Tool Training

One of the single biggest obstacles to successful social selling training is the popular misconception that this type of training is just a type of tool training for social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Not only is this a mistake in terms of covering all of the social selling aspects that need to be included, but it also makes salespeople much less receptive to the training that is provided to them, reducing its effectiveness.

“Whenever social selling is treated as merely a LinkedIn tool training, salespeople will perceive it as a low-value task that’s just added to their already full plates,” says Tamara Schenk, Research Director for CSO Insights. “Social engagement methods and the required skills have to be integrated into an organization’s sales methodologies.”

Of course, salespeople need to know how to use the various social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. They also need to learn how to actually insert social selling into their day-to-day activities. In particular, they will need to learn how to find useful content, how to create useful content of their own, which brand messages are most important, how much time to spend on social selling, and how to leverage the relationships to achieve sales success.

2. Adopt a Formal or Dynamic Approach

The CSO Insights 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Report outlines four sales process implementation levels:

Random: Salespeople decide for themselves what is appropriate.

Informal: There is a documented process for salespeople, but there is little in the way of enforcement.

Formal: Adherence to the process is inspected and enforced.

Dynamic: The process is measured, and cross-functionally aligned.

Although social selling requires individual salespeople to adopt their own voice and establish their own brand, it is vital that you do not mistake this for a random or informal approach. In order to successfully implement a social selling methodology into your sales training programs, you need to adopt at least a formal, or preferably dynamic approach, where adherence to core principles is enforced, and performance is measured.

In particular, alignment with marketing is paramount, as this allows for more consistent messaging. In fact, when the social strategies of sales and marketing are not aligned, research shows that 37.2% of salespeople say they are unsure what the primary benefits of using social selling tools actually are. Despite this, only 20.7% of companies report that the two departments’ strategies are currently aligned.

 

3. Assess Performance and Offer Feedback

Finally, it is essential that you take steps to measure social selling success, as this will help you to understand which areas need to be worked on through your sales training and coaching. The social selling performance of your team needs to be continually assessed, as does the performance of individual members. Once you are armed with performance metrics, you can use sales coaching to set individual goals and address specific problems.

Measurement can be difficult as there is not always a direct path to results. However, this doesn’t mean that social selling can’t be measured at all. Many CRMs can add a ‘social’ source of deal options. Measuring success also helps companies to quickly identify flaws in their social selling training, so that they can be resolved. Effective training can improve win rates and quota attainment significantly. Conversely, ineffective training can reduce win rates by 7.8% and quota attainment by 7.4%.  Social selling can help you win big in 2018 if it’s implemented strategically.

Have you implemented social selling into your strategy? Tell me about your process in the comments.