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The Transition to Digital Selling: LinkedIn Sales Solutions Livestream Panel Discussion

Find out what Clara Shih, Hearsay Systems Founder and CEO, and others talked about in the LinkedIn Sales Solutions livestream panel discussion The Transition to Digital Selling. Get insights and best practices on how to navigate this new digital selling landscape.

COVID-19 has impacted every part of the world, and the business world is no exception. Everyone has had to learn how to adapt. In the LinkedIn Sales Solutions livestream panel discussion The Transition to Digital Selling, Hearsay Systems Founder and CEO, Clara Shih shared her insights and best practices on how to navigate this new landscape.

Moderated by Alyssa Merwin, VP of North America for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, the discussion centered on the transformation needed for sales professionals to not only survive the current economic climate but to thrive as well. Aptly summarizing the disruption everyone is experiencing, Alyssa began the conversation with a quote from Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella: “Two years of digital transformation has happened in the last two months, and many of us have not been prepared for that.”

Embracing Digital Engagement and Digital Selling

When asked what changes she sees among the Fortune 500 clients Hearsay works with, Clara described the delicate balance financial firms in particular are currently facing. Existing as both highly regulated and essential businesses, financial firms are experiencing an additional complexity amid the torrent of COVID-19. Clara then cited examples such as JP Morgan Chase, Allstate, American Family, and TD Ameritrade as Hearsay clients who swiftly shifted in the wake of COVID-19 to completely virtual models. Within days, they were able to embrace digital engagement and digital selling to protect their employees while also continuing to serve their clients. “Digital selling has rapidly shifted from a nice-to-have to a must-have,” she said.

How to Build Trust in a Virtual World

Clara also shared two key insights into how to build trust and rapport in a digital world. “It starts with having the right mindset,” she said. “It’s a mindset that is customer first and it’s a mindset of just acting—because to do nothing right now is the worst thing you can do.” Once you have that mindset, the second area to focus on is having “an appreciation for the fact that the more channels you’re connected with someone, the deeper a relationship you have.” Digital platforms allow agents and advisors to connect in more ways than ever existed before, whether it’s through texting, emailing, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to name a few. Translating those connections into digital selling,” Clara continued, “everyone talks about having a good sales call or having a good sales meeting, but a great sales call actually starts with having a really good LinkedIn profile and having done your homework.”

But how do you build trust virtually when the established way of meeting in person isn’t possible? Clara shared her learnings: “It’s doing your homework, it’s going through your trusted network. Those referrals and recommendations from mutual connections are more important than ever to compensate for the lost way of establishing trust.” And like any valued connection, being able to continually deepen that relationship through things like thought leadership is essential. “Today, especially with COVID, we’re in permission sales. Reps have to earn the right to get that customer on the phone.”

Prospecting vs. Deepening Existing Customer Relationships

As the discussion continued, Alyssa shared results from a recent LinkedIn survey that polled 500 sales professionals. The results showed that 70% of sales professionals are making customer retention a higher priority in today’s environment. Clara concurred, sharing that Hearsay itself is seeing that “if a customer is happy, they tend to end up doing more business with us,” adding that analytics suggest that, even pre-COVID, being there for your clients can allow you to “forge customers for life, and they remember that servicing moment. They remember when you went the extra mile and they appreciate that you were proactive.”

What Should Stay in the New Normal?

While the learning curve of this digital transformation has been steep, organizations continue to evolve and adapt. So what should stay in this new reality based on the lessons this time of crisis has taught us? “This is a time where we have to be human and we have to be authentic,” Clara concluded. “Going forward, it’s going to be human digital engagement. If you’re human without digital, it’s just not possible or scalable right now given we have to be apart. If you’re digital and not human, whether you’re just a bot or you’re a sales rep who sounds like a bot because you’re just sending a canned pitch—that’s not going to work either. It’s really the combination of the two and I think we’ll be better for it.”

To hear Clara’s remarks in their entirety and also learn from other panelists, you can watch the discussion here.

Hearsay Content Study: Delivering the Right Content at the Right Time for Maximum Effectiveness

Check out key highlights of this benchmark study based on 18 million+ published posts with 23 million engagements, from agents and advisors in Life Insurance, Wealth Management, P&C, and Mortgage. 

The 2020 Hearsay Financial Services Social Media Content Study is here, and we wanted to share a few key findings from the third annual edition. With each year’s study, we continue to fine-tune the data to share benchmark results that can really make a difference in your social media program. We have unearthed trends and best practices signaled by corporate social media program administrators, advisor and agent publishes, as well as consumer engagements.

