6 Social Selling Fears of CEOs That Must Be Embraced

I work with CEOs helping with their company's social selling strategies and I regularly encounter resistance. Before I share the 6 fears of CEOs, let me state why social selling matters: Social buying is a reality and those sellers who embrace social engagement platforms masterfully increase the likelihood of achieving their sales target by 51% (LinkedIn research). Here are some additional research points...

The above infographic is from Jamie Shanks and highlights important statistics (please note that the second stat of 54% is a typo... it should be 5.4 people now involved in the average B2B buying decision) but I believe there is another even more compelling reason that sales and marketing teams must embrace social selling: Sales people need to become micro-marketers to build their own credentials and also create opportunity pipelines. They need to engage earlier and at senior levels to create the necessary value for both the buying and selling organizations to fund their role. Strategic Social Selling is how they can effectively achieve all this... seems compelling, right?

We must also acknowledge and then embrace fears stemming from the dark side to social Here are the six fears of CEOs concerning Social Selling:

  1. "I don't want my sales people building their personal brands, only to have them leave the company and take our customers with them." Every CEO is seeking to build the company's brand but we now live in the age of personal brands... people buy from those they like and trust and 75% of buyers research the seller before engaging. What will they see online before the meeting or decide whether to respond to an e-mail or return a call? Do they see 'Porsche driving, quota crushing uber sales person' or do they see someone online of integrity and value who can bring insight to their business? Seriously, people in business have always had personal brands... get over it and embrace the fact that social media merely amplifies an existing reality.
  2. "I don't want my staff building their social profiles only to then be poached by our competitors." LinkedIn in the #1 research platform for people in business and it has severely disrupted the recruitment industry. Many employers are bringing the head-hunting function in-house and powered by LinkedIn. Sales people have LinkedIn profiles and no CEO can change that fact. What can be done however is to work with the sales team to help them transform their profiles to move away from being an online CV (targeting new employers) to instead serve as personal brand interactive micro-sites evidencing the business value they offer clients and the values by which they operate. Their LinkedIn profiles can dramatically assist in business development through 'social validation' evidencing credible 'social proximity' and credentials for relevant insight to positively influence potential customers.
  3. "I don't want my competitors tracking the social activity of my staff enabling them to intercept prospects or engage our customers." LinkedIn settings can be managed to ensure that only those you wish to see your connections can do so. Educate your own sales and marketing teams to take advantage of ignorant competition in this regard.
  4. "I don't want my sales people to be distracted, wasting time in social when it doesn't monetize for the company." Being strategic means doing the appropriate research and connecting with influential people and buyers on the basis of value. Understand how to measure and manage the right activities and inputs that create social selling success. Intelligent use of social tools absolutely creates revenue and enables the best to be truly strategic.
  5. "I don't want my sales people damaging our brand by posting inappropriate comments in social." Sales people have always had the power to damage their employer's brand so this is already a risk. Social media does however give everyone a megaphone. It's never been more important to create a positive culture and employ people with positive values and integrity. Manage people out of the business who are a liability due to incompetence or poor values.
  6. "I don't trust what I don't understand... surely there's a dark side to social with our data being used in ways we don't approve. Yes,dark social is real but the best way to manage risk is to embrace it yourself... that's what leadership is all about. Be guided by experts and trusted advisers who have already executed successfully. The interweb is now, cloud computing is changing businesses, technology is enabling disruption of long-standing business models, social is transforming sales and marketing channels and creating mega-empowered buyers. It cannot be ignored; the risks can only be managed.

Importantly, we must all embrace the things that we fear and here are my tips for managing the risk of embracing social selling:

  • The CEO must change their job descriptionThe leader must accept responsibility for creating best Customer eXperience (CX) with a truly customer centric culture that listens through social monitoring tools. Did you know that when customers leave, more than 65% of the time it is because they feel you just don't care. Richard de Crespigny delivered exception CX aboard an Airbus A380 and on the ground to transform a near disaster into legendary customer service.
  • Transform LinkedIn profiles away from being an online CV targeting the next job to instead be powerful 'social proof' micro-sites positively linked to the employer's products, services and solutions. Once the sales person is evangelically promoting the transformation delivered for clients through the company's solutions, it makes it very difficult for them to go to a competitor and still maintain their credibility. They will also be more loyal knowing that you want to help them build their personal brand and advance their career.
  • Have a social media and social selling policy. Be clear about what people can and cannot do on social platforms, especially when it comes to expressing opinions. Distinguish between content curation (posting other people's content) and social publishing (original thought leadership). Offer training and support while providing access to best practice tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  • Identify individual brand champions. Think of Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Joel Manby and others. In your own way, who will you build personal brand campaigns around? Which loyal long-term team members can deliver insightful thought leadership content that others within your company can amplify through their own social platforms?
  • Go and be where your customers are online. Constantly ask yourself this question: What are my prospective customers looking for online before they look for me, our product, our service or our solution? Where are they searching online and what cyber-communities are they part of? I moved away from my own website for blogging to write here in LinkedIn Publisher for this very reason... it's hugely powerful.
  • Be brave and set your people free. But provide training to enable them to intelligently execute. Hold people accountable but also empower them to make decisions that create delighted customer advocates.

It won't be very long before 75% of the workforce will be Gen-Y or Millennials. The new generations of executives and workers have experienced theconsumerization of IT which means that people increasingly expect to be able to execute their workday in a similar manner to how they engage in their social lives. Do these phrases sound familiar? Surely there's an app for that? Why do we need training... isn't it intuitive? Why can't I use my own device at work?

Make the decision to adapt to the way people now research, engage and buy. Adopt modern selling techniques, bring sales and marketing together, create customer eXperience (CX) models and build the right attitudes and skills into your teams. If you'd like more, browse the hundreds of posts in my LinkedIn profile and start with this one explaining exactly how to apply strategic social selling techniques in the enterprise.

If you enjoyed this post, listen here to my interview with Kelly Riggs on Biz Locker Room Radio where we discuss Strategic Social Selling.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main image photo by Flickr: Chris Devers Banksy in Boston