Social Selling Definition

Social Selling Definition

Social selling definition is important in sales training as many salespeople and sales leaders are still asking “What is Social Selling and how can I do social selling so it gives me results?

Despite all the news and chatter about social selling, many companies and salespeople struggle with a social selling definition that makes sense for them to incorporate into their sales habits. When I am conducting sales training on social selling, people will approach me ask “Is this social selling thing really worth it? Or is social selling really relevant to me as an experienced sales professional?

social-selling-definition

Social selling definition

My answer on Social Selling remain the same:

If a salesperson or a business has all the sales leads and pipeline of revenue they can handle for the next year or so, and don’t believe that social media is playing a bigger part in the buyer decision process, then no, you don’t need social selling.

If on the other hand, you see the more traditional forms of selling declining and you plan on being in business for the foreseeable future then using social media as a sales channel and social selling will not be optional tools. Digital selling and social selling will become increasingly vital to a salespersons and business success. So, let’s look at what “social selling” mean.

 Social selling definition!

I believe that every salesperson should view social selling as a sales touch point embedded into every aspect of your sales habit loop. If you review your sales funnel, it can be connected back to every sales step and to every lead. Successful salespeople have learnt how to use the social networks to build credibility, be visible and relevant in every step of the buyer’s journey.

My social selling definition is as follows:

“It is about building a communication bridge between social media activity (opportunity insights, sharing ideas and perspectives) and the phone call (sales outreach) to maximise buyer interactions and minimise wasted time.”

So, Social selling concentrates on sharing focused content and providing one-to-one communication that flows backwards and forwards between the salesperson and the buyer.

The goal is for the you to form a relationship with each prospect, providing suggestions and answering questions.

What Social Selling is Not:

Firstly, Social Selling is NOT Social marketing

Social marketing is focused on generating mass awareness and is more aligned to inbound marketing (to generate sales leads) while social selling is an organised sales activity aligned to sales (to generate leads for sales). Social selling is focused on individual buyer engagement while social marketing focuses on brand engagement. Sales people involved with pumping out marketing material on social media are doing social marketing not social selling.

Social media is no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. It’s not about pushing mass messaging. It’s about personalised conversations. It’s about connecting and engaging. Social selling needs to be integrated into the very DNA of your business.

A social definition is not one that uses social media to shout at, stalk, or spam people digitally. It is not about employing the social channels to replace cold calling, sales outreach or replacing the telephone with Twitter and LinkedIn. Trying to outshout your competitors, interrupting people and blasting their inboxes or profiles with generic sales pitches are not strategies that will create trust and credibility. Also, social selling is not about having a uniformed approach to every customer interaction.

One to one connections and interactions

Successful social selling that delivers real results comes from meaningful, relevant and personalised one-to-one social conversations and interactions. It is not all about content, while content plays a vital role it is a sales tool to engage the prospect towards a useful and valuable interaction. Forward thinking sales leads and salespeople understand the power and importance of developing one-to-one connections and interactions on social media.

As part of a sales training program or sales transformation process, a social selling strategy should be focused on creating opportunities for interaction in a very personalised manner. As we enter the era of the digital native buyer (2 billion plus people on social media globally), the ability to focus on and tap into your core market(s) online will be vital to sales success.

Why Companies Embrace Social Selling

 Traditional sales tactics have diminishing returns:

90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).

Buyers use social media:

75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors (IDC).

Bigger deal sizes:

Buyers who use social media have larger budgets – typically 84% larger than the budgets of buyers who do not use social (IDC).

Better Sales Achievement:

Social sellers realise 66% greater sales achievement than those using traditional prospecting techniques (Sales Benchmark Index).

 Research and studies from lead sales organisations show that social selling like any great sales strategy is best applied as part of a daily sales habit. In one study from SAP, 71% of salespeople who gained sales leads using social selling and social media were active on a daily basis.

Social Selling Tip: Social selling requires sales training and a planned approach. It is advisable to learn how to leverage all the social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Split out the social selling activity into engaging a new profile of customer, accessing new markets and increasing engagement with existing customers. Learn more about social selling training.

I hope the above statistics prove that social media and social selling are not a fad or empty time filling activity. It is a channel and valuable activity for selling and growing revenue. Companies who have put formal social selling strategies in place are seeing growth in double digits for the socially skilled sales professionals. Not a bad return!

