What is Social Selling?

by Paul Lewis

Posted on Nov 26, 2021

How exactly can social media - and especially LinkedIn - play a central role in feeding the sales pipeline with qualified leads? That's what Social Selling is about, and Paul Lewis - a veteran social seller at Pitney Bowes, and DMI SME - shares with host Will Francis his experiences and tactics on making the most of LinkedIn towards your sales efforts.

The Ahead of the Game podcast is brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute and is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube.   

Podcast Transcript

Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. This episode is a big Q&A where we explore an area of marketing through a leading industry expert. I'm your host Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to Paul Lewis all about social selling. It's something we've heard lots about in recent years where social media, and particularly LinkedIn, can play a central role feeding the sales pipeline with qualified leads. Well, Paul is a respected expert in this area and he's gonna share his process, lots of tactics with us today.

[00:00:39]

Paul is a 20-plus year marketing veteran. He began his career in Los Angeles with the global ad agency BBDO. He then moved on to spend 8 years at Experian, the world's leading global information services company. Since 2013, he's been overseeing the management, creation, and execution of social-media marketing and sales enablement programs at the global tech company Pitney Bowes. He's also been an important contributor to the Digital Marketing Institute over the years. Paul, welcome to the podcast.

[00:01:10]

Paul: Thanks, Will. Good to be here.

[00:01:12]

Will: Yeah, it's great to have you on. This is a popular topic, it's one that I get asked about in my work lots, this idea of social selling. Lots of people have heard lots about it but I think lots of people are also still stuck with how to actually get started with it and gain value from it. So, hopefully, we can kind of...no pressure but, hopefully, we can crack that over the next 45 to 60 minutes. So, you know, let's set the scene before we get into the weeds. Just give me your simplest definition of social selling. What is it?

[00:01:52]

Paul: It's a new approach to sales. I include the word "new" there but I mean this isn't new, it has been around now for quite some time. But, you know, ultimately, it's enabling sells people to zero in on prospects via social-media networks and, you know, build a rapport with leads. And, you know, if it's done right, then, you know, it can help build a sales pipeline, it can help accelerate the overall sales process. So, you know, ultimately, I would say, you know, it's really about educating and showing sales people how they can leverage social media to be more effective in their day-to-day roles.

[00:02:36]

Will: So, that's presumably sort of higher up the funnel, that's kind of top-of-funnel activity that kind of then feeds into their more personal one-on-one approaches later down the funnel with prospects.

[00:02:51]

Paul: Yeah. I guess, you know, really social selling can be, you know, part of the entire sales funnel. So, you know, yes, a lot of people will use it, you know, at the top of the funnel in order to generate leads and try and spark those opportunities. But it also plays a role, you know, further down the funnel as well. I mean I'm sure we'll come on to this later on but, you know, it's, you know, a fundamental component really of any sort of account-based marketing program that you might undertake. Or if you're looking to cross sell or upsell, you know, into an existing client, you know, it can be applied in that capacity. So, you know, I wouldn't necessarily say that it's, you know, kind of limited to the top end of the funnel, it really does have a role to play throughout that sales cycle.

[00:03:48]

Will: I suppose the reason I thought it was more top-of-funnel is because you can do stuff at scale where you maybe reach, you know, maybe hundreds or even thousands, who knows, of people. And then, as certain ones start to seem like kind of vaguely-qualified leads or step forward, in some way, by engaging, that we can then kind of bring them down the pipeline. But maybe that's not quite the right way of thinking about it?

[00:04:16]

Paul: Yes, it can be applied in that way. It's not necessarily geared towards being, what I would say, a mass marketing tool. You know, this is much more very very strategically-focused, you know, on specific companies that you're targeting or specific personas that you're targeting. You know, and the whole basis here really is to build a relationship, a rapport with that individual, nurture them and kind of warm them up, so to speak. And then, obviously, you know, at the right moment, that's when you can then begin, you know, to try and move in with, dare I say, the sales pitch.

[00:05:04]

Will: Yeah. So, what's the first thing that a prospect might see from you? You know, what is that first encounter typically?

