5 Real-World Lessons On How To Start a Social Selling Program

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

The LanguageLine leadership team made a decision nine months ago to embrace social selling. Very quickly, we understood that social selling is a permanent component of the sales landscape and that to ignore it would be perilous. It did not take long for us to grasp that our buyers have changed, and the majority of the buying journey is now completed before a salesperson even becomes involved.

With social sellers outperforming their non-social selling peers, we determined it would be best to adopt this strategy now rather than later.

Naturally, our eventual aim was to transform our sales team’s approach and drive revenue, and we have had some success, in large part due to the education we received from Jamie Shanks at Sales for Life. Positive stories have echoed around our building with greater frequency. Early returns show that our use of LinkedIn Navigator to accompany our efforts has positively influenced deals with approximately 40 percent of deals closed year to date have being influenced by social selling. We have also experienced a sharp increase of over 20% in the close rates for deals influenced by social selling. These initial results further reinforce the strategy adoption for our organization and sales teams.

We have also had a number of stumbles along the way as we’ve tried to attach the tried and true principles of social selling to our unique organization.

Based on our successes and the challenges we have faced, here are five key things we have learned over the past nine months:

1. Start small

From the start, our sales team fully embraced social selling, but where to start?

We faced two challenges: First, acumen with tools like LinkedIn varied across our team. Second, like all sales teams, we still had revenue commitments to meet for that month and quarter, as well as the subsequent ones.

Just as there is no logical time to pave a road, there is also no logical time to begin social selling. In the early going, we rolled out the philosophies and tools of social selling and expected our sales team to clear head space to implement them. This resulted in top-heavy adoption, with some adopting the concept wholeheartedly, and the others deferring.

We ultimately arrived at a better approach, targeting nine accounts that could benefit from social selling. Each had a defined goal (i.e., the acceptance of an RFP, getting a key meeting, or closing a deal, of course.). We created custom content around these accounts. We want to not only achieve these goals, but also create success stories that can be shared and lead to broader adoption.

RECOMMENDED CONTENT: How To Build A Social Selling Pilot Program That Drives Business Results

2. Get competitive

Salespeople – at least good salespeople – are competitive by nature. To get traction for social selling best practices, we launched a competition to see who could raise their Social Selling Indexes the most by burnishing their profiles and sharing the ample content that our company creates. This has been embraced by the sales team and created an environment which promotes engagement.

3. Remind individuals that social selling benefits the Whole group

Yes, salespeople are ultimately responsible for their individual performances. But people like being a part of something larger than they are. They like building things. When they are active on social platforms and share content, they are helping the organization build its brand.

In the old days, businesses bought advertising space so they could access a network’s airwaves. Now our employees are our airwaves. When everyone is sharing, our frequency is greater than the sum of our parts. The individual benefits, and so does the person sitting next to him or her, and so on. We have great people on our sales team. The potential to perform a daily action that could benefit the broader team really seems to have lit a fire.

4. Executive-level engagement is a must

Leading from the front sets a great example for the organization. I was raised to believe that you should never ask someone to do something you are not willing to do yourself. In this digital era, a company’s workforce is its airwaves and senior leadership tends to have the loudest, most credible frequency.

As an executive, you can be the best lead generator for your sales organization and help build some real value through social selling. When everyone at the top of the org chart adopts social selling, it legitimizes the program in the minds of the rest of the company and provides a sense of urgency.  

RECOMMENDED CONTENT: The Definitive Guide To Social Selling for Leaders

5. Remember that this is all about the client

Social selling is not about boosting your profile or building your resume. People buy from those they regard as experts in their field. Buyers don’t simply want to buy – they want to learn, as well. Social selling is first and foremost about sharing knowledge and – yes – driving revenue. Improving your own brand and becoming more employable is just a positive consequence. Focus on the basics and make social selling a part of your daily routine. The rest will fall into place.

Social Selling Isn’t About Reinventing The Wheel

Social selling can be layered on to your existing sales process. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and confuse your sales team. Instead, look at the time you currently spend sending mass emails and making cold calls. Could that time be better spent social selling? In other words, what existing processes can be modernized through social selling? The process of integrating is not easy but well worth the effort.

As with anything new, there is a learning curve associated with social selling. Just know that by embracing these changes and getting the right level of commitment from across the organization, your patience will be rewarded.

The question for any organization is: How do we start? The above represents our best thinking on where to begin.

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The Ultimate Guide to Social Selling