The Experian EMEA Central Marketing Team always had a drive for innovation. We always went the extra mile to bring to life online marketing best practices projects and initiatives. I was fortunate to drive one of these projects, which was focused on social selling.
Why social selling?
We argued that the role of the sales and marketing has changed in the last few years as digital communication has become our standard medium to establish relationships. Buyers are researching – collecting views, reviews and gathering information online. They know what they want. Sales and marketing must align themselves to a new shared set of goals to reach buyers and influence their decisions.
What is social selling?
For us, social selling consisted of four main activities:
- Listening: Identifying what our prospect cares about and needs
- Educating: Brand ourselves and company as thought leaders through sharing content that represents you as industry experts.
- Prospecting: Leveraging social media for networking and client warm referrals and introductions.
- Positioning: Researching and gathering intelligence that can be used to influence the sale.
Launching social selling
This project consisted on launching social selling as a new sales channel using LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool, with three main objectives:
- Growing the prospect lead pool at a country level
- Supporting conversion of existing prospects
- Supporting management client accounts
We wanted to empower the sales force to utilize social selling as key lead-gen and prospecting tool as well as an account management tool. The project was led by the EMEA Central Marketing Team, in partnership with local marketing and local and regional sales teams. The project wasn’t just the deployment of a social selling tool. It was a full-fledged program, which included onboarding, regular training sessions, support, analysis and reporting, and a communications plan and content strategy to support sales activities.
I developed a content strategy to support the sales team in developing the second of the social selling activities mentioned earlier: educating. This strategy was integrated with the existing marketing and communication activity in the target country, supported brand development in social media and was aligned to the business existing strategic objectives.
The strategy defined three separate content streams:
- Company branding: to build the business reputation online.
- Personal branding: to raise the social profile of the sales force.
- Engagement with prospects: targeted content to support 1-1 engagement.
For each content stream we assigned the relevant content from 5 content categories I identified (case studies, events, PR actions…). We had a content calendar and a structured process in place with the local marketing team to identify each month the content we needed to develop or adapt. We had another process set up with the local sales team to develop targeted campaign material for the project participants based on strategic plans.
In order to generate interest and encourage participation in the project we gamified the process. Using the data provided by LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator I built a leaderboard, in which we assigned scores to different actions. I updated this leaderboard weekly and distributed it to the whole team, to encourage competition between participants.
Sales team feedback
We received outstanding feedback from the sales team which proved we were on the right track when implementing social selling as a new lead generation and account management channel. Some of the feedback received was:
- “I have a lot better overview of the customer buying center”.
- “Prospecting is easier. Definitely a big help with account plans and account management – we can discover contacts we wouldn’t otherwise have met”.
- “I have used social selling to reconnect with clients who have moved onto new companies, and set up an appointment at their new company”.
- “I am able to run targeted and detailed lead generation lists of people to contact in existing accounts as well as completely new companies”.
- “Social selling gives me a lot of information that I didn’t have before”.
- “I have had the first response to an message. The prospect has replied and asked me to call him for a meeting. They are a major client at our competitor”.
- “I am able to contact the person directly on a personal level without going through traditional gatekeepers”.
- “I am finding the updates and a view of what certain leads find compelling interesting”.