Friday Briefing: 26 Takeaways from The Social Selling Summit

social summit

We had a great 2 days at the Social Selling Summit this week. And we didn’t even have to leave our chairs. The virtual summit featured 15 great experts and 2 days of online sessions with lively discussions and chat between attendees. Very smart way to run an event, kudos to Jamie Shanks and the team at Sales for Life for putting it all together and being so generous with what you shared. We took away a lot of insights. And since social selling is all about sharing, we’re making our Friday Briefing a social selling takeaway menu this week. Dig in… 

Our 26 Takeaways From Social Selling Summit 2017

1. Sales Professionals are not in control – if they ever were

Mary Shea, Principal Analyst at Forrester showed what we’ve all felt: B2B Buyers are more empowered than ever. The Sales pro is no longer the sole provider of information. B2B sellers are at risk of disintermediation. Buyers are more self directed. They’ll contact you when they’re ready. Forrester shared some stats on how buyers make their decisions. If cold calling is your weapon of choice, you may be firing blanks:Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 16.32.59


2. Millennials are Making Buying Decisions – And They’re on Social

More stakeholders than ever are involved in making decisions. 73% of millennials are involved in making buying decisions for their firms. 85% of them are on social networks, 23% spend more than 3 hours a day on social. So if you want to reach and influence them, social selling has to be part of your approach.

3. B2B Social Sellers outperform their peers

Mary included results from Genesys showed that 72% of social sellers outperform their peers. As their global sales director Danielle Hall puts it “Social selling is going to be ubiquitous and it’s going to be required versus optional”.

4. Less than 1 in 3 Firms have a Formal Social Selling Program

Despite these results, of 120 firms surveyed by Forrester, less than 1 in 3 are taking action with a formal social selling program, though many more plan to. Stan De Boisset, Global Sales Director at Juniper Networks and Jamie Shanks CEO Sales For Life shared these stats to show how far teams need to go:

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5. Start a habit – 15 minutes a day

Mary says it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes a day to embed social selling activities into your daily routine and habits. It’s not about replacing other activities but enhancing them. It all starts with finding valuable content – more on that later.

6. To Get Social Selling Results, You Need a Programmatic Approach

Executive buy-in, resources, training, tools and content are vital. But more than anything you need a culture and champions who support social selling and make it happen. Here are Mary’s 10 commandments for social selling:

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7. Find Your Level – What Kind of Social Seller Will You Be?

Mary Shared 4 levels of social seller from non-participant to celebrity:

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You don’t have to be a celebrity (even though they go to the best parties). It’s hard for sellers to make the time to be content creators, more on that later. But you should be aiming for expertise. That can be built by listening, learning and sharing great content. It doesn’t have to be content you created, it just has to be relevant, educational and helpful. Being creative is great, but it’s more important is being responsive – you’re engaging and responding quickly to people in your network.

8. Attention is the New Currency

Instead of thinking “spray and pray” with your outreach, the true metric is “attention currency” – how much of your time did your prospect “buy” by engaging with your social activity and content. If they’re buying your time, that’s a step towards buying your product or services.

9. Tech Helps, but Social Selling is all about Relationships

Several speakers made the point that tools help, but people will still buy from people who they know, like and trust. Leverage tools to save time, but layer in your own personalisation to create an authentic connection. Don’t use social networks to push your products. 80% of the time you should be sharing relevant content from other people, only 20% should be yours.

10. Social Selling: Don’t Waste your Time?

The most feisty and entertaining session was “The Death of Social Selling”, a three way debate between social selling guru Jill Rowley, Gabe Larsen of Inside Sales and Anthony Iannarino noted speaker on social selling. They started by trying define social selling. Gabe defined it as “the act of salespeople wasting valuable time on the internet”. Game on… He was being deliberately provocative, but was making the point that if you think it’s just about blasting out content on social media without any focus, you are wasting your time. Anthony debunked the myth that social sellers means “If you tweet your face off, you’ll get opportunities and you’ll never need to cold call again”. That’s a conceit, you need to be far more focused and considerate than that, it’s a long term play. Jill pointed out that it’s about using social networks (not social media) to do research on buyers, to find them, listen, relate, connect, engage and to amplify their message and what they care about. It has to be a two-way conversation.

