On October 8th, we hosted a webinar with Barbara Giamanco, a social selling expert and a pioneering thought leader and consultant on social selling. We chose this topic, “Sales Meets Social Media: How to Implement a Social Selling Strategy,” not because social selling is one of today’s hottest sales techniques (and it is: we had over to 2,200 people register!), but because social selling is fast becoming a critical tool for high-performing B2B sales organizations.

Social selling is also losing its mystery as something new, bright, and shiny. It’s now a proven technique for closing more B2B deals, and more people are both using it and researching it—and the proof is there. Barb used a slide during the webinar that highlighted the ROI of social selling. One datapoint that stuck with me was this: 74% of reps who exceed quota call themselves “highly effective” or “better than most” when it comes to using social selling.

“This is the way of the world and it’s not going to go backwards.”
–Barbara Giamanco, Social Selling Expert

That’s huge, and it’s undeniable. What’s also undeniable is that the nature of work is shifting, especially in the B2B realm. The lines between work and life are blurring, and more of your targets are sharing social insights that can help you drive engagement and revenue. Social isn’t just for targeting consumers. If you think social media is just for tweeting what you had for breakfast or posting photos of your kids, you’re missing out on this huge opportunity. Just search Twitter or Facebook with the name of the last event you attended—or better yet, the next event you’re attending—and you’ll see the power, and maybe make some connections.

As Barb mentioned during the webinar, “This is the way of the world and it’s not going to go backwards.” In other words, if you’re not using social selling, you’re falling behind.

We had nearly 100 questions from our audience during the webinar, so it’s clear that how to succeed at social selling still isn’t clear to many of you. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular questions, and I’ll share what Barb and I answered. If you missed the webinar, or would like to pass it along to colleagues, you can find the replay here.

Q: How can I learn social selling? Who should own the training, sales or marketing?

Even the big social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn are little more than a decade old, so using them for sales is a fairly young concept. It’s no wonder that many are still new to it and look to their leadership to provide the training and structure.

Barb recommended that those new to social selling simply “signup and start using some of the products.” Specifically LinkedIn (groups, blogs, follow experts) and Twitter (follow interesting people, see who they follow, and follow them!). She recommends the approach of just getting in there and starting to do it. Read a book if you have to, or poke around and see what other sales leaders or companies are doing.

I pointed people towards our own Social Selling University website, which has tips and how-tos, and even features insights from Barb and other social selling experts.

For training, Barb recognized that sales operations tends to own sales training, but in the case of social selling, it’s better to have it jointly owned by sales themselves and marketing. Her reasoning is, to be successful, this has to be strategic and have the support and guidance of the leadership teams. Sales should drive the adoption of their teams; marketing can provide strategy and content.

“To be successful, (social selling) has to be strategic and have the support and guidance of the leadership teams.”
–Barbara Giamanco, Social Selling Expert

I went further and recommended that marketing and sales work together to agree on the approach first, but then marketing should drive the company’s corporate social efforts. Marketing can also provide content to sales to engage with leads.

When publishing something on social channels, Barb recommended that 80% of the content pushed by sales come from third parties (other’s blogs, news, interesting articles, analysts, etc.), with a bit from your marketing team. The final 20% can then come from the sale rep directly, and it should be tailored to the specific prospect and opportunity.

Q: What metrics should we be using to track our social selling progress?

Barb offered ideas for sales leadership, advising them to look at both quantity and quality metrics, but with an eye on quality. Reps should be expanding their networks with more connections, but they should be connections of higher quality. For example, look at how reps are connecting with your targets. If you’re targeting VPs, how many VPs are they connecting with?

Engagement metrics are next: are you getting a response from your connections? A great way to start is by following and re-tweeting, sharing, liking, and commenting on the prospect’s social posts. If you’re offering helpful information, you’ll start seeing them do the same for you. That’s engagement.

Then, Barb says, you’ll get to sales-specific activity metrics, such as scheduled meetings, that are being driven by social touches.

I’d add that metrics should be outcome-based, with a focus on how social selling leads to more meetings, more pipeline, and more closed deals. Even if you’re tracking it loosely, like just surveying reps or adding a “Did you socially sell for this deal?” field to your CRM, it’s going to help you determine who’s doing it right and where you should focus your efforts.

“(Social selling) metrics should be outcome-based, with a focus on more meetings, more pipeline, and more closed deals.”
–Tracy Eiler, InsideView CMO

Finally, if you have a key account program, look at how engaged you are with important contacts throughout that account. Ideally, the sales person would interacting with several key people in a particular account.

Q: How do you warm up cold prospects? What if no one knows who you are?

Barb answered this question directly: “There isn’t an ‘easy’ button for a program like this!” Social selling takes work, but the benefits are there. You have to find ways to make yourself known, like doing a webinar with a partner or hosting a networking event. Maybe write some articles or record a podcast. That gives you both the content to engage with as well as leads to connect with. Your content should be helpful and educational, not selling.

From Barb’s experience, it’s critical for you to find unique opportunities to be of service to those prospects. No matter where you start or how you engage, you need to think about it as “do something for them versus selling to them.”

“You can’t always be selling, otherwise you’re the annoying person at the party.”
–Tracy Eiler, InsideView CMO

I agree completely. You can’t always be selling, otherwise you’re the annoying person at the party everyone is trying to avoid. You have to be helpful, conversational, and real. You might be able to provide input on something that’s totally unrelated to what you’re selling, but it could eventually turn into a connection for you. Think hard about the business pains your prospects have. Use social listening to determine how those pains are impacting their business. Then match your content and comments to being helpful around addressing those pains.

Q:  How do you figure out where to find your prospects? Where they go for information?

Barb suggests that you start with the usual suspects, LinkedIn and Twitter. You can learn a lot from a LinkedIn profile and what groups that person belongs to. On Twitter, take a look at who they follow.

Even easier, use InsideView to see which social channels your prospects use and go directly there.

I offered a very practical solution: figure out what LinkedIn groups a prospect is in, then join those groups and just listen for a while. Be patient and see what conversations are about and how other people interact. Don’t start by selling, just listen. When you can, be helpful by posting useful content or offering to help others find what they need. Wait to be asked to sell. You’ll eventually get invited to talk about your offerings. On Twitter follow the people and topics that your prospect follows. Keep track of popular #hashtags. All of this will offer clues on where and how to interact.  

More To Come

Consider this a teaser of the social selling insights Barb and I provided on the webinar (which you can watch on-demand here). We’ll be writing future blog posts based on the dozens of other questions asked by attendees, but you should feel free to ask your own questions in the comments section below, or via @InsideView on Twitter. Use the hashtag #socialselling, or, if you don’t know what that means, make that your first question!

If you’re interested in learning more about Barb and her thoughts on social selling and more, visit her blog, Igniting Sales Transformation, or check out her profile on LinkedIn.