How To Drive Sales By Increasing Your Sales Team’s Social Media Savviness

November 4, 2015

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Lots of companies are encouraging their sales forces to share content (like articles, blog posts, and presentations) on social networks to help nurture and engage prospects and customers. Nobody knows this better than Fortinet’s Global Social Media Lead Michael Chalmandrier-Perna. His team has been using Elevate -- a product that helps companies empower their employees to be social and measure the impact on hiring, marketing, and sales -- since April to help Fortinet’s sales force become more social media savvy and increase sales.

I invited Michael, who recently told me Elevate “increases sales serendipity,” to share his story. Here’s what he had to say:

Will: What was the problem you faced that led you to build your employee advocacy program?

Michael: Fifteen years ago Ken Xie founded Fortinet to deliver the most innovative, highest performing network security platform. Fast forward to today, and cyber security is an extremely hot topic. That’s beneficial for our company, but it also puts us in a challenging position because demand for our products has grown so quickly. We’ve doubled our sales force since January to meet demand and remain the industry leader, and we’re constantly on the lookout for products that can help keep sales reps on the cutting edge.

On the flip side, it’s overwhelmingly challenging for IT professionals to find reliable info on the internet that they can use to make informed purchasing decisions. That got us thinking: How can we help our sales reps think more like marketers, who are experts in sharing content, to position themselves as beacons of truth that help IT professionals make more informed buying decisions and better do their jobs?

Will: So how did you solve that challenge?

Michael: We define social selling as buyers wanting a smart, cool friend that knows what’s going on and can have interesting conversations with them. Being more active on social networks can help sales reps be that smart, cool friend. But a lot of our sales reps weren’t active on social networks simply because they were focused on closing deals. That’s a shame since reps who share engaging content on social networks are 45% more likely to exceed their quota.

So we kicked off our social selling program at our annual sales conference in December. The first step was getting buy-in from our sales directors and VPs, so I invited them to get new headshots for their LinkedIn profiles. But there was a catch: They had to meet with me beforehand to get my take on their LinkedIn profiles. It’s safe to say I had lots of constructive criticisms and recommendations. But the more I shared, the more interested they were in learning how they could use social selling and social networks to better interact with prospects and customers.

Encouraged, I then emailed everyone I met with my recommendations and their headshots. That’s when momentum really picked up. I started doing webinars and weekly conference calls explaining to more and more sales reps how being active on social networks could help them be more successful.

Then we faced a major challenge: Now that sales reps were interested in social selling, we needed to find an easy and scalable way to curate high-quality content and share it with them. First we published a weekly newsletter packed with content. But it quickly became time-consuming and difficult to publish. Then we developed a weekly blog post with relevant content. That too became cumbersome. Without a delivery mechanism, our social selling program was dead in the water.

We evaluated numerous vendors and products. But none had an end-to-end solution that was easy for my team and our sales force to use. That’s when we came across LinkedIn Elevate. It makes it dead simple for my team to curate high-quality content and measure its impact, and stupid easy for our sales force to discover and share content on social networks, to be that smart, cool friend. In fact, Elevate is so easy to use that in the first six weeks more than 300 sales reps started using it.

Will: What results have you experienced so far?

Michael: Elevate has been transformative for Fortinet. Sales reps enjoy using it because it helps them kill two birds with one stone in a minute or two -- they can get up to speed on what’s happening in our industry and share content with a tap of a finger. And unlike other products, Elevate shows them the profile views that resulted from content they shared, as well as which decision makers viewed, liked, commented on, or shared their content. Those are valuable insights they can use to start a conversation with a warm lead.

As a result, our sales reps are sharing 4x more with Elevate than before. What’s also really important to me is that profile views have doubled and sales reps’ connections are growing 3x faster than before they started using Elevate. And on average, they’ve seen a 15% increase in their Social Selling Index scores (this is something we set out to grow at the beginning). That proves that sharing is increasing their visibility, showcasing their expertise, and positioning them as resources for prospects and customers. And best of all, multiple sales reps have told me Elevate has helped them get warmer intros and even close deals.

So what’s next? We’re planning to roll out Elevate to employees outside our sales force. We’re really excited to see what happens when, for example, our engineering or support teams have access to great content and share it on social networks.

Will: Huge thanks to Michael for sharing his story, and congrats on his program’s success. Elevate is now available for purchase to all large enterprises. Please contact your sales representative or click here to learn more about Elevate.

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