Social Media Strategy

by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

How to Build a Social Selling Program

social selling program

Do you know where to start building a social selling program? Your competition probably does.

Social selling started in 1997 when the first semblance of social media appeared. Early adopters of social selling just thought of it as using social media to connect with their buyers.

The first social selling program started a lot later than that. And it is still evolving.

While the B2B sales goal is to increase the pipeline and exceed quota, the social selling goal differs. It should be to increase your sales team’s social media IQ, improve their understanding of the impact of social media on quota and sales success, and begin high-level adoption of a social selling strategy, especially with personal branding and content marketing.

In other words, It’s about more conversations and warm leads. Get your sales professionals to improve their awareness and become valued partners by sharing value-add information and content to start more conversations.

Biggest Issue to Consider When Building Your Social Selling Program

By far, the biggest hurdle I have found when developing a social selling program is building adoption. If sales professionals don’t use the program, then your program is going nowhere. Sure, you can ‘KPI’ sessions and training attendance, but you can’t force them to use the strategy and tactics. From over ten years of experience at SAP and Cognizant, executive sponsorship, result-based case studies, and simple enablement sessions are the best way to drive adoption. Then, keep your eyes open for the gaps in the program and adjust as necessary.

So, before we get into the best approach to build your program, let’s get on the same page to understand the definition of social selling. 

social selling marketingthink consulting

What is Social Selling?

Social selling is simply using social media and content marketing in the sales process. It uses content to help clients solve problems and identify opportunities without selling to them. No one likes to be sold when first dipping their toe in the buying journey. Social selling leverages an individual seller’s LinkedIn profile and messaging to get on the client’s radar to establish trust and credibility. Once created, the sales professionals use social media sales triggers (e.g., a post, like, or comment) to develop their relationship further to connect. This basically eliminates the cold call since a subtle sales touch has already been made.

While I have heard from many sales professionals and leaders, “I don’t have time to use social media, I need to be selling,” the facts point to the best sellers do use social selling—because that’s where their clients are.

If you are looking to justify your recommendation to launch a social selling program, these facts will help support your case!

9 Facts that Will Convince You to Use Social Media as Part of Your Sales Strategy

  1. 50% of B2B decision makers and buyers use LinkedIn to help make a purchase, clearly indicating that LinkedIn presents the opportunity to fish where the fish are. (Source: LinkedIn)
  2. Someone following your company on LinkedIn is 81% more likely to open your InMail than a non-follower, which means sales teams need to work in tandem with the marketing team. (Source: LinkedIn)
  3. 80% of LinkedIn users drive business decisions, validating that sellers will not be wasting time in this virtual watering hole. (Source: LinkedIn)
  4. 41% of B2B buyers view 3-5 pieces of online content online before they reach out to a brand or salesperson. Understanding how to post valued content will get you on the client’s radar and start a conversation. (Source: LinkedIn)
  5. Social selling professionals with a higher Social Selling Index (SSI) create 45% more opportunities than peers with lower SSI. Showing up is 50% of success and this score shows you if you really are showing up on LinkedIn. (Source: LinkedIn)
  6. Social selling professionals with a higher Social Selling Index are 51% more likely to reach quota, which means they are using LinkedIn to its full potential. (Source: LinkedIn)
  7. 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media. We all want our sales executives to sell more, huh? (Source: LinkedIn)
  8. 31% of B2B sales professionals say social selling helps to build deeper relationships with clients, and building trust is what it’s all about, right? (Source: LinkedIn)
  9. 75% of sales reps report not receiving ANY social selling training, a clear indicator that they could use formalized training as outlined below. (Source: LinkedIn)

Hopefully, these facts create a “holy smokes” moment for you. Maybe they get you to look in the mirror and say, “Why am I not using social media to bust my quota?” Whatever your response, there is a way to put a little structure to building your program. Building blocks, if you will!

13 Building Blocks for Your Social Selling Program

Now that you have set your program goals, what should you include in that program? Here are a few ideas to consider when building yours.

