Whether you’re a business development manager for a recruitment agency, a B2B salesperson or simply interested in sales, you will have noticed that social selling (much like social recruiting) is all the rage. But how do you get started with social selling?

I recently had a chat with Tim Hughes, Director at Oracle UK as well as a social selling evangelist, avid tweeter and blogger. Have a listen to the audio podcast above or keep reading for a summary of our conversation. A longer version of this interview is available at Link Humans.

Why is social selling important?

We’ve seen a big change, not necessarily so much within the selling process, but within the buying process. Most people now, whenever you want to buy something, you go to Google and you do a search. Quite often, people actually are actually making decisions and purchasing online and are going ahead and doing that based on from that search. And they’re not actually involving a salesperson.

Some of the research says that something like 72% of buyers are going through a process, and when they get to something like 50%, 60%, 70% – I’ve even got figures that show 80% of the way through the buying cycle – it’s only then that they actually engage with the salesperson. Going back 20 years ago, it would have been a 20% of the way through the buying cycle. Some research indicates that 25% of B2B salespeople jobs won’t exist in 2020. And what will you be replaced by? You’ll be replaced with a search engine.

The 5 pillars of social selling success are:

1. LinkedIn

First and foremost I recommend that you get in on LinkedIn. While you can use the free version, I do recommend you get the professional addition because you get access to the Sales Navigator. If you’re looking to get hold of the people and looking and searching for people, then the Sales Navigator will help you. You’ve got to move away from the traditional, “I’ve set up my LinkedIn profile as a way of attracting recruiters for my next job” and actually create what I would call a bio-centric profile.

So you need to think about your product and service and outputs, what is it that it actually does? Does it increase revenue? Does it improve profit? Does it enable you to reduce stock? What is that end point you’re going to do? And that is what you need to be looking at, building your LinkedIn profile around.

And if anyone goes to my LinkedIn profile, what you’ll see is that I don’t have a job title like Master Principal Consultant. The job title is what I do, and it’s what I do in my online world. I have a picture because if you don’t have a picture, you’re like a spammer. And you have a description of what you do. And again, this is about an output, and this is not about that you make a hundred calls a day. It’s about what the output is and this fact that you’re creating leads or appointments for people. So it’s a way of moving the LinkedIn profile on, and it’s a way of getting to position. And if somebody is in a position that they’re looking to buy something, you should be, and your LinkedIn profile should, in effect, be coming up on the searches that they’re doing.

If you went to that media, video, Powerpoints, you’re posting on that daily in terms of interesting articles, people are going to go, “Hmm, that’s an interesting person. I need to talk to them.” And I also talk to people about… Even if you’re not using it for demand generation and you’re going to meetings, most people now, when you were interested in me, the first thing that you would have done was go into my LinkedIn profile. And you would have made a decision about whether Tim was interesting and whether Tim was interesting to have a webcast with purely from my shop window, which is at LinkedIn profile.

So my LinkedIn profile obviously worked in that particular case. It is your shop window to the world. And how you create and what you put on there, I don’t want to labour the point about it, but don’t come across as too much as a corporate suit. Also, think about what it is that you want other people to think about you. So you’re loyal. You’re trustworthy. You are a family man. You’ve got old cars. You’re into crochet or whatever it is. So make sure that the LinkedIn profile is about you as a whole and about you as a total person, not that you work for a particular corporation or a particular company. It’s got to be everything about you. So that’s the first step or pillar that I recommend that people look up.

Related: How to Optimise Your LinkedIn Profile for Social Selling.

2. Listening

So it’s listening out on social media, whether that’s with listening on hashtags, listening about your brand, listening about people coming on saying, “I’m thinking about…”. For example, I’ve been interested in doing demand generation about video. And I’ve been on to Twitter a couple of times and said, “I’m interested in doing some demand gen. Are there any video companies that want to come and contact me?” There are people that are doing that. And as a B2B organisation, we use a tool to listen to certain things that are going on and the footprints that people are leaving out there in social media.

3. Marketing automation

The third element that I recommend is that you start looking at some form of marketing automation. Now, marketing automation is a big step. It’s usually a big implementation. But the gains that you’ll get from that are usually pretty good. In terms of our return on investment, when we were doing… If I can admit that we actually have people that cold-call, if you actually are cold-calling people, usually we would get a response of about 5 in 100. Of those 100, another 25 would say, “Yeah, I’m kind of interested, but it’ll be another three or six months.”

What we do is that we put those 25 into a nurture program using our Eloqua product. And we nurture those now over a three- to six-month period. So generally what happens is that, while in the past, we had a 5-out-of-100 response, we now get a 30-out-of-100 response. So that’s a pretty good ROI, and that’s certainly something that you build up over time. But again, it’s not necessarily for the fainthearted.

4. Influencers

The fourth pillar that I’ve looked up really is about influencers. So what is an influencer, and why would I care? In the past, generally, people would go out to third party organisations, probably Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and sought their opinion about whatever they were particularly looking at. And those organisations are still important. But there are people out there, bloggers like myself who have an influence. People like Ted Rubin, Brian Solis, Bryan Kramer, people like that who have an opinion and are also driving the debate forward in terms of social, social enterprise, the sharing economy etc.

So one of the things that you might want to do is actually contact those people. And why would you want to do that? When a buyer goes through the buying process, generally, they’ll go on and look at Google. They’ll make a decision, and then they will start talking to influencers, that maybe that they’ll turn to somebody in the office and say, “You bought an HCM system when you worked at AstraZeneca. What did you buy? Was it any good?” And I did that when I bought my car. I turned to people that had the make of car as me. But also, there’s people that they could be contacting that have an influence. So I actually get people that come to me directly and say, “What CRM system should I buy?”.

And from a sales perspective, you can move yourself where you can present not only your shop window in terms of LinkedIn, but you can start hacking the sales process that you’re starting to pick up people that are looking for your products and service as they move down up towards that 60%. So before they’ve actually rung you up, you’re picking those up. Not only will you be getting more pipeline, but you should be winning more because you were able to close those down ahead of the competition.

5. Enterprise social network

The final one is something that we’ve actually implemented internally, which is an enterprise social network. And it happens to be our own because we’re Oracle and we have one. But what we do with the enterprise social network is it’s a bit like an internal Facebook. So the amounts of emails that we now get has reduced.

We’ve done some measurements and we’ve actually worked out that the efficiency of employees has increased by about 25%. We have 100,000 employees worldwide, so we’ve gained something like 25,000 employees. And what we do is we collaborate, and we collaborate across teams. So whereas in the past, marketing used to sit in the silo and sales were in the silo, now we basically cooperate and work together. For example, every single marketing event, we create will be the equivalent of a Facebook group, and the people that need to be on that group get in there and they collaborate and provide their opinion. And we found that has been quite game-changing in the way that we work.

Connect with Tim on Twitter @Timothy_Hughes and check out his blog

social media know-how

About Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO at Link Humans, a social and digital marketing agency.

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