78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media. (LinkedIn)

Go to where the buyers are. Build a strong network with prospects and customers by offering value. It’s simple. It makes sense.

For speaker, advisor and sales leader, Jill Rowley, social selling is one of the most important tactics a salesperson can employ. It also happens to be one of the most haphazardly applied and misunderstood concepts in the industry today.

Building a strong network by listening to individual’s needs and providing solutions means they will turn to you when they are ready to buy. They will also be more willing to spread your message. As it turns out, your best salespeople aren’t always on your payroll.

LeadGenius sat down with Jill Rowley, to discuss how social selling is effectively applied at leading companies such as GE and Affinio.


[William Wickey, LeadGenius] Let’s talk about social selling. What do people get wrong about social selling?

[Jill Rowley]: There are a lot of misconceptions about what social selling is and who should be doing it. I have a definition of social selling. It is simply leveraging social networks. Social networks, not social media.

Social media is for marketing and that’s all about reach. Social networking, social selling is for sales. And that’s all about relationships. Social networks can be used to do research on your buyers, on the people who influence your buyers, so that you can be more relevant to your buyers and the people who influence them, so you can build better relationships with your buyers and the people who influence them. Those are the relationships that ultimately result in revenue.

That being said, I think more broadly than just revenue. I think customer lifetime value and advocacy. Your best salespeople aren’t on your payroll. Your best salespeople are your customers who are willing to be advocates because you’ve been such a great advocate of theirs. And you’ve helped them generate massive value from either your product, or your services, or a combination of both. So really, social selling, again, is leveraging social networks to find your buyers, to listen to your buyers, to relate to your buyers, to connect with your buyers, to engage with your buyers. It’s really thinking about how you use social selling to make deposits, not just to look for ways to make withdrawals.


Are there any benchmarks or metrics you suggest a rep or manager uses to quantify the effectiveness of how well you’re using social networks?

One of the objections of social selling is how do you measure the impact? How do I measure the return on investment of social? Sometimes I define ROI not as the return on investment, but the risk of ignoring. In the work that we do at Sales for Life around social selling mastery and digital sales management, we leverage a learning Kirkpatrick Model. We measure not just use of a product, we’re measuring the learners — whether they like the curriculum, whether they are starting to change their behaviors, are they doing different things, are they connecting with the right buyers, are they sharing content, are they getting engagement with the content that they’re sharing?

We also measure, are they sourcing new meetings, new opportunities? Is their social activity impacting revenue? Is it impacting win rates?

There are leading indicators and there are lagging indicators. A leading indicator could be a LinkedIn social selling index. It measures a sales reps use of LinkedIn in four major areas. So a way to measure whether social selling is being adopted at an individual level is, are your salespeople’s SSI, Social Selling Index, increasing? And within the four areas of the SSI, what is improving so that you can start to focus effort on the areas that need improvement?

Social Selling Index is a good metric to start with. It’s an indicator. But at the end of the day, the rubber meets the road with revenue. So you have to be able to measure the impact that social activity, social connection, social engagement have on the ability to source and win business.


The challenge is feeding reps the right content. Curation. Your reps aren’t going to be creators of content. Not very many of them. It’s not their core skill set. I say OPC, Other People’s Content. Whose content should they curate? The smartypants people in your buyer’s world. Curate third-party thought leadership content. Share that content. Engage with that content. It’s a great way for reps to become more visible on a topic of interest.

[Tweet “”Your best salespeople aren’t on your payroll.” – @jill_rowley”]


You’ve written recently about Sales following Marketing’s poor example of chasing shiny objects. Tell us a little bit about what’s behind that phenomenon and the problems it’s creating.