[00:05:13]

Paul: It could be anything really. It could be, you know, a simple connection request on LinkedIn. It could be that you engage with some content that, you know, the person that you've identified has posted. That could be as simple as just liking it. It could be sharing it with your network. It could even be that you comment on that post and maybe you comment on that post and you leave your comment open-ended. So, I'm sure, Will, you're familiar with open and closed questions. You know, if you comment on that post with an open question, then, you know, that can prompt the person in question to then respond. And hence you're beginning to open up a dialogue with them.

[00:06:07]

Will: I see, that's clever. So, yes, it might be that someone at a target company that you wanna do business with has posted a piece of content. And rather than just liking it and, you know, kind of trying to butter up to them in some way, you know, just liking their stuff and sharing it. Actually commenting on it and engaging them in conversation and asking a question like, "How do you see this working with X, Y and Z?" and those kind of conversation-starter questions. Because they're quite hard to resist, you know, from the original poster's point of view. It's unlikely they'll completely ignore that, isn't it?

[00:06:44]

Paul: If you word your comment, you know, in such a way, it will...I'm not gonna say "in every instance" but in most cases anyway it will prompt that individual to respond.

[00:06:59]

Will: That's a good point. Now, you did mention account-based marketing, and I've come across this before and sometimes people abbreviate ABM. And just to explain that as well, that's about being very specific about the companies that you're marketing to. Like you say, rather than just blasting a whole industry, being really selective about who you want to work with ideally and just trying to engage them. Is that right?

[00:07:25]

Paul: Correct, yeah. Absolutely.

[00:07:28]

Will: Because it sounds to me what you're saying is social selling is about just a far more targeted approach, being more focused. And in terms of the more direct approach, like the kind of connection requests, you know, how do you go about that? Because I'm quite interested, I get a lot of different kinds of connection requests on LinkedIn and I can see there's a few approaches. What do you think about that?

[00:07:49]

Paul: So, ultimately, I would say, when it comes to the connection requests, each and every time...you know, if you're sending out a connection request, you know, I can't stress it enough, you need to personalize that connection request. It could be something very very simple like, you know, "Hi, Will," you know, as I'm continually expanding my network of individuals that work in the marketing or the media and communication sector. I'd like to extend you and invite to connect with me on LinkedIn. You know, it could be very very very simple, you know, like that.

[00:08:30]

Then, again, you know, you might wanna work in a little more sort of personalization whereby. And if we come back to what you were saying just a moment ago, Will, about account-based marketing, you know, you might wanna introduce something into that connection request message that talks about either their role or the company that they work at as well.

[00:08:52]

Will: Yeah. Because a lot of the connection requests I get, that are personalized, the people just simply say, "I'm looking to expand my network." And that doesn't...I often think, "Well, I don't know if the personalization really added anything there." I mean that's...

[00:09:07]

Paul: All I would say on that is...like I say, you've got to apply a little bit more context, you know, to what is the reason why you're connecting. But what I'd also suggest, you know, to everyone that's listening is, you know, if you're receiving these connection requests, don't feel that you have to accept each and every one of them.

[00:09:31]

Will: Hello. A quick reminder from me that, if you're enjoying our podcast series, why not become a member of the DMI so that you can enjoy loads more content from webinars and case studies to tool kits and more real-life insights from the world of digital marketing? Head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com/aheadofthegame. Sign up for free. Now back to the podcast.

[00:09:53]

Will: Just stepping back, you mentioned briefly when we chatted about...you have a kind of process for social selling, am I right?

[00:10:01]

Paul: Yes.

[00:10:02]

Will: Just give me that overview of that for now, and then we can kind of dig into the various bits of it.

