How to leverage LinkedIn for social selling

13 min read

Wanna know what is Social Selling and how it helps in today’s sales world?

Tim Hughes is a social selling innovator and pioneer and has been listed by Forbes as one of the ‘Top 100 Social Sellers’ globally. Tim was involved in rolling out one of the most advanced social selling programmes across 2,000 salespeople in Western Europe. He currently provides training and coaching on social selling through The Social Selling Network  


Timothy Hughes, CEO and Co-founder, DLA ignite. (Speaker)

Sanjana Murali, Product Marketer at Hippo Video. (Host)

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Question: You have been in the sales industry for 15 years. So we are in 2020 now. Where do you see the promise for social selling?

Tim: I think that the modern buyer and ourselves now are pretty bored with the interruptions that we get from people, which is kind of the way that we’ve marketed since about 1930, which is where we arrive and we interrupt somebody and immediately tell them about what we do. And that’s the same for advertising or calling or email. And we’re making that transition away from that to permission, right. Permission-based marketing where we actually connect with people. And we have conversations with them on social media.

Social Selling

social selling

Question: When you say Social Selling, what does it mean?

Tim: Social selling is really the change that we’ve had to make to impact on the modern buyer. The changes in what we do from a sales and marketing perspective. People are not interested in being interrupted and what they want to do. What we can now do with social selling is that we build relationships with people, have conversations with people on social media and by building relationships and having conversations, ultimately we can sell things.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Selling

social selling

Question: Can you tell us about what is Social Selling and what’s not Social Selling?

Tim: You may have used social where someone turns up and immediately pitches to you. That’s no different from what we’ve been doing before. It’s just an interruption and a broadcast on social media. It’s like a cold call on a social network. What we need to do is actually build relationships with people. Our buyers are looking for experts and when they do that, we need to make sure that we’re looking like an expert on social media otherwise they’ll by-pass and just see us as a spammer. 

Question: Do you have to build a personal brand for yourself?

Tim: Yes, I’m the person at the term personal brand can sound a little bit difficult to create. Ultimately, if we think ourselves, all of us as shop windows and if you walk down a set of shops and look in the window and there’s nothing there, then you’ll just walk on by. What you need to do is, you need to set out your way as a shop window. And for people to go that looks interesting and fit for people then too.

When I actually talk to you about what you do, you know that that’s it. The three things that you need to have for two to four social standing. One is you need to have a personal brand, which is a shop window to the world. Social media is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. And what you need to do is you need to present yourself to the world on who you are, your why and what you do.

That’s very different from, say, somebody that will put out their CV because you’re not interested in that as a buyer. The second thing you need is a network. So most people on Linked-In have connections with people who are ex-employees and recruiters. And that’s no use for you. If you want to sell a market. So what you need to do is take your territory or the people that you want to sell to lift those up on social media.

And that requires you to connect with people and build relationships with people on social media. The third thing you need is content. And the reason why you need content is it shows that you’re an expert in what you do. It’s no different from you going from meeting with a client and you have to explain what it is that you are, why you. The evidence of why you are there and why that you can help them. And what you need to do is you need to make sure that you have that on social media just as much as you may talk about it at that meeting.

Question:  People don’t want to listen to below the power line kind of people. So you’ll have to appear like a decision-maker. You have to be super professional with the photos that you use. How do you see that?

Tim:  I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to contact all senior people. One of the things that we teach people is to connect on social media is that when you get a connection. One of the things that you’ll look at is the mutual connections that you have. If someone senior sees that you’re not connected to other people within the company, you may not get that connection request accepted.

linkedin social selling
© Dilbert Cartoons

Generally what we suggest is, If you’re going to connect to someone senior, you need to connect to probably 10 people underneath that person as well. So when they look at you, they go, oh, they know Steve and they know Sanjeev and who works for me, then they must be a good person.

Question: As much of the B2B buying process continues to move online. Social networks have become fundamental to the success of sales teams. What’s the value of social selling when it comes to it?

Tim: Well, we now pretty much see social selling as the way to sell. The feedback I get is that co-called just doesn’t work anymore. Certainly in Europe, after GDP got implemented in 2018, the ability to actually get through to people, the new version of IRS 13 now actually blocks, you can actually block people calling you. It goes straight through to voicemail. And I believe that’s the same on Android as well.

So, your ability to get through to people is being blocked by both technologies and by legislation. And what we’re seeing is that the data, the output of cold calling and email basically getting less. And what we’re saying to people is now is the time to make the jump to actually invest in social, because at some point it will get to zero. What you need to do is actually make the change and shift your budget to social now rather than actually wait for it to go to zero.

Question: Who in the company owns social selling, is it the sales team or the marketing game or is it implemented holistically across the sales and marketing teams?

Tim: It’s a good question. I’d actually say that social selling is generally owned by sales. Sometimes by marketing teams too. And at the end of the day, it’s empowerment. It’s not about people doing it for you, it’s the empowerment of you to do it yourself. So it’s actually learning social sales means that you need to learn a new skill. And it also means that you need to change certain habits because you’re going to be doing things differently than the way that you’ve been working before.

