[Episode Four of ‘The Employee Advocacy and Influence Podcast] 🎧👇
Empower your employees like NEVER before!
Organizations all over the world in every sector are driving strategic competitive advantage by scaling the impact of their employees’ voices… and now YOU can too! As we delve beyond the why and get straight to the how so that you can put employee-driven growth at the heart of your organization.
Hosted by employee advocacy practitioner and CEO of DSMN8, Bradley Keenan.
Today, we are going to be talking about a subject that is really close to my heart, and that is sales, specifically social selling.
An assumption people make about me is that I have an engineering background, and to be honest, that couldn’t be further from the truth. My background is primarily in sales.
In fact, all of my adult life, I’ve been involved in sales in some regard. Certainly, for the last 20 years, I’ve been involved in technology sales. So naturally, I’ve seen quite a few changes in how we sell, specifically around technology and the company that I ran previous to DSMN8 was an e-commerce technology business that I sold back in 2014 and even as recent as 2014. I mean, that might not sound recent to some of our younger listeners, but to most people, it will do.
The way that we sold technology was so different to how it is now. I think primarily all of our sales that we did at an enterprise level were done in person, we would have calls, certainly introductory calls, but they wouldn’t be video calls. When we actually went to present to people, we did that in person and between the years 2014 and 2016 when I started DSMN8. I saw such a shift in the way that we sell because it started to get so much more digitally focused and with COVID and lockdowns, that just expedited that significantly. So now we do end-to-end sales processes, including closing deals and negotiating contracts, all on Zoom with video and it’s become the norm.
But how we use social hasn’t actually improved a huge amount, certainly not in the five years that we’ve been building DSMN8. Before we talk about social selling and specifically how it relates to employee advocacy, let me give you a little bit of an insight into how DSMN8 uses social selling as our primary go-to-market strategy.
How to Become THAT go-to Person in Your Industry
Now, over the years, we’ve done pretty much all of the tactics that any SaaS company, any technology, in fact, most companies are using now, whether that’s large email marketing campaigns, telephone campaigns, connecting with people on LinkedIn and pitching them straight away, which I know is frowned upon but, I hold my hands up and say that we’ve done it.
Where we found the most amount of success is actually in social selling and we do that by producing content, which is specific to an industry and a geographical location, and we use that content to start conversations with people who are in our ideal client profile in that industry and in that geography.
Once we have those conversations, we organically get to a point where it’s logical that the next step would be for us to have an introductory call and that’s been so successful that we pretty much stop doing all other forms of marketing.
All we do now is have what we call a social sales development representative team, and that’s all they do.
Why You Should Embrace Employee Advocacy as Part of your Sales Process
To give you an idea of how well this performs, most of us will be familiar with the term SDR or Sales Development Representative, anybody in the sector will know that the results that people are getting from SDRs are generally on the decline.
So if somebody is booking two meetings a week, that would be hitting quota.
So last week, 100% of our social sales development representatives hit their quota and average five meetings per social SDR and again, that’s all done through social without any additional paid ads.
So social selling is something that we feel very passionately about, but ultimately we see that on the whole, people aren’t actually doing it while people are talking about it.
So let’s start by talking about the concept of share a voice and specifically social share of voice. you might work in, sales, listening to this podcast, or you might be in a marketing team who support a sales team. For this conversation, I’m going to assume that you have some form of responsibility when it comes to sales.
Now, in most cases, unless a business is really small, salespeople are going to be split up by some form of territory and that territory could be a geographical location. It could be a specific industry company size. However, you split up your sales responsibility, your salespeople have a key set of people that they want to influence in some way. Ultimately, they want to win them as a client but we know that sell cycles along and there’s a lot of influence that needs to take place during that process. So let’s assume that you sell a product into a specific category, and there are six other companies that you compete with on a daily basis. So if you’re a salesperson, we are going to assume that there are six other versions of you that represent your competitors, and all of those people are connected to the same buyer at your ideal client profile.
