For many companies, the time has come to encourage employee advocacy and get your sales team active on social.
Back when I was working as a B2B sales executive, I was inspired by the Japanese tradition of omiyage, or souvenir, and tried to bring a valuable nugget of information every time I met with a client. That souvenir today is now content, and social selling will require a lot of it.
On this week’s podcast, I talk about social selling and getting your sales and marketing teams to work together: marketing needs to create content for sales, and your sales team has to inform the marketing department about the needs in the market and what messaging is making an impact. Aligning these two departments is the key to effective social selling – and by extension employee advocacy.
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In This Episode:
- There’s a disconnect between marketing and sales: marketing is there to generate leads and attract people with messaging, sales is there to take those leads and develop them into business, but when the message isn’t aligned with the market, that flow doesn’t work
- Alignment never took place because objectives of departments are different, even though they are part of the same greater goal
- The push towards employee advocacy has already begun where organizations have started to ask themselves, how do we turn our employees into brand advocates on social?
- Social selling requires content, especially once the sales people see the ROI, and it means that the sales team is expecting more from the marketing department
- The best way to establish thought leadership and trust is through content; ideally content created by your organization, or even more ideally created by you
- My sales strategy was to deliver omiyage (souvenir in Japanese) on every visit: a nugget of valuable information at every client meeting so that they would anticipate meeting me and would make time to meet with me – and as a result would come to me first when they were looking for new ideas
- Social selling is an extension of this omiyage technique, you’re just doing it online, and those nuggets of information will make you someone that people want to meet with or follow online and trust with business over time
- The sales and marketing departments have to be on the same page; sales needs to ask for content, marketing needs to be ready to deliver, whether that content is a funny shareable thing, a cool photo, or a valuable piece of information
- The long term approach is important! Take it step by step: start with education, then communication, then creation, then feedback and review
Resources & Links:
- 9 Things You Should Focus Your Social Media Efforts On in 2015
- E-book on employee advocacy
- More about social selling
- Content Creation Manual Part 1 and Part 2
- Important employment considerations about employee advocacy
- Trying to figure out where to start your employee advocacy? Try LinkedIn.
Hey everybody, this is Neal Schaffer. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Social.
Continuing from last week’s podcast where I talked about those areas where I think you should focus your social media efforts in 2015, I want to touch in more detail upon one of those areas where I see a lot of companies reaching out to me asking for help, and just a general alignment that I see happening with social business and companies utilizing social media internally. And I talk a lot about this convergence of information and communication which really defines social media.
I want to talk about a different type of convergence, and in some ways I am seeing, and I saw this really beginning back in 2011 when I wrote Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing, talking about the need that every outward-facing employee should be on LinkedIn. And when we think about outward-facing employees, we think about sales and marketing, and this is the alignment that I want to talk about, and this convergence of trends that we see further developing in 2015 that I covered on last week’s podcast. So if you haven’t listened to that, I recommend you listen to that because I think it’s going to five you a holistic perspective as to where today’s topic is going to fit in the greater scheme of things.
I want to take things back, roll back the clock. Some of you that know me know that before social media I was in charge of launching sales organizations from scratch for foreign equity companies in Asia. So I speak Japanese and Chinese. Japanese I do use; I do have clients out there in Japan for social media consulting and for speaking. Chinese, I haven’t been able to use that that much in social media, and there’s obvious reasons. If you don’t know, a lot of the social media sites that we love are actually blocked in China unless you are using a VPN, or virtual private network.
But getting back to the topic at hand, I was really more on the sales business development side than the marketing side, although I had to wear many hats as sort of a regional vice-president country manager, and I was in charge of all of our sales and marketing and customer support in all of our outward-facing activities in those regions of the world.
And I remember that when I was talking to customers about our products and solutions and services, what I talked about that resonated with the customers was always a little bit different than the marketing materials that we had, and it’s just a generalization for all the companies I worked at. In fact, I was often giving input to our marketing as to how they can better align their messaging with what I saw were the needs in the marketplace.
Now, there are a lot of reasons for that. Perhaps that marketing messaging was made based on a few of our leading customers, a few of our largest customers that were in a particular industry in a particular region that resonated well with them, but may not have resonated well outside of our target market. Nevertheless, there was always in [inaudible] [00:03:32] from the sales department, there was always a bit of, you know, “Hey marketing, give us leads. Give us messaging that works.” And it was always sort of this internal battle.
And I think the battle is greater at some companies, less in others, but – and I won’t call it friction, but obviously marketing is there to generate leads, general brand awareness, increase brand equity. And sales is there to take those leads and really develop them into business and to close deals.
