Convincing Your C-Suite To Invest In Digital Selling

Arif Johari

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory, and Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” —Tom Goodwin

These companies basically grow their influence through the power of community and social media. Look, if these companies are crushing it with social media and essentially having no overhead, no inventory, and no real estate, why can’t any company be involved and really grow its share of voice? With social media, businesses can grow their influence, pipeline, and revenue, just like these companies have done, tweaked in slightly different ways.

Whenever I’ve gotten pushback from executives on the importance of digital selling, I’ve asked them a simple question, “When you see an unfamiliar name or an unfamiliar phone number on your caller ID, do you pick up the phone?” The answer is, invariably, “no.” I follow up with: “Why do you think our customers are any different?” A full 92% of buyers delete email or voicemail messages from an unknown person.

Barrier to entry?

I think resistance to digital selling comes from some shyness, some fear, and some, “I don’t really see the value yet, therefore I’m not going to do it.” A part of it is habit as well. We have a habit of doing things that we believe will make us successful; if we haven’t used social media and have been successful, we think, “Why do I need to use social media?”

Digital selling is also an investment. You don’t just tweet once and all of a sudden – Boom! Your stock price and revenue increases for the quarter. Digital selling is about opening a conversation, not closing. It takes steady and strategic work. And forming a new habit – that’s a bit of a challenge for a lot of us. So, we need to be willing to invest time and energy rather than just dipping in our toes to see if it’s going to work.

I don’t think you can get into the C-suite without being a little excited about the word “disruption,” which suggests they’re already happy to try something new and challenging. I think their hesitation to act comes from not knowing the answer to the question, “How do we do this so we can remain relevant, stay true to our brand, and continue to grow as an organization for years?”

Collective consciousness

Successful digital selling programs require all employees to be involved. Not just those with external clients. C-suite types love numbers, right? They especially love numbers related to revenue and they love to hire top talent. They want their talent engaged and to stick around. They want their brand value to be high in the marketplace. Social branding allows all of that to happen.

When every person is engaged and actively communicating on behalf of the organization, they are helping increase personal and corporate branding. They’re increasing the visibility of the organization and demonstrating personal expertise. All of this makes the company more valuable as a brand and more desirable for people to work for.

There’s also the added benefit of employees being able to do their jobs better by being engaged with people outside the organization where they can learn best practices and benchmark what they’re doing.

Trickle down and bubble up

A great digital selling training program starts at the top, and it needs to be layered. More than three-quarters – 77% – of buyers are more likely to purchase from a company whose CEO uses social media. At the top, you need hand-holding. Then, as you move down in the organization, you need to develop trainers, e-learning, and communications strategies to scale the training program. Guidelines, not rules, need to be set in place – once you put in too many rules, people are going to say: “It’s too easy to mess up, I’m not going to do it.”

With a tiered approach, you’ll get executives up to speed first. Eventually, everyone else will understand how important social branding is to the organization.

Start with why

Listen to what’s important to your executives so you can create an approach that’s most effective because it speaks to what’s of most interest to them.

Get them to talk about the kinds of insights they can bring into an organization by listening to social conversations in their own networks, and talk about how they can influence their team and peers by engaging in digital selling.

The naysayers might say: “Oh, I don’t need 30,000 brand reps in the marketplace. I need only one.” They’re scared that their employees might become too valuable and they’ll leave.

It takes a long time for organizations to realize that helping their people figure out what makes them great and how to publicly display their expertise not only makes them feel engaged and more likely to stay with the company, but they deliver better work in the process.

Here’s the mindset that you want to foster:

“If I get people to understand how to use LinkedIn, I’m going to promote our brand. I’m going to increase our visibility. I’m going to help them engage with our customers. I’m going to help them be more successful at work. I’m going to help them learn and grow.”

You know what? Maybe you will lose some people because they’ll be poached on LinkedIn, but the overall impact on the organization and its brand is going to be huge.

Top salespeople have mastered how to use social networks to grow revenue potential, exceed quota, prospect efficiently, and maintain a robust pipeline by playing by each social network’s etiquette rules. Learn more by listening to Social Sellers Playbook: Top 5 Do’s And Don’t Do’s on Coffee Break with Game-Changers hosted by Bonnie D. Graham.


Arif Johari

About Arif Johari

He is a Communications lead, Digital Marketing generalist, and Digital Selling (Social Selling) advocate. He enables marketing and sales employees in Digital Selling so that they’d leverage social media as a leads-generation tool. He is responsible for executing innovative marketing strategies to increase engagement in social media, customer community, and landing pages through content, events, and multivariate testing. He is passionate in making the work processes of the marketing and sales team more efficient, so that they can generate more revenue in a shorter time.