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Smart companies go beyond social marketing: Social selling insights from Forrester, AXA Equitable, and Wells Fargo

When choosing products and services, 80% of your customers rely on what their colleagues, friends, and family say, according to Forrester. Only 36% of customers rely on salespeople.

If salespeople want to succeed in the new social era, they need to make an active effort to go where conversations are happening. That means listening, engaging, and selling on the social networks.

We recently hosted a webinar with experts from Forrester, AXA Equitable, Wells Fargo, and Hearsay Social to explore how exactly businesses today execute on social selling strategies to grow their business. Participants included Forrester analyst Zachary Reiss Davis; Bucky Wright, Senior Executive director for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company and chairman of AXA Advisors, LLC; Cathy Price, VP, Digital Marketing, Wells Fargo Home Lending; and Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih.

Bucky Wright (Executive and Head of Sales at AXA Life Insurance Company) had a lot to say about how social selling works at AXA Equitable:

The first thing is that it doesn’t replace our sales process or structure today, but it does enhance it. And I think what’s important is that, when you take a look, there are two different ways that I think social marketing fits in with our advisors–being that we’re a business that’s all about relationships.

Social media allows our reps to…

One, create new relationships, but more importantly, allows them to enhance those they already have. So it’s a relationship-building tool that we have found that the reps are using and the relationships have grown and their professionalism has been advanced.

Secondly, it fits the sales process because, as an organization, we’re in a highly regulated industry. Therefore we’re comfortable utilizing Hearsay and the platform that we have. We’re able to feel very comfortable in our supervisory duties in making sure that both regulatory and brand-wise what we’re pushing out there is right.

For her part, Cathy Price (VP, Digital Marketing, Wells Fargo Home Lending) spoke to how Wells Fargo Home Lending decided to support sales in social channels:

We really watched social media grow beyond the tipping point from something “all the kids were doing” to something that’s really gone mainstream. It’s an activity that’s gone viral to peoples’ lives and now it’s vital to business. So, in most cases, consumers or anyone really, are checking their news feed every day, it’s the very first thing they do in the morning, so why wouldn’t we want to be a part of that?

And she agreed with Bucky as to its further business value:

So we really look at social media or any avenue as open to all consumers and any business partner, so we want to make sure that we have messages that resonate with everyone, and that we have solutions that resonate with everyone. And what we really want to do with social media is to make that about our individual mortgage consultants and make it their ability to build a personal brand. so they use that connection with their consumers the way they normally would.

In the end, your customers and prospects visit Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter daily to share what’s happening in their lives. Your own network is sharing valuable and timely clues as to who needs to buy what and when – making it a treasure trove of leads. It’s the perfect time for social selling.

At the start of the webinar, Zack reviewed findings from the Forrester Thought Leadership Paper, “The Future of Social Selling,” which explains how sales professionals must join their marketing counterparts by engaging with customers and prospects over social media. (If you haven’t read the paper, download it here.)

In particular, Zack zeroed in on the three main stages of the customer lifecycle:

First is “social reach,” where you’re giving information to people who may or may not know about the brand. Next comes “social depth.” Sales can have the greatest impact in this stage by communicating crucial messages and forming deeper relationships with those who are not yet customers, but are good targets.

“And that often takes place on properties [that organizations] control: communities and forums on their websites and social networks,” explained Zack.

Finally, we have the “social relationship” stage. Your customers have purchased from you and are already engaged with your brand, so they are the most inclined to pay attention and interact with what you’re saying on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

“Social selling,” Zack reiterates, “is focused on making salespeople more influential in the process again and helping bring back that personal touch throughout the sales process.”

Watch the full webinar to hear everything the experts have to say about social selling.

Ronny Kerr

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