On April 12th, Sociabble is honored to be taking part in a panel discussion at the Tricycle Europe Digital Selling Summit in Amsterdam, designed to tackle the influence of new technology, AI, and social media in online marketing, and to discuss the latest social selling best practices. Representatives from Accenture, Microsoft, Signify, and Tricycle are all going to be participating as well, in what promises to be an extremely engaging conversation.
Last week, we posted part one of our interview with Tricycle’s Founder, Jochem Verberg, as a prelude to the event. Now, we’ll share the second part of our discussion, and delve deeper into the worlds of social media, digital & social selling best practices, and content creation.
What are some of the biggest challenges companies face today in regards to digital selling? What are the major obstacles?
I think the biggest challenge for workers, just as Satya Nadella says, will be to unlearn old habits and learn new skills. First, we need to get into that mindset of, “Guys, this is happening.” Change, I mean. We’ve been talking about social for a couple of years now—today, tomorrow, next week, next year, we’ll be talking about AI a lot. The next couple of years, probably, so we need to get it into their minds, to be on the lookout for changes, because if you can spot these changes, it can really help you become a better seller. It can even change your direction, so that you might not fit as a seller anymore, this can happen, right?
Sure. Given the changing environment, the dynamics can change.
I posted an article not too long ago about introverts versus extroverts, about when I started in sales as a teenager. Then, the most extroverted people were killing the introverts from a sales perspective, it was easy for them. Now, you see that it can go the other way around, because it’s the structure-based people—which can include introverts—who understand how the algorithms work. They can leverage these tools and outperform the extroverts. That’s a mindset change. That’s the first part. The other part is really a change in their behavior.
“Introverts can leverage these tools and outperform the extroverts.”
The big challenge, especially for our larger, international clients represented by all these different cultures in different parts of the world, is how to come up with a new plan, with a new strategy, adding social media to it. Essentially, adding all these digital tools to work in all these different parts of the world. Culturally, it’s a big challenge because you cannot just say, “Hey, do this. Reach out through LinkedIn and you’ll make more calls, or you’re going to get more business.” It really doesn’t work like that.
That makes sense. The cultural context is an on-the-ground reality. There are differences for sales.
Indeed. Probably before all this, it was the same with cold-calling, for example. Perhaps that worked better in the UK than in Germany or in the US or in Japan, I don’t know. But I do know that in social media, it really works differently in different countries. It’s a big challenge.
At Tricycle, clients are encouraged to accept and adapt to change, as a necessary part of effective digital selling.
It sounds like it. A follow-up question after that is, what is the role of content? Is it actually as important as some people think?
On that subject, I actually want to advise everybody to push as much content as possible. It sounds a little bit crazy. But content is king, of course. And from a content perspective, I would say let’s make sure you’re out there, because what I see and I hear a lot from our coaches is that people really don’t know if they’re doing it right, or they’re a little bit insecure. They want to write an article but then say, “I don’t know if I should post it because it’s not perfect.” My advice is always just do it. Go out there and get feedback and become better at it.
Basically, consistency will always beat perfection. For example, think of one of your closest friends and ask yourself: when did you became such close friends . . . at what exact point? There is no answer to this question, it’s because of the behavior of your friend, over a longer period of time. He or she might ring you when you’re sick, or when you have an exam, or to talk gossip or share ideas and he or she is doing this consistently, because they care.
And the second point: in order to become better at posting and connecting in the digital world, you will need feedback from your audience. Not posting, not engaging, not being out there is to deny yourself this feedback, hence you will not learn or progress.
So post more, engage, listen to the feedback, and learn.
Interesting. And what about the best content mix for digital sellers, how should they create and share it for maximum performance?
We have a rule of thumb that companies can easily follow, the 70-20-10 rule. Think of a seller working at Canon, for example, that’s also one of our clients. Canon with all the printers and all the technical things happening there. We say, “Hey, you post 70% third-party content.” Not about Canon at all, because it’s about your field of expertise. It’s about people trusting you, because you share content about the printing industry or about cameras or about beautiful pictures, so they can relate to you on those matters. It’s also easy because while doing this, really looking up third-party content, you can educate yourself, and then you can share what you’ve learned with your unique perspective with the world.