But actually the way that you use social, which is to have a personal brand, have a strong network and create content, can actually be used right across the business. And one of the things we teach organizations is whether you’re in sales, marketing, human resources, procurement. At the end of the day, one of the things that you need to be doing is actually sharing your culture out to people. And you do that because you want to sell things because you want to employ people, you want to get certain suppliers.

Question: Every sales professional and marketing professional have started to realize the importance of building a brand for themselves on LinkedIn or any other social platform. So what’s the right way to leverage our professional brand?

Tim: Buyers are looking for people who are an expert. It’s always been the case. If you look at the days before social media, you go to a meeting and you’d immediately say, I’ve been in this market place for 15 years. This is evidence of why you should talk to me and that should be on someone’s LinkedIn profile. So if you read my LinkedIn profile and I recommend that people go to my LinkedIn profile, what you’ll see is not I’m not going to be telling you about my company and my products because you’re not interested in what you’re, what you want to do first and foremost is to build a relationship with me, which is to understand who I am.

And that’s about understanding why. So if you read my summary title on my LinkedIn profile, it’s not a list of products and services of DLA Ignite’s. it’s good to give you a view about who I am. My belief systems and who I am. It’s only when you get to talk about the company that we actually talk about what we do. And at that point, you should have invested quite a lot of time in my profile.

It’s about pulling people in. If you look at my summary title, it’s quite different. Most people say that they’ve never seen anything like it before and it immediately creates conversation, which is, what this is about. And the summaries of, as I say, about my belief system. And then we talk about the company later.

Question: When there’s something creative in the form of a story that is written there, people can also relate to that and begin conversations. Is that right?

Tim: Yes. Probably the best way to describe it is to say it’s written as a lack of storytelling in a way that I talk about my career history. I started at the bottom. My first job was when I worked in a restaurant washing up right through to what I do now. And it works as a story. I have people coming to me and I’ve read the whole lot.

It’s not about now if I sit in front of you and say, oh, yes, I did this job five years ago and these are my up, these were my objectives. You wouldn’t be interested in what you would expect me to say as I did this job. This is what I got out of it. These are the things that I learnt, and that’s what we teach people to do on their LinkedIn profile. So it becomes like a story.

And again, it’s about the person. So rather than it being a flat screen as this is what I am. It’s like a 3D image of ourselves. On social media, that enables people to really understand the person and actually get to know them before we even have a conversation and exchange connection requests. 

And that’s the point, We’re creating a piece of content that will go out through our networks and the people and it will showcase you and it showcases me. That’s what we’re one of the things that we’re trying to do. People then can actually see who we are and they go, well, I don’t like him, which is fine. Not everybody may like me or they may go. When I sort out my social setting, I’m gonna give to musicals. And that’s the point.

Building Connections 

linkedin social selling

Question: When it comes to building a brand on a social platform. The first thing that comes to mind is building connections. So how do we leverage the existing connections that we have to get introduced?

Tim: One of the things that you could do is if you were looking like an expert. You have a personal brand and you’re creating content, which is both insights from an educational so not corporate content, which says we’re wonderful with the best when we’re a market leader because everybody says that’s. Yeah. BMW says it’s the ultimate driving machine and I don’t think Ferrari would agree with that.  We’re trying to get people to come to our profile and then have this conversation. And by sending out connection requests, we can do so.

There’s nothing wrong with actually sending connection requests to people that we don’t know because there’s nothing wrong in having a network where you’re learning from people. So I publish content. Therefore, If you’re interested in social selling, connect with me. And what you’ll do is you’ll learn about social selling or follow me and you’ll learn about social selling. I try to connect all the people that I ultimately want to sell to.

And it’s about going out, connecting with people and then having conversations and then seeing your profile and who you are and your beliefs. I want to connect with that person or I’m happy to refer to that person.

Question: How do we go about finding the right connections on social?

Tim: I have a number of target account companies that I will target. And then I look at the people that I generally sell to people who are sales leaders and marketing leaders and I will basically connect to those people in those organizations. What I would say is that if you don’t invest in your LinkedIn profile and you look like a spammer, then you won’t get people connecting to you. We had a company we did some work for where they said that they connected to 250 people and nobody did anything and they didn’t do anything because the people that we are sending the connection requests look like spammers.

Question: Now that we have everything set up our journey towards building our personal brand, how can the sales and marketing team go about operationalizing social selling?

Tim: One of the things that you need to do is making sure that you’re building into people’s day to day routine. Quite often what happens is that people will want to do something. But in our daily lives, we’re busy and the only thing that we can usually do is to pick up something new is to actually let something go. So what I would say is that you need to find time for social selling.

We have people that come to us and say, you know, I’ve spent all morning making cocoa. Well, I got nothing from it. And then they said, I don’t have time for social selling. It’s like, well, why don’t you drop the cold calling and spend the time that you’re doing the prospecting and cold calling social selling instead. And I spend an hour a day doing prospecting.

