Social Selling is about strategy, it’s not about tools or tactics, let alone the infamous LinkedIn Social Selling Index. Social Media is one of the most important avenues for B2B marketers in the post-pandemic world. Let’s hear it from an expert on what it takes to be great at social and leverage this channel effectively. In this podcast Tim Hughes talks to us about the updated version of his book on social selling.
Social selling is about strategy it’s not about tools
TH In this new version of the book I have added more content and bolstered it after discussing with 15 practitioners – people that are doing social selling. For an organisation’s executive team, social selling ought to be part of the strategy.
When social media came out, many didn’t know what to do with it. The marketing department would leave it in a cupboard and then bring it out every week or two. They’d post something on a corporate page and ask everybody to like it, which more often than not doesn’t fetch good results.
Social now is a clear competitive advantage for an organisation. But it has to be run as a strategy, not as a tactic.
The key thing about the book is that I want to show there’s a clear connection between social media and leads and meetings. How are you going to use social to build a pipeline and get revenue?
Social Selling Is Not Communicating Online, It’s About Dollars
We have a definition as well as methodology for social. Social selling is using your presence and behaviour on social media to build influence, make connections, grow relationships and trust, which lead to conversations and commercial interaction.
The key thing there is we’re driving commercial interaction. Organisations now at a leadership level should be able to say at board meetings that we’re spending ‘x’ on marketing and getting ‘y’ from social media. It’s not about getting likes and clicks and views, it’s about revenue. They should be able to say we’re getting $10 million from the use of social media. That’s about driving a strategy from the top down to actually understand why they’re on social.
Let’s talk social media in terms of a classic exhibition. You as a buyer know what supplier you want to talk to. So you go over there, sit down and have a conversation. Probably at that exhibition there would be somebody who would have seen you and would talk to you. Now, we would expect what happens on social media is I walk into it and a salesman comes up and smacks me in the face with a brochure. Nobody’s interested in that.
We know from research that people come to social media to be social. We’re not coming to social media to be smacked on the face with a sales brochure.
One of our clients is Namos, an Oracle reseller, with whom we worked to transform their sales team. We now have The B2B purchasing process is the result of a long life cycle often linked to a contract as there are many people to convince. coming on to social media, walking up to their sales team, which is transformational. Normally when it’s about sales people, folks don’t like or trust them. Here, we have buyers coming up to their salespeople saying, I think you can help me – and that’s translating. One of them has recently signed a $2.6 million deal.
We have organisations that are doing multimillion-dollar deals purely because of their position on social and treating it as a strategy, while ensuring that everybody within the organisation is involved.
Creating a mission statement
We do a classic brainstorming session where we get the C-suite and probably one of their advisors into a room. Then we work through with them about the importance of strategy and using data to show how the world is changed. People quite often recognise that there’s been this change, but they don’t understand that now 60% of the world’s population is active on social media for two and a half hours a day. This is the data that comes from Simon Kemp.
Telstra Purple came up with a mission statement which says a social organisation sees social as a platform for closing the distance between clients, prospects, remote employees and potential recruits. Social gives them the ability to get traditional visibility that you would expect from marketing. They’re a cybersecurity company. So they are very keen to be trusted and to get the trusted advisor status, for people to say that company looks like they know what they’re talking about.
Tools for Social Selling
We as a business actually use very few tools because this is about you and being human centric. We use Slack internally. I have used internal social now for a number of years. When I was in corporate, we used it to attain an increased efficiency of the employees by 25%. That’s like getting 25% more employees at no cost and it saved so much time. It didn’t stop meetings, but it used to cut down their time. It works only when you have senior leadership using it. Leaders should say, as they did in my previous organisation, that if you want to get hold of me, I am on Slack. I might check email only at certain points in the day. So Slack is where we should connect.
What Matters Is Conversations and Collaborations
We use Slack, LinkedIn and a number of social platforms purely because today we live in two worlds – physical and digital. As soon as we go online onto social media, we’re in digital.
What we need to be able to do as salespeople and leaders of organisations is to be able to walk digital corridors and have digital conversations.
The key is to make sure that if you’re going to start in sales as the point of actually transforming your organisation to digital, then what you need are people who have seen it, done it and whom the sales team respects.
