Social selling ~ 24 min

Quest Software: How Effective Communication Fuels Social Selling

Learn how to boost your social selling potential with Sandy Adam of Quest Software. The tips you need are right here!

On “Masters of Comms,” host Lamar Williams from Sociabble had the opportunity to speak with a true thought leader in the field, Sandy Adam of Quest Software, to learn how to maximize social selling through effective communication. Discover the journey of a company that took the leap into social selling, overcame significant challenges, and went on to reap incredible rewards.

MOC: Hello, and welcome to “Masters of Comms.” Today, I’m accompanied by our guest from Quest Software, Sandy Adam, Global Sales Enablement Senior Manager.

QUEST: Hi, Lamar. Thanks for having me, I’m really excited to speak with you today.

MOC: And we’re excited to have you on the show, Sandy, maybe you can take a minute to introduce yourself to our listeners.

QUEST: Sure. The story about me, I think, is kind of unique from other marketers in that I began my career as an electronics technician and just fell in love with technology, and I’ve transitioned over my career of 17 plus years, working with B2B tech companies. I’ve pretty much done everything from designing websites, to SEO, to database marketing and lead gen.

I found a real turning point in my career back in 2007, 2008, when social was emerging in the marketplace. And I just instinctively knew that this was going to be how we were going to communicate going forward. So I really began specializing in this area, and focusing on helping technology companies.

I worked for an engineering simulation software company as their Global Social Media Director, and I implemented blogs and Twitter and LinkedIn, and all sorts of things, doing everything from content development to images, all very hands on. And then back in 2012, long before it was called employee advocacy or social selling, I was starting to introduce the concept to our sales team on how they needed to be sharing content out on the social platforms to be seen.

So that really led me to my current role here at Quest Software. I manage a global social selling program for over 800 reps. And I offer not only training en mass to the organization on professional branding and prospecting for pipeline, but I also do individual coaching and mentoring with various people, and I do a lot of soft skills training to get them prepped.

And it’s just a very exciting role to be in, training reps on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and how we use Sociabble for curating content and delivering content to the reps. That’s about 90 percent of my role.

MOC: Fantastic. And I think this now would be a great time to tell us exactly what Quest Software does. Could you give us a brief overview?

QUEST: Sure. So the fancy way of saying it is at Quest, we create and manage the software that benefits new technologies, while empowering users with data and streamlining app or IT operations, and hardening cybersecurity. So that’s a long sentence, right? But more simply put, you know, we make sure that important information stays safe within companies and their computers work well with that software.

Not a day goes by when you aren’t hearing something about cybersecurity and hackers and ransomware.

Not a day goes by when you aren’t hearing something about cybersecurity and hackers and ransomware. And so we are on the leading edge of that, helping companies stay safe. Quest has been around for over 30 years, and really about 95 percent of the Fortune 500 rely on our products to protect their data and their assets. Currently, we serve about 130,000 customers in over 100 countries.

MOC: Wow. That is pretty vast, I would say.

QUEST: It is. Yeah. It’s a big deal. We have great partners. We team up with the likes of Microsoft for instance, because a lot of their products are melded into ours and we need to protect that again, protect the customer’s data and their assets.

MOC: Okay, well, thanks for sharing that. Now we know a little bit more about Quest Software. Tell me, if we dive right in, why did Quest initially decide to implement a social selling strategy? Possibly illustrate some of the challenges that your sales reps were facing at the time, and whether there were any key factors that contributed to your decision.

QUEST: I’m going to say number one, the reason they decided to implement the program is because I’m a really good salesperson. And when I joined the company, I came in as their Global Social Media Manager and developed a strategy for the company on how to approach organic social. But I started seeing there was a real opportunity to work closer and take the skills I had developed with social selling and implement them with the sales team.

So I moved over to sales enablement. I went to the CRO one day and I said, I’ve got a lot of experience in this area and I’d love to be on this team. So I showed some of my successes at previous companies. You know, I worked at Hitachi for a while and Ansys for a number of years. And so I had really good stories to tell and results to share.

I could tell from the data that people weren’t using it as much.

