Social selling is the highest converting channel for sales in a digital world. It provides us with so many opportunities to get leads, but how do you choose the right one for your business? Minder helps us figure it out.
Mindi Rosser is the Social Media Business Strategist and Programs Manager at The Conversion Company, an online marketing firm helping B2B companies and executives use social media to drive dramatic business results. As a digital native, she has spent nearly a decade working with B2B and B2C companies on developing and implementing strategic marketing programs. Connect with Mindi on LinkedIn or tweet her (@mindirrosser) to chat about all things B2B marketing, social selling, employee advocacy and social media. You can also follow her blog at mindirosser.com.
Magda: Hello Mindi, how are you?
Mindi: I am well, thank you.
Magda: Great to hear. Today’s topic is social selling, and my first question is: what does social selling mean to you?
Mindi: I guess social selling means to me, that people are having relationships. So, I feel like with salespeople and consumers, a lot of times, there is no relationship-building. Social selling to me is building relationships between the salesperson and the consumer or the business that you are trying to build a relationship with. And it’s also sharing content, and I think a lot of people forget that aspect. It’s sharing good content at the right time with the right tone of voice.
Magda: OK, got it. So, what do you consider to be the most important thing from the aspect of social selling.
Mindi: I think it comes down to the relationship building. I think so many of us forget that behind all of these avatars are real people, and we get so absorbed with our messaging and trying to solve people’s problems, that we forget that these are people we’re talking to. So I feel like so much of social selling these days is very, very spammy and a little too automated, and I think if we come back to what we’re trying to do, which is build relationships with real people, that that’s the heart and the soul of social selling and that’s what actually makes it work.
Magda: So being human is crucial, right?
Mindi: Yes, exactly.
Magda: Ok, I got it. And what, in your opinion, what is the biggest challenge here?
Mindi: I think the biggest challenge is that we are told to do so many different things when it comes to social selling. There’s so much noise out there and I think trying to cut through the noise is one of the biggest challenges we have. And if we’re trying to scale social selling – if it is a big company and there are a lot of people to reach, it can be very challenging to touch bases with all of these people and all of these relationships, especially if you have a very large account with multiple stakeholders. So, I think a lot of social sellers really struggle to be genuine and authentic. Sometimes we have to resort to shortcuts and a little bit of automation to help us stay on the path of moving this person through the buyer’s journey. So, I feel like that’s one of the biggest challenges and I think there are some workarounds and I think there are some smart automation tools that can help us, but I think it also comes down to, we just have to be authentic. We have to be ourselves. We have to have empathy. We have to think about how we are helping these people, whether they actually become customers – paying customers, or whether they’re just fans and maybe they even choose a competitor, but I think it just comes back to being authentic.
Magda: Ok, I got it. And can you recommend, maybe, some tools that you use for automation?
Mindi: Sure, one of my favorite tools I like to use is called Nimble… Nimble CRM. I feel like that’s one of my favorites. I’ve been using it for a couple years now, and they’ve made some improvements to the platform. You can set reminders to remind you what to do when you’re touching bases with your prospects or your customers. And it’s an easy tool to use and a lot of small and medium-sized businesses like to use that tool. I think that for the larger companies, Salesforce, is probably the gold standard for CRM. I’ve also been experimenting lately with a tool called BuzzStream, and that one is really good if you’re trying to build relationships with Influencers or you’re doing a lot of PR and using social selling in that way.
Magda: I totally agree if it comes to Nimble; I’m a big fan of this tool, too. I’m happy that you mentioned Nimble. I use it; I’m a hard user of Nimble, so I agree 100% with you. Talking about differences, maybe… what do you think are the main differences between B2B and B2C social selling?
Mindi: I think with B2B, especially in the realm that I work in, it’s much more of a complex sale, so the sales process is a lot longer and there are more stakeholders. So, you have to touch bases with many, many more people than you do in a business-to-consumer social selling setting, where you are just talking directly with the consumer, so it’s a simpler process. And I feel like with B2B, you have to also have a bigger strategy. You have to take time in setting that strategy with your team to make sure you are reaching the buyers at the right time in the right part of the cycle and sharing the right content with them. I think with B2C, you can be a little more off the cuff, in my opinion. So, it feels a little more natural to us to do the business-to-consumer social selling because we can just interact as people to people. So, it does seem a little simpler on that front.
Magda: OK, I got it. And again, I must agree that it lets us cut the distance between people. And we both know that social selling is a pretty new trend. Sales people keep trying to learn what they’re doing wrong and doing well – what are the biggest mistakes made by them?
Mindi: I think, one of the biggest mistakes is that salespeople try to treat social media like a cold call, and they feel like they’re picking up the phone or they’re hopping onto Twitter or to LinkedIn and just trying to pitch this person, these prospects, or these potential buyers. They forget that social media is a different medium. Social media definitely takes more time than a cold call. You have to spend time developing relationships. You have to build your own brand so people can see you as a thought leader and even if you aren’t the biggest subject matter expert in an area, you still need to be sharing content on a regular basis and sharing other people’s content so your buyers see that you’re a good source of information. So, I think a lot of salespeople are very excited about social selling, which I think is great. I’m happy that they’re latching onto it and trying to use the tools. I think they just need a bit more education on how to use the tools. I think that’s where marketing comes in because marketers are a little bit more in tune with the buyer personas and putting people through the buyer’s journey. I feel like marketers and salespeople, if they started to work together a bit more on social selling, that the efforts would be magnified. So, I think a sales and marketing alignment is also a big factor there.
