I try to watch and emulate others and you probably do the same. There is a lot of confusion, particularly with B2B, regarding how to implement social selling. Our hope is that these folks will inspire those of you are still on the fence and our goal is to share with you some of the best proven selling practices that you might wish to emulate!
Today we are joined by Tom Laine of HC Services Oy. Tom takes the mystery out of social selling by consistently demonstrating key elements including …
- A desire to share, educate, and to promote others
Could you please tell our readers a little about you?
Thank you Craig, a pleasure to be interviewed here, I’m an active reader of your blog myself. I’m currently living in Finland, running social media trainings across Europe, Russia, Ukraine, and Middle East. I’ve been an active social media user since 1999, and have taken turns working for global blue chips like Oracle and for SMEs, but all roles having something to do with social media ways of working. The last 10+ years my focus has been on social media recruitment and employer branding, and LinkedIn as such.
How about telling them a little bit about your business?
I’ve been running social media training sessions across Europe and Middle East, and slowly expanding my reach to Asia and the U.S. This all started when I sold my social media recruitment agency to a local market leader back in 2011. I wasn’t allowed to do active recruitment myself for 18 months, so I started training others, and that’s the road I’m still on. I have other similarly very focused trainers working with me, so I can concentrate only on things I find interesting, and that of course allows me to also dig much deeper into the services and ways of working.
How did you get started in selling and when did you begin adding social selling to your business?
I founded my first social media startup back in 1999. Even if it didn’t become a success, the social media ways of working have stuck with me ever since. I got my first LinkedIn invitation in the spring of 2004, and the service struck me big time – it had so many features that I had been wishing for, so I started using it hyper-actively. Soon after that I moved to Denmark, where I had to establish my professional presence from the scratch, so I thought I could do that with the help of LinkedIn, where I already had some Danish contacts. To my surprise, I was soon contacted by a Norwegian company who wanted to use my services.
I started getting job offers, consultation requests, and whatnot. I realized that my personal profile, my brand, was being found well within LinkedIn, so I started taking it seriously. I started building a certain type of profile that highlighted my skills and services I was offering, I investigated LinkedIn’s search algorithm to enhance my being found, started networking actively, using LinkedIn groups to find business leads and to promote my services, etc.
I found a lot of interesting opportunities, and have since then used LinkedIn as my main tool for selling both my own services as well as using it to promote the companies I’ve worked for. I’ve used LinkedIn for sales, marketing, PR, recruitment, and more. Even the last company I sold was based on the buyer finding me at LinkedIn. So you could say that I’ve used social selling methods since 2004 more or less.
What are your social selling goals, objectives, and strategies?
For years I didn’t have actual strategy or defined objectives for using LinkedIn and other tools to find leads or to enrich my CRM data, but since 2011 when I started running the trainings full-time, I had to start setting goals and objectives, and to measure my actions. These days most of my new customers come from LinkedIn and word of mouth, both supporting each other. For the last 4 years in a row I’ve run over 100+ training sessions and consultations per year, which has meant that sticking to routines has been quite impossible.
I haven’t had a need to actively sell, but building a personal brand has been at the very core of my business. Now that I’ve decided to expand the business to new markets, setting goals and objectives and building routines has once again come to play. These days the main objective is to expand to Asian markets, and slowly start building the presence in the U.S. This means that I have set clear action plans how to reach the Asian audiences and how to research the potential in the U.S. market.
Do you have regular routines?
I’ve set a clear goal to write a new blog post at least once a week. I’ve defined a couple of platforms for publishing those posts, LinkedIn being one of them. I’m at least 4-5 times a week going through my LinkedIn messages, invitations, profile visits, and any meaningful engagements the blog posts have received. Especially the profile visits are a unique way of catching warm leads and to easily strike a conversation with someone interesting.
I also check my FB notifications 3-5 times a week, check my Twitter account for messages and mentions twice a week, and try to check out a number of saved searches in Twitter while at it. I check my Pinterest and SlideShare accounts regularly in addition to having notifications and alerts coming to my inbox when something requiring my attention happens. I also have some old Google alerts for web mentions, and research Google Analytics for significant changes in website visits, where people are coming from, etc.
How do you integrate social selling with traditional selling methodologies?
The funny thing is, I use very little traditional sales methodologies, as most of my leads and direct client contacts come from word of mouth and LinkedIn. I can’t remember the last time I did a traditional sales push. I guess you could say things have happened a bit too easy and I’m a bit too much dependent on client actions, but since the business is very much leaning on my personal brand, I only have myself to blame if things go quiet. Of course I have a CRM that I use and during the last few years I’ve actively collected mailing lists and all, but I haven’t used those much – yet.
How do you manage to stand out from the noise?
I’ve been building the brand for a really long time and with quite clear focus, and as such I don’t see much competition. I’ve chosen a niche that’s pretty small, but it’s a niche that can be found anywhere and everywhere globally. We’ve also managed to build a nice up-sell pipeline for other trainings besides my own. The other trainers have chosen similarly small niches that they plan to conquer. So far, so good.
Could you please share with us a few of your favorite social selling tools?
My favorite tool by far is LinkedIn, no doubt about it. I use a couple of different LinkedIn premium services, the Sales Navigator and Talent Finder, but even more importantly, I spend time with the service and always try to find new ways of working and workarounds. In addition to LinkedIn, I use Hootsuite for publishing and saved searches, Facebook groups for sharing content, Twitter for finding leads and distributing content, and Pinterest for any visual content. I do have several other social media profiles, too, but haven’t found that much business opportunities in them. I’ve also used listening and analysis tools like Meltwater and Liana, but didn’t find those useful enough to pay for.
How do you track your results?
I follow the metrics almost on a daily basis, sometimes even several times a day when I’m expecting something to happen. If I see something working better than average, I boost it with wider distribution or sometimes even with paid advertising, and if something doesn’t perform well enough, I try to analyze why so. The main metrics for me are blog post views and engagement, LinkedIn profile views, and Google Analytics. And of course you can also notice well performing content by the number of potential customers contacting.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing salespeople as it pertains to social selling?
I think we’ve only briefly touched social selling so far, there’s so much more we could get out of it. And out of social media in general. I believe social selling to be a paradigm shift, not from sales point of view, but buying point of view! I think customers are just about to realize how much information is out there for anyone to find and analyze. And as customers become more aware of the possibilities, it requires a very different approach from marketing point of view. We need to create more and better content, less direct sales effort, but an attitude to help and support customers in their search for information. It’s a different mindset altogether. We have to accept that customers have more information than ever to find and more solutions to consider. Sales and marketing have to be really well aligned to succeed.
What about their biggest mistake that salespeople make when trying to implement social selling?
I think there are so many possibilities, not just one path to follow, but a possibility to build a toolbox to suit individual needs. To me, the biggest mistake would be to think this is just a short term phenomenon that will go away when the next hype kicks in. Actually, social selling has always been there, it’s really nothing new, but we just have better tools and greater audiences out there than ever. And of course the playground is bigger, too, with more players. But social selling starts with understanding that it’s all about people. It’s H2H, human to human, sales. Less driven by corporations, more about people creating and sharing content, people being more trustworthy than organizations, employees being more trustworthy than the CEO. Every employee is a sort of sales person, not just those with certain job title.
What is your “social selling superpower”?
Must be hyper-active active LinkedIn use 😉
How can our readers get in touch with you to learn more?
I’m always happy to network with people, send me a LinkedIn connection request to my main profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomlaine, check my website at www.tomlaine.com, or send email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t mind new Twitter followers either @lainetom
Please nominate somebody to answer these same questions!
I’d like to hear how Guy Kawasaki works it!