Creating content is prospecting for me as well. And so, this is about building social and the time for it into our daily lives. Everybody that we teach usually will immediately take at least 30 minutes in a day, every day to do something that social selling related. And they’re these people that get the best results. We actually teach people how to create a content factory, which also helps as well, because then if anybody looks at the people who work for daylight daily at night, you will see that there’s a lot of content created because they are everybody who wants a deal, a light delay, ignite understands the value of creating the content, but also what it means is that we share the content as well, and creating a content factory enables you to scale the social setting across an organization or cross across the globe as much as you can.

Question: Do you have to bring in social selling as a routine in your everyday work?

Tim: Yes, I got up this morning and I wrote some and read a couple of blogs. Yesterday, we ran a new product for human resources. So the guy that’s heading up, he and I basically spent the day creating content. He said jobs now have all that content. He’s now got enough content for him to put out until June. So it isn’t a good couple of months where we took videos and stuff.

So, creating content is all part of the prospecting process as well as connecting with people, talking to people. But you do need to spend time and block time out in your diary to do that.

Question: What’s your view on this? Do you think social media has changed the way we do cold calling?

Tim: It has changed the world. Social media has changed society. If you look at certainly in the U.K., Europe and the US, you turn on the news, somebody tweeted something or whatever. We’re having discussions about what’s going on social media. While you may not like that, it’s the way that we live today and social selling changed business even from something very simple where when you contacted me, I looked you up on social media and we then had a discussion on social and then we took that off social and we had an email conversation.

Then we had a call. So the key thing for people is, it doesn’t mean that social selling is everything that takes place on social. But if I get a conversation with somebody on social, I will immediately take it off social and take it onto having something like a zoom call.

But the thing is, the way that we live and the way that we work now is that social media has changed everything. People need to get with the program and understand that they need to start teaching people how to do social because, in fact, we find most of the people in all organizations are doing something on social media. And one of the things that people try and do is actually block it. They say we can’t control it.

What they need to be doing is training people. They need to be explaining people about what is good behaviour and what is a bad behaviour as we do with diversity, inclusion, sexual harassment, health and safety. We teach people what good behaviour is and bad behaviours are. And we need to be doing that with social media as well.

Case Study on Social Selling

Question: Do you have some case studies or social selling success stories from enterprise companies?

Tim: Yeah, there’s a case study on my YouTube channel on Steve Rafferty from Reinke Central, a 20-25 minute interview where we talk about the benefits they have, both in terms of the prospecting and the business that they’ve closed through using social as well. And also, one of the things that they’ve been using it for is recruitment. Steve needs to get some new salespeople. So he wrote a blog and he saved something like four hundred and fifty thousand pounds worth of recruitment fees just by putting a blog up.

That’s just an example of how you can use content, not just within the sales process. And I mean, we’ve got a number of cases to this. Generally what we’re finding is that most people can get one lead or meeting a week by using social media. So if you have four weeks in a month, that’s four leads and meetings. If you have a 1 in 4 wins. Then you should be winning an additional 10 deals a year on the basis.

And nothing happens in January, December and August. People should be getting an additional 30% of incremental revenue and being able to shorten the sales cycle by something like 40%. And we find that happens in every store, every time we run the program. It’s repeatable and predictable. I have written a book based on this as well and it’s available on Amazon Wordly.

Question:  What does the future of social selling hold for B2B companies?

Tim: It’s a really good question. I think social is not going away. Social can transform the whole of an organization, not just sales. We launched a social HR program last September, which is where we remained the human resources department in a social age. We’ve just signed our first contract for social marketing, which is where we’re redefining marketing in a social age.

And we believe that therefore, social can transform an organization from end to end, whether it’s sales, marketing, human resources and procurement. Social can be used across the whole of the business. It’s about people in the process. It’s not about technology, it’s about people and the process. And what we’re seeing now is this transformation taking place. And people announced it now and are ready for it. And most people who work for organizations actually expect it.

Role of Videos in Social Selling

Question: Do you and your team use videos in your business activities and what role does it play?

Tim: Video is really important. We use the written word and we use videos. What you’re doing when you create content is that you need to be accessible to everybody that might want to buy from you and we have to be realistic that some people don’t read and that sometimes actually having a video and a podcast can help. Some people listen to podcasts when commuting. And if you’re driving, you can’t read. So people consume content in different formats. And we see the videos are really important.

We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. Subscribe to our channel for your daily dose of quality learnings and insights into the world of sales and marketing.

Sanjana Murali is a Marketing Specialist at Hippo Video. She is an award-winning blogger, one of her articles on “Customer Success” was selected from worldwide participants and won her MVP 2019 award. She has learned the knack of ranking her blogs and website pages in the 1st result of Google Search from her 6+ years of writing and marketing experience. She is also the host of #Limitless webinar and podcast series at Hippo Video. She loves to talk about branding and marketing with videos. An eternal writer, words are her lifeline.

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