A few years ago, while working with SAP, I setup a social selling program for our leading global sales team. Given their initial reluctance – and the bad wrap that social media held within corporate circles – I developed a deck with the title “It’s Not Stalking, It’s Social Selling”. The title alone got us over the first hurdle – the natural distrust of technology and social networks that almost all of us feel when first venturing into the vast social network space. But what followed was an eye-opener for both me and the teams. And those lessons continue today.
Here are three vital lessons that I learned years ago, but continue to learn from today:
1. You’re only a leader when you have followers
When I boldly pitched this program to senior executives, I had a sense that it was groundbreaking. That no one had done this before. But it also needed to succeed, so I had to tread carefully. It had to be successful. The first focus for “social selling” was Twitter. We built a program, trained the teams and gingerly began engaging with customers. What response did we get?
Then a couple of clients emailed to explain that they LOVED that we were engaging this way. But they were not ready yet. Don’t expect engagement. Interaction. Sales progression. The program was too early. It was worth nothing.
2. Go with your instinct but follow the data to reach a discovery
Following on from my disastrous first steps, I realised that I had followed my instincts not the data. While my instincts were correct, they led to the wrong conclusion. Yes, the shift was on for digital engagement and social selling. But no, at that stage, Twitter was not the right channel (but these, days, hmmm – maybe we should talk). When I conducted a personal branding audit, I realised that the teams had an untapped resource right at their fingertips. LinkedIn. There was a network already in place. They were comfortable in using it. And our clients were also present.
Go with your instincts – but back it up with data. Setup a hypothesis, test it and learn. Save yourself the grief of a too-soon failure.
3. We are all experts
Hardly any of us can view our skills, experience and achievements objectively. Naturally, we judge our own capability according to our own efforts and the activities of those we trust most – and if we all work, operate, collaborate and share with like minds, we often don’t end up with innovation but with “group think”. Keep this in mind.
When I began shifting the social selling program from Twitter to LinkedIn, I conducted a brief audit. I rang participants to understand their online behaviours. I asked about how they used LinkedIn, what worked for them and why. I also looked for best practices. I found there really were LinkedIn gurus within the company whose abilities and profiles were far superior to my own. They used LinkedIn in a qualitatively different way. So I canvassed their opinions and insights too.
I learned that each person’s view of expertise is limited to their worldview. The first step in transforming practice is to open that worldview to the “glare of the guru”. And this is where data comes into play again. If you have been using a social platform for years, have a few hundred followers or connections and feel like you have “joined the conversation” – then you’ll be an expert. But are you an expert at scale?
If only I had LinkedIn’s social selling index back then. It’s a daily-updated dashboard that measures how effective your personal brand is, how well connected and engaged you are on the LinkedIn platform, and how well you build relationships. Importantly, it also measures you against your existing network – as well as your industry – so you know how you compare across two measures, not one.
Of course, it’s focused entirely on driving greater use of LinkedIn, but if that is where you are starting with your social selling program, then it’s perfect.
Based on my profile, it seems I need to engage more on LinkedIn (ie consume content, comment etc) and find more prospects (no doubt with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator). At least I now have action points based on data. So look out, if we’re connected, I’m coming to talk to you about what I’m good at. But don’t worry, it’s not stalking, it’s social selling.