Measuring the ROI of Social Selling

How do you measure the ROI of social selling, especially against traditional selling activities, techniques or tactics?

I always find the preoccupation with social selling ROI interesting. Why such an emphasis on whether or not using social networks as part of the selling process is working when typically, sales leaders NEVER evaluate what their sales people are doing when they are not in the office. In other words, do they question the ROI or evaluate the effectiveness of the phone calls, lunch meetings, networking events or conferences that their reps attend?

I know sales people who meet with anyone who has a pulse. Where is the ROI in that?sellersusingsocial

But, of course, I agree that measuring activity – all sales activity and that includes the use of social media for selling – is very important. I also know that social selling actually can lead to sales people achieving their quota’s more often.

Measuring ROI doesn’t have to be challenging. If you read my work or have heard me speak, you know that I advocate strategy, skills and execution as the recipe for success. Your strategy – or call it a plan – also includes the things you want to track.

 Activities to Track

I’m just going to assume that your sales people have decked out their LinkedIn profile. At this point, that should be the obvious first step, but you might want to thereafter track how often they change up white papers, case studies or topical presentations on their profiles. At a minimum, I suggest changing out that content once a month.

Other activities to measure, which most sellers are usually most interested in are:

  • Size and quality of LinkedIn connections that are a mix of people who can refer business and/or can buy from your company. This is NOT simply a numbers game. If you are not connected to potential buyers or people who can refer business to you and you to them, the power of using LinkedIn has been missed.
  • Number of referrals received and from whom. Nothing gets you in the door more quickly than a referral from someone trusted and respected. As much as 44% f the time, you can secure that meeting. Sponsored by a trusted insider at the prospect company? The meeting acceptance rate jumps to 84% based on cited statistics in Selling to the C-Suite.
  • Number of net/new meetings – discovered and cultivated via social – with qualified prospects conducted each week, month, quarter. This can be tough because there is generally not a “straight line” between the actual activity and the ability to secure a meeting. Sooo…your sales people need to get in the habit of asking – then writing down- how a prospect proactively reached out to them or how the process of securing that meeting happened.

Speaking on webinars, conferences or participating on panels is an excellent way to gain visibility, but choose wisely. Even if I speak to 60 people, I can’t necessarily draw a straight line to a sale. It is a combination of things that lead to visibility.

Influence Counts Too

Driving revenue is obviously a sellers job, but that should not be to only measure of your effectiveness using social media. What about influence? You can use Klout to determine how well you influence your network.

Or, use TweetReach to judge the effectiveness of your tweets.

You should pay attention to the people commenting on your status updates on LinkedIn or how many people started to connect with you because they like what you post in groups.

And, continue the practice of giving things away that you can track. Presentations or webcasts shared via Slideshare, “how to” guides, ebook or white paper that be downloaded off the web, shared after speaking at an event or posted on your LinkedIn profile.

Focus on the Important

Don’t believe the hype that using social selling strategies leads to an immediate explosion of leads in the pipeline or revenue closing by itself over night. Like anything else, sales success takes consistent hard work and with buyers connected to multiple communication platforms, your sales people need to be ready.

But the most important thing to keep in mind… determining real ROI is about focus on the right activity not just the fluffy stuff.

Don’t School Me!

After 29 years as a sales professional, I believe that there are some things that just do not change if you expect to be successful selling. 

  1. You need to follow a repeatable sales process consistently.
  2. You need excellent consultative selling and communication skills.
  3. You need to care more about your buyers needs than your own.

When it comes to developing new business, today’s sales process includes the use of technology to network, cultivate referrals, prospect, track opportunities, prepare for sales calls, educate, present solutions and communicate with prospects. And these same steps apply when you mine for new business with existing accounts.

Communication Matters

“If you are a B2B marketer, you’re no stranger to content marketing. It’s quickly risen to the top of every marketer’s to-do list. But it’s the way that you are performing content marketing that can be the difference between gaining and losing a customer.” –Nancy Pekala

Nancy’s observation is equally applicable to sellers. The message matters!

