This post is a follow up to “The rise of the Sales Influencer, an interview with Timothy Hughes,” and the second in our interview series with Timothy Hughes, UK Business Development Director at Oracle Corporation.
Q1 – What is the role of marketing for social selling success?
“Some people are adding an S to the word to make it “smarketing,” which highlights the merger between marketing and sales. It doesn’t mean that organisations should merge departments, but rather salespeople are starting to take on more of the demand generation piece to build their own lead funnel. Indeed, if you become influential in your niche and appear on the first page of Google, from a sales perspective you’re enabling yourself to get more inbound leads.”
“For each sales professional to become an expert in their field, they will need marketing support to build their online influence and gain communities’ interest. There are different types of content marketing needs to support social selling:
- Corporate-type content focusing on the company, product or service that needs to be provided to the market. Case studies can be really helpful to close a deal.
- Marketing content to generate awareness, engagement and buzz in the market for those that are not aware of your company.
- There also needs to be thought leadership material around your particular product or niche that could also come from pre-sales or sales, as well as marketing.
Ideally, this content should be provided to salespeople ready-built with hashtags attached for optimized employee sharing so they just need to cut and past in LinkedIn or Twitter. A lot of enterprises are doing that, and it is working well.”
“Marketing automation is also fundamentally changing the way that we at Oracle are able to move contacts from outbound marketing to leads through a nurturing program. From a cold calling perspective, in the past we were getting a response rate of 5% of people that were ready to talk to us, and another 25% who were not ready and asking to be called again later. These days, we’re able to nurture these 25% through the marketing automation process and turn them into leads. We thus can take the ROI of calling 100 accounts from 5% to 30%. Marketing automation takes a long time to put in place and implement, but it is worth the investment if you want to see that level of ROI, in terms of the number of leads that you are going to get.
We used to use BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timescale) to qualify a lead in the past at Oracle, but we’ve changed that recently. With social media and the advancement of cloud technology (enabling to switch on the product immediately), the sale cycle is getting shorter and has moved from 12 to 6 to 3 months. A lead now is an appointment with a customer that will have a need and authority and it is the responsibility of the salesperson to create the desire. It is that level of speed that you need to play in today’s market to get in front of the competition.”
Q2: How can influencer marketing support social selling efforts?
“When people are doing their research in the buying process, they will talk to as many people as possible online. One of the things that sales need to work out is how to be in this short list.
A starting point is to research the influencers in that marketplace, reach out to them and through a strategic programme, create a community around those influencers.
There are influencers within organizations, which is not new, but those people have moved from offline to online, and traditional influential organizations such as Gartner and Forrester. But, there also people like Brian Solis and Ted Rubin who have an opinion, and have gained a strong influence over the years.
The right way to involve influencers is to create a relationship and engage. You can’t just ask someone to share, you have to listen to what they say and understand their interests. You should talk to them in a personalized way so that they know why they should be interested. You need to bring some value. The question to ask yourself is: What is it I have that you don’t and that I can help you with?”
People buy into people, and this has not changed.
“The best thing is a face-to-face conversation as always, but you can create those relationships online. Like any relationship, it will take time to build, so don’t expect for it to happen overnight.
The final thing is to measure – Not necessarily saying “I’ve generated 10 leads,” but knowing where you’ve started from and where you’re going. There’s a very old marketing saying, “Load – Fire – Aim,” meaning that unless you measure and evaluate what you are doing, you will not know what works and what does not. It may be that you have to try a variety of different approaches before hitting on the successful ones.
At Oracle, we’ve started implementing social selling. We’ve started small and completed a pilot on LinkedIn with a group of employees to demonstrate it to the greater group. We’re at a point where everybody sees it as part of the job – we got over that difficulty, and it’s become business as usual.”
Q3: Where do you source your best content?
“I find that I have too much content coming to me. I am registered and subscribed to a lot of emails so it’s usually about filtering it out – my mindset is more about eliminating than creating constantly.
But, when PwC and Deloitte come up with an interesting report, I dive into it, try to find something for my audience in that data, analyze it and form an opinion. For example, Forrester recently noted that 22% of the B2B sales job will go by 2020. I found and analyzed another article on the report, and I curated a piece based on it.
There is so much great content out there that it is easy to curate, share and gain in influence. I source a lot of content from key thought leaders in social media and twitter chats as well, which provide great insights on the market.
Social is continually evolving, so it’s all about having a debate on where it could go.”
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