Social selling isn’t a hard idea

Or at least, keep it as hard as it needs to be…

This is the first in a series of posts where I hope to inspire colleagues who are just getting started with the concept of social selling. Each post will focus on real-world examples I had a hand in creating.

Social selling

If you’ve been put in charge of your organization’s strategy to leverage social media as a demand gen channel, you’re not alone. Years into the idea of using social networking for business purposes, many companies are still struggling with the big picture.

social selling idea

But the idea is simple and easily enhances existing activities you’re probably already doing.

Here’s the first in a series of examples from my career that help explain the idea of social selling:

Folks understand surveys

We might not like them, but that’s a topic for another blog. While working for a Fortune 100 financial services firm during the very early days of using social media in a business setting, I struggled with the notion of “how do we do this?” But a few hallway conversations with my peers helped shine a light on the problem. And it was much more than getting legal, compliance, and marketing on board. Those weren’t difficult tasks.

The big issue was getting the field and the sales org to understand the tools enough such that they wouldn’t be disruptive. That was key. I had no intention of up-ending anyone’s workflow.

So those hallway conversations revealed that we were in discussions with a leading survey software vendor on how we could best deliver a customer experience survey for both our consumers and for our agents. My peers were focused on building out very data-driven customer experience insights. We had to get both right.

The survey piece was relatively easy. We followed Net Promoter Score methodology to help us understand our customers’ perceptions of us. That research would be pivotal to developing best practices and actionable insights for our field. What works well, and what doesn’t.

Because I was working in a large organization, in-person training and conferences were the norm in helping educate and network. This new survey tool helped spark some new thinking on how we might leverage social networking to better enable our field.

This particular survey tool offered a new set of features that allowed survey participants to network with each other. It was, in effect, one of the very first uses of “social communities” for business purposes. The goal was to allow for real and honest dialog amongst field agent peers in the hopes of sharing best practices.

It worked.

The “old school” way of doing things… flying folks to a company event took time and resources. It was expensive to put on an event and it was expensive to pull sales agents out of the field for any period of time. No one could sell!

At the beginning, my customer experience and marketing programs peers would “chum the waters” with surveys around all manner of topics… be they product positioning, sales training, or new marketing initiatives.

These surveys got the ideas happening, but many field agents took the initiative to continue the conversation within the survey community tool to really explore the new concepts the corporate office had introduced. They made the ideas their own and began implementing them with great success. Not only were agents able to increase sales volume and size, they were able to activate new and expanded local markets.

Community as a sales tool

As with many areas of our lives, “being social” often helps us expand our understanding of events and ideas. Starting with basics, we enabled and encouraged the field to discuss new ideas in ways that gave them ownership over how they might implement these ideas. It started with a survey, but continued with vibrant conversation in an online community.

If you have an example to share on how you leverage surveys or community discussions to enable “social selling,” please comment below!

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