Social Selling & Advocacy: Why Customers Are Your Best Salespeople

Modern B2B buyers turn to their peers for product information and recommendations long before they consider reaching out to a sales rep. That’s why Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist and modern marketing expert, says sales teams need to shift away from ‘selling’. Instead, they should focus on ‘connecting’ potential customers with people who have relevant, value-based knowledge buyers will trust—like your best customers. Watch Jill’s Advocamp presentation to learn about the symbiotic relationship between social selling and customer advocacy, and how progressive sales teams let their customer as do the selling at all stages of the buying cycle.

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What I want to focus on is how advocacy is important to acquiring new customers. And also, I want to give you a view of what modern selling actually is.

We are living in the age of the customer, not the age of the seller. Today, customers not only have choice, but they have voice. The buyer has changed more in the past 10 years than she has in the past 100. The buyer and the buying process had transformed dramatically, but sales is stuck, and they’re still selling the old way.

What I want you to do is give sales the wake-up call that they need around #nobaddeals. When sales sells a bad deal, a customer that isn’t a good fit—that you actually can’t generate value for—it hurts customer success and advocacy, and it’s making your job harder.

We need to fix the problem sooner. I love how marketing has been transforming to adapt to the modern buyer who is digitally driven. 92% of the B2B buyers start their search on the web. She is socially connected. 82% of the world’s online population can be reached via social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. She is mobile with multiple devices, and the modern buye is real-time empowered with unlimited access to not only information but to people. People who have used your product or service and are happy—or not.

I want to introduce you to the concept of social selling. I did spend six years in consulting, 52 quarters in software sales at Salesforce and Eloqua. I’m formerly known as an Eloqueen, Jilloqua. Although I didn’t get a tattoo of Eloqua, my children weren’t allowed to wear purple. I took it that seriously. I was an advocate and ambassador for my company and I was an advocate and ambassador for my customers. I’d like to say I am customer-centered, customer-centric, customer-obsessed and I don’t use the word prospect. Nobody wants to be prospected. Customers are people, they’re not targets in your database. And instead of treating someone like a prospect, I think of them as a future advocate—the future advocate of my product, of my company and of me. So from the minute I start to engage with a future buyer, I’m thinking about how can I truly become an advocate.

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The definition of social selling—it’s so fun to be in the beginning stages of a new category, because everybody is defining it differently. I’m actually joking that it’s fun, because everybody is defining it differently. So I’ve put a stake in the ground and I’ve said that social selling is using social networks to do research, to be relevant, to build relationships that drive revenue, customer life time value and advocacy.

In marketing, we talk about social media. If you talk about social media to sales, you will lose them. Social media is confusing and messy in World Wide Web. Social networks layer on two things: identity—who Andrew Angus is, where he has worked, what he does today, (CEO of a company called Switch Merge, Mail Merge for video), and his skills; and it also layers on relationships—to whom is he connected? Who does he follow on Twitter? Who follows him?

All of a sudden, this social world for sales professional starts to make sense, because sales is about building relationships, earning credibility and trust, and delivering value. That’s what modern selling is all about. In terms of how someone becomes a social seller and what’s your role in this whole process, if you suck offline, you’re going to suck more online. So #dontsuck.

Sales professionals need to understand that it’s not just about the car they drive, or the golf club they’re a member of, or the restaurants they take their customers to, but it’s how they show up on the social web.

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1) The first pillar practice principle is resume to digital reputation. Instead of optimizing their Linkedin profile for the recruiter—quota crusher, expert negotiator, president’s club winner!—A modern sales professional optimizes her LinkedIn profile for the buyer and puts things in the perspective of the value she can help deliver to the buyer.

2) ABC isn’t Always Be Closing; it’s Always Be Connecting: offline at events, online in social networks, on Linkedin…When I get business cards, there’s a new LinkedIn connection that I send a personalized invite, not your generic invite. That’s #socialstupid. That’s #justplainlazy. And yes, I speak in hashtags.

It’s about socially surrounding the buyer, the buying committee, and their sphere of influence. Who does that buyer already know that I can trust? What has the buyer already learned? Who influences that buyer? What analyst, what consultants, what thought leaders, which experts, which gurus, which uniforms influence that buyer? And not only socially surrounding the buyer but the folks who influence that buyer.

3) Content is not only the currency of the modern marketer; it’s the currency of the modern sales professional. And I teach sales people how to be what their buyers read, and share that content across their social networks.

I’m a sales professional trapped in a marketer’s body and I’ve spent over 10 years where my buyer was marketing, so I’m a modern marketing expert. I need to be able to talk to my buyer, understand my buyer, relate to my buyer so that I can help my buyer, not sell to my buyer. Reading and sharing content engages your network.

