At the heart of digital transformation is the blurring of the lines between sales, marketing, and customer service and the ultimate merging of these roles into one revenue-generating business unit. Digital selling (which is also called social selling) is the use of digital assets and tools to identify, engage, and drive revenues from customers. It takes a holistic view and brings together cross-functional elements across the organization to guide buyers through a journey that ultimately leads to better engagement and ultimately more closed deals.
What’s the point of digital selling?
Social media has been taking sales-oriented organizations by storm. Only those who adapt quickly to the digital world will be around in the future. Digital selling is a concept that has implications for all lines of business, from building the fundamentals in the sales process and getting the content marketing mix right, to building cross-functional teams and ultimately changing the way buyers and sellers engage in a digital world.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” —William Bruce Cameron
What’s the importance of standardized metrics? Well, you can give timely feedback to reinforce what’s working. Aha! You’d also want to know what’s not really working. Can it be improved or eliminated? Standardized metrics will also influence the redistribution of your marketing dollars. Are we going to invest in all of these digital selling tools, or are we going to take a step back and reevaluate which tools have the most impact?
With standardized metrics, we’d be able to know which tools/functionalities matter most for a digital seller. So, can the digital selling tool behemoth, LinkedIn, eat up the market for similar tools by expanding its capabilities, like what Instagram did to Snapchat and Vine?
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” —Leonardo DaVinci
How do we make digital selling simple for our customers and our employees? Digital selling is supposed to be something everybody in the company is responsible for or contributes to. How do you make it simple enough that everybody understands what they’re supposed to be doing so it will benefit the company and produce good metrics?
A great digital selling program needs a strong architecture for consistent role-based expectations. Here’s how I think about that: If you have a whole bunch of people playing different instruments, to customers it sounds like noise. What we need is sheet music. Just like Beethoven had sheet music for his beautiful symphonies, marketers must be able to create a map, tied to strategic metrics, for salespeople to disseminate strategic messages over a complex B2B sales journey.
Should a company measure what it does wrong and what it does right?
If you’re focused on the negatives, you’ll never do anything. You know what? There will be problems along the way. But, it’s not so much the problems, it’s how we respond to them. If you think about it, a lot of people and companies have done something they regret on social media. “Oh, doggone it! Why did I do that?”
We can put all the bumpers in place to reduce collateral damage. But how do we respond to it? It comes down to a simple premise we have to keep in mind. What are our culture and values? What’s the reputation we’re trying to uphold? What’s the end goal? If you follow that premise, and everybody in the organization believes in it, it’s amazing how the negatives can be mollified.
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” —Albert Einstein
I often get comments from my trainees after they’ve tried digital selling for some time:
“This seems to be quite time-consuming.”
“Is this really worthwhile to for me to do?”
I then ask them: “Why do you think you got onboard with digital selling in the first place?” I help them come up with the “why” themselves. I can easily list 10 reasons why digital selling is important, but if they don’t internally remind themselves of the “why,” they’ll fall off the wagon. Once they’ve understood the purpose, they can tie the “why” to specific goals.
Think about this: Who are we trying to communicate with in the first place? For example, activities like posting something on LinkedIn or Tweeting are very passive. What’s the real goal we’re measuring? It’s whether we get access to the right contacts. You can’t take clicks and likes to the bank. They might stroke our social media ego, but they don’t put food on the table.
Next, we need to create a shared vision of success with the customer; otherwise, the decision-maker will never move forward with us. There’s a lot of resistance to change. Most of the things we’re selling today are change-oriented. How can you leverage social media to help gain buy-in?
Finally, how do you build a consensus around a business case? There’s a list of digital selling activities, but if we’re just measuring the activity and not rolling it back to some verifiable measurable result, it’s all for naught.
A key measurement I always look for is whether my online connections create offline conversations. Relevant online connections must ultimately create offline conversations because that’s where you close the deal. Offline doesn’t necessarily mean face-to-face, but it is about one-to-one conversations and relationships. That’s what sales is all about; it’s people to people.