[00:10:10]

Paul: It's a simple process, a simple methodology that I've pieced together. It really begins with, you know, building your personal brand on LinkedIn. So, positioning yourself in the right context, building out your profile, you know, ensuring that that profile is optimized and aligned not just to the company that you work at but, at the same time, you know, if you're focused in the legal sector or if you're selling specifically, let's say, into...I don't know, finance, insurance, the banking sector, something like that, you know, ensuring that your LinkedIn profile speaks to those audiences. So, you know, that's really, I would say, the foundation. Because, ultimately, any activity that you undertake on LinkedIn is likely to result in somebody clicking through to view your profile. So, you know, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're not positioning yourself in the right way.

[00:11:17]

Will: Yeah, get your house in order before you go out and invite people over kind of thing. Yeah.

[00:11:23]

Paul: Yeah, exactly. So, that's the foundation. And then we really come on to what I would say is a four-step, you know, sort of process, a four-step approach. First and foremost, it's what I class as step number one, the identification process. So, you know, this is where you're gonna go out, you're gonna carry out your initial prospecting activities, you know, on LinkedIn. You know, you're gonna look for those target personas, the people that you're specifically, you know, targeting, the accounts that are of interest to you. So, that's the initial process.

[00:12:14]

Then you're gonna move onto step number two, which is, what I would say, the research and the intelligence gathering. So, this is where you're going to start reviewing those LinkedIn profiles, looking at those company pages, and trying to glean and gather as much information as you possibly can on these individuals and, you know, on these companies that you can then go ahead and use to your advantage, you know, whether that's connecting with people or trying to engage them. So, that's step number two.

[00:12:49]

Number three is what I term sort of social...let's call it social monitoring or social listening. Which is simply listening out or monitoring these individuals or these companies that you've expressed an interest in and, you know, and taking, try and consume the very latest information, you know, on these people. Which, once again, you know, you'll be able, you know, to, hopefully, leverage to your advantage.

[00:13:22]

And then our final step is that engagement process So, this is where we're now going to reach out to them, we're gonna try and establish that contact with them. And really the goal here is, once we have engaged with them, we're gonna try and look to take that conversation from digital to physical. Or, in other words, taking it from online to offline. And if you can transition from LinkedIn to, you know, a Zoom call or a Teams call or, you know, if you can even try and meet with that individual face to face, that's our ultimate goal.

[00:14:12]

And really, from there, I'd say there's sort of a dotted line of...and, you know, I think I touched upon this earlier on about, you know, once you've established that connection and you started to build that relationship, then you can look for these cross-sell and upsell opportunities within that organization.

[00:14:33]

So, those are sort of the four steps, you know, the identify, research, monitor, and engage. And again, that's all underpinned by the necessity for you to go out there on a regular basis and start posting content your network, and these individuals that you're targeting are going to see. And that should be a combination of, you know, content that your employer, your company is producing but also, at the same time, you know, sort of the third-party content. You know, showing that you've got your finger on the pulse, that you understand what's going on within, you know, that particular vertical market. And that all really does help to further build your credibility and really begin to position you as being a subject-matter expert.

[00:15:32]

Will: Yes, definitely. The curated content, I think that's so overlooked by people. I keep telling people, "Do that." I was running a course this week and I used the example, one of my connections this week shared some good advertising creative work they'd seen on LinkedIn, wasn't even theirs. And the last time I checked they'd had 30,000 likes on this one post because it was like some student on Instagram that had redesigned the McDonald's happy meal. She credited the person, of course, in the post, and, you know, all the right things. But, at the end of the day, it wasn't her content, she just said what she thought of it, she said she loved it. It was quite emotive and the content itself was great. And yeah, it sparked a huge amount of engagement and positioned that person, you know, my connection, as a leader, someone who's spotting the latest things and sharing them to the network, you know. And I mean I think you could just do that. It will almost always overshadow your own content really.

[00:16:34]

Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, Will, you know, from time to time, you know, when I've spoken at conferences or been on webinars, one of the frequently asked questions is, "Well, okay, you say that, but where do I start finding this content?" You know, and my answer to that is, well, I mean there's plenty of these, you know, sort of news-aggregation feeds that you can begin to use. You know, many of them are free. But probably the easiest way of doing it is just set up a Google alert. You know, have Google fire off an email to you on a daily basis. And, you know, you put your keywords in and you've just gotta browse through it and then determine, you know, is there anything amongst that you think is worth posting, that will be of value and be of interest to your network on LinkedIn. Or, you know, for that matter, any other social network that you're active on.

