If you’re still one of those old-school sales managers or CEOs who thinks that social media and social selling is a passing fad that doesn’t matter, well, Jill Rowley has some words for you. The Queen of Social Selling – Jill is the Chief Evangelist and Founder of “Jill Rowley #SocialSelling” – understands full well that archaic sales forces are on the brink of extinction, increasingly made redundant and replaced by search engines and social networks. Without a full adaptation to the best practices of social selling, sales teams are dying out.

We recently had the privilege of speaking with Jill on common social selling mistakes, the immense power of LinkedIn, the role content plays and why social selling is most definitely here to stay.

1. Social selling is probably the hottest buzzword in sales today. Tell me why it’s here to stay, and not just some fleeting trend that will be phased out?

It definitely isn’t a fleeting trend, and it will not be phased out. We might eventually not refer to it as social selling, but the massive shift has occurred in terms of access to information and to people, and in context, which is really key. 92% of B2B buyers start their search on the web, and 82% of the world’s online population can be reached via social networks. We are living in the age of the customer, no longer in the age of the seller. Buyers have a lot more access to things that used to be controlled by a salesperson, and they don’t need to engage with sales early on in their buying process because they can go out and find that information through trustworthy and authentic sources, instead of from someone trying to make their quota.

Sales has always been social. It’s always been about relationships. Social media is just a new channel to build relationships with your customers. When I first got into sales, it was a whole different world. I couldn’t go on LinkedIn; I had to get all this information from the company website – who was on the leadership team, who’s in charge of sales operations, etc. Prior to social selling, it was all a lot more manual, a lot more time intensive, and certainly not as easy as going on LinkedIn.

Sales has always been social. It’s always been about relationships.

- Jill Rowley

If you look at the evolution of channels of communication – from print, to radio, to TV, to phone, to email, to web, to social – none of the other channels are gone; they’re just less effective. There will be a day when social channels become less effective because they will get cluttered and crowded and noisy, and bad marketers and salespeople will ruin it for those of us who use it the way it’s supposed to be used. Do I see people using social poorly? Absolutely! There’s a lot of spam already happening in the social channels and it really ticks me off.

2. Let’s talk about those poor practices. What is the most common social selling mistake you see companies or sales teams make?

A fool with a tool is still a fool. Social selling doesn’t equal buying LinkedIn Sales Navigator for the sales team – which is what a lot of companies do. Social selling starts with a mindset shift and a culture of looking at things through the eyes of the customer, understanding who the ideal customer is, understanding how that customer wants to buy and aligning to the customer and the customer’s buying process, versus jamming your sales process down their throat. If you’re going to take old school strategies and tactics and apply them to new school social selling channels, you suck!

3. You’ve become a veritable LinkedIn celebrity; how have you leveraged LinkedIn to build your own personal brand?

The way you build your personal brand as a sales professional is by demonstrating to someone who visits your LinkedIn profile what you can do for them, why they should get to know you, like you and trust you, what expertise you bring and what value you can deliver. There are all these elements to a profile on LinkedIn that can move you away from using it as a resume, to managing your digital reputation.

Let’s check out my profile right now. I’m going to LinkedIn and looking up Jill Rowley because I want some help with social selling. I see a professional photo of her. I see an image in the background of all these books – on leadership, culture, modern marketing, sales, the social employee, women in business. I’m determining if that’s similar to all the things I care about. Her title doesn’t scream sales rep – if you read the book “To Sell is Human,” the words associated with sales reps are typically pushy, sleazy, slimy, aggressive, cheesy, annoying. My mission with my company – and my LinkedIn profile – is to wipe away that image of the used car sales guy and replace it with the image of a valuable, knowledgeable source of information and insights, a business partner to help me achieve better business outcomes.

4. What kind of role does content marketing play in the world of social selling?

The third pillar of my social selling framework is that content is the currency of the modern sales professional. In my early sales days, I built a brand by using content, and I was lucky because Eloqua was so great and knew how to do content. As a rep at Eloqua, I would use a lot of user-generated content from our customers or our partner ecosystem, because that content is more authentic and trustworthy. I spent a tremendous amount of time – over a glass of wine or two – going over every new piece of content in our Eloqua customer community and categorizing it, figuring out where it would fit into helping another potential buyer buy faster and more.

Content is the currency of the modern sales professional.

- Jill Rowley

Content also helped me become more known by the experts, the influencers, the journalists, the thought leaders. I’m down with OPC – Other People’s Content. I would use OPC to relate to my customers – for example, SiriusDecisions, the premier consulting firm, focuses solely on B2B Sales and Marketing, which was my sweet spot and ideal customer. I would use a lot of their content, which not only helps with my target buyers but also helps me get recognized by SiriusDecisions.

Content is absolutely the currency of the modern sales professional. It’s why I’m doing this interview, because it will go out to your community. Go fish where the fish are already swimming. There are 313 million fish swimming in the LinkedIn pond, and many of those are people who should be buying my services. Now, I’ll get to go swim in your pond and people who are also swimming in your pond will see me and ask, “Who is this dolphin?” Then they’ll go on my LinkedIn profile, see all this great stuff I publish and curate, and maybe they’ll follow me on Twitter. That’s how I’ve used content to build my audience and community.

5. A lot of companies and their employees have made public humiliating social media mistakes. How can they avoid such a nightmare scenario?

First off, mistakes are going to happen so be prepared. If you have zero tolerance for risk, you should probably just close up shop now. You also have to understand what is the culture of your company? If you attract idiots and allow them to use social, those mistakes are going to happen. You have to think about who you’re bringing into your organization because every employee does have a voice. And every employee, regardless of whether you sanction it or not, can start Tweeting and blogging and being on LinkedIn. Focus on using common sense and helping people understand that sending a stupid email can get you fired, but it’s not public; sending a stupid Tweet is very public.

Twitter is, first and foremost, a research tool.

- Jill Rowley

Also, it’s important to treat Twitter as a research tool, which is first and foremost what it is. It’s a research tool for what’s happening in your industry, in companies, with people, at events. If you are using it beyond that to help share content, engage in conversation or even initiate conversation, then you need to learn how to delete a tweet. You are going to make mistakes. You’re going to send a tweet from your mobile device that had the wrong link to the wrong article. You’re going to pick the wrong photo of your 4 year old fighting with your 9 month old. You have to remove the mistake, and own it right away. Apologize with authenticity and don’t go into cover-up mode.

6. How can sales reps adapt with the times and be prepared for whatever the next iteration of social selling is?

There is so much information out there on social selling now – some good, some bad. There are marketing agencies where the sales rep gives the agency their login and password for LinkedIn, and the agency goes in and redoes the profile to make it more buyer-centric, which is a good thing to do. But then they start to send emails, invitations to connect, and post content “from that sales rep” – they’re doing what I teach salespeople to do on their own, but they’re doing it for them instead. That’s not authentic. To me, it’s misleading, it’s deceiving and it’s just plain wrong. I just don’t agree with it.

I was a social seller before it was called social selling. It’s all about just being authentic, being real, being yourself and delivering huge value to your community and buyers and giving them what they want. Whether it’s for social selling or whatever comes next, that is the key.

Jill Rowley is the Founder and Chief Evangelist of Jill Rowley #SocialSelling: Market and Sell to the Modern Buyer. Previously, she worked at Eloqua for more than 10 years. She is also presently on the Board of Advisors at HubSpot, DataRPM and Accompani. 

Connect with Jill on LinkedIn or Twitter

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