Don’t School Me

Here is an example of a marketing message that someone needed to think about a little more carefully. As a subscriber of a popular magazine, I evidently let my subscription lapse. The magazine is one I’ve long enjoyed reading, so I have no problem with being reminded to renew. However, the way the message was phrased speaks directly to my point about messaging. The email I received began with…

“Dear BARBARA GIAMANCO:

Your subscription to XYZ magazine has expired. We have sent several letters reminding you to renew but have not received a response.

We want to continue encouraging your success. To demonstrate our commitment, by renewing your XYZ subscription today, this is our gift to you…”

I take exception to the first line and first paragraph of the message.

First, don’t scream at me by putting my name in all caps. This is basic email etiquette.

Two, don’t chastise me for not responding to your reminder letters. So what? I’m busy; you are not owed a response! What they just told me, in a not so subtle way, is that they only care about the money.

A better approach would have been to simply start with something along the lines of the second paragraph. Why not say, “We value you as a past subscriber and to welcome you back, we want to give you…”

Sales People Are Doing This Too

Marketing isn’t the only culprit here. The smart use of content to engage prospects and create credibility in advance of sales opportunities is central to a social selling strategy.

How and what you communicate is vital to selling, whether it is email, phone, face-to-face, sales presentations, social networks, texting or webinars; it needs to be done well. Nothing is sold without communicating with others. Sales people need A+ verbal skill, and in a wired, socially connected world, they better have good writing skills and understand the nuances of communicating in social networks too.  Though I hesitate to make a sweeping generalization, I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that an extremely high percentage of sales people need a lot of work in these areas.

Stop Broadcasting, Target Your Message

Typical sales and marketing messages of the written kind, whether it is email or via social networks, are one way communication and nothing more than broadcast pitches. A lot of phone calls are that way too. At the end of the day, you may think that all that activity is netting you a return, but I can say with certainty that a one-size-fits-all approach does absolutely nothing to create any true sales impact.

For example, I’m a small business owner with less than 10 employees. Your message to me should look much different than the messaging you might use when communicating with a large enterprise. My needs and theirs are very different. And unless your product or service supports a small business, why are you even sending me email or cold calling me in the first place? Someone is being paid for that activity, and it is a complete waste of time, which translates into a complete waste of money. Yet, it happens every day.

What’s the Problem?

In my opinion, management is measuring the wrong things. Activity is being measured…number of phone calls made, events attended, webinar registrations, white paper downloads, connections made or emails sent. But the quality of the activity is what you should be measuring. How can it not be obvious that 50 calls made to the wrong people, people not qualified to buy from you, is a big fat waste of resources?

Simply measuring tactical activity is a throwback from the “good ole days” of selling when coffee was for closers. If more attention isn’t paid to quality versus quantity, you won’t have anything to close, except perhaps your doors!

I AM a Customer But You Don’t Know It

I am breaking my rule today. Typically, I keep ineptness anonymous. Today, in good conscience I cannot.

I have continuously railed against the sad state of selling, which bothers me in a big way. Poor messaging. Lack of relevance for the buyer. No understanding of the buyers business. These things gnaw at me and then some.

But I can think of no more serious grievousness  than sending messages to CUSTOMERS that make it clear that YOU have no clue that they ARE a customer.

It isn’t Matt’s fault. Someone may have cued up the email for him. You could argue, however, that he should have double checked who he was emailing.

I have been a Salesforce customer for the past 3 years, but clearly Matt doesn’t know that. If he does, that sure does not come across in his sales pitch.

Matt knows nothing about me. He hasn’t bothered to try and figure out what is important to me. His sales answer is that I “click” on a link to learn more.

He wants a demo appointment. He has no idea that I’m a customer or what is important to me. He just wants to sell something.

Game over.

Sales leaders must get engaged. This type of messaging and “spray and pray” broadcast approach is killing your sales! Schedule 30 minutes with me…I’ll help you understand why.

In the meantime…sorry Matt…a little homework goes a long way!

“Hi Barbara,

My name is Matt (insert last name here) with Saleforce.com — cloud-based marketing automation software powered by Pardot.

