Jill Rowley is a social selling evangelist and international speaker who recently launched www.JillRowley.com, a San Francisco Bay Area consultancy that helps B2B companies modernize their marketing and sales teams’ beliefs and behaviors to take advantage of social media. She has six years’ experience in management consulting; completed 13 quota-crushing years in software sales at Salesforce.com and Eloqua; and designed, deployed and drove adoption of Oracle’s global Social Selling program to 23,000 sales professionals. In March 2014, Forbes named her #3 on their “Top 30 Social Salespeople” list. She speaks in tweets and hashtags.

What is “social selling” and how is it different from traditional sales?

Social selling is really about building relationships using a new channel. It’s an additional channel, not a replacement. When you think about the evolution of communication channels, from print to television to phone to email to web to social, none of the other channels have gone away, but they become less effective over time.

Think about the effectiveness of the phone. It now takes eight attempts to reach a prospect — that is, future advocate. Then only 2 percent of those convert, and that whole process takes 6.25 hours to get a meeting. Cold calling is becoming increasingly less effective, as is unsolicited email for prospecting. So companies that just do more of it will not get the results.

The new way is to build relationships before I get on the phone with you. I go to your LinkedIn profile and I can see all sorts of cool stuff about you: Where you work today, what your role is, where you worked prior years, where you went to school, the languages you speak, what people endorse you for—without ever having picked up the phone. Now I don’t stop there. Let’s say we share common connections on LinkedIn. That makes me more interested in you, because we have commonality already. We’re not starting from scratch.

I’m also using social media to find my buyers. Before LinkedIn, how did I find who to call? My only source of information was the company website, and that only has the management team on it. What if I need to speak with the network engineer? Before social networks I had to call and get the receptionist. What if there wasn’t a receptionist? I couldn’t find the network engineer. But social never sleeps. There are no geographic boundaries.

So first, people can use social media to find their buyers. Now I need to engage with you. I go to Twitter and I follow you. I will “socially surround” you—find something you’ve tweeted about recently to reply to or retweet. Then I see who you follow. To be interesting to you, I need to be interested in you. You’re living your life on the web and I’m getting to know you through what you’re doing on the web, and using that information to build a relationship with you.

At the end of the day, it’s still about building relationships. It’s just a new channel to do it. I can find out, who’s the buying committee? Whom do they trust? How do they learn? How are they influenced?  I can socially surround the experts, journalists, and bloggers whom you trust, and in the process look more like you than like a pushy-pushy-always-selling salesperson.

As companies make the transition from selling standalone products to selling ongoing relationships by using the cloud as a service, how do companies need to change their sales incentives to accommodate this?

We’re in the early days of blowing up comp [compensation] models. Here’s what I believe. Most compensation plans pay Bobby the sales rep the same commission when Bobby closes a deal and that turns into a Positive Patty, someone who is delighted and so happy with your company and your product and value creation that she’ll tell the world. But we pay Bobby the same amount if it’s a Negative Nancy, and she says, “They overpromise and under-deliver and I’m ticked! I’ll tell everybody on Twitter and LinkedIn groups and I’m going to write a blog post and take out an [ad] in the New York Times.” We’re paying the same amount regardless of the outcome. We need to stop paying reps for just closing the deal.

Also, if you think about all the work of onboarding that customer, training that customer, creating a community where the customer can talk to other customers and employees—that community requires an investment in infrastructure and people. We’re not paying the people who do that work enough to create customer advocates. We’re paying too much money for the close.

The buying process has changed. We’re living in the age of the customer. We’re not living in the age of the salesperson any more. The customer uses Google and her social networks to self-educate. Buyers are so much further along when they want to engage with sales. Marketing’s job is harder, because it needs to be more relevant so they capture those buyers’ interest. So why is marketing only making the smaller slice of the pie when they’re managing a bigger portion of the customer’s buying process? We need to blow up the comp model. Salespeople are overpaid, and we need a greater, fairer disposition of compensation for everyone in the organization who helped acquire the customer and get the customer advocacy.

You say that email is “old school.” What leads you to believe that, and what should people be using instead for communication?

Internal communication should be less about email and more about collaboration. Why are we still doing email back and forth, versus putting it into a collaboration tool where other people can weigh in and where other people might see the conversation and have that information? Email is just stuck. It doesn’t breathe on and live on, it doesn’t build upon itself. It’s inefficient, and there’s too much of it.

I’m buried in email. I cannot keep my head above water in email. I go to where it’s easier to make progress: I go to social. I spoke at the Business Marketing Association conference last week. Before I even got off the stage, I had an invitation to keynote in Chicago and we scheduled it. That all happened over direct message in Twitter. That’s versus the 500 and some unread messages in my mailbox that could have just as good information in them. Social cuts through the clutter. It gets my attention.

If I don’t respond to email, and I tweet that fact to you, other people might respond in Twitter to that. Or maybe they find you and people see that you are interested in me, so you become more interesting to them. Email doesn’t allow the message to be seen by enough people. It doesn’t allow for crowdsourcing or outside collaboration. It’s too narrow for where the world is going.

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