I’ve been coaching and training professionals on social selling since before it even had a name. Back when LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook first came out, there was a segment of the sales world that jumped on board and saw these as powerful communication tools. As is usually the case, there was another group that saw them as glitzy trends that the marketing people would talk about…which meant that they could be safely ignored.
That’s not the state of the world anymore. Digital communication has become fully integrated with how we live our lives, and by extension, how we buy. That means that those of us who sell have to engage with these news tools and find ways to leverage them. In Social Selling Mastery, Jamie Shanks offers a road map to digital transformation within a sales force that encompasses all levels of the organization: from the C-suite to the front-line, and from sales to marketing to operations. Jamie sees social selling as a holistic process that effects and is effected by all of the parts of the organization.
Stop thinking of social selling as a individual effort that involves a salesperson checking LinkedIn before making a cold call. Instead, organizations need to embrace digital transformation as a way to integrate their sales, marketing, and operations efforts to provide prospects and customers the insights they need. Those insights will help buyers make better decisions and build the capacity of the sales team to bring in the business.
Ideas, Implications, and Questions
- Jamie titles the first part of the book: “Creating a Mindset Shift for a Digital Transformation”. And that mindset shift is really what is required to be successful. It’s the same thing I talk about in Hyper-Connected Selling. Sales professionals can’t approach the buyer like they did a decade ago and simply paste a LinkedIn search into their current work routine. It really requires an update and overhaul of how we engage with our customers. That starts with updating and overhauling how we think about it. Jamie writes about the biggest challenge with most current social selling initiatives: “Sales leaders just want to hit quota…the root cause for these half-baked sales enablement programs is a lack of commitment to a true behavioral change.” (26)
- Along those same lines, “Social selling success is a team sport, not a showcase for great individual contributions.” (1) Couldn’t have said it better – the sales world is no longer the province of the lone gun-slinger. There are too many variables that they have to contend with, and too many different skills sets needed for success
- An important distinction that Jamie makes is between content and insights. Instead of just putting out content as part of a marketing plan, it’s important that the content is connected to challenges that customers have. You can’t assume that they’ll make the connection. You have to make sure that you do it for them. This is right in line with the Sales Sherpa™ idea that I talk about. They have the information, but we have to help them connect the dots.
- This also requires an integration of the sales and marketing efforts within the organization. They’ve been put in their own silos for so long that most organizations forget how powerful they can be when they work hand-in-hand. “The best insights come from your sales force; you just need a better way to mechanize the extraction of these ideas.” (136) When that happens, marketing focuses their expertise on creating content that speaks directly to the target audience. And that’s how to move from simple content to true insight.
- On a tactical level, I liked the differentiation that Jamie offered between the different part of the buyer’s journey and how to provide the right insights:
- Why do I have a problem
- How do I solve the problems
- When do I choose to solve the problem
- Socially surround your buyer “Your CRM data is a collection of contacts, but your social networks are a collection of relationships. Your goal is to merge these worlds together so they mirror each other in a 1:1 ratio.” (72). I’m a big champion of the power of relationships, and that’s not the sexiest place to be considering that how much the big data, automation, and AI voices are dominating the headlines. But in the end, data doesn’t do you any good if you can’t leverage it. Humans are still (and will be for the foreseeable future) the best at translating all of that information into human connection and action.
- And in the end, we still have to talk to people. Technology is a great tool, but it’s best used to enhance and further our human-to-human conversations. As Jamie says,” I think that too many sales professionals and social media experts spend far too much time thinking about engagement etiquette and forget that selling is a contact sport.” (99)
Should you read this book? Who should read this book?
- If you are a sales leader in any capacity, and especially in a B2B environment, Social Selling Mastery should move to the top of your reading list. It’s a great introduction into the power of digital transformation and it lays out a clear path for bringing social selling success to your organization.
- At the same time, it’s also a must-read for marketing leadership. There is a growing understanding that sales and marketing can’t maintain their hostile attitudes. They have to learn to work together. This is a great place to start the dialogue and create some sales/marketing alignment.
- If you are a front-line salesperson for a larger organization, it’s worth a read, but I don’t think you have to rush out right away. There is some solid tactical information in here for salespeople, but the book is really about the larger context. If you want to be well-poised to move into leadership, though, definitely read it.