Any Social Selling guru list worth its salt is going to feature Jamie Shanks (ours certainly does). Jamie is CEO of Sales For Life, who have established themselves as leaders in training and resources to build your Social Selling Mastery.
Jamie’s Book “Social Selling Mastery” is part personal story, part playbook for building your social selling skills, habits and routines. It’s a great read. Here are our 20 key takeaways (and we could have done 40. Next time…):
1. Education is the Silver Social Selling Bullet
Buyers make decisions based on who presents them with new ideas, concepts and roadmaps. The challenge is that others know this too: “Education is happening with you – your competition has been teaching your prospective buyers”. He paints the nightmare scenario of walking into a pitch to find your client is more up to speed on your sector, your company and your competitors than you are. To avoid waking up there, you have to keep yourself smart too – attend to your own oxygen mask and be a continuous learner.
And it’s not just education of your clients – you need to do it to survive as a sales pro. Forrester estimates that 1 million sales roles will be wiped out by 2020. Is anyone weeping? If you’re an order taker or demo-driver, your days are numbered. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be like this: “Sales professionals are the most open to learning new skills and the most likely to apply these new skills” because they see the results in their numbers. But it’s hard to build the habit…more on that below.
2. Watch Your Triggers
Jamie quotes Jill Rowley on building a social selling habit: “Every deal, every day”. And use three intersecting pillars to watch for opportunities to engage:
- Trigger-based selling -responding to internal or external events as a driver to engage
- Insights-based selling – Providing value and insight to shape the buyer’s’ journey. He quotes Forrester’s research that 74% of buyers choose the sale steam that was first to provide insights and value.
- Referral-based selling: All opportunities are linked to people. By growing your social network and building trust, you increase your odds of uncovering opportunities. That requires a social selling habit, every day.
3. Become an Authority
He quotes LinkedIn’s 2014 research which found that “ 92% of buyers want to deal with the sales professional who is the known thought-leader in their industry, vs 17% who don’t mind being cold-called.” If you’re not building your thought leadership it will just get harder to make it through to a conversation. So how to become that authority? FEED…
4. FEED yourself and your Network
Jame’s core FEED model is simple and effective to build social selling mastery:
Find: Find a buyer, the stakeholders in decision making, who influencers them, then “socially sound them to build your intelligence”. What engages them, what do they read and share? How can you contribute to their knowledge and build your authority in the process? As he says, “your buyers are leaving clues all over their social profiles: keywords, phrases, tends, ways they measure and benchmark themselves.” You can convert this into intelligence on what to share with them.
Educate: Educate yourself through content consumption. Understand it first and make sense of it before you share with others. You need to be focused in doing this.
Engage: Share insights with your buyers and network. The aim is to move them from their status quo and see first why they should change what they do – and only second, why you can help them. “Everything you do socially needs to better serve your buyer. Period.” It is not about you. That includes your LinkedIn profile, as others have also said – this is not for employers or recruiters, it’s for your customers.
Develop a network that can continue to open opportunities for you. This is about building your reputation as as an influencer and growing your network. “Your network is your net worth” to quote Jill Rowley.
5. Build Your Daily FEED Routine
Jamie breaks the FEED model into a 30-60 minute daily routine:
Find: Take 10 minutes to review your networks – any triggers you need to react to, any connections or invitations that would help you further surround your buyers? This should take no more than 10 minutes a day
Educate: 10-15 minutes to educate yourself and stay up to date on trends in your industry. He suggests 2 ways you could approach this:
- Choose a buyer. Seek out specific insights for that buyer from your content sources/tools
- Review your daily insights. Map relevant insights to buyers will find them useful – now or in the future.
Engage – Daily sharing of content on social networks, ideally 1:1 or via groups or broader sharing. 3 shares a day – 15 minutes should do it. You need to add value and personalise. “Take a look at this article” is not good enough. Take the time to say why it’s relevant to them based on your understanding and conversations to date.
Develop: Who’s liked, reshared, commented, engaged with what you’ve shared – what’s your next step in nurturing those relationships? If you’re not developing the relationship, it’s all for nothing, so don’t skip this step. 10 minutes each day to get back to people and keep the conversation going. And don’t forget to add anyone who shares your content to your networks!