 Where how do we start social selling?

Social Selling consists of five main steps:

  1. Establishing a presence on social networks (Goals and objectives)
  2. Finding the right people (Research into Buyer Personas or Ideal Customer Profiles)
  3. Engaging with those people (Content assets, rules of engagement)
  4. Building trust (Credibility and Connecting)
  5. Measuring the impact (Conversions, Mentions, References and Leads)

Benefits of Social Selling from The Digital Sales Institute on Vimeo.

To build a team of great social salespeople, they have to be trained to become personal marketers, content experts and storytellers. Also, a change in mindset that requires sales leadership to move away from constant pitching to focusing on sharing great content and building relationships and a community online. Salespeople and the brand should strive to be a “Thought Leader” in the eyes of their target audience and market.

The relationship between seller and buyer has changed. Today the buyer self-educates, does their own research and is influenced by what they read and see online. This change to “online conversations” can either be seen as a risk or as a fantastic opportunity. But only if you’re willing to have a formal social selling program with goals and objectives. Then you can jump in, interact on a personal level, start social conversations that eventually lead to warm sales meetings.

Matching Sales Training to the Buyer’s Journey

Matching sales training to the buyer’s journey is essential when designing not just your sales training courses but also as part of your digital selling strategy. Developing a deep understanding of your customer profiles and their buying journey is critical in getting a sales force to engage a company’s target audience. When done correctly, matching sales training to the buyer’s journey will improve the effectiveness of your sales strategy and dramatically increase sales growth.

sales-training

Sales Training Class

We know that social media and the digital channels provide buyers with self-education which leads to greater autonomy when making buying decisions. Which poses the question, “If most of the information they would need to make an informed decision when considering a purchase is available online, what is the role of the modern salesperson?

Sales leaders need to ask where does sales prospecting and customer acquisition tactics fit into engaging buyers in the digitally influenced sales process.

 Defining the buyer’s journey 

Defining the buyers journey is not so much about “what is it” but “HOW is it” enacted. A simple definition could be – The process a buyer goes through to become aware of, consider, evaluate, and then decide on purchasing a product or service.

In the buyer’s journey, the biggest change is in the “awareness’ and “consideration” stages. In these stages, social media now plays a bigger part than the traditional sales engagement. Is this a failure by business to address this in sales training (by providing better sales prospecting tactics) or have we just ceded a vital part of customer acquisition to the internet?

Matching sales training to the buyer’s journey

This will ensure a sales team that is skilled in using a multi-channel approach to nurturing a target set of customers throughout the buying process.  This is now essential for any business to attract buyers towards purchasing your product or service. Salespeople need to have a clear understanding of what the customer expects at each stage of the buying process. It is the responsibility of sales leadership to provide the training, coaching and guidance to help them interact with potential customers with relevant content and messaging at every stage.

There is no mystery in the digitally influenced buyers journey, the key to successfully engaging customers on their buyer’s journey is constant engagement. Digital sales transformation is being rolled out in sales training to teach salespeople how to skilfully engage with prospects throughout each stage of their journey. The goal is not just selling but to build trust and rapport between the business and the prospect. Research shows that the biggest differentiator in selling success may just be getting the prospect trust. So, if you can build credibility, usefulness and trust above your competitors in the chase to win business, it will give you the advantage when converting a prospect into a customer.

Stages in the Buyers Journey

b2b-buyers-journey

B2B Buyers journey

The buyers journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realises they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.

Awareness.

In the Awareness stage, a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So, does your sales training cover off:

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritised?

Consideration 

Next is the Consideration stage, here the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self-educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Again, sales training needs to address:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Decision.

The third stage is Decision. The buyer has arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions the sales training material should cover:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When the buyers comes to researching you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

Some sales training tips 

It is important to break down each step in your sales process and then match your sales training to the buyer’s journey. Each sales training session should focus on a step in the sales process including what sales assets, content and information to use. For a salesperson, learning the next step in the sales process should be a reward for mastering the previous one.

The buyer to supplier relationship along with how buyers engage with salespeople is changing rapidly. Your sales strategy , sales process and  sales training will have to become more dynamic, multi-channel and digitally driven, just like our customers.