So there is this alignment that never took place, because the objectives of both departments are different. Although, from a 36,000 foot view, they’re all part of the greater process, which is how does this company increase our revenues, right? So in that aspect they are the same. But they’ve really gone two different ways.
Now, with social media we all know, and usually I talk about this when I talk about the evolution of social business, that social media started as an outward-facing effort. Mainly marketing PR, corporate communications, “Hey; we need to get on social media, we need to start pushing our message out there.” And obviously what’s happened over time is people have responded to the message to the point where a lot of the big consumer brands now do customer support over Twitter, they’ve had to – some brands have had to open up multiple accounts on Twitter or on Facebook, what have you, and it’s not just an outward-facing effort now, it’s a two-way conversation. And those companies that recognized this earliest I think have been able to leverage social media better for their business.
But what’s happened obviously as social media becomes more of an inbound thing, is that it starts to envelope other parts of the organization. So it might have started out with marketing, but now customer support is saying, “Hey, what do we do?” Maybe there was an inquiry, maybe there was a new lead generated from social media that’s now passed on to sales. I always talk about community managers being like the ultimate quarterbacks in the organization, having to strategize where to throw the ball, do I hand it off, do I go for a Hail Mary, and then always having to respond back to the social media user as to what the status of their inquiry is.
But I’m sort of getting ahead of myself here. I want to get back to this notion of social business and evolving beyond that marketing department. And now what we see as more and more professionals are using social media, and we’re all probably using it a little bit more professionally than we did a year or two ago, and with more internal departments using it, there is obviously a lot more collaboration that happens naturally. And I do believe part of that natural collaboration is a collaboration between sales and marketing.
But it’s really just pushed towards employee advocacy. And employee advocacy began in the blog post that I wrote, and I think I mentioned on the podcast from last week, it really began 2013-ish. Obviously there’s some companies like the intels of the world that were doing it way before we even used the term a lot in the blogosphere and in social media, but it started to get really mainstreamed 2013-2014, a lot of tools vendors coming out with solutions and what have you.
And employee advocacy was really, “Hey, how do we turn our internal employees into champions of our brand and new brand advocates out there in social?” And there’s obviously a lot of value in doing that and I’ve already written a free e-book on it which you can get the link out if you go to my last week’s blog post, and last week’s podcast. But what’s happened with employee advocacy is that, you know, who are our most active users in social, and who are our outward-facing users?
So it gets back to what I wrote about in 2011, is that if we’re going to do employee advocacy, we can’t force people to use social media. We want to be able to work together with those internally that are our number one fans of our company, ideally. But number two, that are already on social media that would naturally see the benefits, the value in sharing our messages to the world, because it enhances their personal branding and it makes them look like an expert and what have you.
And there’s no part of the organization outside of marketing where this is critical for, than sales. Now, there’s also this history that I see of a lot of marketing executives reaching out to me, “Hey, our sales people really don’t get LinkedIn, we need to get them on it.” And, you know, there’s a lot of sales methodologies that are out there, the traditional ones like solution selling and what have you, and these were all created before social media. And we don’t really see any new methodologies appear that really incorporate social media for all that you can leverage it for.
We do have this concept of social selling, which I define as merely using social media to help enhance the toolbox that a sales person has, right? To use it to accelerate, developing relationships, to keep an eye on organizations, to be seen as a thought leader, what have you. But without those new methodologies incorporating social media, sales is pretty much run like it always has been for a lot of organizations.
Now, you do have some of the more forward-thinking start-ups that are doing growth hacking, what have you, but for the most part sales methodology is still where it was a decade or two decades ago. Even thought the market has changed. So that’s why I believe that marketing departments have reached out to me saying, “You know, sales people are still doing it the way they’ve been doing it for the last few years with these great tools, with the advent of social selling there’s a lot we can do. Can we bring you in to train our sales team on B2B social selling?” Primarily using LinkedIn, but I talk about how you can use Facebook and Twitter and other platforms as well.
So what happens in these trainings and those forward-thinking companies that reach out to me say, “Hey, we want you to train our sales people, but we also want you to help enlist them in the sharing of our marketing messages.” Okay? So what happens in a sales training is, you know, part of how you sort of establish thought leadership in your field, how you maintain mind share, how you build trust, how you deepen relationships in social media is through content.
And so therefore the recommendation for social selling is that you want to be sharing content. Ideally part of the content is coming from your own company, and really ideally it’s even coming from yourself. But I don’t expect that among salespeople because I know they’re trying hard to close quotas. So you get to the point where social selling requires content. And for those marketing departments that reached out to me that didn’t already have this advocacy concept, where they’ve sort of seen marketing as marketing as sales does sales, I at the end of these workshops and trainings will go back to them in the middle of the training, saying, “You know, you’re sales people are not going to expect more of you, expect you to blog more, to deliver more content to them that they can then share with their networks, with their customers, partners, etc.”