6. LinkedIn is the Primary B2B Social Selling Tool
Consistent with others, Jamie ranks LinkedIn and LinkedIn Sales Navigators as must-use for the social seller. He notes that it’s not just about prospecting: The platform evolves beyond general prospecting and becomes an excellent account-centric tool”. I think that’s important – often LinkedIn and Social Selling in general is too focused on new business and not on continuous development of relationships in your key accounts. That’s arguably more important for revenue growth and protection.
7. Socially Surround Your Prospects
As part of the Find process, Jamie uses the term “socially surrounding” your prospects at three levels:
- There’s the core people – your buyers
- There’s others – influencers, stakeholders, others in the company who may influence the decision
- There’s the wider industry – experts, people who influence the buyer’s, competitors
You need to cover all of these levels on social to build your intelligence. You should have a 1:1 relationship between your CRM data on people and your social intelligence on them.
He has a great tip on tracking people who move companies and have previously bought from you. You need to know when they’ve moved and use the opportunity to connect and show how you can once again add value in their new role, when they’re looking to make an impact. LinkedIn alerts are great for this.
8. Drop “Content” – It’s Insights
This comes up in the chapter on sales and marketing alignment but it’s good general point. Content sounds static, it’s a publisher word. We want to share insights. They are not the same. Judge the content you and your marketing team produce based on how insightful it is – what can people learn from it. If that’s not clear, rewrite it. If there are implied insights in articles you curate externally, add them in your commentary. People will read your insights before they read the article (and possibly instead of it). You will get the credit for providing context.
9. Insight-based Selling is maybe a better term than Social Selling
Anyone can share poor quality on social. Sharing insights take more effort. But to get those insights you’ve to FEED yourself first. Jamie acknowledges that sales professionals can find it difficult to make time for this. “In fact this is typically where sales professionals fall down, reverting to their old playbook”. But if you’re not educating yourself, you simply can’t educate your buyers.
10. Look Inside, Look Outside
Jamie looks at the two main sources for educating yourself and buyers on insights
- Internally driven: your own blog, resources, marketing-driven output
- Externally captured: curated content from the wider market including influencers, experts, competitors
Both work together. As we’ve noted before, you can’t just share your own content. You won’t have enough to engage buyers and it’s always going to seem self-promotional. You need to find a balance and don’t be afraid to share other people’s content. As he says “these insights are still incredible at serving your buyer…the law of reciprocity will reign supreme, and your insights shared with buyers today will pay dividends for you in the future.”
11. Tools help Surface Insights, But You’ve Got to Make it Personal
He mentions Feedly, Flipboard and Buffer as potential sources for external content. As he rightly points out, finding the content is just the first step. “The tools are the vessel of information, but it’s your job to ignite your own flame by reading these insights consistently so you can deliver new ideas to a buyer”.
So what does he do? “I spend 10-15 minutes each morning to find valuable insights that I think will be great to share socially in a 1 to 1 context with a specific buyer based on a conversation we’ve had”. I think this is a really important point, and echoes our own thoughts on a 3 step process for curation in social selling
- Seek – Use tools to aggregate and filter content based on your buyer’s interests
- Sense – read, reflect, contextualise
- Share – either broadly on social for top of funnel, or (better still) 1:1 with specific people based on your understanding of their interests. You become a personal insights concierge – very far from traditional view of the sales professional
12. Map Insights to Buyer’s’ Journey: Why/How/Who
Understanding the buyer mindset helps you decide what insights to share and when. They move through three phases
- Why – Do I have a problem? Here you’re trying to show what’s possible, the risk of sticking with the status quo. Unless there’s a compelling reason to change, there’s no opportunity yet. “Show the opportunity cost of their status quo and the consequences of inaction”
- How – How do I solve this problem? Here you want to share practical insights, case studies, approaches to solving this and similar problems.
- Who – Who should I work with to help me? Here and only here can you start to explain why you can help them solve this problem with evidence. You can’t skip straight to this point unless the buyer’s already there, which is unlikely.
Jamie suggests you could use Why/How/Who as a way of tagging any curated internal or external content, so it’s clear to you and colleagues what to share when. Great way to align sales and marketing with a shared purpose.
