As the power of social media tightens its grip on the modern workforce, the need for companies to make the right kind of noise becomes more important than ever. Social media though, isn’t just the role of the wider marketing team – employees and sales people in particular, should ideally be right in the thick of it, making the most of the online marketplace. How is social selling changing the way B2B organisations engage with decision makers? To get some answers, I’ve had a chat with Sophie Barnes of Xchanging. Listen to the interview on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a summary. Our tip of the week is the very useful and free Google Forms. Our big shout goes out to Campbell & Syme.

Tell us about Xchanging and what you do there?

Xchanging provides technology-enabled business solutions to the global commercial insurance industry, recently acquired by CSC, a leading provider of next-generation technology solutions and services. I am the Global Social Media Manager, I implement and manage the global social media strategy across the Xchanging brand. Working to build brand awareness and align our social activity to marketing campaigns. I manage the social selling programme within Xchanging and work closely with the talent acquisition team on their LinkedIn strategies, and own the employee advocacy programme. 

How did you go about implementing social selling in the organisation?

So first, about two years ago we began exploring the tool [Sales Navigator], exploring what the trend ‘social selling’ meant and how B2B companies could benefit from it. It still is, a trend that is up and coming. I spoke to LinkedIn and said, “What have you got going on and what can we do to implement this at Xchanging?”, “How can we benefit from this”.  So, we started a pilot trial with them.

To grab the attention of the sales team, I used the gamification of their Social Selling Index (SSI) score, sending the  link around for them to explore their own scores.  I stepped back and watched them all go, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m beating you” to each other and looking at how the managers were thinking, “Oh God, my team members have actually got higher scores than me. What I can do about this?” – that’s when the personal emails came creeping in. Then we really pushed it out into the business, which was all about education. We had webcasts with LinkedIn, globally, then figuring out how we can of become one Xchanging and one sales and marketing teams to help drive and fill the leads funnel. 

What were some of the challenges that you faced implementing social selling?

It was getting the buy-in, obviously, from the business. Sitting down and trying to prove the ROI of social media, which I obviously fight on a daily basis when it comes to the B2B insurance market. Initially, the buy-in, having the time and the resources to sit down with everyone and actually train them one-to-one on how to use the tool. The challenge that I now face is having the sales guys be confident in what they’re doing and actually stand up and give me a case study. I want to show back the business how social media is helping not only the brand and marketing activities, but sales too.

What channels do you use for social selling?

Predominantly, obviously, LinkedIn, then I try to encourage Twitter, to help build up individual profiles (to help when attending events and joining the hashtags). Obviously, I get “I haven’t got time to do all of this.” So we sync their accounts together, not best practice I know, but to keep their constant flow across both channels with content and help build up their profile. Our main focus is definitely, definitely on LinkedIn increasing the SSI scores, being active and being there.

What digital sales collaterals do you use?

We’ve got digital flip books, they’re called Turtl. We share them across our social media platforms, the analytics we receive are really insightful. It’s also great for capturing leads with the call to action for more content, they also have a little funky GIFs. We’ve then got all of our YouTube content and downloadable PDFs all online. We tend to use our social channels as strong content as well. We do twittertchats or hashtag campaigns to help promote a service, and then I’ll put that into a nice Storify to then reuse as content as well.

What tools do your sales people use on a daily basis?

On a daily basis, the sales guys are obviously on LinkedIn. Every single one of them. And of course Salesforce. Then, I have just recently rolled out my employee advocacy program. I’ve got them all on Smarp as well. I have got key senior directors, or their PAs, on Hootsuite. It’s what we use internally in my team to log in and schedule stuff from there. Then obviously, all the analytics you get off the back of Brandwatch, Sprout, and Hootsuite. And then the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, they’ve got a brilliant reporting system. I could just pull it off into a CSV file. We then use Google Analytics and how it kind of all syncs in the UTM tracking with Marketo and the lead captures that we have there as well.

How do you go about measuring success and what results have you seen?

We’ve only got half of our sales team on Sales Navigator. I imagine this is about how many people are coming up to me saying, “I need a license now. I can’t do my job without it. Because I’m seeing all of this knowledge being pushed around the business of what you’re doing to help us. I need you to give me a license.” I think that’s a strong success for myself. Then, obviously, the business and what they want to see is measuring the KPIs, the resources. How much we’ve spent on the project? 

We then measure the awareness, the impressions, the leads captured, wherever they’re going into the pipelines, wherever they’re going over the market and going through and being successful. A long list of tick boxes of what we can do and how we report back from that synching in with Salesforce and now Marketo reporting system.

What’s going to happen next in this space?

For my industry, I definitely think it’s still the uptake. Insurance is so slow. I think it’ll be how insurance are really engaging in LinkedIn groups and creating discussions. And the regulations within insurance will make things a little bit harder. I think that will all be overcome and the whole server security thing won’t be a fear when it comes to social media.

I then think that employee advocacy will be huge in social media and how businesses are really going to be engaging with the programs and platforms that you can be using out there. I think paid social is really, really strong at the moment and sometimes you’re going to be lost in the noise if you’re not doing it. But employee advocacy is going to be the way that businesses and companies are going to be actually utilising their staff and getting stuff heard.

Follow Sophie on Twitter @SophieBarnesx.

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About Jörgen Sundberg

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

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