And what they had in place when I joined was 800, 900 LinkedIn Sales Navigator licenses, but I could tell from the data that people weren’t using it as much. They were logging in, but they weren’t saving leads. They really didn’t know how to use the tool. So the first goal was to get them using the tool properly so that they could get the robustness of the system.

Otherwise, reps were just left to figure this out on their own. And that’s never a good thing when you introduce a tool. Reps are, you know, inundated. They’re always saying, oh, we have too many tools. We don’t know what to do. So we really focused in on getting the tools right and showing some early successes.

When I look at showing early successes in a program, I’m looking for the rock stars, the people that are really using it right. I’m going to go look and figure out, are they hitting their quota? I’m going to interview them. I’m going to talk to them and find out what’s helping them get their quota. How did they get the prospect?

And I was trying to move them away from relying on the standard cold call, to hold the emailing strategies we were starting to see diminishing returns on pre-pandemic. And of course, during the pandemic, it got even worse, right? So simply because I had run successful programs, I was able to show it, in terms of revenue. The business could understand that this was a revenue generator for them, and it was green lighted to implement the program.

MOC: That’s very good information. Actually, I have one question on that. Was there a problem with revenue? Or were they not generating enough revenue?

QUEST: No, no, no. Companies want more revenue. I mean, you have growth plans for your company, right? We actually are part of private equity. We’re not a public company. And of course, we have investors that are looking for growth. So growth is the number one priority for us, growth and revenue.

MOC: And how did your social selling program integrate within your existing sales strategy? Could you mention maybe what worked and what didn’t work?

QUEST: Well, that’s an interesting question. The existing strategy at the time was demand gen, come to our webinar, download our white paper, the traditional demand gen tools. And those work, but again, the marketplace changed over the last few years, you know, people don’t want to sign up for everything and they don’t want to be inundated with a lot of messaging.

We really wanted to position our sellers as trusted advisors.

So it was really looking at how could we meet within the journey they wanted to be on. You know, just because somebody downloads your white paper doesn’t mean they’re ready for a demo of your product. It means they’re doing research. And so shifting from a demand gen, from the sales team, that’s marketing’s role. We’re going to let marketing handle demand gen and lead gen. But from a sales perspective, we really wanted to position our sellers as trusted advisors. Value selling was much more important, we take a much more consultative approach to working with our customers, one that really isn’t leveraged in cold calls and cold emails like it was, right? So we switched.

Whenever I’m working with a sales team, or I’m working with a tool, I’m going to separate it into three different pieces. My top performers, my mid-level performers, and then the low performers, right? So my top performers, that’s my low hanging fruit. I can give them more instruction, more information, more education, and they’re going to take it and they’re going to run with it because they’re already perhaps implementing part of the strategy or part of the tool.

I want to see some immediate success to prove the value of my program.

My people down on the bottom, my low followers, I tend to kind of shelf them over to the side for a little while because they’re going to be the hardest to change minds. And I want to see in my program success. I want to see some immediate success to prove the value of my program so that I can then get additional resources, perhaps, or funding for adding on an employee advocacy tool, that sort of thing.

So I divide my groups into three and then my goal is to take that middle group and move them up and then take all of that information and work with my sales ops teams to start understanding the data—keeping it a very data-driven program. Are my top sellers on, for instance, Sales Navigator, also hitting their quotas? Is there a correlation? I think the thing that you see me working with the most is correlation data, not necessarily causation data, because all of this stuff can be very challenging to prove. Anyone who’s in a sales enablement role understands that, definitely. Just because you attended my training class doesn’t mean necessarily that my training class caused you to be more successful.

MOC: There’s too many other factors. Got it. Fantastic. That would kind of lead me into a different light, let’s say. Can you tell us more about the content strategy that was adopted for your social selling program, and also how you tailor your communications to resonate with your sales team members?

QUEST: Sure. Let’s start with the content. I have always had the direction that it’s an 80-20. It’s the Pareto Rule, right? 80-20. 80 percent of the content has to be higher level industry-related trends that are happening, things that my buyers want to know about and may not necessarily know about. They’re not sitting at their desk waiting to hear about how great my product is. They’re looking for value. And that’s even more true now than it has been the last five years, that trusted advisor approach.

