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Enterprise Social Selling: What Does it Take?

Man listensSocial selling may be the buzzword for 2014, but we’ve been working and fine-tuning social-selling programs for a few years now — and we’ve learned what it takes to use social media to drive demand and connect with B2B prospects.

With IBM, we’ve built a social-selling program that spans across North America and EMEA and a sales force of 1,700, plus IBM Inside Sales Reps. As of October 2012, upward of 15 percent of all wins for IBM’s Inside Sales Public Cloud Computing Group were directly attributed to the current social-selling effort.

Through our work with IBM and other comparable organizations, I’ve picked up a number of valuable lessons for implementing and scaling a social-selling program in an enterprise. Organizations considering social selling should keep the following elements in mind:

Social Listening

Your social technology set should be able to help you listen to both internal and external conversations. For internal conversations, it’s important to learn: What are employees saying? Are they on target with your broader marketing strategy? Are they talking about the right topics and engaging with the right type of influencers and prospects? For external conversations, find out: What are prospects and known audience talking about in the social graph? What can you do to make your next social engagement as timely and relevant as possible while maintaining credibility?

Social listening allows you to tap into the conversations in the social graph to align a social-selling editorial calendar.

Location, Location, Location

To complement a socially active sales force, you need a destination for prospects to land on, such as a social-selling rep page. One that offers valuable information and lets prospect do their own research first before contacting you through more traditional means on their own terms. This page can be used to drive traffic to for future conversions.

Measurement and Tracking

Connecting your social-selling efforts internally to an existing CRM solution to track the total volume of social leads and opportunities is vital to tracking success. Some useful tools for this include Unica Netinsight and Adobe Analytics, which could be a part of your current marketing automation or Web CMS toolset.

It’s important to ensure that your tool is scalable across your inside sales force so you can get consistent governance, workflow, and reporting to measure success. And connecting to your social CMS/CRM gives you a better understanding of where your top-of-the-funnel traffic is coming from — and how successful these efforts are at converting unknown-to-known lead opportunities.

Training and Enablement

Prior to kicking off any social-selling effort, take the time to assess your sales organization’s social media maturity. How many of your reps are novices, and how many have a lot of experience?

This knowledge will help you determine how much training and enablement needs to be done prior to a full launch across the organization. It also will reveal the social-selling tactics that your organization can take on immediately. Training that might be needed includes activating sales reps’ social personas, upgrading LinkedIn profiles, and teaching the social CRM tool.

Jon Sander is director of digital strategy for Harte Hanks.

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