If you ask ten people to define “Social Selling” you’ll probably get ten different answers. This conundrum can make it difficult to understand what social selling really is and how your sales team can use it effectively.
Vengreso has a leadership role in the sales industry and as such is intent on providing a clear definition of social selling along with guiding principles on everything you need to know about implementing social selling practices in your sales process.
This guide is for sales leaders to understand why social selling is imperative for the modern seller and how their reps can leverage social platforms to develop relationships that result in more sales conversations with decision makers, increase their pipeline, so they can achieve more closed-won outcomes.
Social selling is about starting more sales conversations and expanding existing relationships. Salespeople can use social media platforms to find, engage and connect with prospects to turn those connections into sales conversations.
Generally speaking, the goal of social selling is to build relationships with prospects through authentic human-to-human conversations that are formed through digital platforms. Once your sales rep has established a relationship with a warm prospect grounded in trust, that seller earns the right to ask for a meeting or a phone call to start a sales conversation.
There has long been a misperception that social selling is selling on social media. Social selling is NOT about finding your ideal buyers on social platforms only to pitch them a mass-market message about how your solutions can benefit them, thereafter hoping that five out of one hundred will respond positively. This approach is ineffective. In fact, this approach is damaging to your brand.
Social selling emphasizes building your sales team’s network, forming relationships through personalization, delivering value and a call-to-action that is relevant, ultimately leading to sales conversations with decision-makers at target accounts. So, instead of a “ready, fire, aim” approach which is (unfortunately) a common approach, we want to inspire you to lead your sellers to develop their social selling cadence based on a “Ready, Aim, Fire” strategy.
A marketer’s mantra is to build brand visibility and inbound traffic for lead generation for their company. Their goal is to be “attractive” to their target audience through a consistent flow of information, content and value messaging. Social sellers need to think like a marketer but act like a seller.
However, a marketer’s flow of messaging is one-to-many from the brand to the marketplace. By contrast, social sellers strive to attract decision-makers using targeted and purposeful one-to-one messaging and engagement. Instead of driving people to a website as marketers do, social sellers lead prospects to their LinkedIn® profile, which is comparable to their individual website.
A seller’s LinkedIn® profile should be written with customer-centric messaging that addresses their target buyer’s pain points. Their profile should clearly illustrate who they help and how they are a reliable source of assistance to the buyer. It should quickly boost credibility with the buyer.
When a social seller thinks like a marketer in this regard, they increase their “attractiveness” with decision-makers by communicating customer-centric value messaging before ever having a conversation. Successful social sellers always drive toward starting sales conversations with decision makers as their chief goal. We call this the “C2C” method, that is Connections to Conversations.
The modern buyer is digitally-connected, socially-engaged, mobile-attached, and video hungry. These are the channels buyers use to research solutions to their business challenges on their journey to find a reliable vendor and partner.
According to Gartner, only 17% of the modern buyer’s journey is spent talking with salespeople at potential suppliers. The remaining time is spent conducting research and discussing their needs internally. This makes social selling essential to an organization’s modern sales strategy.
Social selling is an approach to get on the modern buyer’s radar. Sellers need to be discoverable when their buyers are conducting research for solutions. Your sales team should be considered a resource to help your target buyers in every stage of their buying journey. And social selling is the method to find, engage and connect with buyers who are on their journey in need of information to solve their business problems.
One of the most effective ways for the modern seller to establish trust with buyers is through an optimized LinkedIn® profile. A great LinkedIn® profile will show prospects how your salesperson can solve their problems as well as communicate the capabilities of your company.
The modern seller should have an “attractive” profile that communicates with customer-centric messaging.
The salesperson’s profile should contain helpful content that is appealing to decision-makers because it helps the buyer on their journey. LinkedIn® reports that 62% of decision-makers look for an informative profile when deciding whether or not to engage with a sales rep.
The consequence of your salesperson’s profile not delivering relevant and helpful information is potentially being eliminated from consideration. These lost sales opportunities are often unknown to the seller and the sales leader because the buyer chooses not to engage. Essentially, your sellers can lose their buyers on the first click into their profiles.