I’ve seen this movie before. I recently wrote an article about it. Sales is now chasing the bright shiny object. I saw this movie when I was a rep at Eloqua and continued to see that movie with the Martech landscape exploding. It was only in 2011 that there were 150 technologies in that marketing technology landscape. Just recently, at the 2017 Martech event, the 2017 Martech landscape was unveiled and there are 5,300 plus marketing technologies in that landscape. #TooMuchTech, right? How can anybody get their head around that many solutions to leverage?

We’re now seeing similar graphics in sales. When I wrote my article, there were four different sales tech landscape diagrams that I consulted. We’re seeing 500 plus already technologies in that sales tech landscape. I think a lot of what’s happening is, yeah, technology is great. It can absolutely be used to create efficiencies. It can be used to automate manual processes. It can be used to analyze big sets of structured and unstructured data. There’s great value in technology. But a fool with a tool is still a fool. And a fool with a lot of tools is an even bigger fool. And a fool with a social tool is an amplified fool.

What we see is, this chase of the bright shiny object, the tool that will let us now do social selling. A specific example is a lot of companies heard the buzz around social selling, they went out and licensed LinkedIn Sales Navigator for their sales organization and they’re doing social selling. Well, no. That’s one tool within a whole social selling view.

As a Sales Professional, as a sales manager, as a Sales Leader, I need to understand how people buy today. How they’re influenced, where they learn, what they expect. ABuyers don’t want to hear your pitch before they understand what problem you can solve. So this mindset shift that has to occur.

Before you start throwing tools at things, what are the skills that your salespeople, your sales managers, your sales leaders need, to be able to sell the way that people want to buy? The tools are just the enabler. Let’s say I take an old-school tactic like batching and blasting — sending a lot of emails that aren’t really very tailored, or specific, or personalized, or relevant, or timely — and I use a new-school channel to execute that tactic. So, I now go to LinkedIn and I use InMail. Old-school tactic plus new-school channel does not equal social selling. If you suck offline, you suck more online. You just can’t suck anymore.

With these bright shiny objects is we’re taking an old-school mindset, old-school skills, and applying them to new-school technology and channels, and we’re just making things worse.


Sales development has rapidly become a key component in many high-growth sales and marketing organizations. But mistakes have and are being mad. What are some of thoses mistake, and why are they being made ?

I think that specialization of roles in the sales function is a good thing. I do believe that we should specialize roles and skills and align appropriately. That being said, sales development reps, business development reps, account development reps, this specialized function is becoming even more popular. We’re putting a lot more people into those roles and a lot more companies are investing in those functions. I think we’ve a bit screwed the pooch on doing that.

What I see is the division of labor and the lower labor cost — hiring a 20 to 23-year-old. Putting a bunch of college graduates with really no knowledge, and no network, and little business acumen into the role of an SDR who is tasked with opening conversations and opportunities with increasingly more senior level people?

And even at bigger companies, how do you take that person with that lack of knowledge, and network, and experience, and acumen, and equip them with the right knowledge, skills, tools, technology, assets, and content to be effective at opening in a world where it used to be that coffee was for closers because closing was really hard. I think coffee today is for connectors because it’s the connector who makes the open and creates the conversation. And that opening is as hard, if not harder today, than closing.

We’re investing tremendously in hiring these young people to fill the SDR, BDR, ADR role. We’re expecting them to do things that I just quite frankly don’t think they’re really set up to be successful in doing.

When it comes to making connections, what’s the right way for Sales to prioritize personalization, volume, and efficiency?

In a high-velocity transactional sale, you can certainly do less personalization because you have more from a volume and addressable market perspective. But even still, in that high-volume, high-velocity model, it’s still hard to get people’s attention. So personalization… I have in my LinkedIn inbox, in my invites to connect, over 500 generic invites to connect on LinkedIn. You’re not getting in my network. If you haven’t taken the time to look at my profile, 2 seconds, 20 seconds, 2 minutes, I don’t care what it is, to make some observation to leverage to send a personalized invite to connect with me, you’re not getting into my network. Because you have to show me you know me. You have to show me you can help me. You have to show me that you give a shit about me.

