If you’re investing in social selling and rep enablement via social these days, welcome to the fray! If you’ve tried any level at all, you’ll know by now that success takes time. Social selling is not something that you can turn on overnight. It’s an everyday siege that requires focus from sales reps, dedication from the management team and an understanding of how to frame the stages of gradual success.

For example, we had one client (one of the largest IT companies in the world) that worked for a year to get social selling embedded in their teams and, while it didn’t happen overnight, the time they put in paid off big time. They increased their total LinkedIn connections by over 50K, received nearly 1.3M earned media impressions in target accounts and a 40 percent increase in traffic to their dedicated rep pages.

During the first few months, we (along with the client’s team) developed a way to frame social selling success in phases. It helped us create energy and engagement about the program’s impact at all levels of the company. If you’re in the same boat, or just starting your social selling journey, the good news is there is a logical way to guide your team through the process.

The 3 Stages of a Social Selling Program

Let’s start with the big picture. Social selling is all about getting your salespeople to mature through three primary stages:

Reach Stage:  Social selling starts with assisting the sales team to build their targeted social audience followed by driving some level of engagement and interaction with that audience. There’s no reason to be on social if you don’t have an audience, so getting someone to listen is priority number one.

Depth Stage: Once you have an audience, then it’s time to deepen the relationship. Getting the audience to positively view your relationship and content and hare more of that content is a key part of moving a prospect from social follower to prospect.

Relationship Stage: Getting social selling to pay off requires a transition from social follower to person-to-person interaction. This transition is non-negotiable in the process.  It’s where the money gets made. To spend that money on social selling without this transition doesn’t make sense.

Given the length of time it takes to progress through these three stages, it’s helpful to think through the effort in terms of phases of success. Keeping your team focused on these small steps to the bigger prize will create an environment of incremental success in areas that can be directly measured and coached throughout the program. Here’s how we think about the six phases of getting to Reach, Depth, Relationship.

The 6 Phases of Social Selling Maturity:

Phase I:  Exposure:

Surely most of your salespeople are on social media. But when you get started with more concentrated social selling program, it’s likely that you’ll want to begin the effort with a focus on exposure. That is, how much of their content is being seen and by how many targeted prospects. At this point, the focus should be on exposure.  It doesn’t matter how good your content is if no one is seeing it. Keep your team focused on volume first and the rest will follow.

Phase II: Response:

Once you build an audience, the next marker should be the volume of interaction / response the reps receive. This is easy to measure through things like views, comments and shares of the rep’s content. Response plays well with exposure if you have a larger audience. Response follows exposure and grows. This also assumes that the content they are sharing is valuable. High exposure with low response usually indicates that content needs tweaking to make it more valuable to the audience.

Phase III:  Share of Voice

Improvement in exposure and response allows you to improve the percentage mentions of your company (in the competitive landscape or product category/topic) in relation to the overall social discussion. Depending on the space or topic, these changes can be small but have huge impact in getting your content delivered and shared with a potentially massive audience. Share of voice equals more swings at the bat for your brand and sales reps.

Phase IV:  Tone

When you start more activity using your sales team, there is a chance that the social audience will have an opinion (good or bad) on what they are posting. Tone can be measured by looking at the sentiment and likes of content over time.  Positive sentiment means your content is working and your reps are posting in the right way. Negative sentiment means that you have work to do in one of those areas. Once you have the volume, interaction and share of voice, making sure that your tone is right is critical to making sure you’re doing more good than harm with your program.

Phase V: Interest

This is where the magic happens. Social selling is about driving interest in your products and services. Getting to the point where the salesperson can transition from social to direct contact (via direct message, email or phone) is what actually pays the bills.  You can measure interest by the number of clicks, page views, form fills to your personal rep pages (if available) or to your offer pages or web site). Getting a prospect interested enough in your product to enable a call from or to sales is the goal of all the hard work in phases 1-4.

Phase VI:  Advocacy

Over time, as each rep builds their social presence, you’ll start to see advocates for your brand appear in the conversation. You can measure advocates by the number of conversations related to your company (whether reps started the conversations or not). Advocacy is the holy grail of social selling. It indicates your team drove sales activity through the program and improved the company brand at the same time. This is a big deal. Positive brand impressions are real earned media dollars that have an impact (vs. more traditional PR and media impressions).

When starting a social selling program, I always ask my clients, “are you really ready for this?”  It’s a long slog to make these programs work. Most of all the client team needs to be fully invested in the idea of social selling. Burning the boats is the best way to think about it. Success will come, but it won’t happen overnight. Following some of the constructs above will help you measure and celebrate the smaller wins when they happen and also course correct your program when a sales rep or two go off the rails.

Good luck and if you need help thinking through any of this, Mighty and True can help!

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