This article originally appeared on Forbes.com
In a previous article, we argued that your sales force could be facing extinction, because the same trends that have revolutionized the consumer experience are now transforming the B2B sales process.
Organizations no longer have the option of waiting to embrace “social selling”—the new model of leveraging online platforms such as LinkedIn to attract targeted buyers.
Social-sales expert Brynne Tillman says lacking clear direction, salespeople are figuring out this new technique themselves. “At the highest level, the challenge is that their salespeople are doing random acts of social,” she says. “There’s no strategy or structure or process.”
Don’t know where to start? Tillman shares an eight-step process for rolling out a social-selling strategy.
Identify your process and goals. Establish content policies, measurable goals and KPIs. “One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make, hands-down, is that they don’t have any goals set for their sales and marketing teams,” Tillman says. “We have to put that in place, and we have to make it measurable. Just like any sales activity, we can measure what’s working and what’s not working, then make changes as needed.”
Map your buyers. Define your ideal prospect, using the filters in LinkedIn. “If you don’t do this, reps will randomly engage people that will never be an influencer or buyer,” Tillman says. “Make it simple for the salespeople to find the people that they need to start conversations with.”
Select the tools. Organizations can use tools that salespeople can grab to make their work easier and less prone to error. Additionally, Tillman recommends these tools at a minimum:
- Sales Navigator, one of LinkedIn’s premium tools.
- A calendar-syncing tool that allows prospects to book an appointment without the back-and-forth over email. “I love to watch people go, ‘I can’t believe I have four calls this week with my targeted buyers, and they booked them,’” Tillman says.
- A grammar checker to raise the professionalism of the communication.
Develop a content strategy that’s not a pure pitch. It’s an organization’s job to supply the salespeople with the content they need to move a buyer through the journey. Tillman says your strategy must accomplish two things. First, it has to be focused on leading buyers toyour solution, not leading with the solution.
“When you lead with a solution, you’re pitching a product,” Tillman says. “When you’re leading to a solution, you’re offering vendor-agnostic content that people can use even if they never talk to you. The second key is balancing curated and original content. Tillman recommends that for every piece of original content, salespeople should share at least three of someone else’s.
Create a playbook. The playbook should clearly outline what salespeople need to do and say on a daily basis. “Give them literally a step-by-step plan, so a fourth grader could follow it,” Tillman says. “Your salespeople should know exactly what to say and when to say it.”
Many organizations rush into rolling out training and skip this step. “They get excited, but when they leave, they have 57 emails and voicemails and then, within an hour, they forget that they were even in that training,” Tillman says. “Having that playbook with their daily to-do list is vital.”
Adapt LinkedIn profiles to focus on how you can help customers. LinkedIn profiles should create curiosity among prospects and get them excited to schedule a call. “Lose the profiles that start with my mission, my years in business. Prospects don’t care about that,” Tillman says. “We have to earn the right for them to care about us. And the only way we can do that is to provide real value.”
Potential prospects are motivated, then, by what you can do for their business.“If we don’t do that, then everything we do that’s driving traffic back to your profile will fall flat,” Tillman says. Your sales force’s profiles should show who they help, how they help and why prospects should care.
Train your sales force. Lots of organizations start with this step, but you have to do the other six first in order for this one to be most effective. Tillman recommends onsite or live, online training—virtual learning should be combined with live instruction for real impact.
Measure and coach for improvements. Review the KPIs established in the first step. “Make sure that you’re doing the right activities, producing the right results,” Tillman says. “Do a stop/start/continue on your social-selling activity for each rep. Then roll out a coaching methodology to make sure that you’re optimizing everything.”
Change is rarely easy, but social selling has huge upsides. “Prospects can identify very quickly all this information on you and your solution and the value that you provide,” Tillman says. “Over time, as you socially surround them and other decision makers inside the organization, you’ve left an impression of being a resource. That’s something a voicemail or even an email can rarely do.”
Challenge for Leaders: If you’re already transitioning to social sales, make sure you’ve defined your measurable goals as described in the first step. If you’re not ready for a major overhaul, ensure that your sales force has branded LinkedIn profiles.
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About the Author
Randy Illig is the Global Practice Leader of FranklinCovey’s Sales Performance Practice and the co-author of Let’s Get Real Or Let’s Not Play. With more than 25 years of experience ranging from direct sales and general manager to successful entrepreneur, CEO and board member, Randy leads the global sales performance practice team as we help our clients build high performance sales and sales leadership teams. Randy is a former recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, the Ernst & Young “CEO Under 40” award, and the Arthur Andersen Strategic Leadership Award.Follow on Twitter Follow on Linkedin More Content by Randy Illig