Social selling and teaching where our customers learn: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 5)

A magnetic pull like the one needed when doing social selling
A magnetic pull of scrap metal, not unlike what sales reps should strive to achieve via social selling. Painting by Michael Kareken. “Magnet” (2010), Conte, 24″x18″.

Moving on from our findings regarding Social Customer Service, it’s now time to look at what we learned in Maersk Line’s social media study regarding Sales and not least the concept of social selling.

What is social selling?
Briefly put, social selling is about leveraging sales reps’ use of social media to perform better by getting in at an earlier stage in the sales funnel. It’s not about these employees spamming their networks/customers on e.g. LinkedIn and Twitter.

Quite the contrary: It’s about sharing knowledge and “teach where customers learn”. The goal is to build trust and pull customers towards you. And to sell better and more relevant products to the customers.

Also, social selling is mostly a sales tactics within the B2B arena.

A perfect fit
As such, social selling is a perfect fit for Maersk Line. We’re currently in the process of restructuring the methodology in our sales organisation, moving from so-called reactive to proactive sales, from price-oriented to value-oriented sales.

In other words, we do not want to sell the cheapest product, we want to sell the product that provides the best possible value to our customers. This approach demands that we understand our customers’ requirements better than ever before.

As mentioned above, social selling is not about bombarding the masses with generic marketing messages in order to generate thousands of arbitrary leads. Such an approach would directly contradict our understanding of how social media work.

The EloQueen: Talking to Jill Rowley
In order to learn more about how social selling works, we got in touch with the lady who’s known as the very top salesperson using social media like this, i.e. to “teach where customers learn”: Jill Rowley from Eloqua. Also known as “The EloQueen”.

For the past three years, Jill Rowley has been the top performing sales person in Eloqua. But what is she doing differently? What’s her secret?

First of all, she lives and breathes social media, she told us. The first thing she does when she gets up in the morning is to check Twitter etc. to see what’s going on and if there’s something that would be interesting to share.

Jill Rowley on Twitter where she’s “teaching where customers learn” and “getting in early”.
Jill Rowley on Twitter where she’s “teaching where customers learn” and “getting in early”.

But why does it make sense in the first place to use social media for a Sales person like her?

“The buying process has considerably transformed the past few years,” she told us.

“Today, buyers are now out on the web and the social channels to self-educate and to learn solutions to their problems. Most buyers now are almost 57% through the buying process before they engage with Sales. So it’s important for Sales to make this shift towards social media and the web.”

One of the ways to go about this is through content marketing shared through selected employees. Essentially, this makes use of the employees’ professional connections on the social networks to place the company’s content where the users are.

Guidelines, training and quality content
From the Social Media Team’s perspective it’s first about developing guidelines and training for the sales reps. Although the sales reps need to be empowered and trusted to act on their own, it is also critical to ensure that they understand the difference between old entrenched channels (mail, phone, meetings etc.) and the social channels.

Secondly, the task is to continuously generate quality content that the sales reps can share.

“A key aspect,” Jill Rowley told us, “if you want your sales organization to do social selling is to have Marketing generate quality content. Sales should feel good about the content generated, so that they are ok with sharing it across their network.”

So what is ‘quality content’? First of all, quality content is about quality, not quantity. As a rule of thumb it’s better to do one good piece of content than three mediocre ones.

But of course, as TopRank CEO and content marketing consultant Lee Odden puts it in an article, “there’s nothing like a quantity of quality to win the week, month and year.”

Forget that you’re a sales person
Apart from ensuring a quantity of quality, it’s important to maintain credibility by avoiding the content being only about how good our products are.

“I sometimes forget that I’m a sales person,” explains Jill Rowley. “I only think about what would be valuable to the customers, and Eloqua is really good at generating content that I can share. The content is not just about an Eloqua solution. It’s content about the world in which our buyers live.”

In short, it’s about getting in early – and starting to teach where our customers learn.

Next up: Internal usage of social media & inspiring the best behavior.

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