[00:17:37]

Will: Yeah, and another really popular tactic I see my connections doing, who are in marketing, is taking video that they found on Twitter usually or elsewhere and like ripping that video file and uploading it to LinkedIn as an original post. But again, just crediting the creator with a link or, if they know who they are on LinkedIn, you know, tagging their LinkedIn name.

[00:18:05]

Right, I wanna go back and unpack some of those things because that was great. And I love how you simplified that four-step approach of the actual, you know, the social-selling part of it. So, firstly, it's identify. So, that's finding the companies that you want to work with. Like it's a daft question but how do we know who they are? Right? You know, what are your criteria for working out what companies are targets in the first place?

[00:18:32]

Paul: For me...I mean...so, I need to look at a specific, you know, business unit within the company that I work for because we sell to such a wide breadth of, you know, different companies of different sizes. But, you know, ultimately, you should be building a customer persona that will give you the basis of, you know, "This is the individual, the type of person that we're looking to approach."

[00:19:08]

You know, so, for example, you know, it could be we are looking at companies that are based in the United States, they've got to be employing in excess of, let's say, 1,000 people, they need to be in the retail sector. And as for, you know, the types of individuals that we're targeting, you know, they need to be working, let's say, within, I don't know, supply chain, logistics, distribution. They need to be, you know, of that sort of certain level. So, you know, ultimately, they need to be a decision maker or a key decision maker, you know, somebody that's been at that organization for, let's say, in excess of 3 years. So, you know, they've got a firm foot in the company. So, you know, if you can build that persona...and what I suggest is build that persona.

[00:20:09]

Will: Like the perfect target almost, you just build this idealized picture of like, "Who would be my absolutely perfect prospect?"

[00:20:16]

Paul: Yes, exactly. Print it out and stick it up on the wall somewhere whereby, you know, you can continually refer to it. It's very very easy...I mean I'm sure, you know, we've all done it at one time or another whereby, you know, we started working on something and, before we know it, we're going completely off at a tangent and down a different route. You know, so, pinning that on the wall just means to say, you know, that you can continually refer to it so you're not going off a tangent and you're completely focused on that persona and your target audience.

[00:21:00]

Will: And then, in terms of the second step, you know, which is research, and is the goal there matching up their problem with your solution? I'm coming at this from the angle of, you know, having run like an ad agency. So, you know, my process was always look at people who clearly have a problem with their digital marketing and work out, you know, what our solution is and how that sounds compelling and fits well. And that does take that bit of research, looking at what they're doing, what you can see publicly anyway. Right? So, is that kind of what you do with research, that sort of marrying of their problem and your solution?

[00:21:42]

Paul: There's a couple of ways...firstly, I completely agree, you know, with what you're saying. You know, you're trying to identify a problem that either that individual that you're targeting is facing or, you know, maybe it's a common problem that people in that type of role face. You know, or maybe it's something that, you know, you've identified as a possible problem within the company in question.

[00:22:11]

Will: Yeah, the more you can make it to them, the better. Right? Because everyone has the same problem. Like, in marketing, everyone has the same problem, we're not reaching enough people. But what's the exact flavor of your problem as the prospect? And then trying to dig into that and go, "They're kind of not really nailing it on Instagram," or something like that, and then kind of, you know, echoing that back to them.

[00:22:32]

Paul: Let me give you an example. So, this is a colleague of mine. He's a sales director, he's targeting the retail sector, and specifically he's targeting those that are working...strangely, I mentioned this just a few moments ago, people working in sort of the e-commerce supply chain and logistics. And my colleague was specifically looking at retailers in the United States of a certain size within a certain region. So, he's identified who these companies are. And what we're trying to do is to sell into these companies solutions around fulfillment, delivery, and returns of their goods.