We provide over 1,500 companies like yours with software that helps them manage all of their online marketing programs to deliver qualified leads to sales, shorten sales cycles and track campaign ROI. According to Gartner, companies that automate their lead management process experience a 10% or greater lift in revenue within 6-9 months while reducing costs by 33%.  Click here for more information on Pardot’s platform.

Do you have time for a quick conversation or web demo this week or next?  If so, what day/time works for you?

I look forward to talking with you soon!

Thanks,

Matt”

SocialTech Tuesday: Solving the Social Selling Puzzle

Sales leaders are often quite puzzled when it comes to making social selling work for their sales organization. Who can blame them? Ask 10 people who promote their expertise in social selling, and it is highly likely that you will hear 10 different definitions of the term. Listen closely and many of the pundits are simply telling you that all your people need is to use LinkedIn. Not the entire story!

I have defined “social selling” as the process of using social media to network, prospect, research, engage, collaborate, educate and close all with the purpose of attaining quota and increasing revenue.

Notice that I mention that social selling is a process that incorporates the effective use of the right technology to achieve some very specific sales objectives. It certainly seems pretty straightforward, right? Then why are sales people struggling to make it work for them? For starters…

It Is a Brand New Ball Game Folks

1. Gaining access to prospects is much harder these days. Buyers just tune out your cold calls and broadcast emails. Even a recognized brand name doesn’t guarantee a sales meeting these days.

2. The decision making process in most companies is much more complex. I read somewhere that on average there will be 12-15 people involved in the purchase decision. Sales people need to build relationships with multiple influencers and sometimes it isn’t easy to tell who those key influencers actually are.

3. Getting a meeting at the C-level doesn’t necessarily move your solution to the front of the line. Yes, you should definitely set your sights on securing a meeting with the right decision maker at the highest level that you can, but you are fooling yourself if you think that the gal at the top isn’t going to involve her people in the process.

4. Social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more have entered the mix. Sales people need to understand how social fits the sales process, but they also need to learn the nuances of participating in a social environment where there are unspoken rules and generally accepted best practices when trying to engage someone in the socialsphere. If you don’t know what they are, you will make a misstep that could be costly.

There Are No Short Cuts

Adopting a social selling approach is about change and change just isn’t easy. It also takes time. It takes setting a STRATEGY, ensuring that sales people have the right sales and technology SKILLS and that EXECUTION of the strategy is happening consistently.

On Thursday, July 25 @ 1pm Eastern, join me over at Top Sales World Academy for a FREE educational session about what it really takes to Solve the Social Selling Puzzle. REGISTER HERE!  By the way, there are other educational sessions being conducted by some of the best in the field of sales!

 

 

SocialTech Tuesday: Another Kind of Handshake

As the co-author of the second book about social selling to hit bookshelves in August 2010, I am delighted to see that a philosophical approach to selling that I began evangelizing as early as 2006 is gathering steam.

At the time that The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media was published individual sales contributors were testing the waters on their own. Their managers, however, snubbed their noses at the idea that using social media as part of selling could help to generate revenue. More sales leaders get it today, but we still have far to go.

Part of the social selling process relies on sales people creating a perception of expert credibility and that’s where content comes in. Largely misunderstood, I want you to think about content in the context of helping the buyer make their decision to buy from you and your company and not someone else.

Recently, I sat down with Jason Wesbecher CEO and Co-Founder of Handshakez to talk about content and a unique platform that he and his team have developed to help sales people use content to close deals. Jason is a seasoned sales leader, so I know that you’ll benefit from his perspective as much as I have.

By the way, on Thursday, June 27 at 12N Eastern, I’m hosting a complimentary webinar with Jason that you need to attend. You’ll want to see for yourself what Handshakez can do for your teams sales results!

BG: Jason, why is content such an important part of the sales process?

JW: So much of the sales process unfolds these days outside the presence of an actual salesperson.  Because of this, it has never been more important to produce and share compelling content that can help provoke your customer to ask a question, start a dialogue… to engage with you.

BG: Isn’t interacting with our prospects and sending information back and forth sort of boring and wasting time? How does Handshakez overcome that challenge?

