Run A Successful Social Selling Program
There are many evangelists out there for Social Selling, but other than telling you how to create a great profile or tips on the use of some of the tools or features within the various social media platforms, there are very few that offer any kind of guidance as to what you need to do to run a successful ‘Social Selling Program’.
I’m writing this post in the hope that it will provide you with some ideas on what else you need to have in place to help ensure that your program is not a flop.
SMART Objectives for Program – It is extremely important that the program has an over-arching SMART Goal, ideally this should be tied to revenue generation. Example, “Our goal is to generate $250K of incremental business from our Social Selling Program in 2015”. This is a SMART Goal, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant to our business and Time Bound.
Criteria – Determine what constitutes as a ‘Win’ for Social Selling – It is also very important that your company clearly defines what constitutes as a ‘Win’ for ‘Social Selling’. The criteria I set; is that for a ‘Sales Win’ to be tied back to my program, I have to be certain that the business would not have been won if it wasn’t for the Social Selling activity. With some opportunities it is easy to determine this, for instance an opportunity that was started with a new client through a group discussion on LinkedIn. It’s easy to tie that business back to your Social Selling program, because if you had not be active in that group, if you had not engaged with that client in that group, the opportunity would never have come your way.
But there are many instances where it is not as clear cut, for example, you have an existing client that you have done business with in the past, you write an article on a new product or service that you have to offer, this client (who is a connection of yours on LinkedIn) likes the article and comments, “please bring one of these in to show me the next time you are passing”. You, do and it results in a sale, there are many sales teams that find this type of sale difficult to attribute back to Social Selling. It can be argued that the salesperson would have made the sale the next time that they were passing with or without the ‘Social Selling’ program. (I’m not so sure, personally, I would attribute that sale to the program, but I have had many customers argue that they would not). Either way, you have to determine what constitutes as a ‘Win’ for your Social Selling Program and discuss the grey areas.
Champion for the Cause – For any program to be successful your company needs a champion for the cause, this person is the person who will drive the program forward, they are the person, who will hold everyone accountable, they are the person who is the most passionate about the plan, they believe in Social Selling, they are huge advocates for the concept and are constantly trying to demonstrate how every opportunity some-how relates back to the program. They are also usually the most proficient in the use of the tools and are the ‘Go-to person’ for any questions relating to “how do I…..(fill in the blank with a question about LinkedIn / Twitter / Facebook etc).
Compelling reason to be involved / Team ‘Buy In’ – There is enough empirical data to prove, that the most effective sales people are the ones who combine Social Selling with their robust disciplined sales process. This should be a compelling enough reason for any Sales Professional to want to actively participate in a Social Selling program. Sources: IDC White Paper – Social Buying meets Social Selling – Kathleen Schaub, April 2014, Social Selling Impact – Aberdeen Group, Peter Ostrow, 2013
Your team will all need to ‘buy in’ to the program, there will always be resistance from the ‘non believers’ and the ‘naysayers’, this will need to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently, because if it is not, this negativity towards the program, will spread like wildfire and before you know what is happening, no-one will be participating. “Why should I do this? Fred Isn’t!”
Plan / Strategy / Lead Measures – Another important ingredient in this recipe is the development of a plan. The plan doesn’t need to be elaborate or complex, in fact the simpler the better, I would recommend using a simple five step, closed loop plan to control the program with. Check out the info graphic below:
Training – This is a critical step in the success of the program (And I am not just saying this because my company offers such training), Not everyone is at the same level when it comes to the use of the various social media platforms, as such we need to establish a baseline level of competency from which everyone is operating, the best way to do this is to provide quality training on the use of the platforms.
There are many companies offering Social Selling training, you can take classroom courses, online programs, some even offer virtual training, which ever method you use, make sure that you have ‘vetted’ your provider and checked out their credentials. I would suggest reading their recommendations (or lack of) as a great way of helping you decide whether they will make a good partner.
Guidelines / Social Media Policy – The best Social Media programs come with guidelines and policies for everyone to read, understand and follow. These will set expectations of what everyone should be doing and more importantly, what they should not be doing. I would suggest asking everyone to sign and return a form to state that they have read, understand and will follow the guidelines. Every employee in the company should be made to understand that the moment they ‘attach themselves’ to their organization, their every online action is a reflection of the company. As such any perceived negative actions should come with consequences.
Clear consistent message across all Social Media Platforms / Quality content Ensuring that your brand promise is being delivered consistently across all of your Social Media channels is extremely important, it is equally important to create quality content to post. Video is by far the most impactful (See infographic below, courtesy of Brightcove) this can be particularly challenging in smaller organizations, ideally the responsibility for creating content should be a shared burden across many employees. The alternative is the utilize relevant content from other sources, but of course more content that a company can create themselves, the more credible they become in the market.
Calendar of Events – Another important element of a Social Selling program is a internally published Calendar of Events, this allows everyone in the organization to see what major online events are occurring and so that they can plan when they need to be active in Social Media to support these events.
It will also help the Champion identify gaps in the program and provide them with an opportunity to reach out internally for colleagues to create content to share.
Milestones / Celebrate Success – Don’t forget to celebrate success, if you reach an important milestone, celebrate your success. You reach 1000 followers on LinkedIn, buy everyone a Starbucks Gift Card, When you reach 10K Followers a Keg Gift Card. Make the rewards appropriate to the milestone, if some generates $1Million on business in Social Media a trip to Hawaii is not out of the question.
KPI’s / Metrics to Track – Running a ‘Social Selling’ campaign is like running a 365 day, online trade show. You can measure the return on investment of a ‘Social Selling’ program in exactly the same way as you measure the ROI for a trade show (Cost per lead). There are many other metrics that you might want to track from number of followers, engagement rates (likes/comments/shares/retweets) etc. As you get good at Social Selling, you will be able to determine what are the best ‘Leading Measures’ to determine future success, you will then be able to set you team targets for these.
Tools – You will need a variety of tools to run an effective Social Selling program. There are a variety of tools such as Hootsuite for scheduling of content, Lead Forensics for identifying which companies have visited your website and identifying the source of traffic to your website. Snag-it is a great low cost tool for re-sizing and re-formatting images to meet the requirements of the different social media platforms. Lead Forensics offer a free trial which I highly recommend.
Strong Profiles – Arguably the most important element when it comes to Social Selling. Whether we are talking about your company page profile or your individual profiles in LinkedIn, it is incredibly important that these are as professional and impressive as they possibly can be. We no longer make our first impression in person anymore, more often than not, our clients have already formed an opinion of us and our company before we even meet them. (Or whether we even get the chance to meet) Our company and individual profiles are now an extension of our company’s website in the virtual ether. Make sure that you give yourself the very best chance to make a great first impression by taking the time to develop an impressive profile.
‘Hopefully my friend Yuhannes Watts, doesn’t mind me using his profile as an example of an exceptional LinkedIn profile’.
Sales & Marketing Alignment – Having gotten this far in the post, it would be remiss of me to state the obvious, but it is also very important that your company’s sales and marketing departments are in alignment and supporting one another to help ensure that your Social Selling campaign is a success.
Good Luck and Happy Social Selling.