[00:23:28]

My colleague went onto the websites of some of these companies and he's actually mapped out the journey that a customer would take in order to search on their websites and go through that buying process. So, he found an item, maybe it was $22, added it to his, you know, shopping cart, gone through the whole buying process. And in doing this he is capturing...so, he's screenshotting this entire journey.

[00:24:02]

Then what he's done is he's continued to capture this journey, once he's placed his order, by tracking the delivery. And then, upon receiving whatever it was that he ordered, let's say it was a coffee mug, he's then unpacked it, had a look at it, packed it back up again, and then gone through that process of returning it saying that, you know, maybe it wasn't what he was expecting, you know, and requesting a refund. So, again, he's capturing that entire journey as well.

[00:24:38]

And then what we've done working together is we've identified around about six or seven individuals over at that retailer that would be responsible for part of that journey. And then we've actually reached out to them through LinkedIn to say, "We've gone through this process of buying." You know, "The buying process, transaction on your website, dead easy. No problem at all. Maybe," you know, "the delivery was pretty seamless. However, we had an issue when it came to returning the item." "And this is where Pitney Bowes can come in and," you know, "this is where we can help you with our returns solution."

[00:25:24]

So, there was, you know, a lot of research that went into it. But it was very personal, you know, the individuals in question at this organization, you know, they had seen that we've taken the time and the effort to understand their company, look over their website, look at the processes that they're working to. And we've identified maybe a flaw in the system and now we're saying, you know, "Look, we can help you," you know, "address whatever this issue is." So, long example but it just goes to show that, you know, this is more than just, you know, kind of trawling over somebody's LinkedIn profile or trawling over their website and looking for the latest and greatest news and insights. You know, this is really getting into the depths of their company and understanding where the pain points may lie.

[00:26:18]

Will: Yeah. No, I like that. That's great. I really like that example because it's such a great start to, you know, if it's gonna be a working relationship. Yeah, it's a great start to show you're actually paying attention and that you care. And yes, you're doing it to make a sale, of course, and they get that. But it's a good start, I think we'd all wanna work with companies like that who have that level of kind of, you know, diligence and proactiveness and what have you, an initiative. So, yeah, that's a great example. So, that's the research bit, and we get that. So, the next bit was the sort of intelligence. Right?

[00:26:59]

Paul: Monitoring.

[00:27:00]

Will: Monitoring. And this is about living in their world, living amongst the sounds and noises of their industry, their company, having that just wash over you passively over time. Right? So, over time, you get to kind of live in their narrative and, you know, exist in their narrative for a bit so that you're just on board with what's been happening. And when that comes up in conversation, even when you talk to them later down the line, you'll sound like you just really kind of clued into where they're at, what they've been up to, you know. Is that the kind of point of that?

[00:27:32]

Paul: Absolutely. And, you know, I should point out that, while I class this as being sort of step three in the process, really this sort of monitoring and listening really needs, you know, to form a part of the entire process. You know, so, you're not just gonna do it at this stage. You know, even when you move onto, you know, the next step in this chain, you still need to continually be listening and monitoring as to what these people are saying or what's going on at these companies just so that you keep abreast with all the latest greatest news and insights that you can try and capitalize on.

[00:28:15]

Will: Yes, true. That's good. And then the last bit is the approach, like you say, and that could be...I mean we use the LinkedIn request because it's public, right, really, isn't it, because, you know, we can't just walk up to people's offices and start talking to them. Do you think it's okay to approach via guess their email address or, you know, use a service like Hunter to find out their email address format and approach like that? Or...

[00:28:42]

Paul: You do have those options. I would say you're best to try and avoid those. And by sending an email anyway, even if you are fortunate enough to have the individual's email address, I mean, you know, ask yourself are they really gonna see your email anyway? I mean how many emails do we all receive on a daily basis? You know, why would yours pop out, you know, in their inbox from any of the others? You know, what I would say an answer, you know, to that, Will, is you're looking to take the warmest approach, the warmest path through to that individual. If there is a mutual connection, if there is somebody maybe that, you know, a colleague of yours that is already connected to the individual in question or maybe, you know, is connected to somebody else at the company, try and use that individual to facilitate an introduction.