JW: The challenge with information exchange in today’s B2B environment is that it’s done much in the same way it was 15 years ago – via email.  What’s changed, though, is the sheer amount of email customers receive these days – as much as 600 new emails per week.  That is a tremendous amount of noise that sales reps now need to cut through.  Moreover, unlike 15 years ago, there just isn’t the same social obligation associated with responding to emails today.  Customers will easily delete dozens of external emails per week without thinking twice.

BG: Sales people often spend a lot of time chasing opportunities that really aren’t opportunities. How does your platform help sales people with that?

JW: As a former technology salesperson for 17 years, I can tell you with certainty that the next best thing to a “yes” is a “fast no.”  Quickly disqualifying opportunities is a valuable skill, as it reduces the time and cost of chasing conversations that will likely never come to fruition.  Our platform is focused on fostering engaging and transparent conversations between sales teams and buying teams.  When a salesperson using Handshakez starts to see declining engagement levels during a sales cycle – or worse yet, no engagement at all – it can inform next steps, sales stage and forecastability.

BG: Why did you start the company in the first place?

JW: I have been in enterprise software for 68 quarters and flown 2 million miles, selling to some of the toughest clients in the world.  What I learned is that oftentimes it’s a dance between a sales team that has an immature or undifferentiated product and a buyer who has multiple alternatives and very complex requirements.  In other words, selling is really, really hard and only getting harder. 

BG: We all know that the length of time to close deals has only gotten longer because multiple stakeholders are involved and some have more influence than others. What are some of the benefits of using your platform to address this reality?

JW: For today’s sales professionals to be successful, they must navigate the complex politics of committees staffed with informed and frugal buyers. Successful reps in this environment tend to engage customers rather than manage them.  And they differentiate their sales process as much as their products & services.  The best reps may already do this very well, but they only account for 10-20% of your sales force.  What about the rest? 

BG: Jason, you’ve told me that the buying and selling of B2B products is one of the most opaque and adversarial processes in the world.  Does it really have to be that way?

JW: No, it doesn’t.  I started Handshakez to make the B2B sales process incrementally easier and more enjoyable for all involved by humanizing it and taking it out of email.

BG: Humanizing it. I like that a lot, Jason. I rant quite often about how I think that sales people are using technology as a substitute for great selling skills. What are your top 3 pet peeves about the way people are selling today?

JW: As CEO of a company, I am now both a salesperson and a buyer.  We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building out our infrastructure, oftentimes with 3rd party tools and services from vendors.  My 3 pet peeves in working with these vendors have been:

  • Long PowerPoint presentations that emphasize the history and values of the vendor rather than my specific business challenge and how they can help address it.
  • Lack of awareness as to who the buyer actually is.  While I may be CEO, I generally outsource all technology decisions to my partner & CTO.  You would be surprised by how many vendors lack an appreciation for the differences between a buyer and an influencer.
  • Providing me with boilerplate vendor slicks as opposed to 3rd party content (HBR blog entries, industry best practices, etc) that can help influence my thinking.

BG: We definitely share the same pet peeves. As you know, I have strong opinions about why I believe sales people need to change their approach to selling. Why do you think it is important?

JW: Research by CSO insights suggests that only 46% of forecasted deals close.

BG: Ouch, only 46%? That’s a lot of lost revenue sitting out there. What’s the problem?

JW: After the countless hours of training and millions of dollars spent on tools, today’s B2B salesperson still has better odds at a Las Vegas craps table.  The definition of insanity is to repeat the same behaviors while expecting different results.  Handshakez helps sales reps redefine their approach, grow closer to the customer, and differentiate themselves.  We help clients close this forecast gap.

BG: Everybody talks about their ability to deliver ROI, but often they really can’t. What kind of ROI can sales leaders expect to see when their teams use your social selling platform?

JW: We help our customers realize a 10% increase in renewal rates and a 10 hour reduction per week in time each sales rep spends doing manual and administrative tasks within CRM.

BG: That’s what I would call ROI. And just think what could happen if each member of the sales team was spending 10 more hours per week on selling.

BG: Jason, I have enjoyed our conversation today, and I’m looking forward to our webinar on Thursday, June 27 at 12N Eastern.

