Google “social selling training for sales” and you get 136 million results. That’s a lot of people offering to turn your sales reps into social sellers. They’ll promise that LinkedIn updates can be written in between calls. New prospects can be found during “downtime”. Those people are mistaken.
Social selling, when it’s done properly, takes time and a specific set of skills. And like any sales or marketing programme you roll out, you’re going to want your efforts to be scalable.
The core activities of a social selling programme include researching prospects, writing compelling posts and messages, planning and managing the campaign and analysing what is and isn’t working.
I’m not saying your sales reps can’t do those things. I’m sure they can.
I am saying it probably isn’t the best use of their time or skills.
Take writing as an example. Some of the most charismatic speakers I know tense up when they come to put pen to paper. For the majority of us, writing just doesn’t feel like a natural continuation of speaking. It’s outside of our comfort zone. That’s likely to be true for your sales team too.
With a significant amount of training, you might be able to change that. Or, if you’re lucky, you might have some sales reps who are already keen writers. However, anomalies aside, you’ve got a full-time job on your hands.
The same logic applies to your writers – imagine asking your best copywriters to meet a prospect and close the deal. It’s not what gets them out of bed in the morning. It’s not why they decided to work for you.
Another way of looking at it is to compare social selling to email campaigns.
You wouldn’t make sales responsible for planning, executing and reporting on a series of email sends. However, sending emails is part of their daily routine and you’d certainly need their input on any emails you were sending out in their name.
Social selling should be no different.
Sales reps who are active on social are a brilliant asset. And the vast majority of them are; The Sales Management Association found that 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn every week. Making new connections, sending InMails, posting updates and commenting on blog posts – those things all help to raise their profile and can often be the difference between a social selling programme succeeding or not.
But that’s not the same as making the programme their responsibility. Any centrally driven, coordinated social selling efforts belong to marketing. I’ve seen this work time and time again; in a recent demand generation project we saw a 20% increase in leads after marketing introduced a social selling programme.
InMails are a great example of this approach in action. The premise is very similar to emails, but the response rate tends to be better. Marketing can create a messaging matrix to run an InMail campaign that strikes a balance between personalisation and scalability. The matrix groups prospects by specific challenges they are facing, their market position, their industry, or their function – whatever makes the most sense for the campaign.
Once marketing have divided the contacts into categories they can write InMail templates for each group, rather than creating them on a one-by-one basis. Insights can be gathered from annual reports, LinkedIn profiles or online articles. This information needs to inform the templates.
Marketing will need the sales team’s input into the brief, approval on the templates and feedback on the response. Our Inside Sales team often make tweaks to these templates before they send them, adding a line of text that’s personalised to the individual they’re contacting.
Social listening is another example of how a marketing-led approach to social selling can pay off. Researchers can plough through the information on social channels to pick out bite-sized pieces of information about prospects and what they’re most interested in. They can then hand this over to the Sales team to inform the next phone call with that person.
Follow this approach and you don’t need to hire more sales reps to sell socially. You don’t need to retrain the ones you already have. You just need to let the people you already employ do what they do best.
For practical suggestions on how to get marketing and sales working together on a social selling programme, take a look through our social selling playbook.