The need for businesses to keep up with the times and implement a bespoke social selling program internally has never been more urgent. The initiative not only optimises the online marketplace of potential customers for sales, but also ties together nicely with employer branding initiatives and engages future employees. The approach to social selling needs to be tailored to be successful, and will differ from company to company, industry to industry. Our advice? Research to find out what works and what doesn’t!
With this in mind, we’ve had a chat with Paul Lewis of Pitney Bowes, a global technology company powering billions of transactions across the world of commerce. Listen on iTunes or SoundCloud, or read below for a summary on how he’s been driving social selling across his organisation.
Tell us about Pitney Bowes and what you do there?
Pitney Bowes is a global technology company. We offer a wide portfolio of products and solutions, all which enable commerce in the areas around customer information management, location intelligence, customer engagement, shipping, mailing and global eCommerce. I’ve got a dual role whereby I oversee global social media activities for the software solutions part of our business, but in addition to that, I also lead the global social selling program.
How did you implement social selling within Pitney Bowes?
This started out basically as a pilot program. Firstly, it was a case of those folks that were working in the sales or business development capacity were finding it incredibly difficult to generate new leads and new opportunities via what I would class as being your traditional methods, i.e., cold calling. And whilst obviously the marketing activities that we were running which take in various different channels were working well, we need it to become a little bit more savvy anyway, and start to think, dare I say, outside the box and become just a little bit more innovative.
Tell us about your first group of social selling pioneers?
We started this off as a pilot program; so working with a small number of individuals. I think it was about five or six that were based in UK. And what it was, was basically first of all, educating them as to the role that social media can play when it comes to sales enablement. And the whole concept here was about building a sales pipeline and accelerating the sales process.
And I worked with LinkedIn in previous organisations, so I had a good understanding about this. And it was a case of me then conveying that over to the individuals that were going to be a part of the program, the pilot program. There were a number of individuals that were, how can I put it… dismissed the idea. Old school people that didn’t quite believe that social media was a new part of the sales enablement process. We started to look at their LinkedIn profiles, and the first thing was to optimise their profiles.
From there on, we brought on board some Sales Navigator licenses. We trained up these five or six individuals on how to go ahead and use the licenses, and all the features, and the functions that the licenses had to offer. And it’s now become a global initiative, global program that encompasses every single line of business within Pitney Bowes.
What were some of the challenges you came across and how did you address them?
I think probably the main challenge, like any kind of project anyway, is to actually to get it off the ground. And it was a case of, first and foremost, finding an executive sponsor within Pitney Bowes that would help champion the cause, somebody that believed in social selling and the role it had to play. And thankfully, there was an individual who we were able to identify. And he really helped to not only get the project off the ground, but actually to accelerate the whole project anyway. So he was able to portion off some budget to it to bring on-board the Sales Navigator licenses. You’ve got to realise as well that the investment is not just on the licenses, but at the same time the training.
What visual platforms do you use for sales support?
SlideShare obviously because of the ties with LinkedIn. YouTube, I mean let’s face facts today. If you want to know the question or the answer to a question, you’re going to go onto Google. If you want to learn how to do something, then turn to YouTube. We do find that video so powerful. It’s great to be able to get across information in a very, very short space of time, and especially if you have individuals who, in their LinkedIn profiles, have content such as SlideShare presentations or videos uploaded to their LinkedIn profile.
I would say, just in addition to LinkedIn and Twitter, one of the other core channels is our employee advocacy program, whereby when you look at the social selling index which is the process by which you can measure how successful an individual is at social selling. One of the core aspects is around engaging with insights, and that’s all about posting relevant content, liking and sharing content. We’ve got a platform [Dynamic Signal] there whereby we’ve got content that has been created by Pitney Bowes. We’ve got third party content as well that we upload to that platform. And those individuals that are part of the advocacy program go on-board.
— Paul Lewis (@paul_a_lewis) May 24, 2016
What technology, tools and apps do you use for social selling?
We’ve got various tools and technologies that we are using which are internally developed. I think the core one, which I’ve got to mention obviously, is the CRM system [Salesforce] that an individual will be working with. So I’ve had campaign ID tags for different lines of business they are in, the social selling program. And any kind of lead or opportunity that they create when they go and create that instance in Salesforce, they will tag that opportunity with the appropriate code that I’ve had created.
In that way, we’ve got full visibility across the organisation for anybody to go ahead and see exactly, okay, how much revenue is the social selling program generating? What does the sales pipeline as a result of the program look like at the moment?
Do Salesforce and Sales Navigator play nicely together?
Yes. So as part of the, let’s say, on-boarding process when setting up and configuring your Sales Navigator license, you have the ability to sync your Sales Navigator license with Salesforce. So any contacts or accounts that are assigned in your name in Salesforce, that’s going to be ported across automatically into Sales Navigator, which makes life incredibly easy for the salespeople. Instead of having to go through it manually, and find these individuals, and find the companies, it’s all done automatically.
How do you measure success, and do you know what business was won with social selling?
I mean, again, this comes back to obviously we’re recording everything in Salesforce. So there’s the full visibility there. I think more to the point, what has helped to actually expand the program internally is to report back to the business on the success stories. So think of it as internal case studies.
Secondly, I produce, on a monthly basis, an internal email that goes out to everyone that’s part of the social selling program. It also goes out to other individuals that might work in a marketing role or demand generation role or whatever, as well as senior execs.
We also bring that gamification aspect into the equation, and I’ll list the top 10 individuals within Pitney Bowes and what their social selling index score is. And it’s quite amazing because I can send the email out, let’s say, on a Monday, and by the Tuesday, I’ve had half a dozen people at least that have then come back to me to say, “I can see the 10 people that are on that leaderboard, and I’m not there. What can you do to help me so that next time around when you produce this newsletter and send it out, I can be up there?”
What’s next for social selling?
It’s a tough question. I’m going to take a real broad approach to this. I think that there could be an element of predictive analytics coming into social selling whereby you can predict based on previous activities that somebody has carried out, what they might be doing going forward. I’m certain that if we look at social selling, it’s mainly, let’s say over the past few years, been focused around your large enterprise organisations. I can see it now though within Pitney Bowes, but more and more small- to medium-sized businesses are now having a presence on LinkedIn, as well as individuals. And I think that the SMB marketplace is going to boom on LinkedIn as well.
I think social selling is going to become increasingly visual. So like you were touching earlier on with SlideShare and with YouTube, I think the video element and the visual element is going to be a huge part of social selling going forward. So there’s that aspect, and possibly the convergence really of lots of different social channels.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_a_lewis.
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