Editor’s Note: At Sales Stack 2015 we had a chance to sit down with some of the most influential social selling minds in the gameTop 3 Most Influential Social Sellers On Delivering Value Through Social. Moderator Jamie Shanks of SalesforLife.com dives deep into the world of leveraging social networks to drive sales with Ken Krogue, founder of InsideSales.com; Koka Sexton, a member of LinkedIn’s newly formed team of experts heading their content marketing strategy; and Jill Rowley who, after six years in management consulting, now works as an evangelist and startup adviser in the social selling space.
In the still-emerging field of social selling, we find ourselves struggling even to agree on a single definition for what exactly it consists of or does not consist of. However you define it, though, it’s becoming clear that social selling is here to stay. In this lively discussion, you’ll be able to see the contours of a growing debate about what exactly is social selling, how companies big and small can best leverage it to their advantage, and why many traditionally successful sales organizations continue to struggle with it. Take a look at the video for yourself or check out our recap below with highlights from the conversation.
Why has social selling not become a top priority in many large organizations?
Koka Sexton: I think it’s the leadership. A sales leader who’s been doing this for 10-15 years has a really hard time wrapping their head around social first as a concept. Social is an afterthought, it’s something that somebody does 20% of their workday. The CEOs, heads of sales, senior managers, until they can adopt a social first mentality from a personal branding standpoint for them as a CEO to their company being social, it will never resonate down to their sales teams. So sales teams are doing it on their own, and the problem with that is there’s very little training because the senior leadership just doesn’t buy in yet.
Jill Rowley: I think it’s culture. And I think that there’s a whole generation of sales leaders who, in their days, collaboration was cheating and they’re not as used to transparency and authenticity and sharing information that they don’t control. If you think about the role that traditional PR companies have played in organizations it was all about controlling the message and the messenger to make sure that everything was on-brand. And when you star to allow your employees to leverage social networks to share their voices, their point-of-view, you lose control.
How do we get the CMO and the CSO completely aligned?
Our panel members seem to be in complete agreement on one aspect of social selling: Success will require sales and marketing teams to break down traditional barriers that has separated them in order to begin working hand in glove with one another.
Ken Krogue: It really comes down to pay structure and weekly correlation. When we realize that in this day and age, the old world of advertising is sort of dead and it’s all about demand generation. It’s really about the results that marketing brings in from top of funnel to drive the close ratios of the sales teams. I can’t believe sales leadership doesn’t just campout next to marketing and coordinate everything they do because that’s the single biggest hand that feeds them. We need more of that.
Koka Sexton: My background was in sales and several years ago I had this great opportunity to move into marketing which at the time didn’t seem like a great opportunity because I hated marketers for a number of different reasons. I believe that salespeople have a specific DNA that’s different from any other person in an organization. Sales professionals are very Type A, they’re very competitive, they want to crush it. They want to make money. And that’s a different mentality than most marketing professionals.
When I moved into marketing I made it a point that when I worked with sales organizations, I sat with them. It bothered me when I heard that marketing was on a different side of a building or on a different floor or in a different city. At the end of the day, they operate together. If I don’t know what my salespeople need to do their job, I cannot create the right content.
Jill Rowley: I think the alignment actually starts from the customer and being a customer-core organization. Sales needs to understand more about marketing. They need to know more about the ideal customer profile. They need to understand the buyer’s journey—the stages buyers go through to be able to buy. The various buyer personas involved in the purchase decision. They need to understand how to align content to the various stages of the buying cycle.
So sales needs to know more about marketing and marketing needs to know more about sales because the lines are blurring. If buyers are out there self-educating—67% of the buying process is being done digitally—more of that education is now in marketing. We all need to be more customer-centered, centric, and obsessed.
At one point during our discussion, moderator Jamie Shanks asked audience members to raise their hands if their company CMO, CSO and all the salespeople know exactly what percentage of quota attainment marketing is responsible for delivering to the sales team. Very few hands went up, highlighting the pressing need for greater alignment in strategies and goals between sales and marketing.
Moderator Jamie Shanks: And that is the true part of alignment. The CMO should be able to answer, “I deliver X% to sales as part of their quota.”