However, when a buyer encounters a seller’s LinkedIn® profile that is written through the lens of the customer, clearly communicates how they help the buyer and contains content assets such as case studies, videos and other content that leads to your solution, the buyer is more motivated to consider having a sales conversation with your seller.
As sellers become proficient in social selling activities such as consistently engaging on prospect’s posts and sharing valuable content, there can be some significant benefits. One is an increase in profile views, which boosts visibility on LinkedIn®. Another benefit – and a very valuable one – is the opportunity to develop relationships with decision-makers on their buying journey.
A consistent social selling cadence creates awareness of how your company’s solutions solve your prospect’s pain points. When modern sellers are actively engaging with relevant content, they significantly increase the probability of creating a new conversation with your buyers. Consequently, this creates top-of-mind awareness with your target buyers.
Even if your prospect doesn’t need your company’s products or services now, building credibility through social selling engagement can result in referral recommendations to the sales rep or to your brand.
Consider this scenario…Your prospect is having lunch with a friend who is an executive at another company. During lunch, the subject of a business pain point comes up in conversation. The prospect who has had a positive social selling experience with your seller can mention your company as one to consider. In fact, Harvard Business Review reports that 84% of B2B buying journeys begin with a peer referral.
When that decision-maker is ready for a solution such as yours, your seller and your brand can be top-of-mind because of the valuable information your seller has provided on his or her profile and through social posts.
LinkedIn® is home to 660 million professionals, 153 million of which have buying decision influence. The potential to engage with decision-makers on LinkedIn® is unparalleled. The modern seller should be motivated to engage in social selling techniques to build their network. Sellers who engage consistently on LinkedIn® increase their social selling index (SSI), which is proven to have a positive correlation to quota achievement as reported in the Vengreso State of Digital Selling with LinkedIn® report.
Modern sellers are also proficient at gaining insight into buyers’ specific needs. For example, a seller can learn that a prospect has recently acquired a company and consequently needs to integrate disparate systems.
This can be a great opportunity for a tech company whose offering addresses this need. When a seller reaches out with a personalized message about the acquisition, offering information that is helpful to the buyer such as a link to a whitepaper or case study from your company, that buyer is more likely to engage with the seller.
Such personalized outreach enables the seller to build a relationship with the buyer, eventually earning the right to ask for a call or a meeting, which often is a welcomed step in the buyer’s journey.
Personalization is a proven requirement among executives when asked how to reach and engage them in conversation. Sellers who are proficient in social selling methods effectively find, engage and connect with decision-makers through personalized communications resulting in more sales conversations.
Sales leaders who seek to harness the benefits of social selling should plan to integrate it into your existing sales process. Before you dive in head-first into a social selling strategy, it’s imperative to get internal support for the strategy because it will require investment of time, budget and process integration.
The first place to start with social selling is to win executive management support before you roll out a plan.
Executives must understand the benefits of social selling anchored in these two fundamental pillars:
A successful implementation that achieves behavior change and measurable impact on sales productivity requires tools and training. The investment in sales tools – while important – is not enough. Sellers must know why a tool can help them be more successful, and how to use it. Additionally, social selling training and coaching are imperative for sustained behavior change.
Sales leaders often invest in sales training designed to enable sellers to close more deals. Sales methodologies are designed to instill structure and consistency for sellers to maximize their performance. A social selling strategy is complementary – not competitive – to sales methodologies. In other words, any sales methodology previously implemented is largely unaffected when integrating a social selling strategy.
Rather, sellers must learn the mindset of a modern seller along with the PVC Sales MethodologyTM to find, engage and connect with decision-makers through personalized engagement.
To achieve the desired behavior change of a transformed modern seller, training and coaching must be delivered over a sustained period of time in short time increments, generally about one hour, through live instruction, online content and group coaching. Our approach is further explained below.
For now, let’s focus on the show-stopping fact that sustained success using social selling methods begins with executive management support. Don’t invest in tools or training without it.
Social selling is not a replacement for the current sales practices you have in place. Nor, is it a replacement for a sales methodology in which you may have invested. Rather, it’s complementary to your current sales processes.
