24 November – An industry insight: The truth about social selling

Interview without text
Here Zoe Sands, Principal Consultant of Zoe Sands and Co Ltd and Olivier Choron, CEO and Founder of purechannelapps have been interviewed to contribute their honest opinion on the topic, social selling. Forget the fluff, here is the truth.

1. What does social selling mean to you?

[ZS] Social selling for me is about connecting all those involved in the selling process – whether they are quota carriers or not – into a sales enablement programme, whereby the team works through the buying funnel together. Basically teamwork starting online.

[OC] For me social selling goes beyond the ‘selling’. It’s about making sure the organisation is completely engaged in social media, at all levels. I am not talking about using social media just for marketing or customer service or HR/ recruitment. I am talking about all people being involved in social media. All your employees have a social media cloud… whether they are in sales, marketing or technical roles…whether they are in junior, mid-level or senior management positions. Only once they all have embraced social media and participated in your company’s social media efforts, will you be able, as an organisation, to enjoy the benefits of ‘social’. And remember that, according to LinkedIn, 75% of buyers use social media to be more informed about vendors.

2.Why is it important?

[ZS] Social selling is important because buyers are much more informed than they have ever been. Research has shown that buyers do not tend to engage with vendor sales until further along the buying decision process. This creates issues because often the sales touch point with the buyer is too late as short lists may have already been created and the buyer is probably close to making a buying decision. SiriusDecisions says two thirds of the buying process has already been completed online without even contacting the vendors. This is a missed opportunity for sales to influence the buying process.

Sales employees need to develop and optimise their social channels to hunt out suspects, identify prospects and build a trusted advisor status with the aim to create trusted online relationships before moving these into sales relationships. Times have changed and rather than waiting for opportunities to be created by marketing, successful sales people are creating these opportunities themselves through social selling.

[OC] Being able to influence buyers wherever they are in the buying cycle is key. Social selling, if done well and across the whole organisation, will enable this. It allows interactions to occur when they are needed and are relevant. It guarantees success. According to SiriusDecisions, successful organisations have seen a 5% increase in sales through social selling. The company, A Sales Guy Consulting, also indicated in their Social Media and Sales Quota Survey that 72.6% of sales people who use social outperform their peers.

3.How much effort should be put into social selling versus other aspects of selling?

[ZS] The effort required depends entirely on the level of trust that has already been established online. If you have a low personal brand exposure and value, then a higher level of effort is required, over someone who has already established his/her personal brand and credibility. I generally say to people I train to set aside between 30 to 60 minutes a day to work on your social selling presence.

4.What content is important?

[ZS] Content is the key driving factor for social selling. Without this it is difficult to start to build your trusted advisor status. The important types of content will vary from industry to industry, but visual content such as images and videos often generate lots of interest, as do customer references, blogs and case studies. People want easily digestible content that can help them with their current issue. Think about what types of content you engage with when you’re buying, these will probably be the same for your buyer.

[OC] All content is important. Different people consume different content, based on their expertise, interests, and knowledge. So, don’t assume technical documents are now irrelevant just because we are in the days of videos and infographics. There is a place for everything. Datasheets will resonate with more IT-aware users; whitepapers with others; business benefits-related infographics with yet another audience. Finding the right mix of content is the trick. That said, we have found that ‘industry’ content gets 80% of the clicks/engagement compared to ‘product’ content!

5.Is localised and translated content important?

[ZS] I’m a big fan of localising content, but understand that businesses don’t have an unlimited budget to translate each piece of collateral. Ideally anyone involved in social selling would be taking the sales and marketing content and giving it a local feel. This may just be providing a short 100 word localised summary to the piece of content being shared. I know that’s not full localisation, but a way of making the content distribution a little more personable and localised. My advice would be try to localise if you can.

[OC] Being French I have to say ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’… Not localising and assuming all English content would work globally is a BIG mistake. That said there is a significant cost in creating and localising content, but I see this as part of doing business globally.

6.When implementing social selling should organisations focus on all or just a few social networks?

[ZS] I think before jumping into deciding which social networks to target, you need to first look at where your customers frequent online. You may find they are on a particular community, but you won’t know this unless you do your research. There is a high likelihood they will be on LinkedIn with over 400 million members, but a little due diligence before kicking off a programme does no harm. Generally most organisations that are running social selling programmes are enabling their sales teams with LinkedIn and Twitter.

[OC] The question is correct – it’s a matter of ‘focus’ rather than ‘presence’. You will need to have presence on all social networks – again they work for different audiences. But, you will need to ‘focus’ your efforts on the social networks that work for you, your industry and your audience. In B2B, LinkedIn seems to have the edge, but who knows what the future will bring.

7.Is it worth paying for the use of LinkedIn to support social selling?

[ZS] It is not absolutely necessary to have paid support and tools from LinkedIn, but in my opinion investing in sales navigator licences and aligning your LinkedIn advertising spend certainly helps with expediting awareness, engagement and converting opportunities.

[OC] There are some clear benefits in paying for the extra services and this could help drive engagement, but it’s all about budget and where you spend it the most effectively, to help you get the right results for you, your industry and your audience

8.Which people in an organisation should be involved in social selling?