[00:29:51]

That's the whole purpose of LinkedIn. You know, if you're taking the time to build a network, then, you know, go ahead and leverage that network and use it to your advantage. I give you a great example, Will, and I'm guilty of doing this myself, okay, so, you know, how many times, you know, have you gone to an industry event, a conference, a seminar, whatever it may be, and during lunch or a coffee break or whatever you've been chatting away with people and you may have exchanged, back in the day, business cards?

[00:30:38]

I'm guilty of this myself. So, you know, I've gone along to a conference. At the end of the conference, you know, I've walked away with, let's say, 25 business cards or 35 business cards, whatever it may be. And what have I done? I've returned to my office, I've taken those business cards, I've put them in the top drawer of my desk never to look at them again, you know. And, you know, it kind of got me thinking, "Well, what was the purpose in collecting those business cards in the first place?" You know, apply that, you know, to your LinkedIn network. What's the purpose of going out there and building a LinkedIn network if you're not gonna make that network work for you?

[00:31:20]

So, you know, like I say, this is where, you know, it comes down to, if there is a mutual connection that you can call upon that might be able to make that introduction to the individual that you've identified, that's gonna be your best approach.

[00:31:34]

Will: Yes, yeah. That makes sense. Now, in terms of LinkedIn, just a couple of LinkedIn-specific things. Firstly, you know, I really like LinkedIn ads, I've gotten a lot of value out of that for, you know, promoting things. But how can LinkedIn ads play a role in social selling?

[00:31:51]

Paul: So, I've got a colleague of mine who is responsible for overseeing all social-media advertising at Pitney Bowes. We work very very closely together. If we have, you know, a LinkedIn advertising campaign that is running, we will work together and ensure that, you know, if I am targeting specific companies or specific personas as part of my social-selling activities that I'm undertaking with various sales reps, the ad campaign itself mirrors that target audience.

[00:32:31]

At the same time...and, you know, a nice little tip here for anyone that's listening that might have access to LinkedIn sales navigator, which is the premium version, there's a specific feature within Sales Navigator called Smart Links. So, what that enables you to do is package up content, you then generate a trackable URL. And then, when you send that URL out to, you know, your prospects and they click on the URL to view the content, you'll get notified about it. Well, what I've done is mirrored or teamed our LinkedIn advertising campaigns with our social selling and Smart Links usage. So, we've, you know, produced these Smart Link presentations, we generated the trackable URL, and it's that trackable URL that we're using as part of our LinkedIn advertising campaign. So, not only are we getting all the metrics in terms of, you know, click-throughs and impressions and likes and shares and what have you, you know, from the advertising campaign but we're actually taking it a step further whereby we know exactly who it is that's clicking through to view that content because of the trackable URL that Smart Links has provided us. So, you know, the two really do, you know, work hand in hand.

[00:34:01]

Will: I can imagine how you would tee up approaches through promoted content in that way.

[00:34:09]

Paul: Yes, it's very very effective to link your advertising campaigns and your social selling activities when it comes to, you know, sort of any account-based marketing activity that you might undertake.

[00:34:24]

Will: Just a very specific question, just thinking about ads. Have you had much experience with the lead generation ads where you ask people for email address or other personal info in return for something?

[00:34:37]

Paul: I mean, again, this is probably more of a question to pose to my colleague that oversees advertising but, yes, we have started using the lead gen ads. And yeah, we've had a reasonable amount of success from them of late. I think, you know, ultimately, it comes down to, you know, what is the content that sort of sits behind that lead generation ad. You know, again, it's got to add value, it's got to offer something, as opposed to, you know, making the mistake...and actually, I won't name any names but I was served a LinkedIn lead generation ad 2 or 3 weeks back now, which just caught my attention and I clicked through. It asked for some details and then it took me through to a web page which then asked me to provide more details to actually then get to the content in question. And, you know, I just thought, "Well, that makes for a terrible experience because," you know, "you're asking me twice for information and it's just not gonna work.