Again, if you have such a niche that you’re the only people who sell into the sector, then maybe this isn’t valuable content. On the whole, I think it would be fair to assume that most of us are in that situation. So 99% of people, in fact, 9 out of 10 people don’t ever post content on LinkedIn, but that’s based on people who have links in accounts. So assuming that they log into LinkedIn, they are viewing content, not necessarily posting it. So as a salesperson, I’m looking to get my message delivered frequently, and I’m looking to reach as many of my ideal clients as I possibly can when I share my message. But if we assume that the other versions of me that work in our competitors are doing the same thing, we are in a competitive process to get the attention of our prospective buyers. So an easy way to think about this is every time I choose not to share a piece of content, I’m essentially opening up the airwaves for my competitors to share content to the same buyer I’m trying to sell to. As a salesperson, the reason why it’s important to share content is ultimately what I’m looking to do is establish trust with my prospective buyers, and share thought leadership. But the reason why I’m doing that is to demonstrate that I have authority and expertise in the industry that I work in because the more I can do that, the more likely it is that somebody is going to trust me enough to do business with me. And again, that’s new clients as much as it is existing clients because most of us are working in a world where we’re looking to renew our clients year after year.
So we want to demonstrate that we are essentially the experts in what we do. So as I said earlier, 9 out of 10 people aren’t sharing content on LinkedIn at all. So if you recognise there is value in owning that share of voice, then there still is an opportunity to be that person who becomes the point of authority in your industry.
How to get YOUR Sales Leaders on Board
So a question that I get asked all the time is if social selling is so important, why is it that on the whole people aren’t doing it? and more importantly, why are sales leaders not making social selling, a KPI that people are measured against?
So my theory is that there are two components to why social selling is still not being widely adopted.
The first is that, as salespeople, we are we tend to be somewhat impatient and although we’re used to dealing with long sales cycles, we like things that have an immediate impact that give us measurable results. So in the case of email, if I email people, I get an open rate and that gives me some indication of the deliverability of my email. If people click on the content, I put an email that shows that there’s interest and I can use these things to measure, I would say, intent, but it gives me something to hold on to to say that this is actually helping my sales process move along.
With social, it takes time. So just sharing something today isn’t going to win you a client tomorrow. I mean, it may do, but generally speaking, we’re looking for consistency over a longer period of time. When you’re looking for short-term results, that could be a hard thing to justify spending even 20 minutes a day putting thought into and executing.
So the second reason is simply down to the fact that there’s a generation gap between the people who are leading sales teams and the SDRs and Account Executives that are now coming through the ranks. Because if you are a CRO, the probability is that you’re not a digital native and therefore you’re always going to draw on your experiences of when you were in the field as a salesperson, where the majority of the positive outcomes we had were meeting people in person, either in meetings or at trade events and speaking to people on the phone and doing things which were highly personal touches versus something which is 100% digital in the way that I have relationships with people on LinkedIn I’ve never even spoken to but we have a relationship which is purely digital.
So I think as the AEs and SDRs of today go through the ranks and become the sales leaders of tomorrow, we will see a dramatic shift in how social is focused on. There’s a misconception that if you work in tech, then somehow you’re more likely to adopt a social selling strategy, and actually, I just can’t find any data that supports that.
In fact, I looked at ten of the top tech unicorns last week and found all of the people that worked in sales and marketing and then found how many of those have actually shared any content in the last 30 days. It was 86% of people were completely silent.
Now, given that those people work in sales and marketing, you’d expect those numbers to be a lot higher. But unfortunately, they’re not. But it does show that there’s still a huge amount of improvement that could be achieved. So when it comes to employee advocacy and how we activate salespeople, sometimes there can be a worry from prospective clients and existing clients that salespeople will push back, because one of the oldest concerns that come from launching an employee advocacy program is that everyone’s going to say the same thing. They’re going to share the same content and salespeople will push back and say, “Hey, I don’t want to look like some Autobot that’s just, randomly posting the company blog” as an example.