13. Create an Omnipresence
Socially surrounding prospects means you have to have a consistent visibility in their social feeds or inboxes. You have to draw a balance between being spammy about this. He suggests using scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, but only after you have seen the value in the articles – don’t just flick on, spray and pray. His target is share 3 insights a day. Great if you have time – but if you share one valuable article a day and take the time to add your insights, that’s better than 5 lazy lower value shares.
To build that habit he says you should ask yourself every day “what can I do today to better serve my buyers? What can I do to help those buyers along their buying journey? Is there a trigger alert, valuable insight, or referral that can help me start a conversation with this buyer?
That may be hard to remember when you’re hitting end of month quota pressure, but this is for the long run you need to build a habit of selflessness
14. Never Send a Naked Message
No this doesn’t mean NSFW (don’t send those either). Jamie means that you should never send an invitation to connect, or an inmail, or any communication that doesn’t have some valuable insight for the receiver. “The currency of that value is typically content”.
Asking to connect, or asking for 15 minutes to pitch, we already know that rarely gets results. Put your desire to serve ahead of your need to win work. Sharing is selling. “Teach your buyer something that he or she didn’t know yesterday”.
He shares lots of tactics for socially surrounding prospects on multiple networks, primarily LinkedIn and Twitter – worth reading in full to get the practical insights.
15. Social Selling is about Teams
“Teamwork is always going to outperform individuals working in a vacuum”, Jamie notes at the start. The lone social seller trying to find and share insights and engage prospects isn’t going to do as well as a team of sales professionals and marketers coordinating their efforts. Really important to call on your colleagues to help you surface shareable insights and flag them to you – and of course to return the favour.
16. Marketers – Learn the CODE
FEED is for social sellers but for marketers Jamie sets out another 4 step process
- Create a foundation for developing new insights at scale. This is about listening to the sales team, and not trying to create everything – curation is vital as part of this.
- Organise insights – use the why/how/how model for tagging content so it’s easy for sales professionals to find the right insight to support their buyers at each stage of the journey
- Discover – Try new things, but this can also mean discover content from niche and unusual sources to add to your resource library
- Evaluate – you need to know what content/insights are converting and do more of what works. Less guessing, more data-driven marketing.
17. Measure What Matters
Much of the latter part of the book covers metrics and being clear on your goal and how to measure it. One simple model he suggests is 3 indicators for success in social selling:
- Leading indicator: Learning Behaviour – are sales professionals finding useful content, learning from it, and building a habit, are you providing them with learning opportunities and resources to help them build a social selling habit?
- Current: Social Activity: Are they sharing on social, are they getting engagement. Ask “in the last week, how often did you share digital insights with any of your buyers”. Tools can help measure this for you.
- Lagging: Sales Pipeline: What’s converting into opportunities based on social selling activities
18. Know What’s Working
With these indicators, you should be able to measure
- What % of new opportunities are coming through social, and which channels, e.g. we’ve seen 5% increase in qualified leads via Linkedin
- What’s driving it: What percent conversion are you seeing from your webinars, ebooks or specific campaigns? A good automation tool can help track this. As he says the most overlooked indicator is the “content consumption story” of your buyers.
- Who’s winning: Which sales professionals are getting the best conversion from their social selling activities – what are they doing and what can others learn from them.
19. Sales Leaders: Help your Core Performers, Not Just Your High Performers
The book is very tactical and metrics driven, and understandably has a large focus on training and coaching your team to be social sellers. He’s right to point out that you need to support your core performers. He quotes the Corporate Executive Board: Boosting your core performers performance by 5% will result in a 60% higher increase in revenue than boosting high performers by 5%. Your social selling needs to be a whole-team activity.
20. It’s about your Buyer, not You
We’ll leave the final word on being discerning about what you share to Jamie:
“Buyers (who are just people) only really care about information that has a direct, first-degree proximity to their own lives”. Your latest webinar or promotional piece is unlikely to fall into that category unless you’re very lucky. So you have to play the longer game and build trust through insights. Telling stories of how you helped a competitor or related company may be just the thing to push people away from status quo and finding out more about what you’ve done for others and could do for them.
There’s a ton more about aligning sales and marketing, getting your internal content (sorry, insights) machine working to drive leads, and measuring success – hope this quick summary gives you a sense of where Jamie’s coming from.
It’s a great read from someone who’s applied his own FEED approach to build a successful business through social selling. Get it here.
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