Social selling is about sharing valuable content. It’s your secret sauce. Social selling is not just about your own content but the content of others. Who wants to sit next to the person at a networking event who talks about themselves the whole time?
Social selling is about content curation or finding the best external content to your prospects with the right people on the right social media channels at the right time. If you do content curation efficiently and effectively, you don’t have to waste time searching the web for great content.
Have you thought about curating content for you or your company but don’t know where to start?
I had a chance to catch up with authors Stephen Walsh and Steve Rayson about their new book, Selling is Sharing: How Content Curation Will Make You A Smarter Social Seller, to get some tips on social selling and content curation.
Who is Steve Rayson?
Steve Rayson is a non-executive director at BuzzSumo and director at Anders Pink. He has founded and sold many learning technology companies.
Who is Stephen Walsh?
Stephen Walsh is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Anders Pink. He has more than 20 years of experience in learning, design, marketing, and technology.
Here is my edited interview with them.
Q: Why is social selling not a game changer or paradigm shift for sales? Is it just a fad?
Stephen and Steve: I don’t think it’s a fad. It’s just not that complex.
The point we’re trying to make in the book is that social selling has its roots in something that should be at the core of what sales professionals have always done: share valuable insights with their clients and prospects.
Sales pros have been doing that via email and phone and other channels for a long time. However, the social element does change things. Now, you need to understand what social networks you should be on, what you should share, and where to find content. These things are different.
Q: Where should people look for and find shareable content?
Stephen and Steve: This is the part where the game has changed. The volume of content we’re all exposed is out of control.
We like the expression from Mark Schaefer. He calls it Content Shock. It is the moment when you realize you can’t possibly keep up with all activity in your social feeds, your blog post subscriptions, and your RSS feeds.
And it’s only going to get worse (or better, depending on how much you enjoy information overload).
The Internet will be 5 times larger by 2022.
You need to search the Internet to find content but you can’t just scan them, hoping to find something useful. You must filter it and do it with purpose.
Q: Why is content curation important? Why should people share other people’s content?
Stephen and Steve: It relates to the point above. If you’re experiencing content shock, you can be sure that your clients and prospects are too. They need trusted guides and advisors to help bring the most relevant content to them up to the surface. That’s what content curators do, and that’s what good sales professionals should be.
Why share other people’s content? To show you can be trusted.
The most relevant content to a specific prospect or client may be your latest blog post, and, of course, you should share that. But let’s face it, nobody has a monopoly on the best ideas.
If you want to keep people engaged, you need to look beyond your own content, because it’s inherently promotional.
Sharing other people’s content shows that you have a wider view of what’s happening in your sector, you can take an independent view and you are not just broadcasting your marketing team’s perspective.
We all know what it looks like when someone’s social feed is just variations on “buy my stuff.” You tend to scroll past them.
“Why share other people’s content? To show you can be trusted.”Stephen Walsh and Steve Rayson
Q: Is social selling more than sharing content? What should people do?
Stephen and Steve: Yes, social selling is more than just sharing.
We talk about a three-step model from Harold Jarche: Seek, Sense, Share.
The “seek” part goes back to your earlier question. You need filters, tools, and algorithms to help you do that more efficiently. And you need people to help you. Teams working together are better at curating content than individuals.
The “sense” part is vital though. That’s where you do more than just share an article. You add some value to it. Some ways to do that are:
- Read it. This is obvious but people do share things without reading them. This is a very bad idea.
- Say why you are sharing this piece of content. You should share it with individuals. You shouldn’t broadcast it to your whole network.
- Ask a question. For example, what does your client/prospect think of it?
- Say what you learned from the piece of content. This can just be a sentence or two. You don’t need to summarize the entire article.
The key to effective curation is to make sure you customize content for everyone you’re sharing it with.
Q: Is social selling just a sales thing? What should the role of marketing be?
Stephen and Steve: It’s a team thing and it’s a wonderful way to align sales and marketing. Marketing teams play an active role in supporting social selling by filtering and recommending great content to share.