  1. Start With a Pilot. Starting small and highlighting little wins with the sales and marketing teams and leadership is a great way to scale a program. Choose 10-15 people to participate. Keep the name catchy, like “100 Minutes Of Social Selling”. Create a training plan and socialize it as part of a structured mini-program across a 4-8 week schedule.

    Your pilot must determine the group’s social media or selling skill sets. It’s also a key way to determine how to increase their knowledge. With a 10-session, 10-minute format, you can determine what social selling awareness needs to be developed from the group interaction. Based on the pilot’s success, you can roll out an expanded program or make adjustments and restart the pilot.
  1. Develop a Go-to Social Selling Space on Your Company Intranet. Even before you have scaled your program, you still need a place to put your social selling information and ‘stuff.’ It can be used as a “Coming Soon” advertisement. This center of excellence should serve as a repository of all social selling materials, a source of social selling article links, case studies, and anything that can help your sales teams with their social media skills. Again, name it something catchy, like “Social First Sales Community”.
social selling program
Here’s a sample of a 5-part workshop we run for our social selling clients.
  1. Set Up a Booth at the Next Sales Meeting To Share Easy Implemented Tactics. The idea that worked for me was activating an onsite destination called the “Social Media Genius Bar”. (This idea worked so well that I rolled it out when I ran the social media program for Cognizant.) This initiative served almost 3,000 B2B sales professionals and their sales, marketing, and executive leadership. The Social Media Genius Bar service provided professional headshots for social media profiles and LinkedIn profile tune-ups to focus on the need to improve individuals’ social brands. 
  1. Speak at the Sales Meeting. Get on the agenda of an upcoming sales meeting with an engaging social selling presentation. For example, sessions like “5 Social Media Tools For Your Social Selling Tool Kit” and “5 Social Selling Plays For Your Sales Playbook” (30-minute session) would capture the attention and value of your sales community. I did something similar and registered almost 1,000 sellers—gaining fans, users, and more interest! After those sessions, the program took off!
  1. Develop a Social Selling Program-Lite Program for Executives. You will need executive sponsorship to make sure your program succeeds. It’s like anything else. Executives control the budget line. Develop an executive version of the program, so they adopt it. I used a programmatic approach with sales leadership to improve the executive social media skill sets. This skill set improvement helped me explain social media’s impact on the selling motion.
linkedin profile audit
  1. Plan on a Regional Social Selling Awareness and Roll-out. Once you activate the core and first phase social selling program, you will need to fan the fire and continue to amplify its availability. Whether you have global or local regions, you need a divide-and-conquer approach to drive adoption. Kick-off individual regional sessions to reach 100% of the sales team. In each kick-off session, focus on the importance of social selling within the buyer’s journey, provide a workshop on improving personal social brands, and show the participants the steps to further their social selling knowledge.
  1. Create a Foundational Skill Training Program. Once you execute your pilot and gather your learnings, you will figure out what you need to teach to scale the program and take it to the next level. I created a program called “100 Minutes of Social Selling” to make it more approachable. I wanted participants to understand that all they needed to commit was 100 minutes to learn how to become a modern seller–someone who uses social media to improve their chances of exceeding quota. 