Now, on the flip side—and I’m going to say this—when you implement that higher level industry standard information in your employee advocacy program, you’re actually teaching your sales reps in addition to teaching your customers. So it’s kind of my sly way of getting my reps to understand new emerging topics, cybersecurity trends, AI trends. So the two just go very hand in hand.

MOC: Where are you giving them this information? How are you creating it? Are you pulling it from somewhere?

QUEST: Yeah, a lot of different sources. So just like back in the day, I would teach reps, okay, get your Google alerts out and type in this topic and save it and get all this information, which you could do. You could still do that today, right? Look at different blogs that are coming out, the McKinsey’s, the Forrester’s, the Gartner reports, to get information. All of that is still available, but it requires a lot of work for the salesperson. So instead, I do the work. And of course, I have a tool that I can use to pull in RSS feeds.

I can look at the content. I can assure that it is going to be valuable to our audience. And then make some slight adjustments. And of course, there’s always fun things I can do, too. Oftentimes it’s working with a pre-sales engineer and saying, “Hey, let’s teach you how to write a quick blog or an article for LinkedIn,” and help them along in that way to build their professional image.

So there are a lot of different ways to bring that content in. I would say, obviously, monitoring the corporate page, and sharing that I always give the brand first dibs on reach. So we kind of have an informal agreement that if they’re posting something on the LinkedIn company page, I’m going to leave that alone for a day.

Let them get the first lift on reach. And reps will naturally gravitate to sharing that content if they see it in their feed. But, as we know, LinkedIn changes their algorithms so frequently that you may not be seeing everything. So pulling it into a tool where you can really feed it out is the route that makes the most sense to me.

We launched Sociabble in April. Now, I’ve used many other tools through the years and some of them were great and some of them veered off from their employee advocacy path to internal comms. One of the things that I loved about Sociabble, that was really to me a game changer, was the translations that were built in.

As I said earlier, we serve a global audience, and while in today’s world, even Europeans are kind as to speak English, Americans are not so kind as to speak many languages. But I could give that content and I could translate it for my reps in the other countries, and that they could then deliver in their own language to build, again, that trusted rapport—it doesn’t look like corporate generated content, right?

MOC: That’s fantastic. Great to hear the language conversion. It’s always necessary when you’re a global enterprise. So all of that being important, how do you engage and train your sales teams on your program? Were there any particular challenges or successes with engagement that you could share?

QUEST: Well, one of the interesting things is that, you know, budgets are tight, the economy’s not the most spectacular. And so I approached this as a pilot program and I asked for a hundred licenses. “Let me show you how this works.” But I set up some rules of engagement.

First of all, I put together a very strong sales enablement strategy. Here’s how we’re going to support this program. Here’s how we’re going to communicate to our reps on a regular basis. Here’s the training that we’re going to offer them on a regular basis. And by regular, I mean, monthly, I’m doing monthly trainings on different topics and then putting out a newsletter communication—another great feature of Sociabble. “Here’s what you might’ve missed” kind of posts, “Hey, I haven’t seen you on the platform in two weeks, here’s why you need to be back on and consistent.”

Because these types of programs do ebb and flow, right? And you really have to stay on top of it. So besides getting their license, they had to commit to posting two pieces of content per week. They had to commit to attending the monthly “User Meeting,” and I’ll go into the “User Meeting” in a few minutes and how I run those, and that’s it.

I mean, very simple, right? Rules of engagements. Oh, and they had to have an optimized LinkedIn profile, and I would teach them how to do that. So I think the key has been the “User Meeting” every month. We have one they’re invited to, I run nine different sessions actually, so that I’m running three in each geo, and it’s really designed for, as I explained to them, “You’re teaching me as much as I’m teaching you.”

So you’re teaching me about what kind of content you need to talk to a buyer about, so that I can go find that content for you. And then by teaching me again about the product, I start to learn how to change the generic description of a piece of content into something that would be a little bit more meaningful.

And we just use it as a feedback session.

MOC: That’s fantastic. They get some hands-on learning.

QUEST: Yes, absolutely. We sit, you know, we’ll bring up a screen. Okay. Who’s having problems? I don’t know what my statistics are. How do I know what my audience is? I always try to create a very safe space for learning.