11. Sales People – Don’t Produce Content

Jill was a quota-driven sales person for years. In that time she never produced a piece of content. The general view in this session was salespeople don’t have time to create original content. That’s for marketers.  Gabe Larsen agreed that it’s marketing’s job to create or curate content that educates your audience. It’s the sales pros job to share it, add their own insights, and use it as one of many methods for building relationships. When it comes to content, work with your marketing team. Anthony was all in on this too: ‘There’s a lot of advice out there that tells salespeople you need to regularly create content to build your credibility, write two posts a week, But quota-driven sales people can’t do that. Marketing and Legal probably won’t let you do it anyway”. So use your marketing team, and tools, to find good content. On that topic:

12. Share More OPC (Other People’s Content) and less of Your Own

Content 1.0 says Jill was just sharing your company branded content. Content 2.0 is sharing OPC, “Other People’s Content”. Use tools to surface it, and research your prospects. If you want to get in front of GE, read their content, understand what’s changing in their business. Ask a question about it, add your thoughts. Your clients’ content is a source for any social seller.

13. Use Tools – But Never Ever Automate Sharing

There are plenty of bots that will auto share content for you. Do not use them. You are what you share, and you’re not a bot. Use tools to curate and find useful content to share, but you must personalise and add context and value with any content you share. That’s the only way to build relationships. If you’re not sharing useful content, as Jill put it, “the tools will just amplify that you suck.”

14. Be A Trusted Advisor, Not a Content Creator

Anthony made the point that to be a trusted advisor, which is what all sales professionals should be aiming for, you need to do two things: build trust and share advice. You don’t need to create content to do either. You need to be aware of what’s happening in your sector, curate it (as a team), and share insights with the right people.

15. Your Biggest Competitor is “Do Nothing”

Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions opened with a stat he acknowledged you’ve probably heard (and echoes Forrester’s research): 57% of B2B buyers have completed their research and are more or less done with the buyer’s journey before they invite you in. But the brutal truth is what happens at the end of that journey: 60% of buyers will make no decision at the end of the buyer’s journey. That’s right – 60% of buyers at the end of their journey will do nothing and stick with their current solution. Your biggest competitor is the Status Quo. So the biggest challenge for sales people is to help people make a change. Social selling (and all selling) should help that process.

16. Content Helps People Make a Change – But not Your Company Collateral

74% of buyers will give the business to the company that created a reason to make a change, who created the buying decision. So the opportunity in social selling is to help people see why they should change.  If you do that, you get an unfair competitive advantage. So before you talk about “why you” you need to address “why change”.

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Tim pointed out what’s missing in social selling content strategies. Rich Content can help educate people on why change – infographics, videos, and eBooks. But most of the content companies generate for sales professionals to share is “why you” content: collateral, brochures, presentations. We’re not doing enough to provide sales professionals with “why change” educational content.

17. Your First Call Fails Because You’re Talking About You

Product-centric content is answering the wrong question in social selling. It leads to 89% “first call failures” because the conversation is starting in the wrong place. Nobody wants you to send them your presentation as a first engagement. As Tim put it “Sales people are least prepared for the most important moment” in engaging people with the “why change” question.

18. Three Steps To Getting People to Change: Insights, Challenge, Contrast

Tim shared an approach to having a better type of social selling engagement:

  1. You need to grab attention with memorable insights – share problems, opportunities, challenges, threats that your prospects may not even know they have. Share relevant content and include the “so what” – make it relevant to them. If you just address known problems you won’t stand out. Tell them something they didn’t know. Of course you need great content to surface these insights.
  2. Then challenge their assumptions:  Bring new thinking on how to solve these problems, how they can overcome these challenges, gaps in their current thinking
  3. Show the contrast: show what you can do to help them do things differently. Case studies are great for this but they must be aligned to the challenge and change you’re recommending. It’s about what it feels like change and show the contrast – it’s not about your product or service. If you only talk about those things then the customer needs to infer how you can help them. You need to lead that conversation.  It’s telling a story of how things can be different.

