In a recent webinar Robert Farrell of the Digital Marketing Institute joined Laura Lamard, Social Selling Manager at Sage, to discuss the relevance of social selling and how it is transforming business activity at Sage. For anyone who is engaged or interested in social selling, we highly recommend the video.
In this post we will pull out some of the key points covered and add some thoughts of our own.
How would you define social selling?
Social selling, explains Lamard, is really about “using social networks to develop your influence, build your branding and better interact with prospects and customers.” What’s more, “everyone in the company has a role to play.” We couldn’t agree with this more – your people are your greatest asset, and empowering them all as employee advocates and social sellers will ready your company for the future of social business. Every employee is a gateway into your company.
How has the buying cycle changed over the past few years?
Lamard highlights three key stats that demonstrate not just how the buying cycle has changed in recent years, but also how this has opened the door for social selling. “90% of cold calls do not work anymore,” she says – so how can sales professionals find new ways of reaching and engaging with prospects? Well, “75% of B2B buyers research companies on social media before contacting the vendor” – so anything that is said about your company online can have an impact on purchasing decisions. This in turn means that the more employees who advocate for your company on social media, the better. And finally, explains Lamard, “an average of five people are involved in every B2B purchasing decision.” The challenge therefore lies not only in connecting with these people, but in providing value as they move along the purchase cycle.
How does Sage do social selling differently in relation to its competitors?
When it comes to social selling, explains Lamard, Sage was an “early adopter” and five key differentiators set the company apart from its competitors. The first is the fact that everybody, not just the sales team, is trained in social selling. The second is Social Selling Days: quarterly workshops that focus on “learning and doing”. The latest seven Social Selling Days to take place in Europe involved 600 people and generated 14 meetings with new prospects.
The third differentiator is the fact that social selling training is carried out internally, while the fourth is Sage’s dedicated program for users of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. A Social Selling Index (SSI) score of 70 is required to qualify for the program, and to become a member of Sage’s elite social selling squad.
The fifth and final differentiator is Social Friday, a social media training event held throughout the company once a month, to reinforce social selling as a key business activity.
Any social selling best practices to share?
Lamard shares a number of great social selling best practices, one of which is starting with sales leaders and leadership teams. It’s a good idea to start at the top, she explains, because C-level and management teams have a wider network and influence than anyone in the company, and can set the tone for everyone else. Sage CEO Stephen Kelly was named by LinkedIn as one of the top UK profiles in tech in 2016, and was committed to employee advocacy and social selling from the outset. Find out more in this video case study.
What about launching a social selling program? Lamard recommends holding an event in order to build momentum – an event driven by strong communication before, during and after. Sage launched its employee advocacy and social selling program during #SociableDay, a global event that spanned 23 countries. Read the full case study here.
Which platform(s) do you use for social selling?
In addition to LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which is used by selected employees, Sage has launched the Sociabble employee advocacy platform. The initiative was piloted by Xavier Monty who, in this video, explains why employee advocacy is key to social selling success. Sociabble, he says, facilitates social selling because “in one click you can find content organized by topic, by areas of expertise. Then you can share it and amplify it for your business. I’m not conscious of any social selling program which is successful without a social advocacy platform.”
This sentiment is echoed by Neil Morgan, EVP Global Digital Marketing at Sage, who in a recent article on LinkedIn explains that on Sociabble “Sage employees are already averaging 45 actions per active user – an average of 10MM total reach every month. It’s great for helping people find great content and get them to start sharing. We have had over 40,000 shares on the platform so far. This has tangible business value.”
Do you feel you have a better relationship with your customers thanks to social selling?
As far as Lamard is concerned, this is a no brainer. “Social selling is no longer an option,” she explains. “It’s not going to replace calls and emails, it will be complementary. But if you don’t use it you will miss opportunities.” Indeed, Morgan’s ambition is for social business to become a part of the DNA at Sage. Together with employee advocacy, he says, social selling “helps show our customers and partners that we [Sage] know our stuff when it comes to the issues that matter to their business.”