Trending This Week: The Transformation of Selling

Getting on board with social selling is a must for modern sales organizations. Here’s how to establish a foundation for success.

April 14, 2017

  • Monarch Butterfly After Leaving Cocoon

It’s no secret that I’m a huge proponent of social selling. It’s a proven way to engage and impress empowered buyers. No matter what sales methodology your organization calls upon, your process is incomplete without social selling tactics.

That’s why today’s best-in-classes sales organizations work to ensure their entire company culture is aligned with the key principles of social selling. Altimeter Group’s newly released Transformation of Selling report provides terrific guidance on getting your organization up to speed as well. Here’s a high-level overview:

Enable a Seamless Buying Experience

We’ve all heard the pleas to break down departmental silos. It’s a well-worn request because many companies still struggle to tear down the walls separating organizational groups. Altimeter suggests that rather than focus on walls, companies should take advantage of tools that essentially create windows of transparency between departments. Putting this into action requires what Altimeter calls three transitions:

  • Platform integration: Create customized content based on unified data, and call upon technology to increase engagement.
  • Organization: Align roles, objectives, and metrics around the customer.
  • Culture: Train for effective customer-centered social selling.

The report then breaks down each of the three transitions.

Integrate Data, Insights, and Content Platforms

Technology enables organizations to focus on the customer, but only when all applicable technology is truly integrated. Altimeter suggests the following best practices here:

  • Put digital data and content in the hands of sales reps. Your sales professionals are the ones who need to interact with and engage in conversations with prospective buyers. Make it easy for them to retrieve all the insights and content at their disposal.
  • Use existing tools. We all know how challenging it is to get sales reps to adopt yet another tool. Altimeter suggests making do with what you already have whenever possible.
  • Distribute customer data and social listening insights. You won’t get that vaunted 360-degree view of your customer overnight, so take incremental steps. Start small, such as by merging operational and social media data with existing customer fields in your CRM. 
  • Tap into analytics and technology to improve content. Use the latest tools and the insights they generate to customize your sales content as much as possible. This is essential when trying to engage sophisticated buyers – especially when they’re members of a purchase committee, each with their own distinct concerns.

Change Organizational Structure, Process, and Metrics

Getting everyone to shift from traditional, siloed roles to more customer-focused ones can feel like turning a big ship around. It helps to prepare for such a major undertaking. Here’s what Altimeter suggests:

  • Rally the entire organization around customer personas and profiles. It’s impossible to be customer-centered without a company-wide understanding of the customer. All departments must share and embrace this definition, using it as a touchstone for all work.
  • Create a single operations team for marketing and sales. The operations role is key to making sure all customer-focused data, insights, and content flow across the organization. Putting an operations team in place is the first step toward ensuring best practices make their way into new digital processes.
  • Align around goals and metrics. Measuring customer satisfaction or health is often the ultimate unifier across departments. Companies that aren’t there yet can start by pinpointing meaningful metrics that align with social selling goals.

Develop Skills to Support a New Culture

When organizations embrace a digital transformation of their selling approach, they are changing their culture. As Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist, says in the Altimeter report: “There needs to be a mindset shift, where I recognize that my job isn’t to sell, it’s to help. That customer at the core mantra needs to be deep in the DNA of the culture.” Here are four steps to putting the customer at the center of your culture:

  1. Shift from selling to relationship building. The advent of social selling has brought with it a change in how sales professionals engage and interact with prospects. To help them be their best in this new environment, companies need to train the sales team on social selling best practices.
  2. Train for specific skills. Once the sales team gets the gist of social selling at a high level, focus on courses that teach them how to excel at relationship building.
  3. Socialize big wins. Like any new sales initiative, the best way to build momentum is by demonstrating its impact. At the outset, this will be more in the form of anecdotes and stories than hard-hitting metrics but it’s still essential to share these wins across the organization.
  4. Secure leadership involvement. For any social selling initiative to succeed, sales managers need to be hands-on. Train them thoroughly on best practices and encourage them to follow up with their teams on a consistent basis.

Altimeter’s report is chock-full of ideas and suggestions that are well worth reviewing. It even concludes with an assessment so organizations can figure out their current stage within the digital transformation maturity model, and gain advice for evolving to the next stage.

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