[ZS] The teams that should be involved in a social selling are sales, sales operations, marketing, marketing operations in terms of running the programme. All those involved in the sales process whether quota carrying or not should play a part in social selling.

[OC] See my answer to Question 1!

9.How does a brand really quantify the value of social selling?

[ZS] You quantify social selling through revenue. You need to decide on what you’re measuring and get an agreement on this. Ultimately you are measuring revenue achieved, but you may have softer metrics such as contact acquisition.

[OC] Engagement and revenue. In most B2B environments, the sales cycle is very long and decisions are made by many different individuals, all needing to be influenced and ‘brought on board’ by your employees. Attributing the success at any individual level is very difficult; measuring at a campaign or company level is the way to go. BUT, driving engagement at a person-to-person level can be measured and quantified (and rewarded upon).

10.When is social selling not beneficial?

[ZS] Hmm, that’s a difficult question. I would say social selling can benefit any B2B organisation as long as you have developed a robust social selling programme. However, I do know of social selling programmes being mis-sold to client-side. What they really have in place are comment marketing and social prospecting rather than a social selling programme, which leads to revenue for a business. If you’re unsure of what you’ve been sold get in touch with me for a quick chat.

[OC] If not done well or across the whole organisation. That said, one sale is all it takes to make social selling ‘beneficial’ (if you haven’t spent hours or tons of budget to achieve this one sale)!

11.How do I start when I don’t have time?

[ZS] If you want to be successful in your sales career you’re going to have to make the time to invest in social selling. It is like anything really, what you put in is what you get out. Those that fail to capitalise on this social selling trend will be playing catch up to their peers and competitors. They will find it increasingly difficult to meet sales targets. So what are you waiting for, start your social selling journey today. :-)

[OC] Speak to Zoe and remember that 90% of decision makers don’t answer the phone, according to the LinkedIn global survey of 1500 B2B Decision Makers, May 2014.

Want to hear more from Olivier and Zoe? Register here for their upcoming webinar where they will be discussing the ROI of Social selling. This is taking place on the 1st December at 4pm GMT. Click here to find out more information.
By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps

Find me on LinkedIn

19 November – The role of content marketing is not just about creating new content but leveraging what’s out there


We all aim to share engaging content to our target audiences. Content that will not only be seen by the vast majority of our contacts, but also content that they will want to engage with and share to their own audiences as well. A mistake that is too often made is believing that you should only be sharing your own content. Here’s why.

Time is of the essence
Unless you’re an avid blogger or a large global brand, with a gazillion interesting blogs posts/articles to share, how can you be expected to keep up with the quantity of posts required for say Twitter every day? And creating up-to-date news as well? Now you’re asking a lot. Obviously large companies can keep up with these demands, but smaller organisations or resellers of large brands who sell their products, not so much. They do not have the time or capacity to support the level of activity required to stand out. What if they simply shared their vendors’ content? This would be relatable and beneficial to them, without the need to create it themselves. With social media collaboration software such as socialondemand this is now achievable.

It’s a limitation
Are you limiting the topics you could be posting about as well? I’m not suggesting you should be posting about lots of topics, but perhaps 3 or 4. The latest industry news, trends, tips, best practices would be a great addition, don’t you think? Remember getting your audience intrigued into your business is the first step.

Do you think if you share others content it makes you the same as everyone else? When done correctly this is not the case. What about putting a thought leader comment as your post title? You don’t even have to agree with the content you are sharing. It gives you the opportunity to share your opinion to others, and maybe even generate communication. This is what social media should be about. It adds a human element, something that will certainly make you stand out.

Have you considered that by sharing and tagging the author of the post you are affectively alerting them, as well as others, of your business? That is of course if they manage their social media accounts effectively. You will also encourage an increased level of followers/ connections as others will see you as a potential channel to promote/ share their offerings in the future. In return they may even share your social media posts, allowing you to reach a far greater audience than before. If there is something in it for them, they will certainly get on board.

Finding content to share
You may think finding fresh content to share is time consuming in itself, especially if you want it to relate to your business. Wrong. Not when you have an RSS feed platform in place. This works by allowing you to view all desired posts from the websites you would normally visit in one place. You can then quickly and easily find relevant, interesting content to share. socialondemand has this built into the system already, making content creation that bit easier for users.

Has your pre-conceived idea of why you shouldn’t be sharing others content changed now that you can see the benefits? I hope so… Do you have any other benefits you would like to add? Please do share your thoughts.
By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps

Find me on LinkedIn

11 November – To deliver great customer service… I quite literally went the extra mile last week


I am about to explain the lengths I will go to, to please my customers. You will not believe it… #TrueStory

You know how it goes, it all started like any normal week…I’m on my way to the airport to catch a flight so I can meet with one of our customers and speak at their partner event in Amsterdam. Well I didn’t quite make it there… I had a car accident, causing me to miss my flight! Fortunately nobody was injured. My wife quickly came to the rescue and booked me another flight at an alternative airport, so off I went. BUT after arriving and waiting around all day, you guessed it my flight was cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Did I give up? No. I’d already missed the Euro Star, so there was only one alternative… drive through the night to Amsterdam. So that’s what I did. With no time to sleep, I met with the customer and did my presentation.