[00:35:54]

Will: And what about InMail? Have you used that too much effect?

[00:35:58]

Paul: Yes. So, for those people listening that aren't familiar with InMail, just to provide some context, InMail is a specific feature that comes part of the premium license on LinkedIn which allows you to simply craft a message and send that message directly to anybody on LinkedIn, regardless of whether or not you're connected to that person. InMails are, I would say, not as effective today as what they were maybe 2, 3, 4 years ago.

[00:36:43]

Having said that, you know, it is still a channel that I would say should be used but it would be the last way of approaching an individual. So, you know, if you can find another way to get to that person, whether it's sending a connection request, whether it's, you know, leveraging a mutual connection, whether it's joining a LinkedIn group that that person might be a member of, and messaging them through the group...you know, there are so many different ways that you can try and engage, you know, with the person that you've identified. I would go with all of those before, you know, resorting to the InMail approach.

[00:37:35]

You know, if I say, Will, that, through the InMails that have been sent by my organization so far this year, when I looked recently, I think our InMail acceptance rate, on average, was about 3.8%. And that has dropped over the past few years. Then again, we're not sending as many InMails as what we used to. I'll be honest, I don't really know what sort of the benchmark acceptance rate is for an InMail.

[00:38:16]

Will: It's clearly low, isn't it. And, you know, like you say, I think there are more natural human organic ways to talk to people. The InMail, you know, it's always gonna feel like a marketing and sales approach, just the way it actually, you know, functions. And, so, it's more of a last resort, I get that. But that's good, that's really useful to hear your thoughts about it.

[00:38:43]

You talked at the beginning about getting your profile in order. Now, I noticed your profile, you have a kind of Pitney Bowes branded cover photo. You know, you very clearly wear the team colors. And it's another thing people often ask about, you know, "To what extent should I be me? To what extent should I represent my company? Is that a bad thing, that sort of handing over my LinkedIn profile to them?" I often use the example of, you know, footballer. Like Cristiano Ronaldo happily wears Manchester United shirts and stuff everywhere he goes for the time that he plays for Man United. And if he goes somewhere else, he'll wear their shirt. And that's fine, you know, personally. And, so, what do you think about that and why did you take the decision to kind of, you know, take that approach yourself?

[00:39:42]

Paul: Let me start by saying, first and foremost, that your LinkedIn profile is your LinkedIn profile. So, it is owned by you, it is not owned by your employer. Now, then again, you know, I would say that, you know, if you're gonna be using LinkedIn for business purposes and for social selling and you are selling the products, the service, the solution of the company that you work at, it's gonna be a good idea for you to try and align your profile, in certain respects anyway, to your employer.

[00:40:19]

So, you know, branding with that cover, you know, LinkedIn background, you know, using a graphic there that talks about the product or the solution that you're specifically focused on at your company...I mean I look at it as prime real estate. You know, this is a great area in which to get a message across. I do suggest that, you know, you look to try and every so often change that cover photo. You know, it doesn't always have to be, you know, branded with your company. You know, it may focus, you know, next month, let's say, on a particular news topic or a particular industry sector which, again, further builds your credibility and positions you as being that subject matter expert. So, look to change it up. You know, it doesn't always have to be a company-branded image, you know, you can always add your personal spin to it.

[00:41:38]

Will: Yes, yes, you're right. And LinkedIn's...it's person-led primarily anyway, isn't it? It's not that companies and company pages are what really kind of gets visibility and drives the activity on LinkedIn, it is all about the people. You don't follow Virgin, you follow Richard Branson. You don't follow Microsoft you follow Bill Gates, right?

[00:42:00]

Paul: Correct. I mean, you know, obviously, you can follow companies on LinkedIn. So, if you wanna learn about those companies, you know, visit their page, click the Follow button and you'll receive, you know, their posts in your feed. When you're visiting the profile though, you know, of somebody on LinkedIn, you're there to learn about, like you say, Will, that person. You know, how can, you know, this person help me? You know, if they're the expert in the field, you know, how can they assist me to overcome these pain points, these problems that I'm facing. So, they're there to learn about you, they're not there, you know, to learn, again, you know, necessarily about your company.