Sales Strategy Presentation

Information on pulling together a sales strategy presentation, a template for what to include when developing your sales strategy plan with presentation guides and insights. An effective sales strategy presentation needs to consider what are your products and where or who is your market. It also plots out how the sales effort will be directed to ensure it captures profitable growth selling to customers. A sales strategy presentation should outline market and customer coverage with detailed plans that give the best possible opportunity for the business to win more customers. In more detail, a sales strategy defines the customer segments it wants to target and the business value propositions for each segment. Then it spells out how the sales force will be structured along with a documented selling processes.

sales-strategy-presentation

So a sales strategy is a business decision on 

  1. Who are you going to sell to.
  2. What are you going to sell them.
  3. How are you going to sell to them.
  4. What is your core sales and marketing messaging.
  5. What are your sales priorities.
  6. A clear set of goals that everyone will work toward.

Effective Sales Strategies are 100 percent aligned with the overall business strategy. They outline the ideal target clients, what is your value proposition, what are your success metrics, goals, roles, processes and specific actions required to meet targets. The sales strategy presentation must be based on the business and marketing plans so they all ties in together. It needs to outline in as much detail as possible – how will the sales and marketing team will deliver on objectives and the plan to target market segments. It covers how the sales team will they support marketing activities, such as inbound leads or promotional events.

Identify the Key Aims of the Sales Strategy.

The questions it should resolve and bring clarity to include, Is it to sell more to the same customer base? or Is it about market penetration or market development?. Also which target markets you are aiming for and the time, money and resources needed. These questions should be answered by researching when, where, how and why the existing customer base buys.

Set A Clear Market Strategy.

The sales strategy presentation needs to detail out questions in the plan such as;

Grow existing accounts?
Revenue with existing products?
Revenue from new products?
New revenue with existing products?
Up and cross-selling?
Retention plan?
Acquisition plan?
Customer mix?
Product mix?
Seasonal sales cycles?

Business growth depends on acquiring new, profitable business with different customers. Plan how you will approach every new customer. Maybe to win the business of a key customer, you may offer acquisition pricing, creating a loss-leader or maybe giving the product on a trial basis. Make sure you have a plan to move prices and margins back up to a profitable level, or else live with reduced margins from these customers.

Reaching the Customer and Target Market.

  1. Which sales channels will be most effective in selling to which customers.
  2. Do you sell direct or through channels?
  3. Map out the costs of each channel against the benefits it would bring.
  4. Implement a well-functioning funnel and opportunity planning process.

Sales Plans, Forecasting and the Annual Sales Budget.

The sales strategy presentation should include a detailed breakdown of the sales to be achieved each month, by customer and by product. The sales forecasts should be based on previous sales levels, or if a new business then the sales targets should be based on the business plan. It also takes into account information about customers’ buying habits, the sales cycle and other factors such as pricing and marketing activities.

Selling Resources Required to Meet the Plan.

The sales strategy is not just about sales, it also covers what resources are required to meet the plan. So it should document topics including – What is the Training plan. The plan to improve the customer experience. What (if any) specialist support is needed. What resources will be needed to make the sales force more productive.  What will the cost be of providing admin support so sales people spend more time on selling. Then it needs to call out all the marketing and sales assets in play and what needs to be created prior to launch the sales strategy.

Sales Strategy Presentation – Measuring Sales Performance.

Finally, the sales strategy presentation will give insight into how the sales performance will be measured against the plan. Areas to be included are;

Sales forecasting accuracy.
Cost of sale analysis.
Time and money spent on different customers.
Analysis of customer segments.
Insights into the win/loss ratio.
Salesperson productivity.
Channel productivity.
Lead to conversion ratio.
Cost per customer sale.
The return on sales costs.

In the business of selling, there are many of the factors that determine success which are outside of your control. So all the more reason you need to define your goals and tactics for meeting (and exceeding) your sales target. Writing a sales strategy presentation will help you take a more control in the fast paced world of sales.

Remember, the success of the sales strategy is the engine for the success for the whole company. It may sound simplistic but without acquiring and developing profitable customers, a business will eventually fail. Regardless of the size of a business, it’s critical to ensure your sales strategy presentation is clear, purposeful, with clear goals on what you want to achieve, and how you will serve your customers.  Learn more about Sales and Social Selling Training Strategy

This article was republished with permission of The Digital Sales Institute. Original article here:  https://www.thedigitalsalesinstitute.com/sales-strategy-presentation/

 

Why Social Selling Training Pays

Whether you like it or not, when buyers are so influenced by social media, social selling training should be part of any sales development plan.