Your sales team is already using phone and email as outreach channels with their prospects. A report from XANT.ai shows that when reps add one or two communication channels, their engagement rate with prospects increases by a whopping 400%! This means, when reps use social selling practices to engage on LinkedIn®, or send a personalized video, they increase their chance of creating more sales conversations.
Social selling is the modern way of finding, engaging and connecting with decision makers and those who influence them. By using an omni-channel approach to prospecting, reps increase their chances of increasing engagement rates from an average of less than 10%, to over 40%. More sales conversations generate more opportunities, which leads to more closed-won deals.
The modern buyer needs a modern seller to provide information and guidance throughout the buying journey. Buyers are harder to reach because they are busy conducting their own research and discussing their requirements with internal stakeholders.
Consequently, your sales reps need to be discoverable when buyers are searching for information and they should be a source of relevant information to the buyer. This requires that sales reps have the mindset of the modern buyer and the sales cadence of consistently feeding their network with helpful content on an ongoing basis.
Sales leaders should invest in developing their team’s modern selling skills. That said, before diving into a training experience, it is imperative to address the “why” of social selling. Effective social selling requires a behavior shift for many sellers. This will not occur if sellers believe they should approach social selling with a “pitch, pitch, pitch” mindset. It’s for this reason that our “10 Steps to Launching a Digital Selling Program” places training as step #7 – after preparing the team with the necessary tools and profile content so that reps have an effective training experience.
Your sellers who experience the six phases outlined below transform into the modern seller that the modern buyer needs.
Mindset – Your team must shift their mindset to meet the needs of the modern buyer’s behaviors.
Branding – You must acknowledge to your reps the importance of a LinkedIn® profile that communicates to the buyer who they help, how they help and offers helpful content that drives engagement with their prospects. Then, drive your sellers to transform their profiles to engage with the modern buyer.
Find & Engage – Sales reps must consistently search for the right people and engage them by sharing valuable information that can help them solve their business problems.
Connect – As your sellers find the right prospects, they should connect with them so they can turn that connection into a conversation.
Feed – A key element to sustained social selling results is consistently nurturing their network with regular content to build a reputation for how they help their buyers on their journey and earning the right to ask for a conversation.
Cadence – Effective social selling requires a consistent cadence of activities that occurs daily, weekly, and monthly, resulting in network growth and more sales conversations.
These six phases are proven to transform sellers from pitch-centric, random acts of social selling into modern selling professionals who become a resource to the buyer, start more sales conversations and generate more pipeline.
Social selling combines outbound prospecting with a marketing mindset. DemandGen Report’s 2019 Content Preferences Survey states that 73% of B2B buyers consume between three and seven pieces of content before they’re willing to speak with a salesperson.
This implies that the modern seller needs to be a trusted source of content for the buyer who is actively looking for information related to their purchase journey.
We are all consumers accustomed to searching for information online when considering a new purchase. The B2B buyer is no different when researching a solution as complex as selecting a new piece of sales technology to rollout to their global salesforce.
As more and more buyers begin their journey online, social selling is a requisite skill set of your modern seller.
A properly implemented social selling strategy improves sales performance in several ways. Some of the most important metrics that we use to measure success include:
Increase in LinkedIn® Social Selling Index (SSI) Score
Gamification Points & Levels Tracked through Online Leaderboard
Completion of Training versus Adoption
The merit of social selling is proven. CSO Insights reports that organizations with an adoption rate of 76% or higher have a 61.5% win rate compared to sales organizations with win rates of 41.9% when the social selling adoption rate is only 25% or less.
To achieve these results, sellers must follow the social selling best practices listed below. These techniques cover every stage of they buying journey, to enable sellers to find, engage and connect with prospects through social platforms.
The modern seller effectively uses social selling methods for prospecting. With a clear definition of your target buyers, sellers can find them by conducting searches on LinkedIn®. We teach your sellers how to develop and use search filters such as role, company size, industry, geography and others, that your reps can use to identify people who are potential prospects for your company’s offerings. We also teach them how to run a Boolean Search on LinkedIn® to find your organization’s ideal buyers.
Equipping your sellers with sales enablement content specific to a persona or industry segment can help them engage with the prospects they find. Content needed by sales reps is not one-size-fits-all. Information that is helpful to a CEO is not the same as what’s important to a CFO. When sellers have access to relevant content you strengthen their ability to effectively engage prospects and start more sales conversations.
