As Hank Nothhaft, Jr. our CEO, outlines in his 2017 predictions, social selling will shift from a hobby to a strategic imperative. To cross that chasm, companies will need to put several key elements in place so that they can build transformative, successful social selling programs. In 2016, there has been recognition of the importance of change management for digital transformation programs such as social selling. I believe that, in 2017, organizational change management will be at the core of successful programs.
Here are some more specific predictions that will drive the success of strategic social selling programs.
- Executives (especially the C-suite) will adopt and experience the value of social media. Executive engagement will prove to be a key driver of social selling program adoption and growth.
- Quality training will bring social selling programs to life, setting the foundation for adoption, growth, and business results.
Let’s explore these predictions in a bit more detail.
Executive Engagement and Adoption of Social Media
As digital transformation and a deeper connection to customers become an imperative in 2017, social media adoption by executives will be key. Executives will need to understand the value themselves and lead by example at their organizations.
Many executives have seen the impact of social firsthand. They use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms to:
Build Digital Literacy: Customers are active on social and other digital channels. Today, it is hard to lead and understand the digital customer without a social media presence.
Keep up with Industry Trends: Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are a great way to listen and learn from industry thought leaders, experts, and your peers. Not only will you be experiencing the value of using social media, but you will be increasing your knowledge overall.
Create deeper customer connections: Consumers are looking for deeper connections with brands. Active and engaging CEOs on social media can help to build those connections, by positioning a brand as human and accessible. For more information, see Fortune’s article Social Media Use By CEOs Is Increasing—Slowly.
Drive adoption of social media across the organization: In 2017, as we see organizations strive to build strategic social selling and employee social media programs, executive engagement and active use of social media will be key to driving adoption. Executives will lead by example, champion the programs, and motivate others to adopt.
But for that to happen, executives will need training on social, which brings us to the next section…
Quality social selling training will be a key part of building strategic social selling programs
Training – on-going education and dialogue concerning best practices and success stories – will be a critical foundation of strategic social selling programs. Successful training will not be ad hoc sessions, lunch and learns, or a guest speaker talking about building your personal brand. It will be strategic and aligned to an organization’s business, marketing, and sales priorities. This does not mean outsourcing, but building the capability internally and integrating it into your organization.
What will high quality social selling training programs look like?
- Includes the why, what, and how of social selling: listening and research, educating, sharing insights, engagement, and building credibility and relationships.
- Focused on a mindset and behavioral shift of the sales rep as a consultant, subject matter expert, and trusted advisor.
- Integrated into sales enablement programs including onboarding, training, coaching, and development.
- Program owners will share success stories and develop case studies as part of training. This will help sales teams visualize the value and understand how to incorporate social selling best practices into their sales activities.
- Extend beyond the classroom and online training sessions to collaborative environments where sales reps can share evolving best practices and success stories.
This approach to training and developing sales reps will create a strong foundation for adoption of social selling. Successful sales reps will see how social selling integrates into their roles and helps them do their jobs more effectively.
As an aside, I expect this approach will also evolve the perception of social selling both inside and outside the organization. Negative behavior such as cold LinkedIn InMails, blatant promotion of products, and automatic Twitter DMs with no value are driving a negative perception of social selling. As more organizations invest in strategic social selling programs with quality training, I look forward to a decrease in these negative behaviors. We will (hopefully) see less aggressive ‘cold’ outreach on social media and more value created through content, engagement, and building relationships.
Digital Transformation and Change Management
Each of these predictions is rooted in the fundamentals of change management. In 2016 we have seen tons of dialogue on the importance of taking a change management approach to digital transformation efforts. At its core, digital transformation and building successful social selling programs is about driving change. Change leadership requires executive leadership, as well as training designed to support efforts across throughout organization – from the junior ranks to the top leadership.
Here are some blog posts that go into more detail on all of the important elements of change management:
- To Be a Social Leader, You Must Be a Change Leader [Part 1]
- To Be a Social Leader, You Must Be a Change Leader [Part 2]
- Why Every Executive Should be Social Selling