“Never underestimate the fondness of people and organizations for the status quo,”Enterprise 2.0 author Andrew McAfee warned businesses. People are naturally resistant to change, and while that’s not always a bad thing, I’ve encountered my fair share of people resistant to the massive changes and opportunities that social media is creating in business and the workplace.
Salespeople, in particular, seem to have a set of rules and values that they are adamant about sticking to, which seems a bit counterintuitive to me, given that today’s buyers complete some 70 percent of their purchases before contacting a sales representative. Those in the know recognize that social media offers talented salespeople the ability to get to know today’s buyers better than ever before. These unique skills are critical for HR and Talent Management pros to be aware of.
My own encounters with reluctant salespeople are backed up by research from KiteDesk, an intelligent prospecting and social selling platform provider, which tells the story of an industry on the cusp of massive change. Apparently, less than half of frontline salespeople are using social media for prospecting, monitoring conversations, interacting with customers or gathering intelligence. Meaning, the majority of salespeople are ignoring social to help them relate to, and engage intelligently with, buyers.
With this in mind, KiteDesk commissioned influencer marketing agency Evolve!, Inc. to research the best and brightest in social sales, in order to give salespeople ready access to the people who do social selling well. Their research, conducted in 2014, uncovered the 30 most influential social salespeople online at that time:
I’ve gathered five lessons from these top social salespeople of 2014 to help those who are still afraid of the transformative powers of social media take steps towards becoming more effective, efficient social sales professionals.
Lesson 1: Meet your prospects on the networks they actually use
To join the ranks of these trailblazing social sellers, you’ve got to use the tools available to you to connect with prospects where they are on social media. Koka Sexton, Senior Social Marketing Manager at Linkedin, says: “Look at any of the prospect’s social media profiles, like Twitter, LinkedIn, and maybe their blog. During the buying cycle, don’t rely only on email and the phone to stay connected. Engage people through social media as well to make sure you are covering them from all sides.”
Lesson 2: “Socially surround” prospects using all the tools at your disposal
Millennials, Gen X and Gen Y professionals, are now buyers. “Even if they are not using social media as a place to participate, they grew up on social networks and are definitely influenced by it,” said Green Leads CEO and CMO Mike Damphousse. “We practice a strategy called ‘social surround’ where we use multiple sources of social media and even online advertising on social media to influence and gain intelligence about a prospect. Once we feel they have been sufficiently influenced, we engage them one-on-one.” Social sales evangelist and entrepreneur Jill Rowley has mastered the art and science of using social media networks strategically to find, listen to, relate to, connect with, engage and amplify a potential buyer, the buying committee and their sphere of influence. She explained: “I will connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter, RT and/or favorite a tweet. I will figure out whom my buyer trusts and learns from and I’ll #SociallySurround them as well. I leverage the technique of ‘I see you tweeted about Jay Baer’s awesome bookYoutility, did you happen to also read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk?’ I use Google alerts extensively to track mentions of both my potential buyers and customers. I want to stay engaged with my customers because they are my best source of leads, referrals and ADVOCACY!”
Lesson 3: Not all social media is created equal – choose your networks carefully
Front line sales people know that peers using social to sell are leading the pack. But getting them to actually engage or do research on social media prior to a sales call is challenging because it’s so time intensive. “So much so,” added Jeb Blount, CEO at SalesGravy, “that I have watched salespeople spend tremendous amounts of unproductive time on sites like LinkedIn with nothing to show for it. Sales managers fire salespeople that don’t sell. So it doesn’t take salespeople long to get a clue about where they should be spending their time.” Jeb sees the lack of education –the know how to get the best return on their time investment -and a lack of easy-to-use, at-your-finger-tips tools that provide intelligence for lead generation, prospecting, and engagement as the two biggest impediments to social selling across an organization.
Lesson 4: Get your higher-ups on board
Sales trainer and author Shane Gibson adds another barrier to social sales adoption: c-suite executives. “Executives who come from another era of marketing, communications and leadership…don’t understand the value of empowering entire teams to be social communicators – they just see the risk or they outright see it as a liability.”
Lesson 5: Measure and hype your success stories
So how do you overcome these barriers? According to Sean Burke, Chief Revenue Officer of KiteDesk, “The holy grail to social sales adoption within an organization is a combination of evangelizing success stories and the ability to track the reach, efficacy and business impacts that social selling delivers.” The Top 30 social salespeople of 2014 were culled from a list of more than 500 social sales evangelists, which was vetted and scored using a proprietary formula that considered things like engagement, social footprint, popularity among insiders and more. You can take a look at the top 100 social sales experts on KiteDesk’s blog to learn more from the social selling pros.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.