    These enablement sessions will increase awareness of the impact of social selling. These sessions will focus on how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging for sales, how to improve your social media profile, and how to create your unique listening platform. The sessions will demonstrate the potential of using social media to prospect and prepare, make the first customer contact, and drive live event attendance. You can then schedule more profound one-off educational workshops.
  1. Schedule Ongoing Social Selling Office Hours. A one-time training program is one thing. However, you need a way to answer endless questions and update the team. There will always be questions. Answering 10,000 emails (literally, it seemed like SAP had 8,000 salespeople) does not scale. So, hold monthly workshops to engage your selling community with current social selling strategies. At these meetings, answer social selling questions, provide a key selling strategy presentation (e.g., “How To Use LinkedIn To Prospect”, “How To Use Twitter To Engage With Your Customers”), and current best practices with sales executive guest speakers. 
  1. Develop a Social Selling Case Study Story Book. Ensure your social selling-related case studies, best practices, and “wins” are passed on to the entire sales organization with a Social Selling Case Study Story Book. This book can take the form of a PDF or can be uploaded to your social selling community intranet page. Set an attainable goal, such as 100 new case studies by the end of the year.
  1. Create On-Demand Social Selling Sessions. Record everything you present and turn it into on-demand lessons! Embed these social selling program training recordings into a repository that employees go to access education and training. This approach will help others to learn on their own terms.
  1. Integrate Your Training Into Your Company’s Education Platform. Most B2B sales organizations have something similar to a Sales Academy, a destination that trains new reps and refreshes the skillsets of the current sales team. Today, most sales academies equip sales executives with social selling skills at the beginning of their careers. In a way, they create the selling songbook, so everyone sings the same sales tune. Work closely with your sales academy to integrate Social Selling enablement sessions early into their training program. 
  1. Partner Social Media Office Hours. Partners are critical to many sales organizations. They feed much of the pipeline in software and consulting brands. To help scale your social selling program, develop a similar approach targeting your Partners. It’s easy enough to reuse and syndicate materials for this ecosystem to enable increased use of social selling awareness adoption. I have hands-on experience which shows this pipeline-accelerating strategy works.
  1. Leverage Social Intelligence with Account-Based Marketing. What’s the best way to start a sales conversation? Add value and build trust. Consider tying in social media-driven listening to develop a social intelligence program. This type of program uses a listening dashboard to translate consumer-driven buzz based on company, industry, and category into seller conversation starters. This is a more advanced approach that can be built out in the third or fourth year of your program.
social selling marketingthink consulting

Let Us Help You Develop and Expand Your Sales Program to Include Social Media

There are many parts to building social selling experience. You don’t need to add all of them, but you need to figure out which ones make sense for you to use. We’re here to help. Here are a few blog posts from marketingthink.com to jumpstart your program:

Key Questions to Ask About Using Social Media to Sell

During my ten years at SAP and Cognizant, and the additional ones running Marketingthink Consulting, I worked with over 5,000 sales professionals, training and building scalable social selling programs. I was able to turn many ‘this is not my job’ to ‘this program has helped me achieve quota’. My hands-on leadership experience taught me to make sure you ask these questions when building and running your social selling program:

  1. Do you have executive sponsorship for your social selling program? Without support from a sales leader and another high-ranking company member, your program won’t have legs. Walk this sponsor through the program. Get their input. Ensure the metrics make sense to them, even if they don’t make sense to you initially.
  2. Do you have a story to tell to sell your program to drive company adoption? I’ve found that simple goals (e.g., program participants, more sales professional LinkedIn profile visits, or higher LinkedIn Social Selling Index scores) are a great place to start. Report on these goals and call out key sales team stories.
  3. Do you have a pilot group to hand-hold and establish as the gold standard? Working with a small team of 5-10 sales professionals with hands-on training will keep this team going quickly. Pick the strongest team that currently uses social media in their sales strategy. Then call out their success stories in a ‘Success Book’ using their personal stories, quotes, and results.

I built my first social selling program in 2011 and scaled it through 2015 when I ran SAP’s North American social media marketing program. Why did it take four years? There was a lot of trial and error back then. There were few case studies to reference and even fewer people with hands-on leadership.

Your Next Move to Build a Social Selling Program

So, now you have a few ideas to build your social selling program. You also should understand why social selling is critical to your pipeline’s success. If you want to make that next move to enhance your LinkedIn strategy by using the optimal character count in the right areas and need a partner to get you there, then we’d love to help.

Over 21% of brands do not have a program, and 51% of sales professionals have not been trained to use social media to sell. However, most professionals who use social selling improve their quota. So, what are you waiting for?

Marketingthink Consulting, LLC has years of hands-on leadership experience helping brands and sales teams improve pipelines and deals with social media techniques. We want to show you what we can do for you. Make your next move by assessing how your sales team is representing themselves and your company on LinkedIn. As I like to say, you cannot sell your house unless you work on your curbside appeal. Read about our LinkedIn Profile Makeover Service for sales professionals.