If you’re sending me a generic invite to connect on LinkedIn, you’re #SocialStupid, you’re #JustPlainLazy. Your first impression sucked. And if we had even met, and this was an invite to connect after we met and you don’t personalize it in reference that we met, you’re lazy. And I don’t do business with people who are lazy because people who are lazy can’t help me. So personalization and taking that time to do research. And not just research to open, but to continue to build that relationship throughout the buyer’s journey and then the customer journey.

I have clients who I want to be notified in real time when they’re speaking at an event, when they have raised another round of funding, when they’ve won an award at the Sirius Decision summit. Just because they’re already a customer doesn’t mean I don’t need any more information about them at a human personal level, at a company level, at an industry level. So that any technology that can help me filter through all of that, that noise to find this relevant signal is certainly worth looking at.

[Tweet “”Social selling is about social *networks,* not social *media.*” – @jill_rowley”]

Sales is always trying to identify buying signals. Automating that research helps an individual make connections. What are some of the technologies and processes that are making that sort of technical automation possible? What role does AI play, if any?

Artificial Intelligence, AI, is such a fun topic. I recently facilitated a webinar on the topic of AI in sales. I had three different vendors, technology providers in three different stages of the buyer’s journey, the sales process. One would be that discovery, that relationship network strength. One would be the calls. As much as I’m a believer in social selling, conversations are an asset. The phone is not dead. If I can get you on the phone, on a video call face-to-face, I will take that over a Twitter interaction all day every day.

And then, the third was around sales management. How do we look at our entire sales force and understand the activities that the sales team is doing that are leading to closed won deals, or the activities that they’re not doing that are resulting in stuck deals. So artificial intelligence which really is looking at something that a human would do, but doing it better, faster, and at more scale. I think that basic AI is if this, then that. If Kate Gutowski sends a tweet, I get notified in real time. That can be automated, right? That can be automated just through the native Twitter. I don’t need to pay anybody anything to get that notification.

More interesting and deeper is technology that looks at my calendar and prepares me for my day. Essentially gathers in-the-moment real-time insight on the call that I had with the head of SAP Hybris Influencer programs. So I want to know what’s going on with Malcolm, what he tweeted about. When was our last conversation? What is our email history back and forth?

On a busy day, I have 10 different meetings, or calls, or interactions with people at live events. I can’t manually prepare for that many meetings and interaction. So tools and technologies that read my calendar, that look at my email, that look at external data that’s happening in social and in the digital web, and pulls that together for me and helps me get organized, it’s my artificial assistant, things like that are insanely valuable to me.

What role does marketing play in assisting sales reps in their efforts to social sell?

The lines between marketing and sales are blurring, and the roles are blending. If you look at what we tried to put in place earlier in my marketing automation days, where there was a perfect handoff from marketing to sales, where marketing runs a campaign, attends a tradeshow, hosts the webinar, creates a white paper. And marketing gets a response and inquiry from that. Marketing, then, scores that inquiry to see if that person is the right title, the right industry at a company level, whether they’ve shown a high enough level of engagement. So marketing scores that and then nurtures that inquiry based on buyer persona stage in the buying process and gets it to the point of readiness for a sales conversation and tosses it over to sales. Sales takes the ball from there.

If companies are operating like that in today’s world, I’m sorry, you’re operating off of an old manual. Because the reality is that salespeople need to get in earlier and they need to be influencing buyers when they’re in that early stage of research. Salespeople need to be visible and teaching where buyers are learning, when they’re even in the unaware stage of the buying process. Marketing is then involved in selling, and assisting, and facilitating sales conversations and sales processes; there isn’t a clear line. Marketing goes all the way through to they’ve purchased now, you want them to purchase more, you want them to expand within.