4) Great content is content that your customers are helping co-create or your customer’s user-generated content. And it actually talks about the value that your customers are getting from your solution. That’s great content to feed the sales team so they can share that content. It’s also important that they’re down with OPC. Down with OPC? Yeah, you know me. I’m never without Other People’s Content.

As a sales professional, I use my customers’ content to get their attention. I will amplify their message for them and I listen. I use the social web to understand when Meagan Eisenberg leaves DocuSign, joins MongoDB. Ding-ding-ding-ding. She’s the supreme Eloqueen. She always takes Eloqua with her, and that’s an opportunity. That’s a signal that sales professional needs to be listening to, and it’s the same thing with advocacy.

How many people in the room have been at their current job less than a year? Less than two years? Less than three years? We’re all moving around. And if you’re Influitive customer doing advocacy at your current company, you go to a new company, that’s another opportunity for a sales professional to engage with you.

Let’s talk about the “why,” because for sales professionals, if it doesn’t equal pipeline or revenue, they don’t care. The data shows that not only does social selling—which is doing research to be relevant, to build relationships—not only does it impact pipeline and revenue, it increases customer renewal rates, because salespeople build better and healthier relationships with their buyers.

In terms of “how” buying has changed…And the word is “continuous change” and how we engage buyers–I actually think it’s been more about how we market to customers. And I think in this modern buyer world, where the modern buyer is actually influenced by their peers more than our marketing message, has made advocacy increasingly more important. We’ve targeted our customers via ads, via email, via social. Now, we can actually engage them via advocacy programs.

Your best sales people are not on your payroll. The best sales people are your customers who are willing to advocate on your behalf. What hasn’t changed in terms of the buyer journey is the risk and fear associated with making a mistake, or picking the wrong solution. And so, the buyer—the emotional side of the buyer is asking—will this new investment help me in what I am trying to achieve? Will it help me improve results within my organization? And there’s a lot of concern and there’s a lot of chaos, and it almost sounds like every company does the same thing.

And how do you, as a modern buyer differentiate between the various solution providers? I think the best way is to go and talk to people that have used the product or solution that you’re evaluating. They actually have the most accurate information about the experience you’ll have. That’s why sales people need to understand that they are not in control. If they’re not in control, the power of the peer-to-peer has never been greater. Buyers trust other buyers, way more than they trust brands and logos and marketing messages.

You have to socially surround future buyers with your existing customer advocates. The social proof is the greatest mediator of this. It’s funny because as a sales professional, I used to think that references were what you use at the end of the buyer’s buying process. But the reality is, when you get to that reference stage, the decisions have been made. They are not talking to the references to make a decision. They are talking to the references to mitigate risk, to ease the fear of making the wrong decision, to validate that they are making the right choice. So we need to move our existing customers to the front of future buyers’ buying cycle. That is the power of peer-to-peer.

I used to think that, ‘I’m going to own the reference process. I’m going to give them the references that I know are going to say good things.’ And the reality is the buyer goes to LinkedIn and does a search—for Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot—and finds 32 marketers who have experience with all four platforms. I’m getting cut-out as a sales professional from that process. So, the best thing that sales professionals can do is really develop stronger relationships with the customer and be able to tell the customer’s story.

At Eloqua we have this award program for modern marketers, and I would read every submission to the awards. Then I would reach out to that customer and congratulate them, thank them and acknowledged them. And even though they weren’t MY customer in MY territory, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t actually trying to sell them anything. I was just trying to celebrate them so that I could build a better relationship with all of our customers.

And sales professionals need to understand the importance of advocacy and the role that they play. Again, no bad deals allowed. Every time a sales person closes a bad deal, it makes your job harder because they’re getting customers that know they have choice, they have voice.

In terms of social surround in a surround strategy, it’s about surrounding your buyers with other buyers like them. It’s about surrounding your buyers with content that educates, informs and helps them. It is about surrounding them offline, online, #allthetime.

I invite each of you to practice the ABCs of social networking and invite me to connect on LinkedIn. I’d love to expand my network to include more people like you, who are actually trailblazing customer advocacy. And if you have any questions about the modern buyers, social selling, customer advocacy, customer success, I’d be happy to engage.

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4 Responses to Social Selling & Advocacy: Why Customers Are Your Best Salespeople

  1. […] They expect to find you on their social networks. What happens if you are not there or, perhaps even worse, your presence is less than professional? […]

  2. […] prospects consider online information and opinions from peers as two of the most vital sources of information when starting the buying process, then marketing […]

  3. […] at Advocamp 2016, the biggest event about harnessing customer success to fuel business growth. (Click here to watch Jill’s Advocamp AMP Talk presentation from […]

  4. […] slimy, slicked-back, cheesy, always-be-closing seller. Today, buyers not only have more choice, but a louder voice that reaches across multiple networks. It’s no longer word of mouth. Due to the Internet and social networks, it’s world of […]

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