[00:42:46]

Will: Okay. So, just to kind of wrap up in some way because it's a big topic, I get that, but what simple steps...just to really kind of break it down into things that people could do fairly immediately, what simple steps could listeners take to get started with social selling?

[00:43:04]

Paul: Simple steps, start small. So, you know, don't look, you know, to kind of roll out an enterprise-wide social-selling program. So, start small. Try and, you know, identify, let's say, three or four people maybe that could be part of a pilot program. Look for...in fact, I'd definitely encourage this, look for an internal sponsor, try and get somebody senior with any enterprise that's gonna buy into this. Somebody that understands the role that social media plays, get them to act as the project sponsor. They will help drive things forward, they will help you to get the exposure across the business. And, you know, hopefully, as you move forward, then you'll, you know, be able to expand and scale the program.

[00:44:05]

So, a pilot program, to begin with, like I say, a project sponsor. Test the waters. Maybe you'll wanna take the premium license on LinkedIn, so, Sales Navigator, you might wanna take that for, let's call it, a test drive before you actually, you know, start investing your hard-earned, you know, marketing budget. Or sales budget, whoever the social selling program is gonna sit with. You know, take that for a test drive first of all. You know, see what benefits that you can get out of it, get the feedback from the sales people that form part of your pilot program. Ultimately, ask them if it helped and get them to then start spreading the word. And before you know it, you know, your program will be up and running.

[00:44:57]

Will: Is this just a LinkedIn thing, social selling?

[00:45:01]

Paul: No. For me, LinkedIn is the primary platform purely because, at Pitney Bowes, we're selling to a B2B audience. And, obviously, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional B2B network. Having said that, you know, you would be foolhardy to be, you know, ignoring Twitter, Facebook, Instagram because there's so much information within those networks as well that you can use to your advantage. So, whereas you might, you know, sort of focus, you know, the majority of your time on LinkedIn, there's nothing from stopping you, you know, from looking up a particular individual or researching a company by looking at their Instagram handle or looking at their Twitter handle and gathering more information there.

[00:45:49]

I have one example, it's going back quite a number of years ago now whereby we were looking at an individual that was based in Italy. I think he was like the chief technology officer of a technology company. But I remember finding out through, I think it was Facebook, that this guy was part of a Harley Davidson Group and he was fanatical about writing Harley's. Didn't know that from LinkedIn, found that out though on Facebook. And we use that as an ice breaker. So, yeah, don't kind of put all your eggs in one basket. You know, factor in the other social networks as well.

[00:46:35]

Will: Because, like you say, at the end of the day, it's about giving you the most complete picture of your prospect so that you can just have maximum relevance to them when you actually approach them. Right? And that could be when researching companies or people, it all sort of gives you a more, yeah, complete view on what matters to them, what their issues are, what motorcycles they ride. Whatever it is, right, to kind of improve the quality of that approach.

[00:47:07]

Paul, thanks so much. That's been really insightful. One last question for you, where can our listeners find you online?

[00:47:16]

Paul: Best place...I mean we've probably said it on numerous occasions, but, obviously, find me on LinkedIn and you'll also find me on Twitter. So, my twitter handle is paul_a_lewis. So, yeah, LinkedIn and Twitter are the primary networks that I'm active on. And yeah, please do follow me, send me a personalized connection request. And I'd be very very happy to add you to my network.

[00:47:52]

Will: I will do that imminently. Paul, thanks so much, I really appreciate your time. And take care of yourself, cheers.

[00:47:58]

Paul: Thank you. Thank you, Will.

[00:48:01]

Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.


Paul Lewis

Paul is a 20+ year marketing veteran who began his career in Los Angeles with the global advertising agency BBDO. He then moved on to spend eight years at Experian, the world’s leading global information services company. Since 2013, he has been overseeing the management, creation and execution of social media marketing and sales enablement programs at global tech company Pitney Bowes.

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