Erin: I’m super excited about today’s topic because social selling is really what brought the three of us together. Kris and I have been guests on Sam Gupta’s awesome eCommerce LinkedIn Live panel. That’s how we got to know each other and now we’ve become good friends. Lori, this podcast has been a favorite for a long time and I’ve really gotten to know you through your wonderful content. Together we’ve all utilized content and digital platforms to build relationships. We are able to move our prospects through the funnel in a way that is warm, genuine, and provides value - even though it all takes place online. That’s the beauty of social selling.
But social selling isn’t just about content and friendships, all social networks exist to provide content and relationships - the key part here is business development. Successful sales have always been inherently social, because as our friend Greg Mischio reminds us (frequently!) your prospects must know you, like you, and trust you to move forward with the sale.
The pandemic era obviously drove a lot of selling online, both in B2B and B2C. As a result, so many more sales professionals are using the tools of social sales like LinkedIn, podcasting, video-sharing, and CRM-related applications. So there’s the social side, which I think all sales professionals are naturally gifted at, but the technical side can be a bit of a head-scratcher - so that’s what I’d like us to focus on a bit today. Sound good Ladies?
Lori: We’re ready!
Erin: How do you guys use LinkedIn as a social selling tool? I mean, beyond the obvious - what are some of your special tips and tricks. Next, tell us about one other tool you use and why you think it is great.
Lori: Probably because I spend hours on it on a daily basis, actually, and people are surprised when they hear me say that. The first thing you want to look at on your LinkedIn is optimizing your profile. I know you both understand that word optimizing, but not everyone that is listening really understands what that means. It's just making sure that when someone is searching for something that you're the one that shows up as a resource. We've heard of optimizing your website for Google, it's the same philosophy and concept with LinkedIn so that when someone looks at your profile, they realize what your true expertise is. Oftentimes, people think a LinkedIn profile should be structured like your resume and that's actually wrong. It's a beautiful place to tell your story and showcase what you want to be known for, and help put some perspective in other people's eyes on your expertise, but also to be found for your expertise as well. So start with your profile first and then you have to look at creating connections. When I'm looking at the connections, I'm genuinely looking to create relationships, but also to be a resource. I've gotten to the level where I have a follow button, and not just a connect button, which is a fun space to be. But it's all about adding value, and not selling. I know we've talked about this before that social media is about being social, the selling is something that happens after the fact because you've created that relationship, you've established trust, and people are comfortable because you've provided so much information of value that then they're interested in having that conversation of potentially creating a business relationship. One of my favorite tips is when someone reaches out and connects with me that I do not know, I have a two-part question that I respond back with them. My first question is, what is it about my profile that intrigued you to want to connect with me? And the second question is, how can I best be a resource to you on LinkedIn? That then starts a conversation and it also easily identifies those who are going direct for the sales pitch that I'm not interested in actually fostering a relationship with. But it's really fascinating because sometimes people connect without saying a reason why, but they're actually interested in doing business with you. You'd be surprised how many people when I asked that question are like, "Oh, we're actually looking for a marketing company right now and I was interested in talking more." So they sent me a connection request, but then open with the ask, but I had initiated the conversation to do that. So I think it's a really powerful way to start that conversation when someone is reaching out to you.
Kris: What I do on LinkedIn is, I'm really using it to deepen a relationship with the connections that I may have just made. So if we just did a demo with a new company and there were new participants in the demonstration that I haven't met before, I might connect with them on LinkedIn to deepen that relationship. At the trade show, I was just recently at, there were a lot of people that I'm connecting with, that I already formed personal connections with and now I want to deepen that relationship. I'm not necessarily lead looking to sell, I'm looking to have that connection because my whole goal on LinkedIn is to share content that is of value. I would say that my biggest trick is just to be authentic. Sometimes it's challenging when you're in a place where there are professionals so you want to have that professional face, but in reality, you want people to get to know you and who you are. It's the challenge of being authentic to who you are, who your company is, and how you want people to understand how you can be helpful and useful. So that's really what I'm using LinkedIn for. Now, when it comes to some other social platforms, we have tried Twitter, and we've tried Facebook, but we find that those are really more personal, at least in the space that we're in. We're sharing information, but we're just not connecting with people as much on those platforms today as others.
Erin: One of my biggest challenges in social selling is tracking and accountability metrics. Digital behaviors are inherently trackable but I still find myself struggling to put together a useful dashboard of behaviors and outcomes. What are one or two of your most useful tracking methods?
