Craig M. Jamieson is a social selling trainer, author and Manager of Adaptive Business Services. In this interview he sheds light on how traditional purchasing behavior is being turned on its head, and what this means for sales professionals.
This is the second in a series of interviews with professionals who are driving digital transformation in a range of industries, and who are experts in their field.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in social selling.
I have been in B2B sales and management dating back to 1977. Today I train, write, and consult in the areas of social selling and Social CRM. I am not a marketer. When I first heard about social media (marketing), I dismissed it. When I heard the term social networking, my ears perked up and I decided to investigate it.
That was in December of 2008. Back then, it seemed, nobody talked about social selling or social business and particularly in the B2B arena. Honestly, it was all very frustrating for someone like myself who is not even particularly social but, who surmised that it could hold value for business.
I am, however, quite persistent and observant. I watched, I read, and I emulated. My epiphany arrived several years later when I realized that social selling should be used to augment, not replace, my traditional selling methodologies and that personalized relationships still count! Same rules, new tools.
2) How have purchasing cycles changed in recent years, and what are the resulting challenges for sales professionals?
The challenge for salespeople today is that buyer behaviors have changed dramatically. They have Google and they know how to use it for product research. They are using social media to secure recommendations from those they already know and trust. Those tasked with the buying process may not even be the traditional decision makers.
This has resulted in salespeople often being locked out of much of the traditional sales process and, to make matters worse, it’s really noisy out there. Customers are being bombarded by messaging from every angle and on every channel that is imaginable. Rather than imploding, they shut down.
Salespeople must find new ways to insert themselves into the purchasing cycle. In order for their messages to be heard, they must be unique, memorable, personalized, and remarkable. This is one reason why attraction and education are such important aspects of social selling. Great content provides both.
3) Content is known to be the key to successful social selling, what are the different types of content that work best at different points of the sales cycle?
While content may be king, this is only providing that it is relevant. This means that it is not only relevant to that specific customer, it is also relevant to the specific stage of the sales cycle. You are establishing yourself as the go-to source for knowledge. Let’s look at a fairly simple sales AIDCA process…
- Attention – You need compelling content that will spur excitement, discussion, shares, and that will encourage people to want to learn more. “Sell the sizzle. Not the steak”. Visuals sizzle particularly when combined with effective calls-to-action. If customers are searching on Google, or are requesting introductions, you want to be found!
- Interest – It’s about listening first and then it requires you to show more than This can be accomplished via videos, podcasts, slideshows, infographics, and articles including customer stories. Educating your potential customers is extremely important and this can / should include articles from trusted third parties.
- Desire – Buying is an emotional decision and appropriate case studies of other customers who are already enjoying the benefits can be very powerful. You are helping them to visualize enjoying your product. Paint that picture with great content!
- Conviction – During this stage the customer will come to grips with their acknowledged need and a willingness to invest. The question is…will they invest with you? Examples of great content for use at this stage might include proof in the form of white papers as well as an implementation plan.
- Action – Otherwise known as the close. I would suggest that the best piece of content for this phase would be an order form.
4) How valuable is an employee advocacy program for social sellers? How does having one help a company’s salespeople find the most pertinent content?
Salespeople sell. They don’t create, find, evaluate, and curate content. That is not what they are paid to do and, frankly, most good salespeople that I know are just not wired that way. However, if they do not evolve to meet today’s buyer challenges, they’re gonna’ die. They need help and sales enablement tools are a part of this.
I do think that an employee advocacy program for salespeople is somewhat different to one that is designed for company messaging, branding, and leveraged reach. Salespeople generally care most about two things only…closing deals and cashing their paychecks. Nothing wrong with that. It’s still company revenues.
An employee advocacy program, one that will assist them with this transition, is invaluable! Specifically if this program can create / discover and curate this content, do so for the various stages of the funnel, and then provide it to salespeople in an easy-to-use and easy-to-share format…winner, winner, chicken dinner.
5) How can the content from other internal teams such as HR and customer service help sales teams?
One could say that “It takes a village to make a sale.” At any rate, it’s a whole lot easier when other members of the tribe are pitching in. HR and customer service can, and need to be, a part of this process.
HR is often tasked with employee development and training and this generally includes product / service knowledge and education. Guess what? Much of this content is equally as valuable for your customers as it is for your employees and it can easily be repurposed for this task.
Customer service cannot only provide similar content (best use / practices of your offering) but, they are also a customer-facing department. As such, they are an excellent resource for real-life customer success stories, as well as for sharing any customer challenges with your service and how those were overcome.
These experiences, of course, become an excellent resource to all customers (existing and prospective) and to…your sales team. Now you really have something. A customer advocacy program is being created in parallel to an employee one!
We would like to thank Craig for collaborating on this blog post. Stay tuned for the next installment in our expert insight series!
Miss the first installment? Read the interview with Wendy van Gilst, Social Media & Content Manager at Sage.