Social selling is the process of finding, engaging and connecting with prospective buyers in social channels and converting connections into sales conversations. As explained above, the selling starts during the human-to-human conversation after the buyer has agreed to talk with a salesperson.
The journey to the sales conversation starts with the mindset shift described earlier. The modern seller seeks to be “attractive” to the buyer by being a conduit of relevant information – a resource – to help guide the buyer during their journey.
The modern seller seeks out people who influence a prospective buyer and engages all of them online. This concept is known as socially surrounding your target point of contact by engaging and connecting with people who are in the prospect’s sphere of influence.
The modern seller aligns internal resources to participate in the social surrounding process by likewise engaging with influencers of the buying committee as defined by the salesperson. Effective social surrounding results in connecting with the right people involved directly or indirectly in a purchase decision.
When sellers become adept at social surrounding they are able to find, engage and connect with all the people involved in a purchase decision.
Using the Vengreso PVC Sales MethodologyTM, modern sellers effectively personalize their outreach, add value to their buying journey and convert connections into sales conversations.
There is a logical process to effective social selling. Organizations who seek to transform their sellers into effective social sellers must ensure they know how to deploy these proven processes.
The P in PVC stands for personalization. Sellers must personalize their engagement with buyers. Buyers immediately tune out if engagement is cookie-cutter.
The V in PVC stands for value. Next, sellers must bring value to an engagement in any digital channel. Value is often delivered in the form of content that demonstrates to the buyer that the seller understands their situation.
The C in PVC stands for call-to-action. Every engagement should have a call-to-action. Contrary to popular belief, the call-to-action should not be uniformly defined. It can be as simple as asking a question, or asking for agreement on a next step or agreement to attend a webinar or watch a video, etc.
We’ve published a detailed guide on our PVC Sales MethodologyTM titled A Sales Leader’s Guide to Converting Prospects to Sales Conversations. Read it for a detailed explanation, including sample scripts used by sellers in this approach.
Since the beginning of time, the best lead has always been a referral. Asking for a referral in the digital age is in some ways the same, and in other ways different in the approach.
In the Two-Step Digital Referral, a seller asks a customer for agreement to provide a referral and offers to provide a pre-written introduction. Once the customer agrees, the seller provides the script. In the One-Step Digital Referral the seller provides the script in the request.
One of the graduates of our program experienced a 100% conversion rate on five requests using our Digital Referral process.
The most common mistake we’ve seen by sales leaders attempting to roll out a social selling program is jumping straight into training. We’ve developed an approach that works.
Just the same as a university education is comprised of classroom, textbook and private office hours with the professor, likewise the Vengreso approach to social selling training is delivered through a nine module, On Demand curriculum, live virtual instructor-led training and live group coaching sessions.
And, just like in University, the entire training experience is spread over approximately 15 weeks. The result is behavior change. No sales training sticks when it’s crammed into a one- or two-day event. This is why Vengreso won a Gold Stevie® Award for Best Sales Training in 2019 and 2020.
Social selling playbooks and workbooks streamlines everything your sellers need to become effective at social selling.
You should plan to deliver a series of playbooks and workbooks that provide the following information:
LinkedIn® Profile Makeover Workbooks
Content written for each specific sales role in your company to ensure consistency in branding and sales messaging for your sellers’ LinkedIn® profile. It should include at a minimum these elements:
These scripts are templatized for different scenarios, yet customizable by your sellers to ask for a referral, connect, or start a conversation with a prospect.
Boolean Logic Search Strings
A recommended set of Boolean logic search strings pre-defined so that your sellers can consistently search for your buyers.
Social selling playbooks and workbooks are essential to rolling out a strategy that scales across your entire sales organization. It provides your team valuable tools that can be implemented with your current team and with new hires to implement a sustained, consistent and repeatable social selling strategy.
Playbooks and workbooks deliver value measured in efficiency, scalability and adoption by reps. The ultimate value to your sales team is adoption of social selling strategies that result in more sales conversations for your sales team.
