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Digital Transformation

Dreamforce: Crack the Code on Social Selling

social selling





So I’ve always been interested in how you sell social given that so many have problems in defining it.   Hence my interest in this session on social selling.  People from Salesforce, Sales Benchmark Index, Pandora, Linkedin, and others brought this session. Note also that social has officially matured that people now focus on the selling aspect of social rather than social in general.  If this was a gartners expectations map, we would have just gotten past the trough of disappointment.

Premise: Social is changing how we get information. 30% of people get their news on mobile phones on Facebook.  Twittter just had a $2.1 billion IPO.

Recently, people are getting more referrals from social networks than from Google (unattributed).

Customer’s due diligence begins with due diligence, continues on to customer’s first contact with a supplier, and ends with a purchase decision.  The point: customers self-educate to a degree never before seen.

  • the most important decision: to engage with the internet to educate or not
    • Option one: status quo and engage after initial research
    • Option two: engage early as customer research starts.
  • in 20111, 57% did pre-research. In 2013 they expect research to increase to 65% of all customers.  In there words, more and more people have made preliminary decisions before they ever contact you.  (Stats by Sales Benchmark Index research studies)
  • Why Linkedin?  Focus.  Don’t just connect to everyone. Don’t be afraid to help others in your social network and gain a referral.
  • According to Google, email open rates are 4.4%
  • AASP states that only 1-3% of cold calls get an appointment
  • 84% of B2B decision makers begin buying process with a referal. (per Edelman Trust Barometer)

Ralf VonSosen, Head of Marketing at LinkedIn Sales Solutions

here are the questions:

  1. Who to talk to? LinkedIn has 250 million members.
  2. What to say? (Look at the 2 billion member updates each week)
  3. How to connect? (e.g. how to get a referral within LinkedIn.)

Four key things to do:

  1. Resume to reputation
    1. Put videos on your resume
    2. Get your personality out there
    3. Show testimonials
  2. Relationships to Network
    2. It’s a visual description of your relationships.  Show the networks you have.  Each network has a purpose.
  3. Gather Intelligence
    1. Get information on what your customers are talking about today
    2. follow companies
    3. see what the employees are posting
  4. Contribute Insights
    1. Become a thought leader
    2. Meaningful insights
    3. read and check sources
  5. Create a social selling program
    1. Be a leader in your organization
    2. Understand the regulations
    3. Find who is already involved
    4. Understand who owns social media
    5. Move from experimentation to a solid process.

Mari Anne Vanella, CEO and Founder, The Vanella Group

Premise: Sales process begins before your first meeting.  (e.g. influence early)  This isn’t new.   Today you have some tools like twitter, LinkedIn, and others. These allow you to gather information quickly.

Story: potential client connected via LinkedIn with a client from her Nascar slide.  This became an instant reference

Nurture with social until they are ready to engage

  • Share gartner report on twitter, get response, engage

Go in prepared. Know your customer

YouTube, Linked In, Twitter, etc., all provide avenues of information on the challenges they face.  Mari Anne noted that her clients became bored with the, “About Us” slides.  They had already done the research. That was why she was in the room.  So she changed to the prepared and solution oriented sell.

Add texture to your customer relationships

Have fun and interact with your customers.  Mari Anne uses Newzle (??).  She uses it to share. She also uses a tool called “refresh” that takes everything about someone or their company in your network.  Makes it easy to compile a report.

Don’t wait for your company. Invest in yourself.  

In today’s world, this is obvious to those who get it.   It’s like the two tools Mari Anne mentioned above.  She invested herself to find and use those tools.  It also means that you do consistent research on your clients.    Finally, it means you need to build your social presence on various social networks.

Tool: Squirro (available on Saleforce App Exchange). Squirro allows you to save information on your research. great way to get contact information.


What does Pandora sell: advertising (display, audio, and video). It’s a complex sales process across geographer and types of content. They focus on two key areas.

  1. New business
  2. Existing business

Key to getting social selling:

  1. Gain executive buy in.
    1. Get the executive on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
    2. Get your sales reps on it as well.
  2. Be comfortable trusting sellers.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can give them room to maneuver.
  3. Take time to see results
  4. Track influence vs lead generation

Pandora Results:

  • Prospects are thanking sellers for connecting on LinkedIn
  • Sellers are saying that using LinkedIn as a follow up is a good idea
  • Sellers are moving across four stages
    • Understanding
    • Social Sharing.  Share what he sees in specific areas
    • Blogging: next level of social sharing
    • Social Interaction: One to one interaction

Bottom Line:

Yes, social selling will be key to engaging with customers early enough to make a difference.  Failure to do so will impact your ability to sell.  You’ll be too late to the game.



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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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