Age doesn’t have an impact at all on understanding social
Mindset required for social selling
It isn’t just about social selling, but transforming your organisation to digital. We have the physical world that we all know and love, and we have the digital world. Social media is a conduit to the digital world. Your LinkedIn profile is you – it’s your digital twin. So the way that your LinkedIn profile looks is how you want the digital world to recognise you.
For example, at Cambridge Display Technology, they’re not using any recruitment consultants or recruitment advertising anymore. They have gone digital and empowered their people to talk online that it is a great place to work for. They articulate how great their diversity program is, or how well their ESG program unfolds. Those who read this on social say that it looks like a place I want to work for.
It the world of digital, social gives us new efficiency and new ways of working.
It’s not about tools, a new ERP system or anything like that. It’s about using digital is the way that we work, and that empowerment across the organisation means that we can work in different ways. We can strip out cost and be more efficient. What we would recommend is having an open mind and understand that there is a new digital way of doing things.
Businesses Navigating Their Way in the New Digital World
When Adam Gray and I started our company six years ago, we thought we had eight months, at which point everybody would get it and it would become the norm. Here we are in our seventh year and 99.99% of companies do not understand this. There are companies who have got big marketing budgets and don’t understand digital.
There’s this misalignment from a leadership perspective to understand what social and digital stand for and what it means for their business.
To break away from this, it’s about likes and clicks and things like that. I recently read about an organisation who have got 300,000 employees. They’ve got 8 million followers on LinkedIn, but get 15 likes per post, out of which seven are internal. This clearly means they aren’t influencing their prospects and customers.
It’s about understanding the world of digital, the way it works and not just an understanding about social, but having the business acumen about how to apply it.
Things have changed because of Covid-19 and we need to do things differently. Organisations are coming to us as they are completely redesigning their processes which are 30 years old.
Social Selling Doesn’t Take Long
Look at the speed of things – LinkedIn allows you to have 200 connections a week. That’s 200 conversations with people you’re trying to influence. Social selling actually shortens the sales cycle because of not having to deal with a lot up front. People will see you as soon you are online and have a conversation with you instantly.
We saw a real tipping point in October 2020 when people in the UK went into the second lockdown. We had to relearn the way we worked. I don’t need to commute anywhere, I can sit in my office or at home and run a normal day’s work.
The impediment to success on social and digital is that there are still so many mental models out there that 30 years ago is the way that we do things.
LinkedIn and its impact on social selling
In the physical world, when we meet a potential client for a meal or sports, we don’t immediately talk about work. We try to get close to the person, and this is what being social is about. We don’t talk about business posts and personal posts. This is life posts. This is about understanding each other. It pulls people towards you. I know social selling, but also the fact that my father has dementia and he’s in a home allows you to know the real Tim Hughes – the Tim Hughes that you would deal with if he delivers a service to you.
What you’ll find is that LinkedIn will become more like Facebook, because more people will actually recognise the fact that by doing this you’re getting people to understand you
When you come to my LinkedIn profile, you should better understand what it is that I stand for. Your LinkedIn profile is your shop window to the world. It’s about as soon as your ideal customer spots you, he thinks you are interesting. He is curious about that and walks towards you. Your LinkedIn profile explains who you are, and it cannot merely be the fact that you go to work, but that you’re going to spend the next weekend seeing your parents. That’s part of me and who I am. People respect that and I get people coming to me which punches out my network, punches into the people that I’m trying to influence.
Social Selling Strategy: Social Media, Not Spam Media
Social is not about putting a brochure online – neither your ideal customer nor anybody wants it. People buy people. I’m looking for a relationship with somebody. Someone that can help me solve my business issues and that I can trust. Somebody that I know that if the project starts failing and I ring them up, they’re going to take that call. Even if it’s a Saturday, I can look upon them that they’re an organisation I want to do business with.
Now, when I do business in the physical world, I don’t walk into a meeting and immediately give people brochures. I sit there and say, I’ve been working here for 20 years. I’ve been selling accounting systems for 20 years across industries. I generally know about some things about accounting, but there’s bound to be something I have missed.
It’s about bringing that expertise and also bringing your personality as people buy people. This is social media. This is not spam media.
It’s about empowering the people, that’s when things actually start happening and the magic takes place.