And now you see how if you want to jump-start and employee advocacy program and you’re looking for a place to start, it’s with your sales team. And now savvy social selling sales professionals – sounds like a tongue twister – realize that, “Wow, it’s great for me to be sharing content.” And once they see the ROI of it, because they get likes and comments and then next time they go a sales call their client says, “Hey, you know, that was a great article, thanks for sharing it with me.” Whatever it might be, whatever anecdote or evidence there is, inevitably I do believe they will see the ROI of doing it and therefore there’s going to be an internal demand that sales people don’t have time to be curating content, even less time to create content.
So this is where there becomes an internal need for marketing to be delivering more content, and it really fits well into employee advocacy, right? Let it start with your sales department as part of a social selling program.
So this is where we are in 2015, and this is why you see the development of all these different employee advocacy solutions that can help curate content as a service from your marketing department to all your departments internally, but if you make it primarily focused on sales, then the marketing messages have to be tweaked, but it becomes a lot easier to do and you can then calculate your ROI from doing that pretty much directly with each sales rep. In fact, you could put a unique tracker code with each sales rep that shares it, you can see who shares more, what delivered more leads and what have you. And once again, this comes down to all of those different employee advocacy platforms and the analytics that they offer.
But there’s one thing missing here, okay. This is all great, everybody loves to hear it, but it requires in order to close the gap between the realization of social business, of employee advocacy and social selling, there has to be an alignment done between two organizations, and that is sales and marketing.
Now, there are a lot of different methodologies out there about sales that I talked about. I learned sales, corporate – B2B sales in Japan. And one of things that I learned was: when I went to see a customer, and this is back in the ‘90s, right? I was a young green, you know, out of liberal arts college, sales person. But I realized that I wanted to delivery a little nugget of information every time I went to a client so that they would be anticipating my arrival, they would want to meet with me, they would make time to meet with me, because they knew there was value in meeting with me because I was going to bring them a little nugget of something that was going to help them do their work better.
That is sort of like content marketing before we had content marketing, because this is real life, real social interaction. In Japanese we call it “omiyage.” Omiyage is a souvenir when you go travelling somewhere; you bring back omiyage or souvenirs for your close friends and close family. That’s why you see a lot of Japanese stocking up at the duty-free stores at international airports across the world, buying these boxed chocolates that you and I might not eat, but when they bring it back it’s definitely part of this tradition, this custom, and it’s greatly appreciated there.
So that was my omiyage to my clients, was always bringing something. And if it meant asking my engineers internally what they’ve been working on, if it meant while under NDA and not being able to expose customer names, what are some of the things that other companies in the industry are working on that they should be looking at that we had a product or service for, these were the things that I looked at.
Now I think that most sales professionals would agree that it would be great if they had this type of information, and maybe they’ve already been doing this. Now what we’re now with social selling and with sales people actually sharing and publishing content, is an extension of that. We’re doing it now online. And by connecting with our clients and our potential clients, we are giving them the ability to access information and therefore we become that same thing I became, which is someone that I want to meet, someone who’s wall I want to visit every day, someone who’s network updates I want to make sure appear in my news feed because I’m getting value from them.
And this is where the alignment has to take place. Marketing now has to deliver content, and it’s, you know, the alignment is just not about social selling; it’s about employee advocacy in general. You want to create content that others in the organization want to share because it helps them look better. Whatever it might be, whatever reason they’re in for doing it, you have to make your employees look good. Whether it’s a really, you know, funny and entertaining thing that they shared, whether it’s a cool photo or whether it is am extremely valuable piece of content, right?
Everything needs to be crafted as if it was an art, because your employees’ branding are all on the line. And I’m hoping that those in marketing are opening it up to that and taking a lot more serious look at the messages they make for employee advocacy over those general marketing messages that – your general outward-facing marketing message that you have. So there is the alignment.
Now, my advice on the alignment that has to take place is, number one, you both have to be on the same page, and I think the more that sales people can come and say to the marketing folks, “Hey, we’ve taken some trainings, this is how we’re using LinkedIn, maybe some of the other platforms, as part of our sales process, and we want to take it to the next step. We want to create a platform, purchase a tool, whatever it is, but we want to be sharing more content to maintain mind share, to help the folks out in marketing in developing new leads, in nurturing the leads we already have, and closing business and maintaining customers, and we’re ready if you can deliver the content to us that makes sense to us.” And the sales people say, “Wow this is something that my clients would really like to hear.” then it’s a win-win, right?
