Content Is The Currency Of The Social Selling Professional

Published: April 8, 2014

Social selling is the new way to work for many sales people. As they tap into social networks to interact with potential and current clients and extend their personal brand, B2B marketers are beginning to navigate this new selling approach and determine the best strategy to support the efforts.

“Is is really an opportunity for marketing to empower and enable the sales force to leverage content as their currency,” said Jill Rowley. Rowley recently started her own social selling consultancy, #SocialSelling, after heading up Oracle’s social selling initiative. “What social selling is doing is creating an army of mini marketers where everyone in the company is sharing and creating content.”

While you want everyone in the company to be engaging customers and prospects through social media, the marketing department should be providing content and guidance.

“You want your sales team to move into this new era of selling, but everyone has to be mindful that with great power com great responsibility,” Loren Padelford, EVP of Sales for Skura Corp., a sales enablement platform provider. “It is transformative for the sales person, as they have more personal interaction with prospects and clients, but they need the tools to communicate effectively in bit-sized chunks, and that’s where marketing can play a huge role.”

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Marketing is the “social selling enabler,” said Richard Dym, CMO of Gagein, a platform that provides actionable news for sales teams. “Marketing is the social voice and spirit of the organization. It is responsible for creating a social selling environment and culture by fostering two-way communication and engagement with prospects and customers.”

Start With Social Listening

Social selling requires keen attention to identifying issues that matter to customers and prospects. “It is crucial to out what articles your customers are reading on social media, what companies they are following and what they are tweeting about, among other indicators of their interests,” said Brynne Tillman, President & CEO of Social Sales Link, a company that provides training on social selling.

Rowley stated that the process “socially surrounds” the buyer. “It is connecting instead of closing. You need to understand the buyer’s sphere of influence. How they learn, where they learn and who they trust.

The next step is creating content around what you have learned from online interactions. “Educational content is what marketing brings to the party,” Tillman said. “Marketing’s role is to help develop thought leadership around the issues that prospects and customers care about. It can’t be promotional. It’s not about pitching. It is about solving a problem.”

Social selling requires content that goes beyond a description of the features and functions of your product, Rowley noted. “Content is the currency of modern sales professional, but it shouldn’t be just content that you create. Look to the influencers, bloggers and analysts in the industries that you serve. Non-branded content is a great way to and cut through the clutter. Everyone now communicates on social networks, so their Twitter and LinkedIn inboxes are overflowing. Make sure the information you share is relevant and adds value.”

Amplify Social Selling With Advocates

Rowley added that marketing plays a key role in developing content for social selling. “You need content that resonates with buyers and helps buyers. Content that informs and educates. Marketing can help support that initiative. They can help identify the right content, terms and key words that emulate the behaviors of current buyers.”

“You cannot expect sales people to uncover all of the social influencers in your target market, Rowley said. “Marketing needs to support and operationalize the initiative.”

Advocacy marketing — including current customers and employees — should also factor into a social selling strategy. “In the end, people buy from people,” Rowley said. “And they buy from people they trust.”

Like every selling channel, social selling should be measured, Rowley said. “To start, you can look at things like LinkedIn’s social selling index. As your network gets bigger, you want your connects to stay engaged.”

Strengthening Relationships

Rob Begg, CMO of Introhive, said successful social selling depends on understanding the strengths of the relationships everyone in your company has with prospects and customers.

“It is really about making sure that you know everything that is knowable about a prospect or current customer and their interactions with your company,” Begg said. “Selling is all about relationships.”

Part of marketing role in social selling, Begg said, is to score and prioritize leads based on the strength of those relationships.

Skura’s Padelford said that marketing can help identify the most valuable social networks for a company’s target buyer. Social media has a lot of tentacles. Marketing’s familiarity with metrics and content can help determine which social networks are most important to their particular company and create content that is viable and usable on those networks. And, importantly, train the sales team on how to use that content most effectively at various stages of the sales cycle.”

Calculating ROI on social selling is challenging, Gagein’s Dym concluded. “As most sales are multi-touch, making tracing the sales back to a social engagement challenging. Marketing needs to commit to social selling, recognizing that it takes time, resources and responsiveness. It’s not a casual endeavor. It requires dedicated resources and depending on your business, potentially 24×7 coverage.”

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