Jill Rowley: I was at a company when we talked to marketing about lead-scoring and sending over more qualified, ready-to-buy leads, the marketing team said ‘Sh, let’s not talk about this lead scoring thing.’ And the reason was because marketing was measured by lead count. How we measure really matters, and if you measure on contribution to pipeline and revenue, marketing will generate those things. You get what you incent in marketing and in sales.
Give us a social selling success story
Koka Sexton: At one company, there was a sales rep named Jessica and she would get garbage call lists from marketing. What she would do was basically take marketing content that wasn’t being handed over to the sales team and start pushing it out through her social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter. Something interesting started happening—the people who viewed her profile started increasing exponentially because she was sharing more often. One day she said “I’m not going to call these leads coming through the CRM, I’m going to call these leads coming through my LinkedIn Profile.”
She had like a 90% hit rate to secure a meeting because she got them at the exact point that they were interested in that content. Because of that, social selling is taking root in that corporation. I think the datapoint of 1—if you’re struggling with it in your own organization—as an individual you can still own and it you should be empowered to do these things to rise above the noise and become successful.
Jill Rowley: We’re running a play that was built two decades ago: “Call, Email.” And the buyer is doing “Ignore, Delete.” Buyers don’t want to be cold-called. They don’t want to receive your generic, unsolicited email. It doesn’t work. Where is the modern buyer? The modern buyer is digitally driven. Google’s her best friend. She’s socially-connected. She’s mobile with multiple devices. She’s empowered with nearly unlimited access to information and to people in her social networks. And she’s also overwhelmed.
The modern buyer is leveraging social. 75% of B2B buyers are using social media to do research. Sales is about being where your buyers are offline at events like this, and online in social networks. So the buyer has changed more in the past ten years than in the past 100; sales needs to adapt.
Define social selling
Moderator Jamie Shanks: Think of it like a venn diagram, it’s made up of three components. Inside space selling, trigger-based selling, and referral-based selling. The difference is that trigger and referral-based selling are being mechanized through tools like Linked In. Inside space selling is leveraging content to shape a buyer’s journey to push them off their status quo.
Koka Sexton: We define social selling as leveraging your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships. It’s about the pipeline. It’s an amazing prospecting tool but it doesn’t end there. Once you have them in the pipeline, social is still a component of that and you are continuing to educate that buyer. It doesn’t end once they become a customer, you are continuing to educate them after the fact. I think that what you’re doing on social media should be continuing to build your professional brand in a way that makes you the single point of reference in your entire industry.
Jill Rowley: My definition of social selling is to use social networks, not social media. If marketing goes to salespeople and says, “We’re going to train you on social media”, sales doesn’t listen. Because social media is confusing it’s chaotic, it’s noisy, it’s unfiltered, it’s the wild wild west of the world wide web. But if you go to salespeople and say “I’m going to teach you how to use social networks”; salespeople know what networking is and we’ve been doing it all our lives.
So how do we do research on our buyers, the buying committee, and the people who influence our buyers so that we can be relevant to our buyers, so that we can build relationships with our buyers that ultimately drive revenue, customer lifetime value, and advocacy. It’s not about rushing it to signature it’s about coaching to success.
What is the single biggest hack within your business to generate pipeline fast?
Ken Krogue: I’ll give three. 1. Job changes on Linked In. If a VP of sales starts at a new organization and they sign new contracts. We found out where the former VP of sales went. And you’ve got this domino effect of decision-making happening at multiple organizations, and you can swim in that pool forever. 2. Looking for companies that are hiring inside sales reps. Those are leads. If they’re hiring, they’re growing and buying. 3. Reverse customer referral. We look at a prospect and find out who they know in our network.
Koka Sexton: Moving from resume to reputation. Most sales professionals think of their LinkedIn profile as their online resume. We’re beyond that. Your LinkedIn profile is your online reputation. Find as many ways to drive as much traffic to that profile as possible. LinkedIn is the only social network where you can see who’s touched your profile.
Jill Rowley: Mindset. Nobody wants to be sold to, but everyone wants to be helped. Shift the mindset from Always Be Closing, to Always Be Connecting. Never send the generic LinkedIn invite. That’s #SocialStupid.