Progressive companies now ensure that social selling is now an integral part of their sales process, tapping into the sales intelligence that the social networks provide to both buyer and seller. Never since John H Patterson created his sales training methodology for NCR, have sales people needed to adjust their sales skills, due to the fact that the more traditional forms of selling such as cold calling have diminishing results. Training to release the power of social selling can have to engage buyers is now a core activity, not a gap filler.

social-selling

Selling and buying has changed. The profile of a typical business buyer along with their needs, values and how they purchase goods and services has altered completely from 10, even 5 years ago. A business should use social selling as a genuine touch point to share insights, research, information and content before engaging in any sales conversations. Social selling is a learned skill (how long does it take to master other sales tactics – months, even years?), it is not a fall back method for sales people to spam sales messages on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn groups. Nor is it a means to plaster vanilla flavored sales messages across groups and connections.  The tactic of connecting and building a network of connections just to send sales messages is NOT social selling.

The biggest tip I can convey is that for social selling to work you need to build value over time with your social network by sharing relevant, quality content that people find useful and helpful. So, in time when a sales person reaches out with a personalized social touch point to a prospect to engage in a sales discussion, the chances of progressing a relationship will be greatly enhanced.

Part of the training should be about learning the social selling habit loop, a daily routine to connect with your social network community with news, articles, research, videos and snippets of information. They also need to learn, Givers Gain, starting with ways to connect your network together (as this provides value) and offering to help others connect. A good example of this is that a sales person sees a message posted on LinkedIn that says, “Where could I find some inspiration for a key note speech I have to deliver?”  Instead of posting of reply such as, I would be interested in this myself or have you tried PowerPoint? (True reply!).  Now, the sales person finds someone in their social network that is a presentation expert and offers to put the person in touch with them. Nothing in it for the sales person, other than to build their credibility as someone who is a conduit, a connector who brings value by taking the time to listen and connect their social network. To quote “Covey”, these are  a lodgements that pay off in the longer term.

social-selling-information

Never forget that selling at its most basic is simply the act of communicating and gaining commitments. Now, more than ever, to be successful in sales, we need to understand that (a) selling is all about building relationships and (b) providing value. With a well-planned out social selling program, a business will gradually drive more sales then cold calling or cold email will ever achieve.

Always remember that all selling is inherently social, so social selling is really nothing new, but rather a new communication channel. So, look at social selling as an additive process, a sales tactic to help you sell more effectively that will evolve over time.

A process worth following is to separate ‘social selling’ into two main areas:

(1) Direct Social Selling and (2) Indirect Social Selling.

The direct side of social selling is utilising the various social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram to look for conversations where one would share content/articles. A pathway to connect with people a business wants to target or nurture a relationship with. Taking the example of a CIO who tweets about their focus on reducing IT costs in the coming year. The sales person in return now shares some articles or research on reducing IT. As the interaction builds (assuming the sales persons product or service can help with reducing IT costs), they can at an appropriate time, reach out with their first social touch point – by sending a highly personalized connection request. After a series of planned touch points, the sales person can now reach out to explain the value they might be able to bring to the buyer’s goals. Please note: this is a shortened version of the process but the point is to look for information about what prospects or companies are doing or saying so person or business can be highly relevant to them when they reach out via the social channels.

The indirect side of social selling has to do with a sales person building their own personal brand so over time their social audience (connections and weak ties) eventually value their insights, comes to view them as a valuable industry expert, not just another weak sales person. However, it’s important to note that this does take time and does not provide some instant results that some sales leaders think should happen these days. The reality is social selling is all about adding value to a target market, share not sell, help not hinder, be useful not useless.

We write these articles on sales to try to add some value by not just talking about the theory of selling or business but actually giving you some useful tips on sales, marketing and business (hopefully). On our social channels, we share suggestions on what to do and how to do it. We also regularly post or re-tweet articles from other sources not just about sales but about business topics that we think are important to sales people and business leaders.

