According to Spencer Stuart, the average age of a board member in corporate America is 63. This is an increase over the past. In 2008 the average age was 61. In 2004 it was 60. What does this mean for the sales leaders and CXOs? It potentially means your board may be operating from an antiquated perspective.
They are likely out of touch with the intricacies of social media.
“B2B Marketers know intuitively and anecdotally that social media brings them good leads.” -Emarketer.com
We find firms are struggling to make the shift to social (still). At recent project readout with the Board of a mid-market firm, Board members spoke of the nuts and bolts of “old school” prospecting and selling. When the subject turned to social selling, the Board had difficulty understanding the need for change. They viewed the problem as a lack of selling fundamentals. They believed a simple block and tackling approach to sales was all that was missing. What they fail to understand is the fact that buyers have changed and are less accessible. It’s not simply a matter of getting past the gatekeepers anymore. You now must reach the buyers online when they’re not yet in the market. Otherwise, you’re a step behind the competitors who have already gotten in touch with your prospects.
The transition to social selling isn’t seamless, but it is necessary. There are a few key elements you need to keep in mind when making the switch. Relay these to the Board along with a plan of action. Social selling requires the following fundamentals:
Retooling and training: Depending on the tenure and age of your sales force, the level of retooling and training can vary. Are you working with a team of Millennials or Baby Busters? It stands to reason that the approach is different. However, it’s hard to convey how dramatic the difference is. Millennials are profoundly social already. Their main training should likely focus more on selling fundamentals. Whereas your tenured reps are likely well-versed in the selling fundamentals. But, they’ll likely require convincing, incremental training (baby steps) and retooling on social media skills.
Coaching and reinforcement: Social selling requires a level of coaching and reinforcement unlike other sales programs. Beginning a new social selling initiative without coaching and reinforcement is akin to a near tragic error. The initiative will almost certainly fail, especially with a tenured sales force.
Gamification helps to bridge the gap between training and execution. Ryan Tognazzini excellently highlights the benefits of gamification in sales transformation efforts. This can be one method of getting more consistent buy-in from your non-Millennial sales force.
Auditing and Reporting: A Social Selling Dashboard helps to augment other forms of reinforcement. Common metrics include network size, social activity, breadth of social platforms and appointments from connections. That last metric is certainly the most important. 500+ LinkedIn connections are all but a waste without converting them to appointments and sales. Leveraging the benefits of a social selling program rests on a first class referral program.
At SBI we refer to social selling as “Selling in the Orange.” The following graphic demonstrates the difference between “old school” selling and social selling. Consider that buyers’ due diligence represents 57% of the buyer’s journey. This is a journey made without the presence of a sales rep. Our research indicates that the number is now closer to 70% in 2014.
Think back to the Board mentioned earlier. Their assertion about “old school” “blocking and tackling” is the white. Think about your own buying process. When you’re 60% (or more) of the way through your process, you’ve likely narrowed down your options considerably. You certainly have a favorite, and are just looking for reasons to affirm that decision. There are two options for reps who rely on cold calling and “interruption selling.” First, they could be left out of the picture entirely. The second option is that they will be engaged once a buyer has narrowed down choices.
Neither of these options is ideal. Both lead to limited opportunities in today’s buying landscape. The Board may not be up to date with selling tactics, but they certainly care about the bottom line. Using the information in this blog, you must convince them that making the number is contingent upon social selling. Sell in the orange.
Don’t wait to get started. Social media moves so fast that if you delay for long, you’re behind the next new trend. Bring your Board up to speed with social selling. Advocate for change management and selling in the orange. Let the numbers speak for you as you build this case. The importance of numbers is the one thing the Board cannot deny.