I don’t record a lot of my sessions because I want people to talk freely, right? I have everybody else on sales enablement recording every single training session. And I’m like, no, because we’re going to have different difficult conversations, that they don’t want everybody else to be able to hear.

MOC: Completely agree. Building a successful social selling program often involves various departments, or collaboration across various departments. So how do you foster alignment and collaboration between sales, marketing, and maybe other relevant teams at Quest?

QUEST: You build your relationships internally. I have friends in IT. And why do I need friends in IT? Besides them being nice people, of course, I need my CRM synced to my Sales Navigator. I may need the lead generation that’s available through a program like Sociabble to tie into the marketing. So I need to build those relationships with the other stakeholders in the company.

And then I, of course, need to communicate. And build those relationships with executive leaders because sometimes they glaze over this, like, I don’t get what you’re doing, but it’s working, so keep going, which is fine, but you really need to get a lot of people involved. A PR situation came up recently where I found out because companies don’t communicate internally as well as they could. I found out that some of our pre-sales teams were going to be leveraged by the PR team as thought leaders in the industry, which is amazing and great. But the first couple of articles I saw that came out, that pre-sales person had a really crummy LinkedIn profile. And I’m like, whoa, let’s get them looking good and professional so that it’s helping your efforts.

So I’m trying to help them, other departments, with what they’re trying to do. Another good example, going back to it and the CRM—we use Salesforce, and historically companies have a lot of dirty data in there. So in my Sales Navigator program, I can train the reps how to update the CRM with the newest information.

Now, as a team across departments, we’re all cleaning up our data so that we have the best data available; meeting regularly with all of these teams is vital to progressing. Even if they go to a roadmap meeting on the CRM and the changes that are coming up, they may not directly affect my program, but they keep me visible, and in the hearts and minds of my coworkers, and they know what I do. They know I’m the person to come to if they need something. Building those internal relationships so you know who to go to when you have something that’s really critical to your program is very important.

MOC: Yeah, I would say that’s important—but also ROI. So how do you measure ROI for your social selling program, which can be a bit challenging? What are the ways that you measure the success of your program?

QUEST: There’s kind of two different approaches, from the social selling to the employee advocacy.

I think I have a very unique employee advocacy program in that it’s not for all employees.

It is dedicated to the sales team at this time, because they’re the ones that need the content, right? So that being said, when I’m looking at the return on investment from LinkedIn Sales Navigator, I have many more tools available to me.

LinkedIn is synced to our CRM. They can look at close win ratios. I can tell them here’s 10 big deals that closed in Q1. Let’s look at what the Sales Navigator usage was against those accounts, because oftentimes reps will say, “Oh, I didn’t use LinkedIn, or I didn’t do this.” And you can come back with that data and show them, yes, you actually did. You took these steps, you connected with these people. And then from there, we don’t look at it as direct return on investment, although there is direct on investment. We look at it as how much revenue did we influence through this program? And LinkedIn is able to give me those numbers to show to my senior executives.

We went from a hundred licenses to 450 licenses, in two months.

So that’s good. That works. With Sociabble, I’m using it against paid advertising saved at the moment. So for instance, the amount of money that we spent—and I think I forgot to mention, we went from a hundred licenses to 450 licenses, in two months. Maybe a little less, even. Once one of our presidents saw it, he was like, “Oh my gosh, this is great, I want to give it to all my people.” So, anyway, we look at it as how much money marketing would have had to pay on advertising to reach the same size audience. That’s our return on investment right now. And now we’re looking at how do we leverage this information to get more reps to be involved in the programs—both programs—to use them correctly.

And we do “win” showcases. Our sales enablement team does a “win” showcase where we have a rep that closed a deal. They come in, talk about the steps they took in the buyer’s journey, etc. Now we’re going to start taking some of our Sociabble and Sales Navigator data, and we’re going to say, “And by the way, John Smith had a 72 SSI and he was one of our top ambassadors for the month of August.”

So sharing X, X, right? Tying the programs together and then reporting them up.

MOC: Perfect. So looking ahead, how do you see the social selling program evolving?