We practise what we preach, on a daily basis we review discussions in our groups in LinkedIn or Facebook, we strive to provide honest answers to questions people ask without promoting our business or telling them how wonderful we are.

To finish up, please take the time to think through the goals, expectations and vision for any social selling program you plan to put in place. Apart from training, spend time looking for articles, news and research you can use to connect with people without interrupting them while at the same time position yourself as a thought leader by sharing quality information that is relevant. This will help you or any sales person in the digitally influenced buying/selling process, regardless of what you sell.

The Buyers Journey

the-buyers-whys

Increasingly the buyers journey is now done online. Even B2B customers have adopted consumer-like behavior. They now conduct product research online and often make purchasing decisions without a sales rep’s involvement. Those B2B customers who engage with sales agents are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. This fundamentally changes the type and tenor of the interactions that sellers use to engage with customers.

The most often used description of The buyer’s journey is, ” the process a buyer will go through to become aware of, consider and decide to purchase a new product or service. This journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution. 

 

buyer-journey-quote

 

 

During the Awareness stage,  a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So ask yourself?

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the impact of non action by the buyer?

In your (the sales person or marketing) business, what are the common misconceptions a buyer could have in relation to addressing the issue or challenge?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritized?

 

At the Consideration stage, the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Ask yourself:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Lastly, at the Decision stage, the buyer have arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions you should ask yourself to define this stage are:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When buyers comes to investigating you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

The answers to these questions will provide a robust foundation for your own buyer’s journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nurture Your Potential Customers and Make Your Sales Skyrocket

Nurture Your Potential Customers and Make Your Sales Skyrocket

In order to effectively market to your target audience, you need a comprehensive strategy that allows you to nurture your potential leads. As technology changes, so does the way in which marketers can nurture those leads. In order to make your sales skyrocket, you have to open up multiple channels of communication with your customers and learn how to engage with your audience through communication mediums that they are most comfortable with. Measuring your audience engagement and creating content that speaks to your audience is an important part of great marketing.

Take a Hard Look at Your Online Resources

When you are focused on nurturing leads, you have to take a look at all of your online resources. This means you have to ensure that content on your website is valuable to your visitors, investigate your email campaigns, and look at how your social media pages are engaging your customers. To update your marketing efforts, you’ll need to update your website, freshen up your blog, and polish your social media profiles. How you engage with customers online has a direct impact on your sales. Build your online presence and use this presence as the foundation on which to grow your customer interactions.

Go Deep With Your Customer Engagement

Find ways to communicate with your leads. Setting up an SMS messaging service, answering all comments on social media platforms, and building an email database of customers is a great way to begin. Then, you must provide content your customers want to read, offer deals that set your products apart from your competitors, and constantly look for new ways to communicate with your customers. Answer questions fast, and give your potential leads a reason to choose your business instead of a different one.

lead-nurturing

Learn How to Score Your Leads

Scoring your leads is an important part of understanding how well you are interacting with your target audience, but it takes time to create a proper lead scoring system. When you are collecting data for your business and assigning points based on engagement, you will get a better idea as to who is engaging with your brand and how many of those leads are converting. You will need to collect data on emails, phone numbers, budgets, time frames, and more. Profiling those that are interacting with your brand is going to make it easier to develop your customer personas.

Make Opportunities out of Your Prospects

There are a number of reasons your potential customers have yet to make a purchase. Whether they don’t have enough time, there are budget constraints, or they haven’t prioritized the purchase, tailor your messaging to convert your opportunities with careful tracking. Study the behaviors of your customers and prospects to find out what kind of information you should be sending them. Share relevant information with your prospects and know what information they are looking for to create the ultimate engagement.

Develop Buyer Personas

To best serve your customers, you have to understand who they are. You’ll want to develop buyer personas so that you can create your content marketing to engage that would resonate with these types of people. Build your personas based on your current customers and their likes, needs, and behaviors. The more you learn about your specific customers, the better your content can address their unique business needs. Identify your customer base and learn how to engage those that are already following you.

When you want to nurture leads, open up channels of communication. Update your website and social media profiles, and know who you are marketing to by identifying your target demographic.

lead-generation-process

Guest Author Biography:

Ken Rhie

Ken Rhie is the CEO of Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases. Mr. Rhie holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and brings 30 years of software, internet, and mobile communications background.