Was it worth it? Definitely yes! With many other individuals failing to make it from the UK due to the airport chaos, my efforts were highly extolled by the audience I presented to.

It just shows the importance of going that extra mile for your customers. It allows to you to stand out from your competitors and create loyalty to your brand. If they can see the effort you’re willing to make, they are less likely to go elsewhere.

It doesn’t just stop there. There are other ways I go the extra mile for my customers, and this is quite often for free I’d like to add. Why? Because, trust me, it pays off.

So here I have outlined the additional services I offer my customers, going above and beyond what they’d normally expect.

1. Account management weekly calls - It’s important we regularly engage with our customers so they know we care and are willing to do our utmost to support their needs. At the beginning of a contract we do this once a week, but as they become fully clued up, this then moves to once a month. Only by them using the software we have developed, will they fully grasp the benefit of using it. It’s therefore important that we are there every step, answering and resolving any queries they may have. If we leave them to it, other priorities could take precedence, causing them to become disengaged with us.

2. 90% of customer requests are developed within 3 months for free – Giving the customer what they want, (as long as the request is reasonable) is key. By tailoring our service to their needs, we stand out, develop and grow as a business. Also this request may also be something other customers can also benefit from too.

3. Offering best practices advice and guidance - We obviously have expertise in our industry so if it’s going to benefit our customers it’s only worthy that we pass this on to them too. We do this by creating presentations, face-to-face discussions, webinars, as well as additional assets such as infographics.

4. Presentations at partner summits -This is highly important for us. We need to stay visible to all our customers, and show them exactly what we offer. Customers will then stay in tune with our business. Stay at the forefront of their mind, and we become a priority to them.

5. Monthly reporting and analysis - I know our customers want to measure exactly how beneficial we are to them, and see for themselves their all-important return on investment. Also if they are not happy with the results, it allows them to potentially create a strategy to improve their performance before it’s too late. Keeping customers in the dark is not an option if you expect them to stay, that’s for sure.

Yes I may now have a battered up bmw, and it may take me a considerable amount of time performing all of these additional extras, but I do have happy customers so I must be doing something right!

06 November – Every brand should socially enable their advocates – find out how easily this can be done

Socially enable? What’s all that about then? In an era where everyone is pretty much using some form of social media, whether that be for personal and/or professional use, it CAN, (note strong emphasis on the ‘CAN’) when implemented correctly, be a great way to promote your organisation’s offerings.

So you think you’ve got social media cracked, correct? You’re generating a steady stream of interest, measuring this through the level of retweets, likes, and shares or even traffic it’s directing to your website. But could you be doing anything better?

The answer to this is always yes, here’s how…

Advocates are your best friends
Advocates include your employees, channel partners, and other trusted advisors. In fact anyone that has a direct interest in your brand. This is where the socially enabling part comes in… By empowering advocates to post your content on their own social media accounts, your content will be exposed to a far greater audience. When you consider the number of connections each advocate has, it is not surprising. This is what we mean by ‘enabling’…giving them great content they can use and leverage!

What tools do I need to social enable advocates?
To effectively enable your advocates to post your content, I would highly recommend that you invest in a social media collaboration platform. There are a number around, but I would personally suggest our own socialondemand®. Here you will have full control of when and where your brand content is posted, whilst ensuring a consistent brand message is maintained. And what’s more, you can easily discontinue out of date posts. This is highly important as it ensures only relevant, timely content is posted by brand advocates. So for example promotional offers will only be posted when applicable and not two weeks late.

Brand advocates may need some encouragement
So I’ve shown you how to enable brand advocates to share your content, but how many will actually do this? The truth is until they share your content on a regular basis it is unlikely they will really understand the true benefit of them doing this. And trust me there really are huge benefits. Let’s start with the thought leader status they will receive, or the fact it will save them so much time by not having to create content. And what better way for them to stand out in their field that this. The more content they share, the larger their follower base will grow.

But before you start…
To ensure you receive maximum adoption, it is important that your brand advocates understand the full benefits as well as what is exactly involved. Here are a few techniques I would suggest you implement first:

  • Social Media Training - Show all advocates the value of social media, why they should share your content and also how to use your social media collaboration platform.
  • Awards for participation- Ensure you have these types of initiatives in place, so advocates can be rewarded and recognised as and when deserved.
  • Incentives or gamification practice – Unsure what this means? Gamification is the use of traditional game elements to motivate, educate and engage participants.’ Examples include competitions, points, leader-boards, badges, rewards, self-esteem and recognition. In my opinion this is highly effective. Want to learn more? Read this blog post.
  • Program forum – This can be a great method for users to communicate amongst one another, creating a community, where they can share ideas and build a relationship with one another.
  • Social media syndication software - This makes it easier for advocates to view all potential posts in one place. Here they can select exactly which posts they would like to share to their followers. Easy.

    So come on, what have you go to lose? Start enabling your brand advocates to socially share your brand. You won’t regret it, none of our customers do. Good luck!