Michael Labate: The Graduation From Social Selling & The Power Of Indices
Today I'm talking to Michael Labate. Michael is like me, passionate about digital transformation and the opportunities they present to simplify the way people and businesses function. I've never worked directly with Michael, but I read his blogs and I've seen his presentations. And what he doesn't know about measuring the impact of social selling, it's just not worth knowing. Michael, welcome to my Campfire Chat.
The social selling program at SAP hasn’t been going that long, so I wanted to know what led Michael into the role.
Michael shared that he’s always had an innate interest in driving demand and solving the marketing challenge. He’s spent a number of years in sales and marketing roles throughout his career but he found himself most in love with the work that required innovation, forward-thinking, trying things and looking ahead.
“Eventually, as you know Sarah, you end up where you're supposed to be.”
And that place now is helping to run a digital selling initiative at SAP. “It's a place where we can try things at scale and we get to work in an environment that's really exciting.”
Michael came to the social selling program in 2015, slightly later than his colleagues that had set up the program. They’d already started to see “pockets of success” and had laid the groundwork. “My job was to see how we could accelerate and expand the operating model.”
Digital Selling Graduates From Social Selling
I’ve asked Kirsten Boileau from SAP this before but I wanted Michael’s take: Is it social selling, digital selling, modern selling? Is it just selling? Is it not selling at all? It’s leaving everyone a little confused!
Michael admitted that it “is a bit of a head scratch for folks”.
Michael believes all work and it depends on where you are in your transformation. However, he sees digital selling as a graduate of social selling. Digital selling is all-encompassing - it deals with tools and behaviours, as well as the assets required, and it's specific to the role.
With digital selling it’s time to “zoom in and start to look at the individual role and how these behaviours could be mapped to their particular buyers." Each role is different.
“It started as social selling, but depending on where you are in the maturity cycle, I think you'll eventually start leaning towards digital or just selling.”
Michael thinks they’re close to that maturity level at SAP now. However, he pointed out that "the constant theme of our organisation at SAP is marketing and sales is one team", whereas there's still a lot of disconnects out there.
Instead of sales enablement, Michael believes the focus should be on “growth enablement" because the overarching theme is that you're trying to grow the organisation, the company, and provide value to your customer.
The Power Of Data And Gamifying Indices
I really love a blog that Michael wrote on measuring digital selling impact and how you need a mechanism to show the value of why people's behaviours should change. So, of course, I wanted to know more!
Michael told me it starts with data.
They examined a 2 billion sample within Europe and saw that in comparison to non-social behaviours versus social behaviours that had had no other influence,
“..the social challenger sample was performing at plus four percentage points greater on conversion of pipeline value. And the deal sizes were about 300% larger over that whole data set.”
Michael said that it was an epiphany moment for SAP because once you have the data, people understand the value and embrace the change. However, it made them realise that if they’re all reacting, how do they move the needle?
So they started to explore something called key indices rather than solely relying on LinkedIn's social selling index. Just like in equity markets, they asked: "Could we take indices, indexes, averages, and entice people to do better?" They used dynamic measures and zoomed in at a deeper level, by markets and geography (not just at a national level).
Michael said: “There's a gamification effect. When you have a leaderboard, it's not just your team, and if you have those averages you can entice people.”
Michael believes their approach also prevents the high-performers from thinking I'm already in the "winner's circle" so why bother? With indices in place, you have moving averages so you'll fall beneath it if you let your foot off the gas.
Let Me Pinch Myself…
Michael's a very busy person. He travels, gives keynote speeches, writes, he's on the executive board of the Sales Enablement Society - and he's nearly finishing his 21 month MBA course. I couldn't help saying, "I mean you're crazy!"
So what drives him? What does he love about what he does so much that keeps him going?
Michael's response was lovely. He started by paying homage to two people that
helped make that happen - his wife who is “very, very, very supportive” and his manager Kirsten Boileau. Not only is Kirsten a very good friend but Michael feels that she’s been a wonderful manager and had made way for him to explore these things.
As for the answer to my question, Michael told me:
“I get to work with some of the brightest people in the industry on a daily basis. I am honoured. I mean, every time I look around and see the discussions that are happening, I'm like, am I really here? Let me pinch myself. Digital transformation is at the forefront of what's ahead. AI, machine learning, experience data, etcetera. So it's amazing.”
Michael's excited to see what’s next and continues to find it “really cool” seeing the impact of their program on his colleagues’ professional lives and performance..
The Stove’s On The Simmer. What Next?
I believe SAP is one of the leading trailblazers when it comes to measuring the impact of digital selling on transforming their organisation. So what’s next when it comes to digital selling at SAP?
As Michael had touched on earlier, he told me that SAP is reaching a certain maturity level.
“It's tasting really nice now. I got it. Let's keep the stove on simmer. But you're not building anymore. Now you're running this program... Where in the organisation can we start to really make big impacts, not just for the selling side of things, but from end to end?”
Michael said that SAP is now starting to look at end-to-end demand to revenue. They're beginning to identify accounts that have signalled an intent to buy and the campaigns that are going to influence those accounts. They're also looking at the channels that they're going to use to engage those particular account members or parties within those accounts.
Michael wants to ask: “Can we make marketing more intelligent at the campaign and at the awareness and interest stage, as we have been able to do at the latter stage?” That's what Michael would like to start to explore and where SAP is starting to see some good results now.
[01:48] Ending Up Where You’re Supposed To Be
[04:05] Digital Selling Graduates From Social Selling
[10:15] The Power Of Data And Gamifying Indices
[16:55] Let Me Pinch Myself...
[18:48] The Stove's On The Simmer. What Next?