To maximize the results of your team’s social selling activities, there are tools you should consider. Since social selling requires behavior change, sales tools should be enablers, not inhibitors. Therefore, these tools should be adopted at a pace that aligns with your organization’s ability to roll them out, train and support them.
Effective deployment of tools can be instrumental to the acceleration of measurable results in your social selling strategy.
This guide includes categories of tools. A comprehensive list of social selling tools is available on our blog.
It’s important to note that tools serve the purpose of enhancing skills. Tools are not a replacement for training and coaching which results in behavior change for sellers. When reviewing these tools, consider where your organization is on the social selling adoption curve before you commit to deploying any of them. Each tool carries with it a learning curve to ensure integration with other systems and effective use in your social selling strategy.
This list of tools categories – while robust – is not representative of the entire tools landscape. There exist other tools categories in the ever-growing innovation of sales tools. That said, this list warrants review and consideration whether you’re just getting started in your social selling strategy or in the advanced stages.
CRM – This is the most mature category with a wide range of tools for businesses and budgets of all size. CRM – Customer Relationship Management – allows selling organizations to capture and organize contacts. Most CRM tools provide integration with marketing automation to track social selling activities such as attribution and use of other sales tools when tracking close-won and closed-lost. Some offer social media integration and sales process integration. This is the first category of tools that should be in place in any sales organization. Additionally, many options allow for customization so that sales leaders can easily track the ROI of other sales tools.
Prospect Intelligence – These tools allow sellers to search for contact information to find emails, phone numbers, current titles, etc. and suggest other contacts through AI powered intelligence. A sister category is intent-based purchase data that allows sellers to find prospects whose behavior signals intent to purchase.
Sales Engagement & Cadence – These tools enable sales teams to conduct outreach, engagement, selling activities and team collaboration with a consistent cadence to help reps maximize their selling time and effectiveness.
Conversational Intelligence – These tools give sales leaders and reps relevant insights into sales conversations, deal flow and overall sales strategy by analyzing client conversations. Analytics help you understand what’s working and not based on data, not opinions.
Sales Enablement – These tools leverage AI to enable sellers to find the content they need for each sales play so that sellers can leverage it in one-to-one engagement with buyers. Marketing and sales can collaborate more efficiently through these tools by maximizing rep’s ability to find the right content assets they need to be more effective in their selling activities.
Intelligent Virtual Sales Assistants – These tools leverage AI to conduct follow up on leads at scale through authentic conversation using AI-powered digital outreach (e.g., email, SMS). These tools augment a sales team by functioning as a virtual outsourced BDR team that never sleeps because their AI powered tools follow up programmatically.
Digital Sales Learning Platforms – Consider platforms that provide learning-as-a-service to enable digital sales skills training at scale for sales teams. These platforms support three key areas: on-demand, live, virtual instructor-led training and group coaching abilities. They also allow sellers to engage with each other to encourage group learning and ongoing peer discussion.
Video Selling – These tools enable sellers to create personalized videos, send them to prospects and customers privately and track every engagement on each video. Sellers use these tools for prospecting, proposal delivery, account expansion and much more.
Content Distribution – These tools enable sales and marketing professionals to access pre-approved content delivered in the form of social media posts so users can easily share the content on social media channels. These tools are the cornerstone of an employee advocacy program and greatly extend the reach of an organization by making it easy for sellers and marketing staff to share pre-approved content on social media channels.
Relationship Intelligence – This is one of the younger category of tools that identifies the level of relationships at accounts enabling sales leaders to have visibility into the depth of relationships, so you know which stakeholders should be engaged to win new business, maintain the current business or expand your footprint in the account.
In 2019 Vengreso won the prestigious Gold Stevie Award in the Sales Training Product of the Year category for our 10 Steps to Digital Selling Program. This training program is borne out of a real-world experience by our founder and CEO, Mario Martinez Jr.
In 2015 Mario introduced a Digital Sales Training program which included LinkedIn® Sales Navigator and a Video Selling tool to his 120-person North American software sales organization where he served as Vice President of Sales. At that time, he worked with LinkedIn® the Enterprise Customer Success organization to assist with the training and launch of the program.
However, after 45 days post launch he had less than 20% adoption. Subsequently, he put the brakes on the tool rollout and regrouped to formulate an entirely new approach to the program. He realized that his sales team didn’t embrace the “why” behind the sales tools.
