For most B2B companies, your sales team is the lifeblood of your corporation. A strong sales team drives business growth, fosters stronger client relationships, and can even improve company morale. For top-performing salespeople, the #1 sales tool is social media. In fact, LinkedIn found that 90% of the highest performing salespeople use social selling tools to support their outreach efforts, which is why more and more businesses have recognized the importance of implementing a formal social selling program. So, how can you support the social selling needs of your entire sales team while also ensuring that their messaging and outreach is consistent across all social posts? By layering your social selling efforts on top of a social selling-focused employee advocacy program – especially one managed through the SocialToaster platform.
We wrote this original post back in 2018, since then the B2B sales environment has become even more competitive. To stand out, you need to use all the tools at your advantage – including your sales team’s own social media profiles. We’ve added a few additional tips and best practices for how to empower your sales team with a social selling initiative that drives response and supports their nurturing and closing efforts. New updates are below in bold.
What is an Employee Advocacy Program?
It’s all in the name, an employee advocacy program is an advocacy program comprised of your corporate employees. Unlike a consumer advocacy program that’s composed of your biggest fans and paying customers, an employee advocacy program is built specifically for your employees. Through an employee advocacy program, your employees can share company-approved content to their personal social channels, provide valuable feedback to your organization, and even assist with your company’s recruitment efforts by sharing job openings and opportunities.
Employee Advocacy by the Numbers
Employee advocacy is a powerful online marketing tool, especially for B2B brands. Content shared by employees receives 8-times more engagement than content shared by brand channels. Employee-shared content also drives significantly higher content views and impressions without having to pay for those expensive LinkedIn sponsored posts.
Additionally, 64% of businesses with formal employee advocacy program also report a lift in revenue that is directly attributed to employee advocacy efforts and social selling. On top of that income lift, customers referred by advocates have a 37% higher retention rate.
Support your Sales Team with Employee Advocacy Marketing
There are several different ways to utilize an employee advocacy marketing program. Some organizations use their program to support talent acquisition. Others use it to build a reputation as a thought leader.
For a sales-centric organization, the number one focus of an employee advocacy marketing program is to support the social selling needs of your sales team. Which means creating and sharing content that helps your sales team build and nurture your leads. With every sales-centric post shared, your sales team can get closer to closing their next contract with every post they share.
On top of driving revenue and new business, a strong social selling employee advocacy marketing program can also:
Build Consumer Trust
Successful salespeople build strong relationships with their prospects. Relationships founded on trust. 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know over recommendations from any other source (including paid advertisements). When your employees share your content on their social profiles, they’re giving that content their personal stamp of approval. Ultimately making that content and your brand more trustworthy and authoritative in the eyes of both potential and current customers.
Improve Employee Loyalty
Today, it’s almost the norm that individual employees jump around from job to job and team to team every couple of years (or even months). Which leads to high employee turnover, especially in a challenging field such as sales. However, studies have found that employees that are involved in an employee advocacy marketing program are actually more loyal to their companies. 70% of workers involved with an employee advocacy program said that it helped them expand their professional networking capabilities. As a result, they felt more engaged with both their employer brand and industry.
Build In-Market Rapport
Making a sale is all about building rapport. Whether it’s with a longtime customer or a new lead, one-sided conversations seldom lead to closed deals. You need a two-way conversation in order to build that strong rapport that leads to success in business. An employee advocacy program helps to create a platform for open dialogue between your employees and the world. Each post shared creates an opportunity for your sales team to begin (or continue) a dialogue with a potential lead.
Building a Social Selling-Focused Employee Advocacy Program To Drive Awareness
Although the concept of social selling has been around since the beginning of social media, it can still be a new concept for many sales organizations. That’s why we’ve outlined a few key steps below to help ensure your social selling-focused employee advocacy program is a success.
1) Create Your Content from the Bottom Up (Not the Top Down)
For any tool to be useful, it must be used! If you want your sales team to become social selling legends, you need to ensure that you’re launching a program that they believe will assist them in their daily tasks.