And therefore, it starts with, I guess before it starts with education, that I think marketing needs to be better educated on employee advocacy and how to – it’s not just using your employees to spin their networks, it is a true way of representing your employees to their networks. And hopefully by showing your employees and that content in a good way, it rubs off on them or on their networks positively, so it’s good for them and indirectly it gives your company a more positive look in the market as well.
So it requires marketers to be on top of employee advocacy. It requires sales people, especially sales management, to be on top of social selling. And I think once you’re at that level, right, that step one education, one of the nine things I talked about that you need to focus your efforts on in 2015, then step number two is you have the communication. You’re both on the same page. It comes down to maybe an operation issue, which is what’s going to be the process here, which is another thing of the nine things I talked about that you need to focus on for 2015.
But, you know, whether you buy a platform or you send out an email or put it up on an Intranet, whatever it might be, that there is a need, not only for marketing to help craft those messages, curate those messages, but also to align the messaging, getting back to that original experience I had in sales, which is the messaging was never the same as what we ended up using in the field, which we found most effective with our customers, is adjusting that messaging so that it really fits the need of the sales people, and therefore they will share it more and your program will be all the more successful because of it.
So education, communication, alignment of the content, and then as in the spirit of Edward Stemming and PDCA, of really going back and having regular meetings, what worked, what didn’t work. And the more that the marketers can show, and I’m assuming that marketing’s going to be managing this employee advocacy program of sharing content for social selling, and it could be inside sales in some organizations, but coming back n a monthly basis and saying, “Wow, due to your help, sales people, we were able to generate x number of impressions, x number of clicks, which generates x number of leads, which actually has already led to x number of deals in the pipeline, with the potential value of whatever million dollars, or whatever hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
It’s that last part of the loop, that feedback which fuels the ROI, which fuels positive sentiment that’s going to keep sales people doing it continually, and it becomes a natural part of their workflow and of their sales process.
Now, some of you may be wondering, “Well, how are you going to get sales people that are busy trying to close their numbers, they’re only as good as, you know, their last quarter’s numbers. How are you going to get them to participate at all?” Well, you know, like I said, if they’re not savvy in social, they’re not going to participate. But more and more of them are getting savvier with the advent of social selling; they’re going to get there as well. And it really comes down to a very, very long term approach, which takes it step-by-step-by-step. Beginning with the education, and not trying to force things forward until you have that in place, where then you can move on to the communication, the curation, the feedback mechanism. And there’s a lot of other things you can do, like gamification to try to sort of enhance it.
But at the end of the day, if people in your organization don’t see the ROI of doing it, they’re not going to do it, right? They first have to be positive employees who want to help, when we talk about employee advocacy in general. And when it comes to social selling it’s even more important that sales people do not want to waste their time.
So my recommendation to all my clients is, when you talk about this specifically with bridging the gap and aligning your sales and marketing and social business, is really saying, “Hey, if you can devote 5 to 10 minutes a week, just spend one Friday, you can choose a few messages to share, maybe share 2 or 3 a week, put them in the buffer, whatever it is, maybe have a lunch hour. Allow all the sales people to come in during lunch one day a week and let us work together to help you curate, find, share, schedule a messaging.” And maybe we train you as part of that.
And, you know, employee advocacy almost – you know, the people that are running the program almost have to become the internal educators. It almost becomes a social medial center of excellence activity. That inherently requires education of employees, and that’s why I’m so passionate about the concept of a center of excellence, that’s why I started my own social media center of excellence, SocialMediaCOE.com that you should look into as well.
So, you know, some of my podcasts are shorter, I wanted to go into a little more depth because I think that this subject requires the depth. It’s a little bit more complex of a concept to convey over a podcast. Be on the lookout for a blog post which will go into a little bit more detail, which you may want to read after listening to this, but regardless, this is the great alignment, and those companies that are able to make this alignment are going to excel in social business, beginning with alignment with sale, but it’s also going to help their general employee advocacy program in many, many ways.
So that’s it. That’s actually just the beginning of a lot of work for a lot of you out there, but hopefully I have fulfilled my promise of talking about this alignment and how to go about doing that alignment. I wish you all the best of luck in aligning. I’m going to keep on recording these podcasts as I see them based on the market, based on my clients, based on what I see, and I’m going to keep it real and try to give you – even though some of these podcasts may go a little bit longer than my promised 10 minutes, a lot of actionable takeaways that you can utilize today in your organization.
That’s it for this episode of Maximize Your Social. Coming to you from beautiful Orange County, California, wherever you are in the world, I wish you a great social day. Bye-bye everybody.
Transcript provided courtesy of GMR Transcription Services, Inc.