I was interview by Tracy Schmidt, from Crain’s Social Media Group, per my experiences with Social Media as a Sales Professional. (click HERE to find the original post, including slideshare examples.)
Here is the text version of the interview:
Social Selling 101: How A Sales Manager Uses Social Media
Tracy Samantha Schmidt | Jun 11, 2013
For the sales professional, social media has emerged as a great tool to find new clients and to deepen relationships with existing clients.
Called social selling, this process uses “social media to network, prospect, research, engage, collaborate, teach, and close all with the purpose of attaining quota and increasing revenue,” according to Barbara Giamanco, author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media.
Early research illustrates how effective social selling can be. In May 2012, the Aberdeen Research Group released a study on social selling that found sales professionals are 79 percent more likely to attain their quota than those who don’t use social selling in their sales process. (For more on Aberdeen’s findings and best practices for social selling, check out the Slideshare they published in February.)
A 2012 Harvard Business Review article also reported that 90 percent of C-level executives don’t respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts, but “potential customers are surprisingly responsive to short messages sent via social media.”
The article, published in the July-August 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review, is worth paying for. I’ve sent it to dozens of colleagues and potential clients in the past year to prove the case for social selling.
Nick Stepanovich, a Chicago-based sales manager with ADP, doesn’t need convincing. He has been using social media in the sales process for several years. He is now working with ADP to develop a training program for all of its sales people. And we’re not just talking LinkedIn and Twitter here — he also uses his personal blog and even Pinterest.
Nick was kind enough to share his thoughts with us. Our Q&A is below, and we’ve also created a Slideshare to illustrate his answers. You can download it here or click through the embedded link below.
–With reporting by Melanie Stone
Social Selling 101: How A Sales Manager Uses Social Media To Do His Job from Crain’s Social Media Group
What exactly is “social selling?”
To me, social selling is two individual components acting together. One, social selling is having an established brand on the internet. It is said that a client is 70% through their buying process before they engage you. Where did they do this homework? They did it online, they went to your website, they looked at user groups, they checked you out, and they talked to others about you. Two, social selling is being able to use the information available on the internet to do homework. There is an expectation that you have done your homework, and a sales person that is not aware of information currently available on the internet, has failed to meet a minimum criteria for engaging with a company.
Tell us about your own career path and how you started to use social media.
I started using social media in general as a way to leverage emerging technologies. I wanted to see how new opportunities to engage with others would help me succeed in business. I started slowly with a simple LinkedIn account, which led me to use Twitter. Reading and reacting to blogs I found via Twitter led me to create my own blog. And lastly, my desire to create a customized and engagement-friendly presence led me to Pinterest.
What were some of the first mistakes you made and how did you learn from them?
Some of the first mistakes I made with social media were over-communicating. Blasting content, while valuable in its own right as an advertisement, is not how you conduct social selling. The true power of social media lies in the ability to connect with people. Have conversations, stay on top of thought leadership, bounce ideas off of others, establish yourself as a credible resource, and most importantly be a giver. In social media, a giver will receive …a blaster gets ignored.
Here is the dirty little secret: None of what I just said is different than selling decades ago. The medium we use today and the expectations of others have evolved; but building trust, creating professional networks, having conversations, these are timeless concepts.
How do you currently use social media in sales? Can you tie it directly revenue? How?
In short, yes, I can directly tie revenue to social activities.
I have used LinkedIn to do research on individuals and companies, but everyone does that. Through various interest groups I have been able to strike up conversations, make connections and build credibility. These relationships have turned into requests to meet and discuss my services; it has also allowed me to connect with people who can influence others in their decision making.
I have used Twitter to stay abreast of what is going on in the business world, as well as what is going on with my clients. On many occasions I have discovered a compelling white paper, study, or significant event in an organization, which has allowed me to gain access to a company. Moreover, my ability to access useful information in real time has added to my personal brand as someone with their finger on the pulse of business, and more importantly, how that information is impacting my clients.
I measure the connection to revenue by tracking how I use social media to connect or gain access to a company. The resulting revenue is proof enough for me.
Your company, ADP, has been very supportive of your use of social media in sales. Why is that and how have they worked with you to start an internal training program? What do you teach employees?
ADP has been a great company for me to work for, specifically when it comes to social selling. ADP understands that our brand is not what we tell others it is, our brand is what others say it is (to paraphrase the founder of Inuit). By entering the social world, and engaging our clients where they reside, ADP has been at the forefront of social branding and communicating our message where people will see it. At the same time, when you put yourself out there, you need to deliver. So ADP has been very proactive and responsive to the needs of our clients in every way: from being an information source for things like the Affordable Care Act through our Eye on Washington Series, to responding to client’s needs via social channels.