SocialTech Tuesday: Be a Go-Giver

In a recent sales interview, I was asked to share my number one sales tip. Without hesitation, I said that it was to be a “go-giver”.  That has been a philosophy that has guided me throughout a successful corporate sales career, and as I run my own business today. The moniker itself comes from Bob Burg’s book, The Go-Giver, and at about 100 pages in length, it is a must read for anyone striving to be a superstar seller and knows that giving is the way to get there!

If you stop and think about it, common training and tips shared regarding social selling often focus on helping sales people use the technology to “get something”. Get more people to your profile, get in front of more prospects, get more people connect, get more prospects to notice you, get more leads in the pipeline, get more meetings, get recommendations, get referrals…get, get, get.

Of course, these things are important. After all, we all have something to sell. We teach these things in our trainings also, and we put a big emphasis on the giving. When the sole focus is on the getting and not the giving too, the pendulum swings widely out of balance. Many sellers are neglecting this important aspect of the selling process. Don’t you be one of them!

The funny thing about giving is that when your attitude is more about giving than it is about the getting, you better prepare yourself for the floodgate of opportunities that will come rushing your way.

Here goes, a 23 ways that you can give to others – prospects, influencers, customers. I steered clear of things that might seem too personal and my suggestions are in no particular order.

  1. Referrals
  2. Introductions
  3. A ride to the airport
  4. A book – I’ve given several copies of The Go-Giver to people
  5. Presentations or white papers that aren’t yours
  6. Birthday cards
  7. Share news of their new book launch, wesite, product or service
  8. Complimentary tickets to a ball game, movie or play
  9. Thank you’s
  10. Mention in your blog post and a link back to their website
  11. An invite to a webinar you think they will enjoy
  12. Connect them to speaking opportunities
  13. Recommendation
  14. A compliment
  15. Connection to a press opportunity
  16. Ticket to an industry conference
  17. 15-minutes of your time to help them with something
  18. Invite to be interviewed about their area of expertise
  19. Shout out on Twitter
  20. Ticket to a networking lunch as your guest
  21. Gift card to their favorite anything…restaurant, bookstore, music store
  22. A donation of time or money to a charity they support
  23. Subscription to an inspirational magazine like Success.

These are 23 things that I came up with in the giving category. My point in making this weeks topic about giving is that selling always has been and, I believe, always will be a relationship business. After all, for the foreseeable future at least, people buy from people!

Bring it on. What about you? What is on your giving list?

What Sales Leaders Really Need to Know About Social Selling

Contrary to what you may hear, social selling isn’t a NEW idea. I can say that because I’ve been using the term in my writing and speaking since early 2009, as I was writing my book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media. Rather than trying to take credit for the term though, I want to suggest that you, as a sales leader, need to be wary of the sales trainers and software platform sellers merely trying to capitalize on a “buzz term” they think is hot.

Why am I bothered about the abuse of the term social selling?

Well, for two reasons:

1. The misguided assumption that the use of social tools (LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Twitter or Facebook) on their own is the strategy that will increase sales and cure sales performance problems.

Use of technology is NOT a sales strategy!

Far too many of the “self-proclaimed” social selling experts want you to believe that all your sales people need to know is how to use LinkedIn, and once they do, sales will magically increase. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of LinkedIn since I became member number 874,098 on July 22, 2004, and am thrilled that my company was recently selected as one of seven to join LinkedIn’s Sales Solutions Certified Partner program. But for all the love, I know, as you need to know, that LinkedIn – just like any other technology – is a sales tool that enables a sound sales approach but does not replace it.

Ask yourself, what good is technology if your sales people do not follow a sales process; they lack basic common sense, good communication and sound selling skills?

I don’t need to tell you the answer. You already know what it is.

2. The over reliance on technology is quickly replacing the basic principles of great selling.

The gap is only getting wider as more and more sales people seem to think that the technology will do the actual selling for them. Good communication, listening, business and sales skills and even the basic principles of etiquette is disappearing…quickly!

Social selling is not merely a set of tactics reliant on one technology platform or even a combination of platforms. I believe that Social Selling is a strategic way of thinking about what today’s buyers want and expect from sales people. Yes, technology is part of the equation and can help you reach your prospects more quickly, but what are your sales people saying and doing once they get in front of them?

