When discussing digital transformation, it’s impossible not to discuss social selling and its impact on the sales cycle. Marketing and sales automation tools have made it possible to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of potential buyers instantly. This however has caused a decline in the effectiveness of email and cold calling techniques. As a result, now more than ever, personalized outreaches and pitches have become imperative for a successful sale. In fact, sales reps who utilize social selling are 23 percent more likely to hit their targets than those who do not.
Despite these statistics, formal training programs on social selling are hard to come across… until now! Social selling expert, Neal Schaffer, has teamed up with Rutgers Business School Executive Education to create an eight week executive course dedicated to training organizations and professionals how to maximize social selling efforts and calculate ROI of those programs. Schaffer is one of the World’s best social media strategists. He has written about (Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing) and is an experienced corporate trainer on social selling and is also considered a leading Social Selling Influencer by Forbes.
We sat down for an exclusive interview with Schaffer to hear more about the curriculum and how he is tailoring the class to professionals. Keep reading to learn about the course in his own words.
Q: What prompted you to partner with Rutgers Business School Executive Education to create this training program?
I’ve been partnering with Rutgers Business School Executive Education as part of their social media marketing mini-MBA program for about four years. They reached out to me and asked, “What programs do you think we’re missing?” Rutgers is really good about having executive education around digital and social media marketing. I said the one thing missing was social selling. A lot people within companies that reach out to me for social selling training are VPs of marketing and CMOs. We’re seeing greater and greater alignment between sales and marketing so getting into sales with this alignment going on everyday is just a natural extension of marketing and therefore that is the impetus of them creating this program that I am the faculty lead for.
Q: There’s lots of talk on social selling but it seems many companies don’t view it as being crucial for success or don’t want to allocate resources towards it. What is the importance of social selling in today’s world?
You’re correct, a lot of companies still don’t see the value. A lot of people think, “I don’t want my sales people wasting time on social media. They should be focused on hitting their quota.” Others may think, “I don’t want my sales people on social media. They will get poached by other competitors.” The reality is that buying has changed. The digital buyer today is connected, is mobile, and has access to an incredible amount of information that cannot be ignored. It’s said that 57% of the decision making process (in terms of buying from a vendor) has already been decided before they even reach out to you.
So in some ways, in a good way, the sale cycles are getting shorter. On the other hand, some companies aren’t getting contacted because they aren’t found online or what is said about them online is not what the buyer is looking for. So social selling is critical to meet the buyer where they are as they are spending more and more time on the Internet and in social media. The salespeople become a social seller. They can engage with buyers in social media that will help buyer decisions. They can generate relationships that can extend their in-person relationships and keep mindshare on a day to day basis, not just on how often they meet or call their customer. So it really is a no brainer for B2B sales to have an investment in social selling. It’s still a surprise that companies don’t realize that but just like any other new technology it requires time, it requires resources, and it requires a mindset which comes with an understanding and an experience which sometimes senior level execs just do not have for whatever reason.
Q: Many c-suite enterprise executives are of the baby boomer generation that didn’t grow up with social media and often don’t utilize it. How can organizations get this generation to buy into the importance of social selling?
When I work with companies on training, I like to create an internal advocate. An internal sales person that has already been successful using some of the techniques I teach that can carry on the training going forward. It’s almost like a mini center of excellence around these people that have already had successes on social media. At the end of the day c-suite execs of the baby boomer generation want to feel secure in their job. They know deep down this is something they need to understand. If their compensation is based around their sales and meeting targets and it can be proven that people internally are using social media in a savvy way and they have data to support it is actually aided to their sales then it becomes a no brainer that these people would want to utilize social selling.
The problem is that a lot companies don’t see the ROI of it because it hasn’t been illustrated. The success stories haven’t been brought out internally. No one has been able to paint that picture internally or show the data that supports the ROI of social selling. So that’s the other issue in proving it to these c-suite executives. Once they see the light they do become invested in it. Those who have the most experience professionally will definitely find it easiest to understand and become an active social seller. You don’t have to be a millennial in your twenties to get it.
Q: What’s the threat to organizations who don’t engage in social selling?
Fewer and fewer companies reach out to them and their competitors have a competitive advantage. They are using communication channels that their new customer is, the new digital buyer is, and they’re meeting them in the platforms where they are active. Those who don’t engage in social selling become lost, they don’t get found from a digital buyer prospective.
Q: There seems to be a stigma that social selling is a B2C playground as opposed to a B2B. What are your thoughts?
The term social selling has a lot of different definitions to a lot of different people. I define social selling as not merely using social media to sell (in which case you could argue its B2C). It’s really about how do we augment the sales process with social media. What elements of social media can we add to the sales process to make our efforts more effective? To generate more leads, to shorten the sales cycle, to close more leads, and to generate more revenue. If you think about it that way social selling is critical for B2B sales.