The more we as employees can become trusted advisors and consultative resources to the greater business world, we strengthen ADP’s Brand. Simultaneously, by allowing us to leverage ADP publications, videos, information, etc. we are empowered us to use their resources to establish our reputation. As I build my personal brand, I cannot divorce myself from the brand of my employer – and visa-versa. It becomes a positive loop of one strengthening the other.
Given this reality, and the co-mingling of brand, ADP has been very progressive in the way they have rolled out social selling. We have a vision, a strategy, and as an organization we are encouraging our associates to go build their own brand on line. A great example of this is the training I have been a part of. We have put together a program to teach etiquette and best practices per the different social outlets. We have rolled these out at various geographic and organizations levels, and we provide ongoing training.
My advice to any company looking to empower their employees, or any employee looking to leverage their company brand, is be sure you trust each other. ADP needs to trust that I will act responsibly as a publicly engaged employee and not damage their brand, and I need to trust that as I build my personal identity online that ADP’s actions will strengthen my brand, not detract.
What is your current social media strategy?
My current social media strategy is to grow my influence by becoming a resource. I use social media to engage with and grow my professional network beyond the geographic constraints which existed in the past. The more I am viewed as a resource, the more others come to me for information, and the more my comments can influence people. Sometimes I answer questions on social sites, sometimes I help others by making an introduction into my network, and sometimes people need what I sell. And in exchange for being a giving member of my social communities, sometimes I get help in return. People answer my questions, they help me with decisions, and at times they refer me to new clients.
How do you manage it all throughout the day and how to do you separate personal from professional?
I manage my social activities by being well organized with my time. There are times throughout the day where I use social media to do homework on companies or individuals, and as a sales activity, I do that as needed. I also use tools like BufferApp and Hootsuite to help organize my streams of information, they also allow me to segment my social activity so I can quickly find what I need. And frankly, social has replaced other activities in my life. I no longer need to watch the news or read my favorite magazines, I get that information directly fed to me through custom feeds on Twitter or LinkedIn. I actually spend less time consuming information, but I take in more pertinent content.
You use Pinterest — which is very unusual for a man working for a B2B business to do. How do you use it and how do clients react to it?
Ha, I get that comment a lot. People love my Pinterest page. There is so much information out there pertaining to my career and my employer, it can be hard to organize. Even if I were to organize it through a personal webpage, it can be hard to engage with a website. By using Pinterest I have been able to identify and “pin” useful information in a very user-friendly way. I can send people to my Pinterest page for information, people routinely find my Pinterest page, and they can even re-pin the information to their own page for use later. I find the combination of visuals, engagement and information to be a great resource for me.
You also write a blog that’s related to your company and your industry. Why? If you had more time, what else would you write about?
I started writing my blog as an outlet. Once I had a way to put my thoughts down, they seemed to stop running through my head nonstop. And once these ideas stopped running through my head non-stop, I stopped talking about these ideas endlessly to my friends and my wife. So, originally, it was a release. Then the more I became involved on social media, the more I discovered the value of content. People want to read unique and thoughtful ideas, they value a concise opinion. That got me to start using my blog as a way to communicate compelling thought leadership and experiences. I routinely send my blog articles to others, I post my pieces to LinkedIn, tweet them, and I use Tumblr to publicly post my blog. I find my blog has become a great way to establish myself as a resource for others, and a great way to engage with people looking for useful information.
Finally, how do you see “social sales” evolving in the next year? What websites or books can sales reps read to learn more?
Right now we routinely use tools like our DVR to skip commercials while watching TV. In the same vein, we are likely to stop following/liking individuals on social media that blast direct marketing to us. Content marketing, using compelling ideas and publications as a way to build followership, then use this audience as a way to generate business; this process will continue to grow in popularity and sophistication.
I also see social media continuing to become much more visual, Facebook has already become more photo-friendly, and now twitter allows us to tweet short videos. I believe this trend will continue; design and imagery will dominate social media as a differentiator of messaging.
Imagine, years ago, doing business with someone that didn’t have a mailing address, or didn’t have a fax number, or even a business card. In most cases, there would be some doubt as the legitimacy of this person as a business professional. Today, a social media presence is the ante to play. Furthermore, I believe a poor social media presence will be held against people in the near future.
Lastly, as far as books I would recommend The Third Screen (Martin), Enterprise 2.0 (McAfee), Socialnomics (Qualman), The Connected Company (Grey), Return on Influence (Schaefer), Likeonomics (Bhargava). These will give you a great understanding of what is happening in Social today, how you can get involved, and how to impact your own career by being social-smart.