Is social media the sales tool of the century? Whether you’re an employer selling your company as a desirable workplace to potential employees, or a mortgage broker selling your service to new home-buyers, a presence on social media is a must-have.

We caught up with social selling sorcerer Tim Hughes to hear what’s what right now on all things social selling. Have a listen to the podcast embedded below, on iTunes or keep reading for an abridged transcript of our conversation. To hear more from Tim, check out the 5 Pillars of Social Selling.

What do you do Tim?

I don’t like to use the word expert, but people quite often place that on me. I’m an expert in social selling and social media. My book is available on Amazon now; Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers. The book really is about how organisations, how salespeople, and how marketers can use social to sell, and use social, in effect, to generate leads and generate revenue.

How do you use social networks purposefully to build trust and a high quality community?

The fact that people are now using mobile more than anything else, and people are spending more time actually researching things. People are spending more time actually researching the products, and there’s far more products and apps, and the whole thing is getting far more complex.

I don’t want to sound ageist, but it’s that the research shows that if you’re looking at people up to about the age of 40, those people, generally about 35% of them, rather than go to Google when they want to actually buy something and then go to a corporate website, people are actually going and connecting on to the social networks.

Should you create content to resonate with those people doing research?

Yes. A lot of people come to me and say, “Tim, you post some really interesting stuff.” For me, that’s a really flattering thing, because what I want to do is educate people. And that’s what brands, salespeople and marketers should be doing. So if we think about the traditional sales funnel and the way that people have traditionally sold, is that you’ve probably already spoken to the people. There’s already a lead, there would have been a meeting, and you take that person through a process where, say, software, you’ll do demonstrations and reference visits, and it’s all defined and you follow that process.

I think there should be a new term, whether it’s the marketing funnel, or what I actually call “the relationship funnel”, which is where the people that we’re trying to sell or market to probably don’t know about this already. Or they may be in a position that it’s even above that, where they don’t even know that there’s not even a need for anything that we do. What your role in the way that you can use social is to build a community and network with those individuals, so when they actually come out and buy, they actually come to you.

How do you scale a social selling strategy across an organisation?

How do you move from random acts of social to actually getting stakeholder buy in? What happens quite often at that stage is that when organisations realise that there’s this tsunami of social taking place, what they try and do is actually grab hold and try and control it.

It’s about practice, and how do organisations take this opportunity and drive it through the organisation? We’re quite open and honest and say, “You actually need particular individuals to help you do that.” Because social selling is a strategy. It’s a change program. And the only way that you’re going to take it through the organisation and stop people going back to the old way is because none of us like change. We always like going back to what we did before. The only way that you can do that and explain it, and train people, and get people to understand how to post and why you post this, and why not to post that, and to drive it, is to have a person who understands social, who has a business acumen to drive it through the organisation and take charge of that.

What’s your take on employee advocacy?

I read a report today that says that 70% of brands broadcast online. They don’t actually engage with anybody. Certainly if I look at my LinkedIn stream, a lot of it is corporate stuff being put out by employees. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re IBM, you’ve got 400,000 employees. You connect your corporate marketing to all of those 400,000 employees. You’ve got an awful lot of share of voice and you’re pumping out an awful lot of content. But social isn’t about broadcast, and it’s not about pumping out content. Social is about engaging, and social is actually about building your own influence in your own community.

Is employee advocacy part of social selling, or vice versa?

If I was rolling out a social selling program, I would be looking at employee advocacy as a second or third step in that process. Because ultimately what you want in the organisation is everybody… the goal of all organisations should be stated that we want to move to being a social organisation. That’s social empowerment of every employee, whether they’re in sales, whether they’re in development, but doing it in the right way.

Which networks work best for social selling?

The two that I always recommend to people, especially if they’re working in the B2B environment, are LinkedIn and Twitter. Brian Solis said that everybody is on LinkedIn, but the interesting people are on Twitter. If I’m talking to salespeople or marketers, you need to be on Twitter, not just about because you’re putting out information. Change makers will generally be on Twitter. They will definitely be on LinkedIn. But you can find individuals, they’re not C-level, but they will be on Twitter. You can find them in organisations and they’re kind of your link in to the way that you can sell into those organisations.

For social selling on LinkedIn, would you say Sales Navigator is a must-have?

If you’re in sales, you basically got to take the professional addition. It’s £300 or so, a year? But if you’re in sales, you kind of need that. It’s great for, if you’ve got some accounts, actually finding those people and finding things about those accounts. I know that you can go to websites like Fiverr, and you get some people to actually… you could go, “give me a list of…” as a salesperson, you could say, “Here’s my target list of 20 accounts. I’ll pay you £5,” and you can go and research all the people in those accounts with these job titles.

Any thoughts on visual networks like Instagram or Snapchat?

Because I’m in social, I have to pretty much use every platform. Because I get asked opinions about it. I actually like the movement away from text to pictures and video. I think Instagram is all about photos. I love walking around. I walk around London, and I go, “Well, I’m going to take a photo with that and then put it on Instagram.”

The same with Snapchat. It’s a great, fun way of taking very small segment videos and putting those out. The thing about Snapchat that I haven’t really realised until I met up with Brian Fanzo a couple of weeks ago in Manchester. He was saying that the great thing about it is that you can have a one-to-one chat with a brand. Whereas on Twitter, generally if you’re dealing with the brand, it goes out to everybody.

Follow Tim on Twitter @Timothy_Hughes.

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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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