What do you, as the sales leader, really need to know about social selling?

Unless you have a plan that is aligned with sales objectives, the right people with the right skills, a process followed consistently, use of the right platform(s), sales messages communicated from the customer point of view, defined metrics to track, and an approach that is mixed with equal parts persistence and patience, you haven’t a prayer of achieving the sales results you seek.

Technology is only a fraction of the real sales story, but the so-called experts won’t bother to tell you that!

Social Media Does Impact Revenue!

Social Media and Sales Quota” report is now available and packed with great highlights about how sales people use social media to sell.

When working with sales organizations in the business-to-business (B2B), space we are constantly asked if using social media as part of the sales process actually generates a measurable return.

Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Consulting and I decided to find out if social selling truly impacted sales. With all the hype that surrounds social media and the term “social selling”, we wanted to know if social made a difference where it mattered…in quota.
With that in mind, we conducted a random, anonymous survey to find out what sales people had to say.

Our “Social Media and Sales Quota” survey report is packed with great highlights about how sales people use social media to sell.

You will discover that 78.3% of our survey respondents do use social media in their selling process and that 72.6% of sales people using social media outperformed their sales peers in 2012!

Here are just a few of our key findings…

  • Quota attainment and sales performance. In 2012, 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.
  • There is a direct correlation between closed deals and social media usage. Sales leaders want to know where the Return-on-Investment (ROI) is if their sales people spend time on social media sites. 54% of our survey respondents have tracked their social media usage back to closed deals.
  • The time investment in using social media to sell. A common concern among sales leaders is that their sales people will spend more time on social media sites then they will actually spend selling. It turns out that their concern is unwarranted. 50.1% of sales people told us that their time spent using social media ranged from less than 5% to up to 10%.
  • The report includes other eye openings insights and clearly shows that those sales people using social media significantly outperform their peers when it comes to achieving/exceeding quota and closing deals!

Help Us Get the Word Out!

Sample Text:
FREE Social Media and Sales Quota Survey Report. Find out how savvy sales people use social media to achieve quota and close deals! Get the results from our 2013 survey.

Sign Up on the Home Page RIGHT NOW to Download Your Copy!

Score More Sales: A Sales Mastery Interview with Lori Richardson

Great selling skills never go out of style and while the current buzz around “social selling” may cause you think that what’s used to work has no relevance anymore, you learn in my conversation with Lori Richardson that integrating technology into your sales process is only one small piece of a successful selling equation.

It is not uncommon for salespeople to have “good conversations” with a potential prospect and think that they now have a qualified sales opportunity. Not so fast, says Lori. She shared with me her Scoring Matrix and the criteria she uses – and teaches her clients to use – that truly determine if a good conversation is worth further sales time investment.

A gold mine of great sales tips can be found in my conversation with Lori, so let me tell you about her.

Lori is the CEO and Founder at Score More Sales and one of the top sales influencers in B2B selling worldwide. She spent 20 years in sales and sales leadership roles in financial services, technology, and distribution companies working for IBM, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Thomson Financial (now Reuters). In 2003 Lori launched Score More Sales, a sales consultancy that helps smaller mid-market companies grow front-line sales revenues. Lori teaches, trains, and consults on sales skills, sales tools, and soft skills helping sales reps and sales leaders turn efforts into dollars.

Lori also blogs for high visibility brands such as IBM Mid-market. She is the author of four books and will publish “Insight Sales”, a book for inside sales professionals, in Sept. 2013.

When you listen to my conversation with Lori, you’ll learn:

  • The changes that Lori has seen in sales through the years.
  • How some great sales practices never go out of style.
  • How Lori’s approach to teaching her clients to sell more effectively is different from others.
  • How sales leaders and their teams are responding to integrating social selling into their sales practice.
  • Advice for sales leaders who feel overwhelmed with so many things to be conscious of and get done in today’s 24/7 wired world.
  • Lori’s TOP prospecting tip.
  • What sales reps need to consider and follow up on first when they have a list of opportunities in front of them.

And more…

Enjoy the interview!