Schedule a quick 15-minute meeting with Gerry Moran to move ahead with building your social selling program or presenting a workshop for your sales team!

by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

10 Steps to an Actionable Social Media Audit

Why is a social media audit important? If you run a social media program, you cannot manage and leverage it unless you can measure it. And you cannot measure it unless you have goals and baseline assessments.

Only with a social media audit can you begin to evaluate, elevate, and evolve your social media strategy. It’s like a report card for creating content and running your social media channels.

If your social media channels and program aren’t a well-oiled machine, then your messaging and content marketing will not work as hard as possible for you!

Biggest Considerations When Auditing Your Social Media

Based on my hands-on experience doing hundreds of social media baselining projects, I’ve found two issues to consider before you begin.

First, you need to establish a goal. You would be amazed how many B2B brands activate strategies without a purpose! With a goal, you can determine where you sit in the best-practice and competitive-set comparison continuum.

Second, you need to understand your resources to close the gaps between your current-state assessment and your future state. Once I know my resources, I can make a case for improving my operating budget from $25,000 to $1 million. A way to set yourself up for success is to establish good-better-best or today-tomorrow-next-week recommendations with relative funding requirements. This tiered approach shows you are thinking about the possibilities yet understanding that you must prove your ideas.

What is a Social Media Audit?

A social media audit evaluates a brand’s social media content and channels. It baselines them against best practices and a competitive set. A set of tools, interviews, and processes helps establish the gaps which need to be closed. Only with a social media audit can a brand truly create a social media and content marketing strategy.

Here’re some facts to validate why you need to assess your social operations continuously.

Social Media and Content Marketing Facts Supporting Importance of Social Assessments

  1. Only 40% of B2B marketing organizations document their content marketing strategy. This statistic suggests that writing down your plan could be a competitive advantage. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  2. 73% of B2B orgs use content creation/calendaring/collaboration/workflow tools, helping to plan for well-timed messages. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  3. 75% of B2B brands measure content performance. This measurement can help optimize poor-performing messages and enable doubling down on top-performing ones. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  4. 59% of B2B companies actively plan to differentiate their content from their competitors, which helps them further develop their whitespace. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  5. 40% of B2B companies characterize their content marketing as sophisticated/mature. However, with better planning, their messaging could evolve into more effective. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
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Your Social Media Audit Needs to Include These 10 Things

Here’s a walkthrough of the essential components of a social media audit to baseline your current plan. The key to a successful assessment is using an experienced-based framework. Its deliverables need to be easy-to-understand and have actionable takeaways, whether you hire someone or do it yourself.

1. Key Questions to Answer. A usable audit needs to answer questions around editorial focus, the types of content used to drive engagement, hashtag usage, social media channel management, the reader’s user experience, influencers, employee advocacy, and paid media.

2. Primary Opportunities Identified. Assessing baseline activity is one thing. Culling opportunities from the report is another. One of the essential components of any social media audit is the takeaways. You should be able to answer the question, “Now, what should I focus on from this audit?”

3. Social Media Channel and Ecosystem Evaluation. This section will help you refocus your social channels and ecosystem on your business goals. It will show you how well you are using your channels, what you should change, and how well your team is equipped (or not) to use social media to expand your narrative. It reviews the presence and activation of your social media channels (including branding), internal touch points, and leadership/SMEs.

This evaluation ensures that all your content marketing and social media activations are on-brand. It allows you to understand if all your social and content-related information on your virtual wall belongs in the same neighborhood!

4. Evaluation of Your Brand’s Competitors. This part should assess your company’s and competitors’ influencer activity — the leadership and subject matter experts. It should outline each influencer’s social media channel presence, follower counts, activity levels, and narrative focus. Once you see how a competitor’s CMO or subject matter expert is actively engaged in their brand and yours are not, you will likely rethink your influencer strategy. But before you close that differentiating gap, you need to know where you should be.

5. Brand and Competitive Social Media Channel & Ecosystem Audit. This part surveys how well your competition is doing with its set of social media channels. This assessment will identify gaps that can be closed or expanded. It recaps your competitive followers, posting cadence, branding execution, executive voice, and paid social media usage.