Marketing teams can curate, recommend and save relevant content for sales teams to share with their networks. They can add a suggested commentary on the content to make it easier for the sales professional to personalize and share it.
Marketing teams can use curated content as a source of inspiration for new original content, such as round-up posts, analysis of industry trends, and long-form guides.
In this way, content curation is part of your overall content marketing strategy. It reduces the pressure to create new content and provides ideas for future blog articles and original content.
“Marketing teams play an active role in supporting social selling by filtering and recommending great content to share.”Stephen Walsh and Steve Rayson
Q: Where should organizations start with social selling?
Stephen and Steve: Best-selling author Tim Hughes is very good on this topic. His advice is to put someone in charge of the social selling initiative. Their job is to get the head of sales and the C-Suite onboard because it’s a time investment.
Treat social selling like a sales project. It is not about wasting time on the Internet. Social selling is a core activity for prospecting and account management. It needs to be sold as such to stakeholders and sales professionals. We’d recommend using case studies and evidence to show that social selling works. We share several success stories in our book.
Train the sales team in good habits around surfacing content, and using tools to accelerate that. There are many tools (Anders Pink is one, but pick the right one for you).
Set metrics for activity. Social selling is around compound interest, initially, it will be all about investing time and not expecting a massive return.
Track the activity. Who’s sharing content? What engagement are they getting? Your LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) is a good metric to base this on.
“[Social selling] is a core activity for prospecting and account management. It needs to be sold as such to stakeholders and sales professionals.”Stephen Walsh and Steve Rayson
Q: If organizations have already launched social selling programs, where do you think they need to improve?
Stephen and Steve: Staying with it. It is about building daily social selling habits and routines. That’s hard for everyone, including sales professionals.
Allow people to make time for social selling. Reward people who are getting results and converting prospects into clients through their social selling activities.
Q: How can sales and marketing pros be smarter about their social selling efforts?
Stephen and Steve: Use tools. Trying to find timely, relevant and valuable content in your LinkedIn or Twitter feeds is difficult as there’s so much of it and a lot of noise.
Tools can help you filter it. They will help you focus and act quickly on new content.
That’s what we do in our tool. For example, let’s say you want to see content from 25 Twitter influencers, the top 15 websites you track and 5 RSS feeds but only when there are articles on “social selling.” You can have all of that in one place, constantly updating.
The biggest timewaster in social selling is scanning multiple sources hoping you find something good. Remove this obstacle by using algorithms.
“The biggest timewaster in social selling is [find good content to share].”Stephen Walsh and Steve Rayson
Q: Why did you write this book? How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Stephen and Steve: We’ve both been in learning and sales for a long time. The two ideas come together with content curation for social selling.
We wanted to write something about how sales professionals need to curate for themselves, to continuously learn and to stay relevant. And, in turn, we brought that learning into value for others.
It’s a bit of a life story really. As we’ve tried to do that in the companies we’ve built up in the past. Build an audience that gradually became clients because we liked to share what we were learning, and our eventual clients saw some value in that.
Q: How do you stay up-to-date and fresh with the latest trends, thinking, and information? What tips do you give others on “being students of the game”?
Stephen and Steve: You’d probably expect this answer but we “eat our own dog food” and use Anders Pink every day. Each week I use it to curate content for a Friday round-up of the top 5 articles I’ve read on learning, sales, and curation.
Knowing that I must explain something in a blog post forces me to keep reading and learning. There’s nothing like a writing on a tight deadline to make that happen. Some people call it “working out loud.” It is an effective way to think about curating and sharing through social selling.
Social selling and content curation is a team effort. It is a fantastic way to align sales and marketing. Marketing plays a critical role in the success of social selling because they can help find, recommend and suggest commentary.
You don’t have to do social selling on your own and you don’t have to create tons of content because you can provide commentary on other’s people content.
To find out why content curation and social selling are like peanut butter and jelly, make sure you read Stephen and Steve’s new book, Selling is Sharing: How Content Curation Will Make You A Smarter Social Seller.
Yes, social selling matters. Content curation powers it. Kickstart your social selling habit today by curating content, as a team. It’s your secret sauce.