But the thing to remember is that the employee advocacy program is really there as a framework to give a structure to a salesperson to share content.
So, yes, if a salesperson just takes the easy route and says, yep, just feed me the content, I’ll share whatever you tell me to say. Then, of course, the more people that do that, if they have shared connections, then they’re going to see it.
But really, where you can make a huge difference as a program leader is to build training into your program. So you’re teaching people about how to structure a good media post and essentially how to add your own flavour to it. So a good employee advocacy program should offer both alternative variations of the post caption that’s given, also things like alternatives for the preview images that are used on links.
So if you use a combination of those two things alone, it stops that autobot feeling that people worry about with the employee advocacy, but even on top of that, we want to encourage people to put their own perspectives and thought leadership on the content because as a salesperson, again, if I come back to that idea that we want to become the voice of an industry and someone that people look to just to find out what do they know about this topic, then we would always encourage people to take the time to customise the post caption text and to add our own flavour to it.
So the reason why some people who launch employee advocacy programs can feel like they get push back from salespeople is that the salespeople do not want to feel like they’re being used as a conduit just to push out heavily brand-focused marketing material and the way to combat this is to produce content, which is specifically designed to help close more deals. So as we think about this from the perspective of building a sales process, really step one of a sales process should involve connecting with a prospective buyer on LinkedIn that creates a community of people whom we can regularly communicate with and the nice thing about sharing content on social as opposed to putting it in an email is it’s more passive and it means that you can do that more frequently. You couldn’t send a daily email to a prospective client saying, Hey, here’s a new piece of content, but it’s something that you can do when you do it on social and by doing this, we essentially create a mechanism that makes our awareness greater with prospective buyers as I mentioned in a previous podcast, we talked about the different types of content that you can add into an employee advocacy program when it comes to encouraging salespeople to participate having industry content that isn’t produced by your company becomes even more important because if we can give third party perspectives that help support our sales message, then naturally the credibility of that becomes even greater.
How Employee Advocacy Becomes Effortless Lead Nurturing at Scale
For me, social selling really comes down to a shift in what we see is important because most salespeople, if they were invited to speak at an industry event, let’s say there are 300 people there, they would jump on a plane and fly halfway across the country, take three days out of their diary, not to mention the amount of time that they would need to prepare for something like that. Yet those 300 people, maybe only 10% of those are in the market at that time. So it’s a huge amount of effort to speak to what is in theory 30 perspective buyers. But if we start to think about our LinkedIn audience as less of a group of people we used to work with and our industry peers and our colleagues and think about it more as a curated group of our ideal client profile, essentially, and that group of people we can speak to more frequently. then people start to shift in how they view the priority of social selling.
Why Social Selling with Employee Advocacy is Here to Stay
So let’s summarise. Firstly, we have to dominate share of voice and we do that by the reach of our content, meaning the size of our audience and the frequency of the content that we’re sharing. Of course, we also have to make sure that we’re sharing content that is actually of interest to our prospective buyers. Secondly, you have to think about employee advocacy as a tool, and it’s one that can be used well or used badly and if you just share without thinking then, of course, the results are going to be less than if you take the time to add your own perspectives and thoughts to the content that you share. Also, the content that you’re sharing should be designed to help prospective clients move from being somebody who’s considering buying your product to actually buying the product. So sharing content, which is heavily brand-focused, isn’t going to do that but sharing industry knowledge will. And the final point is sales leaders just need to get better at tracking social selling and making it part of the overall sales engine, because if it isn’t being tracked, then naturally people are going to be drawn to the things that are. Thank you for taking the time to listen to episode number four of our podcast. I hope that gave you plenty to think about when it comes to utilising your employee advocacy program for social selling. So contact details for me will be available in the footnotes of the show, along with some additional resources. In the meantime, please do feel free to get in touch on LinkedIn.