That’s the biggest focus, what we always tell ourselves, 70%. 20% should also be company content, because as a seller, you work for your company. You need to sell stuff from your company. Put company content in there and try to see what your company is providing. Then, we have the 10% left that is really your own content. That is, your own produced content, you can even do it in different media, because not everybody consumes content the same way and not everybody likes to produce content in the same way.
You mean different people have different skill sets and talents and natural propensities, things like that.
For some, it’s hard to type, but easier to make a video. Or you can say, “Hey, I’m going to do a podcast.” It’s either through video, through text, or through voice. One of the three. So we really want to let the people explore which they prefer. If you want to produce some content, and especially that last 10%, just go there and be out there and try to see what fits you. It’s not just pushing out content, but really trying to see how you produce content in the best way that works for you.
It’s not set in stone, but in the end, producing more content is better for you than producing less content.
There’s no single, correct way to share content. Different people have different skill sets. But what matters is that you get it out there.
When it comes to success, not just in terms of content, but overall, do you see some industries finding more of it than others in digital selling? Are there certain industries that are naturally better at this than others, or that have learned better than others?
There’s a big difference, like tech companies, for example. It’s not just tech companies, but companies that have big brands. If you have a combination of tech B2B but also B2C so that your brand matters, that will automatically mean that the marketing and the PR department of this company is investing a lot in content, which sellers then can use. Also, think about inbound marketing campaigns. Whenever the brand is big, has a big brand value, there’s a lot of content to be used by sellers.
If the opposite is the case, then sellers are going to be in trouble, because if there’s no content, then they have to create everything on their own, and that’s difficult. What you see now, like companies that adapt easily to this, they’re tech companies, because they’ve been in this game already a long time. They understand marketing automation, they understand how inbound marketing goes, just because they’ve been doing it for many, many years in the digital space.
Microsoft is a great example, of course. They’re selling everything digitally. They’re totally mature in this regard. Other companies that I see a lot are ones like consultancy firms, because they have this beautiful research content they use.
In your opinion, what are the key trends for digital selling in 2019, and what major developments do you see coming, or do you predict?
I think we’ve talked about that before, about AI. Let’s go back to the three main tools that the sellers have available to do their job. Social, CRM, and productivity tools. I would say the major big trends for 2019, 2020, are applying data and AI as a predictive selling method for sellers. That’s one big trend. The other thing is for social to really be integrated into your CRM, which allows for a social CRM to form. That’s a lot like the top of it. If you go down a little bit, the behavior of sellers, they need content available. That’s why I’m saying, “Hey, push out as much content as possible because now is the time.” Because it’s getting more crowded, everywhere. What I also see is that pieces of content get less attention than let’s say two years ago. If you have a really good article and you’re taking the likes and engagements, it goes down a little bit, because it’s getting more crowded. Therefore, you need to explore more platforms. Where for years it was only LinkedIn, you now see Instagram coming in, for example.
“If you have a really good article . . . you need to explore more platforms.”
Yes. It’s all about professional branding. It’s a way for a salesperson to show themselves off as well, instead of LinkedIn, which is strictly business, right? Sometimes you want to show that you’re walking your kids in the forest or something. I don’t know. Like, “Hey, there’s really a person behind this.”
Lend some authenticity, some personality.
Yes. It’s allowed on platforms like Instagram, but in a couple of years, it could be other platforms. I think people are also getting a little bit tired with only LinkedIn, because it’s all business, and that’s cool, but you also want to play around a little bit, so there is always a search for another platform where you can do that, and where it’s allowed to do so.
The other big trend is that everything is changing at a rapid pace. I think the fight for relevance is going to be there for people in the coming years. Algorithms are taking over a lot of our work. It’s really for a seller, and I think for everybody, to figure out, “Hey, how can we cope with that and what do we need to do?” The answer is, “Be connected to social so you understand more, so you have more information.” You have to learn more, to adapt to new developments.
Thank you very much for answering our questions, Jochem. We appreciate it.