6. Social Media Feed Assessment. From grammar and punctuation to the diversification of the posts to message cadence, your feed needs to be assessed against best practices and your competitive set. A quick review of you and your competitive set’s followers and post cadence will give you an idea of what you are up against and may reset your expectations.

You often cannot compete (with resources) against the 800-pound gorillas, but you can learn from how they do things. This section also reviews what hashtags are used across your brands and competitive set so you can better understand their content amplification strategy. It should include branded, thought leadership, industry-focused, and company hashtags.

7. Editorial Review of What You and Your Competition Deliver on Your Social Channels. This editorial evaluation identifies focus areas for your company’s and competitors’ messaging. This call-out will help identify content areas where you can differentiate or improve your narrative.

One way to accomplish this review is to outline the percentage of messaging focused on key narrative areas (e.g., thought leadership, hiring) and the focus of the messaging (i.e., brand vs. audience). Picking through your brand’s and your competition’s posts help to understand who’s focusing on what. It also allows you to identify messaging whitespace that you can own or a danger zone where you need to pick up the pace. You can also determine if the focus is on adding customer value or promoting products and services.

Sample social media and content marketing audit tool we use for our clients.

8. Content-Type Assessment. It’s essential to review the types of creative used on both your and the other brands’ social media channels. This identification will help identify creative execution opportunities. Each brand should use hashtags, video, animation, polls, carousels, static images, blog posts, and exec communication.

9. Content Creation Evaluation. This part of the review considers the request process, the technical approach to creating posts, and the voice and tone your posts maintain. How are you developing your messaging from idea to creation?  This understanding will help you identify close gaps to create compelling content more efficiently — from request to copywriting. It outlines how stakeholders engage with the social media team, how your tone and voice manifest in your posts, and how well your posts are written according to best practices.

10. User-Experience Assessment. This section recaps the typical click-path a user takes after clicking on a social media-served message. This call-out helps tighten up the user experience to lower the website bounce rate and improve site content consumption and engagement. It reviews messaging over a month-long span to identify gaps in delivering against user expectations after clicking on a social media post.

Let Us Help You Plan to Improve Your Social Media Strategy

Multiple paths can get you to the same destination of an actionable social media strategy. A plan that you can actually execute. However, too many B2B marketers create these plans that just cannot get off the starting line. We want to help you avoid these useless plans. We’re here to help. Here are a few blog posts from marketingthink.com to jumpstart your social media strategy:

  • 15 Ways to Be a Better B2B Influencer on Social Media. In almost all of my speaking engagements, I use a saying: “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” Without training and enablement, a B2B company’s most valuable asset cannot harness social media. Building an internal influencer program (and this includes Executive Voice) is a crucial component of a social media strategy. These steps will help your internal subject matter experts, leadership members, and sales teams amplify their expertise on one of the virtual trust-building platforms you own.

3 Key Questions to Ask About Auditing Your Social Media

During my ten years at SAP and Cognizant, plus the two years running Marketingthink Consulting, I created hundreds of audits and baseline reports. On the brand side, I worked with my team to develop competitive assessments to identify the weaknesses and gaps we needed to close. Also, we reviewed our content and channel performance weekly to understand how it performed against the goal. Every year we created a state-of-social-media report to audit our program and baseline against best practices and our competitive set. My hands-on leadership experience taught me to make sure you ask these questions when creating your social media audits:

  • Do you have the right audience for your social media assessment? I find there are two audiences for an audit, meaning you need to create two different plans. The first audience is the social media team, so they can course correct or double down on the day-to-day strategy. The second audience is the leadership, executive sponsor, and business unit leaders. Developing an audit that shows how the competition is kicking butt (e.g., I worked for one brand where our team started with four members and quickly grew to 14, given the results of this approach.) However, the competition still had over 60 people on its team. One oblivious manager referred to us as the ‘little train that could.’ 
  • Are you on top of the best practices and accurate competitive set? If you don’t have the best competitive set or an understanding of the ever-changing best practices, you’ll never know how to close the gaps. And if you cannot prove that you need to close the gaps, you will never get the budget to improve your program.
  • Do you have the resources to correct and scale a plan resulting from your social media review? It’s one thing to identify your gaps, but if you don’t have the budget or do not have the credibility to back up your argument, you will never succeed. Understanding your immediate resource potential will help you to craft your audit results–so small wins can work up to bigger ones. I always had luck presenting recommendations or asks in a “today, tomorrow, and next week “(figuratively) format. It’s as if you are requesting support but realizing you can’t get to next week until you get to tomorrow first.