Kris: Overall, any metrics related to marketing, I think are a little difficult for our organization to understand when they're working because we have a long sales cycle. But I will tell you the two metrics that I've found that will lead to conversions is we're really tracking our followers and we're watching the growth of our followers. That's really important because I hope that it means that people connected with something that we're doing enough to say, "I'm going to follow what they're doing and keep an eye on them." That gives us an opportunity when we're sharing great content that we're going to potentially come up in their feed and then they're going to look at us a bit further or at least read what we might be sharing or listen to the videos that we might be publishing. The other metric that we look at a lot is website sessions. So when people go from social media to our website, which is where we would hope that they would go if they're interested in learning more about Gen Alpha, or engaging with more content, because we have a lot more content on our website than we do on social media. So if we can get people to follow us and they start to see us repeatedly in their space, understanding their industry, what they do, if we're being useful, and then they move to the website and they continue to resonate with the materials that we're giving them, there's that potential that hopefully, they'll engage with us in some other way. Those are two that we've been really following. We have a lot of metrics and probably similar to both of you, we don't always know which ones are the best. But those two for us are indicators.
Lori: I could probably resonate with Kris on what we're doing for ourselves is still a little bit of a mystery. More so, because I'm not the one looking at it, I've got a team behind me. But I can tell you what I talk about from an educational standpoint when we talk to our clients and when I'm out there speaking about measuring your ROI. What's very important, I think this is one of the biggest things that people don't get clear on is what is the goal that they're trying to achieve? There's so much data out there on the internet that you can get analysis paralysis because you're just kind of staring at it and you don't know if this is valuable or not valuable. So when I was teaching at the university, there were the three A's that I would look at. One is attainable which asks if the data that you're trying to capture is easy to get? Is it easy to analyze and then can you take action on it, why are you going to look at data that you can't even take action on? Is it going to tell you a story that's going to say, we're on the right track or the wrong track? Going back to what is it that you're trying to achieve and then figure out what is the tactics that we're putting in place to achieve this goal, and then align your measurements with those specific tactics. That's going to help you get clear on is this data actionable? Those are easy for the hard numbers, which are cost, profit revenue, the size of your pipeline. The hard analytics are actually what we refer to as the soft numbers. Those show that people know you, like you, and trust you, that you've increased engagement, that you have customer loyalty, that you're building relationships and rapport. That's what we're all trying to do in the digital space, but it's really hard to measure. There is no easy way to do that, but a couple of things that we look at from a brand awareness standpoint are if you have an increase in your website traffic, that means new visitors. Customer loyalty, then you're looking at repeat visitors or does your email subscriber list grow because people want to hear from you? Lead generation is an easy one, do you have more conversions on your forms or not? So it's just really taking a look at what is it that you're trying to achieve and what data points are going to be helpful and telling you if you're on the right track or the wrong track?
Erin: Many of our listeners are probably in B2B sales, most likely in manufacturing and industry. We’ll be talking about digital transformation in an upcoming episode, but I’d like to touch on the topic of transitioning from a heavily trade-show, site visit-oriented sales strategy to incorporating more digital social selling techniques. Do you have any stories from the field of where this has gone well and where it has maybe not yet quite penetrated?
Kris: So I shared with you that I do think trade shows still have a lot of value for having that personal touch. But of course, we haven't had trade shows for the last 18 months and they're just kind of coming back. But I think it's taught us that there are other ways to connect with people as well. So I do think all of the social opportunities are really important. What we found can be helpful is sending a message through LinkedIn, because often, and I do think this is true, I mean, it's been 10 years since I worked as a manufacturer. But when I was a manufacturer, I was very busy with my job and I was not hanging out on LinkedIn like I am today as a vendor or service provider to a manufacturer. To even get their attention, I like the trigger of the message because if they have their notifications turned on that message typically will send them an email or some notification, and then there's a stronger likelihood that they're going to read it. So then they've been brought there and now we can at least have a conversation or deepen that relationship like I talked about earlier. The second thing that we've been doing is inviting people to follow us and that's how we've grown our followers. That simple invitation just to ask if they want to learn more industry-related content to follow up on LinkedIn is going to help. From doing that, each month, our followers are increasing. So the simple ask, which is something we just started doing, I would say five months ago, we've been building the followers every month thereafter. Now I will say that the actual conversation from social is slower to achieve. Even if they've accepted the connection request, and they followed us, it does not mean that they're ready for a conversation. So anybody out there, don't expect that that's going to happen quickly. Most people aren't ready yet to have that conversation, they still want to learn about you and your company, and that's where hopefully you get to really shine. They establish that connection with you over time and when they're ready, they will reach out to you. So the actual physical conversation takes a bit more time.