Magda: OK, I think that’s really good advice on learning how to deal with social media. How can you present yourself on social media, in order to do social selling, talking about and speaking about social media? How do you leverage your social media presence as a salesperson?
Mindi: Good question. I think when you’re trying to present yourself on social media, you don’t want to come across as too sales-y, even if you are a salesperson. People expect to hear sales advice and sales tips and they expect you to be a little more pushier than a marketing person, but they don’t want to be sold to. If you’re automating too many things, if you’re using auto responders for your Twitter, if you’re sending templated/spammy messages through LinkedIn, those are all ways that you don’t want to present yourself on social media, because people will blackball you and they won’t listen to your messages. They’ll just tune you out, thinking that you’re not being authentic. So I think it’s really important to be authentic. I think it’s also important that salespeople are excited about their company and their products and their brand, and prospects and potential customers like to see that. So, sharing company news is really, really good. Sharing thought leadership content from your team and your company is also excellent, and engaging with people on social media when you see that they have questions about your products, being able to jump in without just pitching them. You don’t want to pitch them on your product as the solution. I think it’s trying to work through their issue and really understand what’s going through their head, because that’ll help make you a better salesperson as well. And I think social media people can also help with social selling and help educate salespeople on how to use social media in the best manner because they’re in tune with it every day. So, if you know somebody that is excellent at social media, then just talking with them about the pros and cons, best practices, social media etiquette, what to do on Twitter vs. what to do on LinkedIn; those are all really good things to do to help you present your best self on social media.
Magda: I’m happy that you mentioned being authentic, because I think it’s very important and from the other side, it’s very easy to verify if a company, individual, or just regular people, are being authentic, because nowadays we can verify everything as people post and show themselves in social media. So, yeah, I agree with that. Earlier, you mentioned automation, and I’m curious how this can influence social selling.
Mindi: I guess it could probably influence it in a couple different ways. I think for the negative, if we try to automate too many things and we try to use, like, an e-mail sequence, and send that through LinkedIn and just change the person’s name, that’s not going to be as authentic. So, I feel like that’s a trap that we can fall into because we have so many people that we need to reach with our message, and we don’t have, or we feel we don’t have the time to actually invest in finding what their interests are, and really doing a little bit of research. So, I feel like that could be a trap for automation- is just trying to do too much and not really focusing on developing authentic relationships. I think, on the flip side of that, automation can also really be helpful if you’re using a tool like we discussed, like Nimble, because it can remind you to touch bases with people. I really like Nimble because you can set those reminders and ‘oh, every 2 weeks I need to touch base with this person – maybe it’s talking to them on Twitter, maybe it’s sending them a LinkedIn message – maybe I came across an article or something that would be of interest to that person’, and that automation can help remind you to reach out to that person and be authentic. So, I think if you can tie automation with authenticity – you’re golden. And that’s really what makes social selling work.
Magda: So we should know how to mix them both, right?
Mindi: Yes, I think you need both of them.
Magda: So, speaking about authentic marketing, which I think is one of the hottest buzzwords now – how does it relate to social selling?
Mindi: Ah, good question. I think with authentic marketing, it’s coming back to ‘people like to buy from other people’. When we create content that is actually helpful and helps people make good decisions about their purchases or where they want to invest, how they want to invest, and which services they want to buy, I feel like providing that good content is great. It does feel authentic to our buyers and our prospects, and I think as it relates to social selling, I think just taking that authenticity and that empathy – I think empathy is another buzzword right now that goes hand in hand with authentic marketing – it’s trying to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, instead of just thinking about ‘ok, I’m trying to solve their problem’. It’s backing up a step and saying, ‘OK, how can I help be part of the solution? Even if they don’t choose my product, how can I help them come to a good decision? And how can I leave a good taste in their mouth?’ Everybody likes to feel that they haven’t been taken advantage of when they’re going through that purchasing process. It can feel very uncomfortable for some people, especially when there are so many choices and they’re trying to narrow them down. If you leave a good taste in their mouth, maybe they won’t buy from you this time, but they’re going to remember that, and they’re going to associate that good impression with your company. I think there’s something to be said for that.
Magda: I think it’s a trend that people talk with other people, and it’s not just companies talking with people. I mean, the client and the audience need to see a human face instead of just a company’s logo. That’s what I think.
Mindi: Agreed, agreed. And that’s something I noticed about your company with Brand24. When I jumped on the Twitter chat, it was just amazing, because I saw the people behind your brand, and that made me excited because I felt like I was connecting with each of you in a different way, and each of you had different insights and a different tone of voice, and so that just made me want to learn more about Brand24. So, I feel like your company’s a good example of that too. The authenticity comes through. The enthusiasm from the company comes through. So, congrats on that. Doing a great job!