Before you create your program, talk to your key sales staff and solicit their feedback and opinion on what type of content would best fit their selling needs. Then create the content that best serves THEIR daily goals. Once your sales team’s needs are met, then optimize it for SEO keyword analysis.
2) Position Your Employees as Thought Leaders and Industry Experts
When your employees share company approved messaging, their online followers are going to observe them as industry experts. This phenomenon is true regardless of their title. Encourage your sales team to embrace this label. Ensure they have the education and understanding needed in order to address and answer prospect questions as they come up.
It’s not uncommon for prospects to begin engaging with a sales member through a social comment. When your sales team answers this question in a public reply, not only are you communicating to the inquirer that your team member is an expert in the field, you’re also communicating this fact to everyone who sees the original post.
3) Provide Incentives and Reward Participation
Salary and commissions are often “reward” enough for driving participation in a social selling-focused employee engagement program, but don’t be afraid to sweeten the pot a bit. After all, many sales organizations thrive through a bit of friendly competition. Consider layering on a reward structure that awards points and entries when your sales staff participates in your program.
Example incentives could include:
- Additional vacation time
- 4-hour work day Fridays
- Cash bonuses
- Free lunch or dinner
- Gift cards to their favorite places like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts
4) Use a Third-Party Tool Built Explicitly for Employee Advocacy
Between new product launches, weekly meetings, and daily outreach goals, who has the time to manage something else? Fortunately, there are tools you can use to help manage and execute an employee advocacy marketing program for you. Tools like SocialToaster!
SocialToaster makes it painless to manage and operate a social selling-focused employee advocacy program. With SocialToaster your brand can:
- Post content directly to your sales team’s social media profiles
- “Lock In” post copy to ensure it meets brand and regulatory standards
- Monitor participation and automatically calculate earned media ROI
- Create quizzes and surveys to solicit and capture employee feedback
- Effortlessly scale your efforts as you grow your sales organization
4 Tips to Use Social Selling to Nurture and Close Leads
Social selling can be be used for more than just building awareness and opening opportunities, it can also be used to help nurture and close leads.
Tip 1) Play The Long Game
B2B sales cycles are notoriously long. Best case scenario, you can close within a month or two of opening an opportunity. Most likely though, you’re averaging a cycle of 83 to 90 days. Social selling can help you stay top of mind without constantly bombarding your prospects with emails and phone calls. As a sales representative, be sure to connect with your prospects on LinkedIn. This way, as you share content, you can show up in their LinkedIn newsfeed consistently.
Tip 2) Tag Your Prospects
A powerful tool, but one that should be used sparingly, have your sales rep tag prospects in the comments of a shared post to put that content directly on the prospect’s radar. You want to ensure that the content your tagging a prospect on is relevant to conversations you’ve had. You’ll also want to be sure that you’re not spamming your prospects or tagging your entire pipeline in every single post. Have your team take the time to make each tag feel like a personal connection.
Tip 3) Incorporate Closing-Centric Content Into Your Mix
Your social selling efforts are only as strong as the content being shared. If you want to support your team’s deal-closing efforts, be sure to create and share a variety of content that pushes prospects to close on their deal. Close-centric content could include:
- Announcements of potential price ranges
- New features or benefits
- Expiring promotions
Tip 4) Support Your Champions with Decision-Making Content
In addition to creating closing-centric content, your social selling content mix should also include content that helps support your prospect in convincing their decision-makers on the value and need for your product or service. These could be testimonials and case studies from other clients, stats on the state of the industry in your business, or even explainer videos that can help a decision-maker better understand what your company brings to the table.
Get with the Winning Team
Are you ready to take your sales team to new heights? SocialToaster can help you create a successful employee advocacy program that encourages and empowers your sales team to expand their social selling efforts. Contact us today to check out a free demo or speak with an advocacy strategist.