If you’ve been following some of the developments in sales methodology, you’ve likely seen the concept of the Challenger Sale as detailed in the most popular sales book of 2012, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. Companies like Xerox and IBM are applying the Challenger Model in their sales organizations and moving the needle on what we thought was possible on the front lines. Xerox had this to say:
We want our sales force to deliver insight and value, not sales pitches. That’s why our entire organization is being trained on the skills that make Challengers successful. We’re already seeing the results and I’m confident our focus will continue to differentiate us in the eyes of our clients.
While that’s all well and good, what you didn’t see come out of the book is how to connect your social media messaging from Marketing with the Sales Team on the ground. Shut out from “traditional” sales engagement techniques, the best reps are turning to social media to get their foot in the door. With social now a critical part of the sales toolkit, it’s essential that we evolve our thinking on sales ready social messaging.
Rules for Sales Ready Social
If you’re not yet convinced that Marketing and Sales need to partner on social media, consider this: IBM’s research showed that 75% of buyers were likely to use social media to influence their purchasing decisions. Further, 41% of best-in-class companies integrate social media into the demand gen efforts and 33% have social profile data as part of their customer records. Welcome to the new world of how business gets done. If marketing isn’t delivering great content for sales and creating a low-burden environment for sales to engage, and your sales team doesn’t know how to leverage the social connections with their customers, you’re failing in the social selling race. Ready to jumpstart the process? Here are a few things we’ve learned:
- Marketing should deliver the social media engagement approaches and content to sales, which takes it to the customer.
Social sales doesn’t scale if every sales person is responsible for social listening, social prospecting and most time consuming of all, social media content development. Marketing’s goal is to minimize the sales burden to participate in social media while ensuring high quality, relevant content is making it to the potential customer.
- Develop a content creation process that feeds social engagement, focuses on joining the conversation prospects and customers were having, and reaching the influencers in that space.
In numerous social media surveys, organizations cite ‘content creation’ as one of the biggest barriers to success. While every organization’s process will differ, the key topic that marketing and sales must tackle together is how the content creation process that marketing will run that sales can leverage. This is not a one-time meeting, but rather a living process that happens daily in social-ready sales organizations.
- Generate momentum with small, early wins.
I can’t stress this enough. Small wins are the seeds of big momentum in an organization. Whether you’re IBM or the corner copier salesman, before you do big things with social, try small things and measure everything. Convincing management of the viability of social media for selling often happens through case studies and best practices. Start building up the case studies and defining best practices for yourself.
- Train your sales teams on how to approach social media the right way.
I’ll admit, this is a bias that I have, as I believe in social media empowerment and education and have made a living doing it, but the truth is, salespeople can’t afford to pursue social selling without some training and guidelines. Invest in them, invest in the education and watch that investment pay off.
- Focus on delivering insights and value at every turn.
This is, perhaps, the most important criteria. Remind your teams that the goal here is NOT to sell with social media, rather, social media is an enabler that is powered by good content that is of value to the customer and prospect audience and industry influencers. Focus on value first, and sales a distant second.
It’s no small feat to get your sales ready social media program off the ground. Some organizations take years to do this, but the time is now for getting your sales and marketer teams off the ground or to the next level. The view is worth the climb – imagine the potential of reaching a highly specialized audience when your top competitor has a bigger budget, a bigger sales force but you have the tools of social selling, engagement, influence and focus.