Social Selling Isn’t New: Here’s How to Elevate It in Your Company

April 30, 2015

melissa-madian-social-selling-isn't-new

Social selling is such a hot topic these days, and many organizations are making the shift to this new sales tactic. However, I struggle with accepting “social selling” as a brand new concept. In my perspective, selling has always been social! Sales professionals have been engaging with their buyers for years. However, the medium that sales reps now use to connect with buyers has transformed.

Eighteen years ago, when sales reps wanted to reach out to potential buyers, they would pick up the phone and reach out directly. Other than calls, direct mail and in-person meetings were essentially the only ways to make connections. But the world rapidly changed and there are so many new ways the buyer can circumvent the sales rep to get relevant information during the decision making process.

Guided by this new truth, the Vision Critical sales organization began a journey to develop a multi-channel engagement approach for all sales interactions. We knew that it was no longer just about building a relationship, but also where the foundation of the relationship is built. A key component of our engagement approach was with LinkedIn. Here’s how we did it.

Elevating our sales reps’ profiles

We started out by training our sales reps to leverage LinkedIn to build their professional brand. We taught them to focus on emphasizing instances where they provided value to clients rather than simply listing their professional accomplishments. In other words, we worked with our sales reps to develop professional human profiles, uniquely branded around what made them special. If a buyer was to do a web search on our sales rep, they’d find a LinkedIn profile that established the sales rep as a valuable resource with which to engage, and maybe even someone they’d like to get to know!

Arming our sales team with insights

Now that the reps were armed with a killer profile, it was time to figure out an engagement strategy. After all, a key part of sales is building relationships on platforms where the buyer is regularly interacting. Some questions we asked were, “What value can our sellers bring to the marketplace?”, “What insights can they provide?” and “Where can they communicate those insights so a buyer would hear them?” Our reps first needed to understand why a potential buyer would want to connect with them. Enter LinkedIn Updates and LinkedIn Groups. Our marketing team does a great job of providing thought leadership material.Our sales reps were encouraged to spend some time each day consuming content generated not only by Vision Critical, but also content related to their industry expertise, the companies they were pursuing, and general topics of interest that would build their professional brand.

Tapping into the power of referrals

With our new engagement strategy in place, it was time to accelerate it. Our team decided the best way to amplify our approach was to upgrade to LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. The motivation behind the upgrade was to take advantage of the power of the referral, leveraging individuals within our organization (via the TeamLink feature) to facilitate introductions and conversations.We discovered that prospects are more likely to respond through an introduction from a mutual connection over a generic, non-personalized connection request.

Adopting social selling (and any sales process change) is a journey, and at Vision Critical we still have far to travel. However, we’re already demonstrating results. In the few months that we’ve embraced social selling on LinkedIn, our sales organization’s Social Selling Index (SSI) has jumped by 15 points. Our reps are making warm connections with potential buyers by engaging in relevant conversations. And most importantly, they’re building their professional brand and credibility in the space. Now THAT is some social selling I can get behind!

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