19. The best Social Sellers are Just in time, Situational learners

Really liked this message, again from Tim. Sales Professionals should be lifelong learners. They research the industry. They understand the challenges face. The adapt their messaging and content to the situation and the specific prospect. Sales training is not just about the skills in the process, it’s about continuously learning what’s happening in your sector and your clients’ businesses.

20. It’s not just for Prospecting: Social Selling is Account Based too

Brandon Redlinger of Engagio pointed out that social selling needs to run through your existing accounts as well as a method for engaging prospects. They expect you to keep them informed and learning, so don’t forget about your high value existing accounts and sharing targeted, well researched, highly personalised messages.  He used a quote from David Ogilvy on note getting caught up in the funnel game and being selective: “Don’t count the people you reach, reach the people that count”. That’s good. He should be in advertising. 

21. B2B Buyers want Knowledge

Brandon’s research showed that 3 factors matter most in enterprise purchasing decisions:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of my industry
  2. Knowledge and understanding of my unique business issues
  3. Fresh ideas to advance my business

Sales professionals need to bring all of these to the discussion, whether they find it themselves or a wider team helps.

22. Email is a social selling tool too!

Brandon reminded us that email was a social selling tool long before LinkedIn. You can start with just one targeted, personalised email to one person and scale to multi-channels and connections from there. The key is to build a habit.

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There’s a scale of personalization to consider for accounts, from incredibly specific to broader sharing.

23. “Touching base” and “Checking in” is meaningless in Sales  

That’s a quote from John Barrows via Brandon. It makes sense. “Checking in” means there’s no real reason for your call, so therefore there’s no reason for me to talk to you. You have to be engaging people with insights, education, news and value. Don’t send “just wondered if there was any update” messages. There isn’t. 

24. Marketing and Sales need to Collaborate on Content for Social Selling

Several speakers said that content is the currency for social selling. Sales teams need a constant feed of third party and your own content to use with their networks. Setting up a social selling program needs marketing on board to feed the beast. Content is not just the marketing team’s responsibility though. Marketing needs to look to sales for insights on what customers need. Tracy Barr of Kofax  explains that their social selling model is a team effort: what the content marketing team creates is highly influenced by the sales team who are closest to the customers. Echoes what Jill and others said too.

25. Create An Authentic Voice

Katie Ng-Mak (Director of Sales, HubSpot) shared three ways to use social media uses social media to find, connect, listen and engage with prospects. Even if you’re not creating the content you share, you can create your voice on social. Be human, authentic in how you share content – add your insights and speak as you would if you were having a one-on-one conversation. Don’t be a sales bot asking for a meeting.

26. Avoid The Kenny Loggins Effect

Thanks to Kevin Casey at Thomson Reuters for this one, good message about keeping pace: when you’re behind in training or social selling activities, you’re heading into the Danger Zone. Leaders need to monitor and keep people engaged and using social. Use stats and leaderboards to get the data on how actively people are reading, sharing and engaging. This can start with engagement level, but of course it has to drive through to closed business that originated or was heavily supported by social selling efforts. Build dashboards that show this, share them with your team and demonstrate what works. Don’t let them cut Footloose. That ends this short but necessary tour of the Kenny Loggins Social Selling Songbook.

We could have shared so much more – great sessions, and thanks to everyone who presented and joined in the group discussions too  – the chat areas were buzzing with ideas and invites to connect (well, it was a social selling event). 

We’ve got more tips on social selling in this stream of content from a range of experts. Just in case 26 of them is just leaving you feeling shortchanged…