They weren’t focused on behavioral change and LinkedIn® had no idea how to train a sales organization to change prospecting and relationship building behavior. They simply focused their attention on trying to teach sellers how to use the product (the tool). In other words, their training focused on how to click and where to click within the LinkedIn® Sales Navigator tool.
Mario also realized that his sales team lacked the right mindset as to “why” they should be engaged with today’s buyer differently, and the confidence in their social selling skills to engage with prospects correctly.
They also lacked confidence in their writing abilities to transform their own LinkedIn® profiles by writing 2,000 characters of content for their About and Experience Sections. They also lacked the ability to choose the best blog, white paper, eBook, or video from their corporate website or YouTube channel and add it to the right section their profiles. LinkedIn® continues this approach to training, which is the wrong approach if sales leaders want sellers to feel confident leveraging social selling techniques.
Additionally, Mario realized that:
Additionally, Mario sought to attribute social selling activities to pipeline-opportunity, closed-won or closed-lost outcomes so the social selling program’s impact on sales performance could be measured.
And, since Mario was a quota carrying sales rep for well over a decade, he understood that sales training is generally not embraced by reps mainly because it is usually delivered in a short-duration event, such as a one- or two-day workshop, that crams 15 hours of training into one event. The end result – according to a Xerox study – is 87% of sales training is lost within one month.
Mario led an initiative after securing executive-level support to rollout a digital selling training program that is now Vengreso’s 10-steps program, (see diagram at left) whereby training is step #7. Steps 1 through 6 prepare the marketing team, the leadership team and the sales team to be ready for an effective training experience welcomed by the sales team.
With the CRM pre-configured for tracking social selling impact, LinkedIn® profile templates pre-written, prospecting scripts prewritten, Boolean search scripts pre-created and referral-requests pre-written, reps now were able to see the light of day.
Rather than dunking the sales team into a 15-hour workshop, training was delivered in one-hour increments across a period of 12 weeks. The training was supported by group coaching where reps could ask any question and get hands on support. The result of this approach was 100% rep adoption of social selling practices and 100% of his reps attributed one sales opportunity to the open, closed-lost or closed-won sales pipeline.
The genesis of the Vengreso Selling with LinkedIn® and Selling with Sales Navigator training program stems from Mario’s experience when he sat in your seat as a sales leader. There were three great outcomes from Mario’s experience:
If you’re a sales leader facing the challenge of leading your reps to quota achievement, you can benefit from the Stevie® Award winning 10 Step Digital Selling Program. All you have to do is arrange to run a Digital Selling Benchmark Assessment to discover the current state of your sales team’s digital selling skills. We’ll provide the 10-question survey and a draft script for you to send to your sales team. Within approximately two weeks we’ll review the results of the assessment and make specific recommendations to improve your sales team’s performance through digital selling practices. You too can then start seeing your reps create more sales conversations as a result of social selling.
By now you’ve noticed the phrase “digital selling” integrated into this content. The modern buyer is digitally engaged and more likely to consider his or her engagement as “digital” rather than social because they are using digital channels to discover information helpful to their buying journey. Don’t get hung up on terminology. Focus on transforming your sales team into the modern seller the modern buyer needs.
The data points listed above prove that the modern buyer has changed their behavior. Everyone in B2B sales – yes, even in your industry – should embrace social selling at some level.
Once upon a time, sellers could cold call or knock on business parks and walk into a buyer’s office without an appointment. You don’t need to be convinced that this approach is long gone in effectiveness.
Then, why would you need to be convinced that your sellers should change their behavior to engage the modern buyer in a manner that aligns with how the modern buyer is willing to engage.
Maybe your competitors have a jump start on social selling and you’re still wondering if it’s for your company. If you’re a sales leader your job is on the line. If you’re a business owner, your business is on the line.
Don’t ignore the obvious. The modern buyer REQUIRES a modern seller. Get on board with social selling today!
Visit our social selling training pages to learn more about our award-winning training. Or, if you’re ready to talk, Request an Appointment. You’ll talk with someone who is an experienced sales leader AND an expert in social selling training.