Just because you have GE Oil and Gas, doesn’t mean GE is your customer. A piece of GE is, but how about power, how about energy, how about transportation, how about aviation, how about digital, how about healthcare? There’s a lot more business to be had from GE than just one division. Marketing can help identify where can you expand and identify other people within that account.What’s happening is that marketing’s job is never done. Marketing should be making a shit ton more money than they are today because they’re facilitating a much greater percentage of the buyer journey, and the customer journey, and customer advocacy, and renewal and upsell and all of that.

The big shift that not enough people are talking about is that Sales needs to put on their big-girl pants and they need to learn to get in early. They need to get back into prospecting. They need to get back into influencing early-stage buying. Marketing can help sales do that by helping sales understand where buyers are hanging out in the early stage of their journey. Who’s influencing them? Where are they learning? Who are they learning from? What kinds of content resonates and captures attention?

Marketing can help sales curate relevant industry content, not just your company branded content, but curate industry thought leadership content that salespeople could be sharing to hopefully capture more of that buyer’s attention. The lines are blurred, the roles are blending, and there’s a lot that has to be coordinated and collaborated between marketing and sales.

We talked about how important social selling is in that initial connection piece. You also mentioned expansion. Where can social selling play a role in that? How can social selling help increase lifetime value of an account?

Social selling is throughout the entire buyer journey, customer journey. Think about social networks as another channel. I still use the phone when you’re a customer and I’m trying to get you to buy more. I still use email not just to prospect, but to communicate with you as a customer. I still use social as a channel to better deepen our relationship, and to expand my visibility throughout your organization.

So some real specifics would be, I do a lot of work with GE. And Kate Gutowski is a client of mine. It could be that she shares a piece of content, I comment on it, and then the chief sales officer of GE power sees that. The chief marketing officer of GE digital sees that. They start to wonder who is this Jill Rowley. All of a sudden I’m attracting people to me because I am associated with and engaging with someone they already know, they’re familiar with, they work with, and they respect. That’s how it works beyond prospecting and expanding. This is one of many many examples I could provide of how social selling is really a mindset, a methodology, a skill, a channel that should be leveraged throughout the entire customer journey.

When it comes to sales enablement, what does effective sales enablement for social selling look like?

I’m very adamant that sales enablement sits inside of sales, not inside of marketing; it’s not marketing enablement, its sales enablement. What sales enablement does broadly is ensure that salespeople, sales managers have the knowledge, the skills, the assets, the resources that they need to have every customer interaction.

From a social selling perspective, sales enablement looks at it from a cross-functional initiative and says, “We’ve got to have sales leadership singing this new gospel.” This is the priority, a strategic priority in the business. This is what we’re going to invest in. They have to have marketing understand that salespeople are going to be using social networks and that they need to leverage content. Marketing can be the provider of that. Enablement oftentimes either owns or coordinates with sales training, because from a skills perspective, social selling requires an investment in new skills. You want everyone within your organization to be leveraging social in a fairly common way. Not everybody doing the same thing at the same time in every channel, but leveraging a standard set of skills.

Enablement puts program, process, and metrics around the investment in either social selling or in account based sales development or in sales training, so sales enablement is really critical. And seeing that function within an organization increase its strategic nature. Not just being that sort of catch-all VP of broken things, the group that plans the sales kickoff event, or host the infrequent lunch-and-learn on a specific topic.

I say that most sales leaders are running the “more” play. They’re hiring more expensive ADD bipolar salespeople that take six to nine months to ramp and make quota on average less than 50% of the time. They’re hiring more of those people to make more phone calls and send more emails as opposed to looking at, how can we make them better? How can I make them more effective? How can I help them create more relevant and higher-performing opportunities?

It’s not just “how do we make the number,” but “how do we make more of our people hit their number.” That’s a key metric for sales leaders. It’s not just about making the number. You could have a Steph Curry, but don’t you want to have more of your team performing at a higher level? Effective sales enablement ensures that sales leadership has a mandate for helping more of our people hit the number.

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