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Four Steps to Build an Effective Social Selling Program

By Ray Makela

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It’s time to stop treating Social Selling as a shiny new object in sales enablement

With the hype and promise around Social Selling programs, it’s no wonder sales organizations are quick to jump onboard the social band-wagon. Unfortunately, these programs are often treated as stand-alone efforts or one-time initiatives that leave the sales leadership questioning whether they are producing any tangible results for the business. To make social selling stick, it needs to be integrated into existing sales training and enablement programs. It’s time for social selling to move beyond the shiny new object phase and be treated as a foundational selling skill.

In a recent webinar we conducted with Jamie Shanks, one of North America's top social selling experts, hundreds of participants responded to our online poll regarding the current state of their existing social selling program. 77.2% of the participants indicated that their organizations either had “No social selling program in place” or “Sales Reps are self-taught,” as opposed to having a “Formalized program in place” or a program that was “Fully integrated with their sales process.”

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This online survey suggests that there is much room for improvement in training and integrating a social selling program into the sales organization. Our experience suggests that there are four critical steps to making this transition and getting tangible value from your social selling program.

1. Gain management support

As with any training program or effort to create organizational change, the sponsorship and support for change needs to come from executive leadership. This may be difficult with social selling where many executives are relatively new to this topic – they are the digital immigrants to these social networks as opposed to the digital natives (their millennial workforce) that grew up online and connected to social networks.

The key to gaining management support is to present examples of tangible business results that are being achieved through these programs, as well as to conduct executive briefings and tailored training to this executive group. Management needs to know before the training what to expect and be able to support and sponsor the initiative on an ongoing basis if the change is expected to stick.

2. Align with Sales Process

A critical and often overlooked step in the adoption of social selling program is to align the social selling skills with the overall sales process. It’s not enough to learn some “tips and tricks” - it’s important to take the time to understand how and where these new skills should be used in the sales process. Too often, social selling focuses just on building out the network, and making connections, and fails to explore how we use these connections to advance the sale and close more business. In addition to understanding how you can use social selling to prospect, the program should define how aspects of social selling will be used to conduct call planning and research, develop coaches and advocates within the account, discover and investigate the competition, research the decision maker’s backgrounds and preferences, and even prepare to negotiate with procurement. Making the effort to explore and define how social selling will be used at each stage of the sales process will help ensure the program delivers real value and not just hype.

3. Train and Reinforce

Social selling training should not be a separate, stand-alone training program that is treated as a “one and done” training effort. It’s important that it becomes a regular, recurring part of the training agenda and is reinforced during sales meetings and management reviews. Once the training program has begun, it should be frequently reinforced, assessed and reported on to understand if the material is being absorbed and utilized by the sales force. Social selling needs to become part of the sales manager’s coaching program, and feedback on social selling skills needs to be part of recurring coaching conversations.

4. Measure and Improve

In order to understand if social selling program is making a difference, it needs to be measured and reported. As with any critical success factor, managers need to determine the key behaviors, activities and results that will be used to track success of the program. Leading indicators such as growth of the network and social activity can be used to monitor if the behaviors are being adopted and utilized. By mapping lead source and social activities into your CRM, you can determine just how successful the social selling program is at expanding the pipeline and driving revenue. Collecting the metrics, anecdotes and success stories will go a long way to create momentum and enthusiasm for the program across all levels of the organization.

Social selling programs show incredible promise for the sales organization and will continue to become more important and critical to sales success. By integrating the social selling program into the overall selling program, we can stop treating it as another shiny object to chase and begin to make progress toward achieving the desired business results.

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About Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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