If you are selling to high value individuals (selling real estate, financial services, etc.), the same techniques can be used. The distinguishing fact in B2B is that you’re selling to a large organization and social media helps you map out those organizations. It also gives you advice on how to engage with who and allows you to engage with a broad number of people. What distinguishes B2B and B2C sales is often the one to many approach versus a one to one approach. B2C does not need that one to many approach, so I would argue that social selling is more appropriate for B2B for that reason.
Q: What’s the most common mistakes sales managers/organizations are making when it comes to training their reps in social selling?
A lot of sales managers think that social selling is just getting trained on how to use LinkedIn. It’s a lot more than that. Don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn is an important aspect of that but it’s not just about the tactics. It’s also about the personal branding and the branding of the sales people in social media. It might be about thought leadership, curating content to share, or becoming an active publisher of content. It could also be engaging with other peoples’ content. It’s by no means limited to LinkedIn.
Social media users are everywhere; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Those are the mistakes that a lot of organizations don’t get. They also don’t train their sales reps on how to be a better partner or advocate of marketing. This is something that I teach in this social selling program with Rutgers Business School Executive Education because it’s critical that sales and marketing learn how to work better together. If sales can be extremely supportive of marketing, and marketing supportive of social selling, it’s going to help accelerate that alignment and it’s going to have significant benefits for sales people from a social selling perspective as well as help marketing reach their objectives. This goes way beyond LinkedIn training that a lot of sales managers are limiting their reps to.
Q: Selling is often a numbers game. For reps who are focused on hitting a certain number of calls and/or emails, how can managers encourage them to spend time on social media platforms?
Yes, sales is a numbers game (number of calls, number of emails) and this is a challenge of where do you fit social media in if you’re only looking at that? From a sales prospective, before they do calls or emails, it’s always good to check the social media profiles of the people they want to engage in. It’s a proven ROI that you have more data, more business intelligence, that is going to help you when you reach out to people. Above that, it comes down to sales people buying into realizing it will be a long term investment. It could be something they do after work on their own time. It could be that VPs of sales take a leap of faith and say we are going to reduce the number of calls because we are going for higher quality and maybe you need someone to prequalify those better. That’s why a lot of companies may have a dedicated inside sales rep who just focuses on social media on behalf of the group.
There’s many ways to tackle this but any manager who looks at number of calls equals number of deals obviously is missing out on the digital reality of today. Cold calls are not nearly effective as they used to be, and in fact some organizations don’t want cold calls but want every call to be a warm call. So sales is a numbers game but how you divide up those numbers and the quality of those numbers is still largely in debate.
Q: How many modules are included in your program?
The program includes five modules, with each module being taught by an expert instructor and is a few hours in length. I architected the general modules and the general content but each of our expert instructors filled in the blanks with their own perspectives and own experience – both corporate sales before social media as well as social selling after social media. We began by getting salespeople with the mindset that the way we communicate has changed, the buyers’ journey has changed, and we need to change with it. Once we do there is tremendous advantages and tremendous benefits to salespeople using social media. That is the gist of the first module in both propagating what some might call a digital native mindset as well as getting buy-in for social selling.
The second module is dedicated to personal branding for sales people to understand how to brand themselves so that it is going to attract the right type of lead, the right type of potential customer to seek them out. This also helps for when they reach out to people, their brand is best represented and chances increase that people actually respond.
The third module is really the tactical, the ninja tips and techniques, of social selling. The majority on LinkedIn, including LinkedIn Sales Navigator but other social networks are covered throughout the modules.
The fourth module is the one I personally teach on sales and marketing alignment. Everything is based around becoming a better advocate for marketing and each salesperson’s knowledge of marketing will actually help them with their of social selling.
The fifth module is on social media ROI. It is really on how to sell social selling internally and how to measure the ROI of your efforts.
There is a LOT more that is taught in the program, but hopefully this serves as a good introduction.
Q: Do your modules provide training on specific social selling tools like Buffer, HootSuite, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Engagio, etc?
We definitely go into some of the tools but I feel that a lot of people look for the solution in tools and tools are not the solution. You need to understand the concepts and principles and then it really doesn’t matter what tool you use. Definitely some of the tools are covered; LinkedIn Sales Navigator, HootSuite, Buffer, and some others that are included as well. In fact, I don’t even consider these social selling tools, many of them are just social media dashboards.
Q: What type of roles within an organization should be involved in social selling; SDR, AE, Managers, VPs?
Any outward facing sales person should be involved. Anyone who is in contact with the customer, plain and simple as that.
Every manager or executive that is in the sales organization should also be involved in managing both social selling training as well as potential internal roadblocks to its success.
Marketing should also be involved as their support is critical for the success of a social selling program.
Finally, the executive team should also be involved as a social selling program is a potential cultural-changing program which will foster more internal collaboration as well as yield an army of employee advocates representing your brand.
Q: Where can professionals get more information on your social selling program?
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