Which came first, social technology or social selling process?
It's safe to say that social technology came first. Sales organizations who embraced the technology began to integrate it into their sales team's approach and eventually the term 'social selling' was born.
But, with the passage of time, too many sales organizations have confused the adoption of social technology with social selling. This is a dangerous mistake.
If I purchased a garage full of commercial landscaping equipment, would that make me a competent landscaper? Not unless I already had a thorough understanding of landscaping best practices!
Yet, I've seen many sales organizations license LinkedIn Sales Navigator, get some training on how to use its functionality, then head off into the world of social selling - but they often have no clue how to implement an effective social selling program because they don't have a strategy.
So, let's look at social selling best practices and then a sampling of the supporting technology and how they should work together for best results.
Social Selling Best Practices
Start With "Why"
Are you embarking on social selling because it's popular or because your buyer is engaging in social channels? Do you know which social channels your buyer is active in? Do you know the topics that are important to your buyer in social channels? Are you aware of specialized groups where you buyers spend time? Be sure that you understand why social selling makes sense for you.
Leadership buy-in is a must. It's not optional. Leadership must be both supportive and a willing participant. This is a situation where "do as I say, not as I do" doesn't fly. If the sales team doesn't witness leadership participation in social selling, they won't take it seriously. Maybe some will, but, you risk a lower adoption of social selling best practices without leadership buy-in.
Governance is not a four letter word. An effective governance policy will empower salespeople with clear guidelines, as well as do's and don'ts - and, the don'ts should be reasonable, otherwise, the governance plan will end up intimidating salespeople. It should be written in plain and simple language. It's best if a legal representative explains the governance plan in a meeting or conference call or even a pre-recorded video. In the end, an effective governance plan should boost confidence in salespeople because they're clear on how they can engage in social selling.
Training and Enablement
Social selling training is a non-optional element to an effective social selling plan. Sales professionals early in their career generally need training on how to cultivate relationships through social selling practices, while sales professionals with more than a decade of sales experience generally need training on how to use social technology, how to embrace a social culture and how to implement social selling practices to build their personal brand online and drive new sales opportunities.
Social Selling Technology
With a general review of social selling best practices, let's look at social selling technology. I've categorized them into four buckets.
1. Social Media Channels
This is where we started. B2B sales professionals cut their teeth on LinkedIn, and many have also adopted Twitter in their social selling practices. Other social channels that might play a role in social selling, depending on your industry and where your audience engages. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, as well as industry-specific online communities - wherever your audience spends time on social channels is where you should meet them and engage.
CRM software dates all the way back to the 1980s, though in the early days it was called contact management software. Original products such as Act and Goldmine have evolved into "customer relationship management" software. The role of CRM is to capture and organize contacts, engagements, opportunities/deals, lead management, notes and in some cases allow for team selling collaboration. More recently some CRM offerings have started offering social media integration, enabling you to see how people engage in social media. A few well known small business CRM products include Zoho, SugarCRM and Nimble. At the enterprise level, popular CRM solutions include Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP and others.
3. Productivity Tools
This category is very crowded. I'm not intent on providing an exhaustive list of tools. In the context of this article, I'll just list a few. Certainly, LinkedIn Sales Navigator as mentioned earlier is a popular tool because it's an upgrade to Linkedin intended for B2B sales professionals to do more robust targeting, engaging, mining, research, saving searches and networking. A few other sales productivity tools include Kitedesk, HireVue and Trapit. A few social media productivity tools include Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer, ManageFlitter and Audiense.
Employee advocacy tools are also important in social selling. Some employee advocacy tools with robust customer adoption include GaggleAMP, rFactr, EveryoneSocial, PeopleLinx among others.
4. Marketing Automation
The fourth category is marketing automation. Some marketing automation products have blurred the lines with some of the tools mentioned above with overlapping functionality. Some of the well-entrenched marketing automation tools include HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Act-On and others.
The list of technology products that social selling reps can use is overwhelming. It's seemingly growing every day. This article is NOT intended to be an exhaustive list of social selling tools. I won't be surprised if I've not mentioned a tool that you use.
The point of this article is to emphasize the importance of integrating social selling processes with technology for efficiency and measurement. Tools without processes - and vice versa - will yield limited results. Successful social selling organizations have a strong blend of process and technology with a constant eye on finding the right balance of the two to enable sales professionals to achieve desired sales results.