Your Next Move to Do Your Social Media Audit

So, now you have a few ideas for your social media audit. You should also understand why doing an audit is key to building a successful social media and content marketing strategy. If you want to make that next move to complete your assessment of your current operating model and content but need a partner to help get you there, we’d love to hear from you.

About 60% of B2B organizations do not document their strategy, so doing an audit will be the first step to honing your plan. So, what are you waiting for?

Marketingthink Consulting, LLC has years of hands-on leadership experience helping B2B companies assess and baseline their social media and content activation. We want to show you what we can do for you. Make your next move by reading about our Social Media Audit or proceed to our Social Media Playbook creation service.

Schedule a quick 15-minute meeting with Gerry Moran to move ahead with completing your social media and content marketing audit.

by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

How to Improve Your Social Media Marketing Funnel

Do you know what the most important part of your social media marketing funnel is? It is organic social media.

Organic social the most significant gear in the demand generation machine. The bigger the gear size, the harder the funnel works. And the harder the gear works, the faster and more productive the funnel will work to create revenue.

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by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

How to Unleash Your Employee Advocacy Superpowers

With great employee advocacy powers comes the potential of great business results.

Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and Britt Reid all used their superpowers on some level — whether they were wearing their cape, bat ears, or green mask. You are a vital part of your company’s social business strategy. You must use your social media power to make your social business world a better place!

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by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

5 Social Selling Blunders to Avoid

Social selling is a lot like dating and dancing, if you really think about it.

Learning to dance was the best thing I ever did in high school! By learning to dance, I eased my way into many a first date! Who wants to say yes to a dorky sophomore in high school if there is nothing in common. Not even knowing if he knows how to do that Saturday Night Fever Dance. “Dancing” with your prospect with social media is required before you start to “date” them!

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by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

17 Reasons Why You Need a Social Media Policy for Employees

A social media policy for employees is vital to your brand’s success.

It’s all fun and games until you get pulled over by the brand police. Or, in reality, a client, an analyst’s support, or your credibility from getting your social media account hacked. And then, HR calls you about your social media governance.

Many brands govern their social media program with documented strategies and policies. And, there are many more brands that don’t govern at all. They write passwords on stickies. They don’t write down their content marketing plan. They make their CEOs and HR execs cringe with their poor writing skills.

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Paradise by the Social Media Metrics Dashboard Light

“Let me sleep on it, I’ll give you an answer in the morning.” This song lyric might be your response if asked for performance data and you don’t have a social media dashboard.

However, it’s not the right answer in today’s competitive B2B landscape. This assertion is especially true if your CEO needs quick insight into your social media program budget.

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by Gerry Moran Gerry Moran No Comments

Do You Need a Social Media Audit?

Everyone needs an annual social media audit.

We all need to go to the social media doctor to get a check-up once a year. This self-management helps us understand where we are strong and where we need to make a little improvement in our social media and content lives so we can be the best that we can be.

Much like checking up on our personal health, it makes sense to check up on our social media health … especially since the world of social media is changing so much! What worked 12 months ago certainly has changed. And, if we keep on doing the same things and expect different results, like more sales, then that definition is insanity!

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5 Easy Ways to Succeed on Twitter

Do you need 100,000 Twitter followers to be successful? Do you need to have engaging content to be a winner on Twitter? Do you need to increase your social and personal brand currency to help attain your bigger goals?

Most Twitter users consume both the news and other content on the feed. Keep in mind, those that tweet, tweet a lot! The top 10% of tweeters generate 80% of the tweets in the U.S.

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