Why Social Selling Isn’t Actually About Selling

How One Sales Leader Generated 20% Of Her Sales Pipeline Through Social Selling

July 27, 2017

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In a digital age where buyers are more educated and informed than ever before, the role of the sales profession has changed. The ability to manage one-to-one relationships at scale with customers is a true skill. 

Eliana De Celis is one of SAP's leading social sellers. In this interview, she shares her perspective on social selling and its impact on her  and SAP. 

SG: Eliana, tell me a bit about your current role at SAP?

EDC: I’ve been working at SAP for over three years and I'm currently based in Argentina. Much of my experience has been in commercial sales (my background is sales within the technology industry) and I recently moved into an industry account exec role. Most of my social selling skills have been applied in the commercial sales setting, where my role was ‘new business’ driven. I had between five and six thousand new accounts across multiple industries from media to banking and healthcare. 

SG: In your own words, what is social selling?

EDC: It really comes down to building a relationship with a customer before they even recognize there’s a buying need. It goes hand-in-hand with ‘social listening.' I can recognize opportunities where I know I can help my prospects and customers. If I enter the conversation early enough, I can support the buyer through their decision-making process. It also allows me to open up doors and speak to people within organizations that I perhaps wouldn’t have reached so easily.

SG: How do you leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator in your role?

EDC: First, I drill down into specific accounts. Sales Navigator has a powerful search feature, which helps me find the right 20 or 30 accounts to focus on. Once I’ve researched profitability and industry trends, I can zero-in on the people I need to engage with, add them to Sales Navigator and monitor what they’re interested in.

Sales Navigator will also alert me to any changes in their business like acquisitions, financial news or role changes, which present a prime opportunity to sell because you can engage your new contact early and help build their vision. 

SG: Has social selling changed the way you sell?

EDC: Yes. It's helped me build strong rapport and relationships with customers, but on a massive scale. For example, I work with a charity called Techo in Argentina that builds homes for homeless people. I noticed that one of my customers was also involved with the charity so we had a common interest. I used that common interest as an icebreaker to start the conversation. And through Techo, I was introduced to a building company who later became a new customer at SAP.

At the end of the day, sellers and buyers are human beings. Relationships need to work first. The transactional stuff now takes second place to making an impact, being remembered and adding value to a relationship. You need to be the subject matter expert that your customer turns to. That go-to person with expertise. 

SG: How has social selling helped you?

EDC: It’s led to better results when searching for people. Prospect searches now yield results for me nine out of ten times. I can confidently say that 20% of my pipeline has been generated through social selling and at least 50% of my pipeline has been influenced by it. If I engage on social media and a conversation or meeting is triggered, it impacts my pipeline.

SG: What does a typical social selling daily routine look like for you?

EDC: Every morning, I spend 15 minutes reading and sharing content on my social networks. Sometimes I schedule it for the coming days but ultimately, I can be efficient with my time, stay up-to-date with industry news and keep all my profiles current. I then go to Sales Navigator to check for any changes to my prospect's business and suggested leads. Once a month, I find a few hours to do a blitz of LinkedIn. I’ll focus on a specific industry and build a core message via InMail that can be adapted and targeted to each prospect.

SG: What would you say to people who aren’t yet convinced about social selling?

EDC: If you’re not doing it, then someone else is doing it in your accounts. It’s a long game though. Don’t give up just because you don’t see instant results. One social engagement doesn’t lead directly to a sales opportunity. Keep an open mind and persevere with your efforts.  

Eliana’s success with social selling is as a result of weaving it into her daily routine, complementing her existing processes with the right tools and relationship building at scale.  Her practical approach to managing her daily and weekly activities makes it achievable for everyone.  But as she highlights, patience is key.  Success is dependent on perseverance.