How Leaders and Organizations can Embrace Social Selling


Randy Illig recently spoke with social-sales expert Brynne Tillman about how leaders and organizations must embrace social selling, or risk getting left behind. Part 1 of this interview discusses how organizations can begin.

Randy: As selling evolves from a traditional model to more of a social model, what are the biggest challenges that organizations and leaders face?

Brynne: At the highest level, the challenge is that their sales people are doing random acts of social. There's no strategy or structure or process. There's no overarching brand story, no consistency. That can be detrimental because it's a free-for-all world, including the types of content that they're sharing. It's amazing how many times you'll see people sharing their competitors’ content, leading back to other sites. They thought they were sharing good information, but they're actually pushing business away.

Randy: What's fundamentally different between the old way and the new way?

Brynne: When I started in sales for Dun and Bradstreet, right out of college, there were no fax machines, cell phones, or even email. If somebody wanted to learn about our collection services or our credit services, they had to call and talk to someone. There was no other way to do it. So as a company, we talked to 100 percent of the people that had an interest in a solution that we provided.

Now, according to SiriusDecisions, 67 percent of the buying decision is done online before the sales person even knows that they're in the market.

So a significant portion of the buyer's journey is done prior to a sales person being contacted. It is essential that we are influencing that 67 percent, that their decisions are based on what they learn from us, which means we must have the right content. Content that creates curiosity, offers insights, and gets the buyers thinking differently about their situation. When we do this correctly, we lead our buyers to our solution and are positioned as the vendor of choice. A Corporate Vision’s study shows that 74% of buyers choose the vendor that offered insights early on in the buying process, so it is foundational that we are that vendor, and content is key in this equation.

The other change is that very few people pick up their phones, and they are quick to delete their voicemails. But if you reach out on Linkedin, they can identify very quickly all this information on you and your solution and the value that you provide. On LinkedIn, there's so much information on individuals. It creates curiosity: who is this person? Why are they reaching out to me? They can see the content you've been sharing. They'll see your profile and get a very good sense of who you are.

Even if they don't accept your connection request, you made an impression. Over time, as you socially surround them and other decision makers inside the organization, you've left an impression of being a resource. That's something a voicemail or even an email can rarely do.

Randy: Let's say you're a company with a more traditional selling model and you expect salespeople have to build their own networks, however they choose to do that. They’re sending emails, going to events to meet clients, sharing brochures, or driving people to their website. My hypothesis was that's the road to extinction. How do you get off that road?

Brynne: Start with baby steps. Brand your profiles. Typically there is 100% understanding that your LinkedIn profile is your footprint, and people are getting there even if you're not using it.  Most sales professionals are thrilled to improve their LinkedIn profiles.

Then let’s talk about networking. The point of networking is usually to find new prospects and referral sources to grow their business. Let’s say a traditional sales person goes to a networking meeting and runs into six people to follow up with. They’ll meet for coffee, talk for a half hour, and at the end, they ask if the person would be open to referring them. The person replies, sure—and then they never hear from them again.

Throw a little LinkedIn to the mix. Before that coffee meeting, scan through their connections and identify 8, 10, 15 people that you would ultimately like to be in front of. Invite your networking partner to look through your connections and do the same. Now that half hour is discussing if these referrals make sense. You end up with two to three introductions at the end of that networking meeting.

That’s a game-changer for a traditional networker, and you don't even need a ton of connections to do that. A couple hundred connections would be enough to get started.

That's where I would start. Play where they're already playing. It's not about content right now. It's not about major social selling. They don't even have to post one thing, and they can still get value from leveraging LinkedIn.

Randy: Do organizations need to focus on platforms besides LinkedIn?

Brynne: Always begin with identifying where your buyers are hanging out, and that's where you should be. In the B2B world, it is almost fully LinkedIn and Twitter. In the B2C world, it could be Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter.

Twitter overlaps in both worlds. I find that if you're selling to marketing roles, Twitter is great, but if you're selling to other professionals, most of them are not on Twitter. You could do research on Twitter, but LinkedIn in my mind is the defacto B2B social-selling platform.

Read Part 2 of the interview with Brynne Tillman, featuring the eight steps organizations need to roll out a social-selling strategy.

Experience FranklinCovey's  award-winning consultative sales method by registering for a complimentary Helping Clients Succeed webcast.

About the Author

Randy Illig

Randy Illig is the Global Practice Leader of FranklinCovey’s Sales Performance Practice and the co-author of Let’s Get Real Or Let’s Not Play. With more than 25 years of experience ranging from direct sales and general manager to successful entrepreneur, CEO and board member, Randy leads the global sales performance practice team as we help our clients build high performance sales and sales leadership teams. Randy is a former recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, the Ernst & Young “CEO Under 40” award, and the Arthur Andersen Strategic Leadership Award.

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