 

The Key Elements of Digital Sales Transformation

Digital transformation and digital sales transformation is much spoke about business strategy terms (there is even Kudos within management circles for mentioning them). But what is it and what can it do for a business is less understood. How can a business benefit from digital sales transformation strategy is a question being asked in many companies?

I think we all have to acknowledge that the sales profession is going through a major transformation. Social media, mobile, and digital information means buyers are better informed and rely less on sales people in the purchasing journey. And that same purchase process has become longer and even more complex within the consultative type selling models.

digital-sales-transformation

Digital Sales Transformation could be defined as “How sales capabilities and competences need to be developed to address the “Connected Buyer”, meeting changes in the industry facilitated by digital tools”. In a nutshell, transforming sales performance will involve a combination of better training for the new age sales person, better use of technology/data, and better customer content to drive conversations.

It is not just another business buzzword to be bandied about at management meetings. The buyers journey is changing fast (wait till Millennials make up the majority of buyers!!) so it’s important to focus on real business and customer challenges and changes now.  Now it the time to have a clear approach, prioritise action and involve the entire marketing and sales force in any digital transformation process. Where to focus in terms of market arenas (capture more business in the short term), what is the right offering (product to market fit) and value proposition for these markets, and how to manage customer relationships and sales to win in the digitally influenced market, are some of the questions to be answered.

The digital tools I mentioned above as part of the definition of sales transformation are invading the business ecosystem, bringing with them major changes in the way we work, communicate, and sell but most importantly the change in how customers buy. As with most things in like, this has brought both opportunities and challenges, and has triggered the Digital Transformation within companies for all aspects of customer touch points.

Sales enablement needs to focus on “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training.

The starting point is focused on improving the business awareness of the sales teams because the old sales methodology of selling product features to increasingly more sophisticated buyers will not cut the mustard.  Sales professionals must be able to map the buyer’s journey, understand “Ideal Customer Profiles”, deliver compelling insights (using a variety of content) to differentiate themselves (Why me!!)  And communicate this value to close more business without being dragged into the pricing discount race. So sales enablement leaders are looking to “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training using social networks to help the sales force communicate and influence buyer perceptions of value.

The development of these new sales or marketing competencies revolves around the capacities for sales people to be more agile, buyer-centred, innovative, connected, aligned and effective with present and future changes in mind. The digital sales transformation will have many connected goals, but in the end striving towards optimisation across sales processes, support divisions and the business ecosystem of the always-connected customer where building the right bridges with the right people at the right time during the buyers journey is the key to success.

A reminder of the buyer’s journey: Today’s buyers, from consumers looking for a new car to company buying committees purchasing software, can easily research and compare products thanks to the visibility offered up from a host of social networks.

digital-selling-impact

The positive news is that with re-tuning for this digital era, sales teams have significant capabilities to impact the buyer’s journey to become a valuable influencer, aided by big data, digital selling tools, and organisational changes to the buyers’ growing level of self education.

The major themes of Digital Sales Transformation:

  • Find growth in arenas before your competitors arrive
  • Sell the way customers want to buy
  • Optimise sales operations and digital tools
  • Sales and marketing as a unified team who challenge the status quo and manage revenue performance
  • Empowering sales enablement to make change happen

Look Ahead

The whole purpose of sales transformation is to drive profitable growth within companies. It is about using insights, social signals and data to anticipate buyer interests and map out where untapped potential lies. They focus on being useful and valuable to buyers in order to lock in new customers first (and out manoeuvre their competitors).

Find growth in Social Data

The use of social data as part of the sales engagement plan can open up amazing sales opportunities. Companies from all sectors, B2C and B2B can build insights from a wide array of internal and external sources and create tailored selling propositions based on prospect personalisation. However to maximise the benefits of social data, social selling needs to be at the very heart of the sales culture.

Selling that matches the Buyer’s Journey

Generation connected customers have discarded their participation in traditional sales models. They want self-determined, more seamless, and rewarding buying experiences; they want more of the right information at the right time, more value from sales interactions and they want on channels of their choosing. For sales leaders, getting their heads around this is hard enough but transforming sales models in mature or emerging markets is a major challenge. But leading sales organisations are finding ways to improve digital channels, the availability of content plus maximising direct and indirect channels. Using social data and social selling they are cracking the code of how to integrate them all. No company can win today using old sales methodologies, so the smart ones are using transformation to manage a multi-channel approach to ensure consistency, maintaining close contact with customers and raising the sales bar. The best sales leaders are transforming inside sales and field sales, integrating online with inbound with social selling, orchestrating direct and indirect sales and marketing teams and using data to drive activity.