Magda: Thank you, it’s really nice to hear that. I will pass along this information to my team.
Mindi: Oh good!
Magda: Let’s talk about personal branding for a while. What does personal branding have to do with social selling? I mean LinkedIn profiles, Twitter profiles, and actually, all the profiles that we have in social media.
Mindi: I think a lot of people don’t realize that personal branding is essential for them. I think they associate branding with marketing. And they say ‘oh, that’s just for the marketers on our team, that’s for the executives on our team’. Actually, personal branding should be applied to everybody, especially if you are customer facing, because you need to have a strong personal brand to represent your company and to represent yourself. I feel like that helps establish you in your prospects’ minds, in your buyers’ minds, as a very, very good source of information, as somebody who knows what they’re doing, as somebody who’s knowledgeable. And when they see that you’ve interacted with other people and provided solutions, that’s part of your personal brand too. So, when they go to Twitter and see that you’re having conversations with other people and genuinely trying to be helpful – of course there’s that part of you that’s trying to sell your product and that’s fine – but you balance that out with the authenticity and it comes through on your Twitter profile and in your Twitter conversations, and I feel like on LinkedIn, a lot of salespeople don’t spend enough time on their LinkedIn profiles. They treat it like a job resume, and like they’re trying to get another job: they’ll list all their accomplishments, their percentages, how many sales they made, and that’s really a bit of a turn-off to prospects and buyers that are coming to your LinkedIn profile because it makes you appear to be very aggressive and that you’re trying to close the deal too quickly. That’s good if you’re trying to get another job. But if you’re using your LinkedIn profile to interact with prospects and potential buyers, it’s better to be a little more helpful in your approach. So, also sharing some good content and using LinkedIn posts is a good way to show that you are in touch with the buyers, that you understand their problems, that you are really trying to be authentic in helping them find good solutions. And then, also working through your summary – the summary is one of the most important sections on your LinkedIn profile, and getting some outside feedback from either someone who writes LinkedIn profiles or maybe even the marketing team, if there’s somebody on your team who is very good and has a good personal brand on LinkedIn – maybe getting some feedback from them on what you could do to your LinkedIn profile to make it a little more appealing to buyers and prospects.
Magda: Sometimes I think that maybe companies don’t even look at the resumes that we send them, but instead they look at our LinkedIn profiles. Some of them at least, I suppose.
Mindi: Yes, I’ve noticed that quite a bit. The LinkedIn profile is the first place that they go to find you. If you’re using really good keywords in there that relate to your industry, that’s also important. That also helps prospects find you too, because a lot of them actually are starting their searches on LinkedIn or even on Google. I’ve had some people find me through searching on Google using a specific keyword that had to do with my day job and then finding my name on a pop-up because, actually, Google and LinkedIn work very well together when it comes to search. So, having those keywords in your profile will actually pop you to the top of search. So, that’s another little LinkedIn hack.
Magda: OK, great to hear. Somebody will probably use this. You know, content curation and content creation – which is more important for social sellers and why?
Mindi: I think there’s a lot of confusion around this topic because marketers are telling salespeople that they need to create, create, create content, and a lot of salespeople – that’s not their skillset. They really shouldn’t be spending all that time creating content themselves because that’s taking away from their sales time and the time that they could actually be doing social selling and reaching out to prospects, building these relationships, so I think that content curation – smart content curation – is one of the best ways that salespeople can use content and not spend so much time trying to create content that is going to resonate with buyers. And it also makes them appear to be a more trustworthy source when they’re sharing other people’s content, even if it’s content from the company, and a nice blend of industry news, and some third party content that may be of interest. It’s good to mix all of those types of content into what you’re sharing on social media and what you’re talking about on social media. So, you really don’t have to spend a lot of time creating your own content unless you want to, and I’ve come across some sales people that really like to write, which is great and they actually have some good opinions and some good things to share. I feel like, if that’s you, then you should create some content of your own. But also become a great content curator because that’s what’s going to help you establish trustworthiness in the minds of your prospects and your buyers.
Magda: So, I think that thinking and working smart can save a lot of our time. This will be my last question, which is sad, because I really like our conversation. I’d like to ask you, how long will it take for social selling to become a standard for companies, with social media presence?
Mindi: Oh, that’s a great question. I’m actually surprised that more companies are not using social selling or implementing structured, formal social selling programs. I’ve come across a few that have talked about what they’re doing in social selling, but it has definitely not become widespread yet. I think it’s probably going to take another year or 2 before it does become a standard, but I feel like people are starting to catch on. I’m seeing more content come out from thought leaders and other sales leaders where they are interested in social selling. So, I think it’s probably about a year or 2 away before it really becomes an industry standard, but I hope it’s sooner because there’s so much potential for social selling to scale what we’re doing with sales and also, just using another medium is important for companies to be present in social media and to have their people out there.
Magda: I hope so, too – that it will come sooner than later. Mindi, thank you very much for your time and for all your responses, which I loved, truly, because they were very, very useful. So, again, thank you for being my guest.
Mindi: Thank you for having me.
Magda: Thanks, bye.