QUEST: As I build excitement with other people—and that’s an interesting thing too, getting your senior leadership to put a slide in their town hall meeting—it has such heavy impact. They may not want to; I think one of the guys said, well, “I don’t have a lot of time, we’ve got a lot of material, but I’ll make it a drive by.” And that’s good. So he’s going to focus on: here are our top three ambassadors for the month. Let’s all congratulate them. They build competition. Salespeople are competitive. They want to be on the top of those leaderboards. So featuring that kind of content in a town hall or in their QBRs or team meetings can be very impactful.

MOC: How do you see the program growing?

QUEST: Well, I would say for employee advocacy, my long-term vision is like a year.

So it’s not like 5 years out there. But I see us getting the entire sales team, the 800 reps on here, being successful and then expanding it back into the other departments. But then that requires a lot of work on my part, to give them the right content, right? I’ve had marketing people that wanted to be part of the advocacy program and the social selling and LinkedIn.

So it’s teaching them how these tools work as well, but expanding them into, you know, if I’m a marketer, when I’m out on my LinkedIn, my audience is other marketers, other people in social media. Obviously my sales team is following me, but I’m not speaking directly to them. So me having content as a marketer that talks about how your Azure database is going to be attacked for cybersecurity isn’t going to resonate with my audience. Right?

So as I build this program out, I have to look more at professional development topics, maybe role specific or not roles. Are we going to get PR involved in this? What are they going to do? HR for doing talent acquisition is very important, which is bringing us to talent acquisition and PR, for which the “Trees” program in Sociabble has been so well accepted.

So yeah, long term I want to get other departments involved and build a far more robust employee advocacy program across the organization.

MOC: So now as we’re heading into the end of our podcast, I have another question. I wanted to ask you about some of the key topics that you’ve learned, or could you share maybe some interesting insights or lessons learned from implementing your program—and maybe give us three different takeaways that you would tell our listeners.

QUEST: Sure. Number one, never assume that just because somebody attended your training, that they understand what you trained them in. You have to do some—the term I hate the most is baby steps—but it really is important that you have to lead them along a path. Train them once, train them twice, and then retrain them frequently.

Two, I never assume that they have the time to do what is important to me. So figure out how I can engage with them or reward them. Building in some recognition, I think, is really important, and having those conversations on a frequent basis. Three, when speaking to your executives about your program, you’ve got about three slides to capture their attention before they’re on to possibly multitasking.

So make sure you get your important data upfront first, and that it resonates around what they care about.

MOC: That is some great feedback. I never thought about the three slides at the beginning. Even I can take away from that one. Well, Sandy, I’d like to ask you one final question that I enjoy asking all of our guest experts on “Masters of Comms.”

Would you mind sharing with us the title of a book or film that had a significant impact on you recently, and why?

QUEST: Sure. That’s a great question. I’m going to actually give you both. I have a personal mantra that “A day without learning something new is a wasted day.” And so I am constantly looking at a different book.

The most recent book I just completed was, “The Jolt Effect.” Obviously, this has been very spread throughout the internet recently, but it’s by the authors who wrote “The Challenger Sale.” So for B2B tech and sales reps, “The Challenger Sale” has been prevalent for many years. “The Jolt Effect” was talking about getting deeper into accounts, meeting more people. And that was really important. And that aligned with what I was doing with Sales Navigator on multithreading. Even to the point where I started recommending that book to my sales reps, “You must read this book. It’s insightful.”

But then I have to also nurture my creative side, and a film that I really enjoyed, it was a documentary called, “The Art of Street Art.” And just understanding how—because it ties so well, again, to social, I love art—how we communicate our different feelings and topics around with other people. So those are the two things that really resonated with me in the last three months.

MOC: Fantastic. So “The Jolt Effect” for the book, and Banksy in the “The Art of Street Art.” Sandy, thank you so much for joining us.

QUEST: It’s been a pleasure. I really enjoyed this, our time together.

MOC: This has been “Masters of Comms,” the podcast for transformative communication techniques, straight from the pros.

Here concludes this episode of “Masters of Comms.” If you’d like to listen to the entire interview, it’s available for download here. And don’t hesitate to join for future episodes of the podcast, where you can get transformative communication techniques, straight from the pros. Thanks for tuning in!

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