The best test and tweak constantly to bring value to the buyer’s journey and turn conversations into sales conversions. They embrace social networks, mobile and understand the benefits of building deeper customer relationships across all platforms with quality content. Finally, they recognise that digital is an additive process, so they work hard at seamless integration with every other sales channel to win.

Mapping the Customer Decision Journey

“12% of all B2B sales in the US will take place online by 2020 – Forrester”

 digital-transformation

75% of purchases now start with an online search by the buyer. 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).  More than half the sales process has disappeared. B2B buyers are 57% of the way through their purchasing decision before they ever engage a sales person. In fact, a B2B customer will regularly use different interaction channels throughout the purchase process. The mapping of Ideal Customer Profiles and the Customer Decision Journey  around which marketing and sales collaborate has become standard practise in many progressive sales organisations. They also know that this journey is different by customer segment/profile, with varying needs and expectations at each point in the journey.

It is about ensuring the sales teams reaches the right people at the right time with the right offer.

Innovate Inside Sales

Cold calling is dying fast and some companies are still flogging dead horses. Sales transformation success can pivot on changing the inside sales approach. The leaders of the successful inside sales forces have recognised this. They use social selling to nurture customers early, long before any sales pitch. They seek to bring value and be a trusted source of information to unlock growth in key accounts which is the prerequisite for the consultative sale. Regardless of size or industry, there are always new ways for business development people to engage new customers.

 Blend your Sales and Marketing Engine

In transforming the sales engine, business leaders must ensure that marketing and sales teams work together to extract the full value of every piece of data or customer touch point. Despite their co-dependency, it can seem like marketing and sales are marching to a different tune. Successful sales leaders work with marketing (and vice-versa), benefiting from the market insight skills it brings and feeding these insights to the sales engine to maximise every campaign or lead. Research has shown that when the two teams collaborate to drive sales and revenue, companies enjoy higher sales growth.

Use Technology as an Advantage in Sales

The use of digital sales tools must evolve to keep pace with customer preferences.  Part of the role of sales enablement is to ensure the investment enables success instead being viewed as another big brother information tool. Appoint an owner whose focus is on acquiring and implementing the right tools to deliver the returns on productivity or performance the business expects.

Sales Transformation is about having the right Talent to Execute

Think “New Age Sellers”. Sales leaders can have all the social data, all the social selling training or all the digital tools available, but without having the talent who embrace this new progression, they will achieve little. Hard questions like do we have the right talent for our future sales plans or how many of our existing sales force can make the transformation we require have to be asked and answered.

 Make Digital Selling Part of your Sales DNA

Sales transformation is not about achieving some short term wins but embedding it in to the genes of the organisation for the long term. The companies who will win out in selling to the always connected buyer will create a culture that embraces social channels. They will prioritise sales training and throw the spotlight onto people who are playing a starring role as agents of change, and they focus on social collaboration between sales, marketing and support that goes way beyond the individuals skills to create sales capabilities embedded into the DNA of the entire organisation

Growth will be driven from the Top

Every sales leader has to step forward and be at the forefront of change. Because without strong leadership any transformation initiative will hit the rocks sooner than you think! Strong leaders will be given the platform to challenge the status quo or “the way it’s always been done “thinking. They will galvanise their team, they plan and map change while demanding results from the sales force who has been equipped to win. Senior sponsorship and stakeholder alignment is critical as well as a clear vision of where to prioritise the transformation effort.

A final thought

Undertaking sales transformation may sound brave but the insights to future buyer preferences remove it as optional. The rise of social channels and data brings enormous opportunities for value creation and sales growth, but there are many challenges along the way. Any companies planning to be in business five years from now should already be preparing for a major overhaul of how they sell, no business and no industry is immune.

 

 

7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

content-marketing-sales

So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

quality-content-marketing

How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

content-writing

The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

writing-fun

  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

grow-business-using-social-media

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

promoting-business-on-social-media

Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.