Lori: I love what Kris said about first creating the ask because so many people forget to do that and that's the most important part. Everyone is running around crazy and has shiny objects in every direction so the simple ask to follow us is actually extremely beneficial, because they may have wanted to do that, but just forgot. So sometimes as the asker, just tell, go follow us. It's extremely powerful, but yet so simple and so many people are missing that opportunity. But what you're talking about, Kris is really what's changed in the whole selling process, actually, and the experience of, I'm going to meet you for the first time at a trade show, and you came to my booth because there was something that intrigued you and then we're going to start a conversation because you're really interested in that. But now what's happening, and I like to relate it to the old school newspaper about how every single newspaper had car ads in it every single week. The reason is that the car salespeople want to make sure that when you are ready to buy, their brand is in front of you. It’s the same thing with what's happening in the b2b, social selling space. It's not that I'm going to be a hard sales pitch, I'm going to constantly be knocking on your door, rather, I'm going to continue to be top of mind, and continue to provide valuable information and showcase my expertise so that when the time is ready, that you want to buy, or at least start that conversation, I've already proven myself so we're further along in the sales process than if we just had that conversation at that tradeshow booth because we've already done all of the information of proving expertise, and providing value. I've experienced this, and I've seen some of our clients experienced this and it's just fascinating to see. I'm going in thinking it's a discovery call, and I'm doing all my homework and they're like, "We're ready, tell us where to sign," and my mind just gets blown. It goes back to what Kris said about making sure that you have the right people following you and telling the people that you want to be learning from you following you so that you are establishing that trust so that when they are ready to buy, there's no doubt in their mind who they're reaching out to.
Erin: You can’t talk about social selling without also talking about content. Lori, this is your wheelhouse, and Kris, you’ve demonstrated a mastery of content production. Why do you think content is so important to social selling and how can our listeners up their content game?
Kris: We had decided that content would be an opportunity to share our thought leadership in the space. I do think that I think very simply, and I try to write very simply as well, I'm not trying to sound smart, just share my experience, and hopefully, that becomes the most useful. But the way we've been able to publish so much content is that we decided that we wanted to increase our brand awareness and lead generation, and we were going to do that through content. So what we did is we set goals on the amount of content that we would create each month, the number of posts that we would put on LinkedIn, the number of articles we would write, the number of blogs, the number of articles we would submit to publications and hope that they share for us as well, and video creation. So even if it's snippets of me participating with somebody else, we have accounts, and we're going to achieve that. What's happened is it's forced us to research, to explore different topics, to share our experiences, and for me, it's forced me to say yes to a lot of things that historically I probably would not have done because it would be outside my comfort zone. We really thought that this was important because if we were going to increase our brand awareness, people had to know how our employees thought about how we could help other manufacturers. I learned from my team, from our customer experiences, and then, of course, I have my own life experiences. So combining all of that together goes into that creation process and that's really how we've been able to do it. I have to tell you, we started it in 2020. We've been in business for 10 years and for eight of those years, we really did no marketing, it was word of mouth. Of course, we had a website, but we weren't trying to drive people to it, but in 2020, we sat down, we wrote our goals, and we have been achieving them consistently since. Thankfully, we had done that because the pandemic would have forced us to go there anyway. But then we already had a plan, we were already in the middle of it and we just kept going.
Lori: For me, it's all about building a plan and I really liked that Kris and her team fleshed out the plan and defined some clear goals because at the end of the day, if you're just making assumptions, and just randomly throwing stuff out there, the location, the message, you don't know if it's actually going to be doing its job and serving its purpose. When it comes to what content and where to post it, you have to go deep into your customer and figure out what is that pain. This is something you both kind of addressed already in figuring out, not necessarily the pain that you're assuming that you have the solution that they're coming to you, it's understanding the pain and how they're thinking about it and using the same messaging across that space. Then, more importantly, fix the message, get it right, and then understand where to position it. So you can just put some stuff all over the place. A lot of people just jump in and assume that these are the platforms because they're the most popular platforms that they should be on there. But the reality is, you have to really understand your customer and figure out where are they hanging out online and then you decide do I want to go wide or do I want to go deep? Do I want to go deep in that platform and really own that platform and be the thought leader on that platform or do I want my message spread across a number of different platforms? We all know that time is money and you only have so many resources at the end of the day so I'm a fan of picking and starting with one platform and going deep on that and really building a strong following in that space. You guys talk about that you're on clubhouse and some other platforms right now and I love clubhouse and I was fascinated with it, but I realized I don't have the time to invest in that. I'm spreading myself way too thin, and I just can't do it. I'll jump on as guests on people's shows every once in a while but I know that there is value there and it's very powerful, but we've already invested in other channels and I think that's the mistake that a lot of people make is they're spreading...