Luis Barros is an account executive for SAP, responsible for driving digital transformation in Portuguese companies. He’s also a successful social seller, with a notable LinkedIn network of 3,000 contacts.
For Luis, being targeted when building his network was a priority from the outset. As Social Selling is a relatively slower burn than more traditional selling practices, focusing on the right contacts from the start made the whole process more efficient for him.
Luis built his network around, and now aims his content at, two distinct audiences: a Portuguese one and an English one.
“My role is Portugal-centric, so I initially focused on building contacts within the Portuguese business community. I investigated the industries which I am responsible in Portugal but then, once I was starting to get established, moved my focus to role-specific contacts. As I’m selling different solutions, I need to link up with HR Directors or Sales & Marketing Directors, who will be looking for the solutions we offer.
I post in Portuguese and English depending on the content type and what stage of the relationship I am at. English is generally spoken throughout the Portuguese business community anyway, but I tend to post in Portuguese when it comes to local business news or events. It’s more personal to do that when you don’t need the wider reach for your content.”
Top Tip: Always adapt your activity to your local market.
Smarter Social Selling
This level of planning applies to the way in which Luis allocates his time too. “I use a strategy so that everything I do is planned.
Initially, I would spend four to five hours per week on Social Selling, building my network, but now it’s more of an ongoing process so it’s maybe as little as an hour per week. I’ve managed to reduce the time I need to spend by focusing on building my personal brand as well – this has resulted in high quality incoming connections, which saves me time.”
At Tribal Impact, we often talk about the importance of ‘social listening’ as well as Social Selling. Finding out about a prospective customer’s pain points, understanding their business is key to building a valued relationship. Luis agrees: “By understanding what your customers want, or where their challenges are, you can become a trusted advisor. You need to know about your customers’ business and analytics provide a huge amount of information. Then, when a conversation starts, you already know a lot about their needs.”
Top Tip: Always ask yourself “why” when posting content: why is it relevant to your customers/audience?
Make It Work for You
Like many, Luis has adopted the LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool. But, because of his highly planned and targeted approach, it has become even more useful. “I work my existing network, but I also operate outside of that. I recently came across a company on LinkedIn who needed to recruit a large number of people in a short timeframe. I understood that this meant they would need an HR solution, which SAP could offer. Once I know this is a priority for them, I can advise them on options and become a trusted advisor to them.”
Luis also uses Grapevine a lot to find, customize and schedule curated content. He looks for themes and trending topics as well as people to build his network and Social Selling activity. “Sometimes I will see some local news that mentions a business,” says Luis, “and then I use LinkedIn to drill down into the business and make connections.”
Building relationships is, undoubtedly, the most important aspect of Social Selling. Luis puts this in context:
“There are so many people and organisations trying to sell to us all. They tell you about their product and why they are the best in the world at what they do. It’s much better to do this the other way around, you first establish a relationship with your prospect and understand if it is the right time to “sell” or if you should spend more time nurturing the prospect before doing it.”
Top Tip: Customize your content, including any shared headlines, to bring out your own message.
Measuring the outputs of Social Selling, like traditional marketing and sales activities, is something that needs thought Luis shares.
“Social Selling is a longer-term strategy because of the importance of the relationship building aspect but it’s true that, once you have established a relationship, the conversion times are shorter. However, sometimes you need to let go of thinking about the outcome in order to measure your Social Selling.
It’s about making sure your activity is targeted: you can easily spend a lot of time on content that isn’t quite right or where your message is easily lost. I use Sales Navigator to track my prospects but also like to monitor how many of my contacts become leads and then opportunities. I do this using excel. We also have a CRM system at SAP, which keeps track of how many leads come directly from Social Selling.”
Luis also feels it’s important to measure his own personal brand. “I use my SSI (Social Selling Index) score to do this and, since I’ve established my network, the number of relevant inbound connections I receive is a great indicator of whether my Social Selling is reaching out to the right people. If the right people are seeing you, that’s a good indicator that you are getting it right.”
Top Tip: Understanding which of your social activity gets results will help you to prioritise where effort is needed.
Other Indicators of Success
Luis recently received an invitation to speak at a digital transformation event, and as his profile and content are built around this topic, he found it to be a perfect example of people finding him for the right reasons and a great indicator of an effective personal brand.
Another tip Luis shared with us on measuring the success of Social Selling was to track his own conversations.
“If I’m having lots of relevant conversations, it follows that I will achieve my results. But this is also about ensuring quality, not quantity. Not always the way things work on social media. But I much prefer to spend less time putting the right content out and making it work hard for me, than a scattergun approach, which uses time and complicates my message.”
Top Tip: Don’t just look for the obvious outcomes when posting on social media. Keep an open mind for opportunities to grow your personal brand, as well as your corporate one.
The Power of Corporate Support
Social Selling is at its most powerful when an organization is fully committed to putting its people in front of its brand. Something Luis was passionate about sharing with us was how well SAP embraced this approach.
“SAP motivates its staff to use Social Selling. As an organisation, they also encourage us to build our own personal brand and give us advice on the best way to do this. We work within common sense guidelines but, by helping us to be individual, SAP is ensuring they don’t get 1,000 employees all doing the same thing on social media. This would undermine the authenticity of what we are posting and the relationships we are building.
These days, companies know that things are changing; they know that the need to promote themselves differently. And it’s not just Social Selling, it’s important for talent acquisition too.”
Top Tip: Those most successful at Social Selling are promoting a brand whose values align with their own.
Top Tips for the Budding Social Seller
Luis concludes, with everyone permanently connected to social media and so many devices and tools at our disposal, encouraging a social approach becomes much simpler. However, he has some important tips for those just starting out:
- Have a strategy.
This is the professional side of social media, so you need to be planning your content and monitor it with clear KPIs. Know your goals; track how many connections you have and understand your SSI score.
- Start with the basics.
Make sure you have a great LinkedIn profile – that means a professional photo, an excellent summary and content that shows what value you can bring.
- Think quality, not quantity.
Whether you are posting, commenting, or discussing, quality is best so that your activity works its hardest in terms of achieving your aims. And ALWAYS read something in full before you post it. Sharing because of a headline is dangerous as people get good at writing attractive headlines that aren’t necessarily backed up by the article that follows.
- Measure and optimize your KPIs.
You need to make sure you are growing your network and keeping your goals and targets in mind.
- Programme your day.
Think about when the best time is to post: I find first thing in the morning, at lunchtime and early evening or the end of the working day are good because they are times when people look at their devices and catch up with what’s been happening.
Top Tip: Be strict with your allocation of time. If you want to spend 30 minutes every day on Social Selling, block it out in your diary and only use that.