Focusing on the same four lines of business from last year’s study—Life Insurance, Wealth Management, Property and Casualty, and Mortgage—we aggregated data from 54 leading U.S. financial services firms and their cumulative 173,000 advisors and agents who used the Hearsay Social platform during the calendar year of 2019. In all, this year’s study analyzed more than 18 million published social media posts and garnered in excess of 23 million engagements across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. This year’s results show clear, actionable trends within the financial services industry as a whole that can positively impact any program. Here’s a preview of a few key findings:

  1. Authenticity Prevails: This year we dug a little deeper into the data to analyze trends beyond content categorization, including the impact of editable posts and custom content. The verdict is in: custom content is king when it comes to engagement. Of the published content we analyzed, unmodified suggested content had an average engagement rate of 47%. We’ve long known that modified content performs better, and this year’s study showed us that the numbers are even more telling than in the past. Compared to unmodified posts, we found more than twice the lift in engagement rate when the suggested content was modified by the advisor or agent. Even more significant is that original content created by advisors on average gets 10X the engagement rate of unmodified content!
  2. Hearsay Campaigns Strike a Balance: We also analyzed the use of Hearsay Campaigns against suggested and custom posts and found that Campaigns blend automation with efficacy. This approach strikes the perfect balance between consistency in message and cadence with minimal effort from the field. Out of nearly 18 million total social posts analyzed from the Hearsay platform in 2019, 51% of all suggested publishes were automated. This mirrors the growth we continue to see year over year when it comes to content publishing automation. Automation allows organizations to share high-quality, curated content to their entire field to amplify brand messaging, drive traffic to websites or communicate timely content, such as updates around the COVID-19 outbreak. Automated publishing is a great way to increase advisor adoption of digital channels and are particularly valuable for practices with little local marketing support, significantly lowering the compliance burden, even as centralized content creators tailored campaigns by region or provided multiple campaign options to ensure variety.
  3. Trend Towards Lifestyle Content Continues: Similar to the past two years of the study, lifestyle content such as health and holidays proved to be quite popular. For example, in wealth management, lifestyle content increased from 15% of total suggested content in 2018 to 25% of the total in 2019. At the same time, the average number of publishes per piece of content increased 16% year-over-year, demonstrating an increase in advisor activity across social and signaling more comfort and buy-in from the field. With lifestyle content generally showing the highest engagement rates, program administrators have a significant opportunity to tweak content strategies to drive even further engagement. It is important for Marketing admins to work to get the right balance of content type (financial education, lifestyle, corporate brand) media type (message, video, photo, link) and modification blend (automation, modified, original content) to maximize the efficacy of their organization’s content strategy.

Being able to share timely, relevant content is paramount to any social program, and implementing the right balance of automated publishing, modified, and original content helps put you ahead of the content curve and ensures you stay there. The Hearsay Social Media Content Study aims to deliver trends and insights to help social media program admins take a data-driven approach to their content strategies.

The Future of Social Selling in Financial Services

Find out what Hearsay customers are doing now to lay the groundwork for the future of social selling, and where things will be in a few years.

Even as many of today’s advisors and agents are just discovering the power of social selling, marketing leaders at financial services and insurance firms are beginning to plan for its future. And with the recent shift to a mostly virtual world (sparked by the present global pandemic), the move to digital relationship building is no longer optional.

As the field reps who have thus far held out get up to speed, and current adoptees continue to build their brand (and trust), their corporate marketing counterparts are looking at how initiatives taking place today will act as foundation for and unfold as the future of social selling.

Get More Authentic

At the 8th annual – and first ever virtual – Hearsay Summit, Clara Shih put a stake in the ground: The new normal is humanity at digital scale.

The crisis highlighted both the need and client demand for personalized, quick, and multichannel touches with their human advisors. Paulina Dudzinska, manager of social media at The Co-operators, believes that while the industry is now comfortable providing tools and technology for social selling, it is too restrictive around authentic content from advisors.

Dudzinska shared, “Recently, what we’ve done is take a hard look at [whether] we [have] been too rigid around some of the content approaches that we’ve been using. As COVID has introduced more pressure for us, it was about saying, ‘Let’s open up a space with some guardrails around dos and don’ts; let our advisors create more content that is authentic to them.’ And that’s been quite well received.”

Hearsay’s 2020 Social Media Content Study delivers the data to support Dudzinska’s approach. Even prior to COVID, we found that custom, advisor-created social media content receives 10X the engagement of corporate suggested content.

Dudzinska went on with a call to action for the future, “Hearsay has an abundance of capabilities. The question I would pose to my peers in the industry is are we fully using those?

Treat Social as a Two-Way Channel

Kristi Darabin, associate vice president of social media at Nationwide, agrees that authentic, human connection is increasingly important. For Darabin, this goes beyond the content agents post. “The next step for me is how do we show [our field] that a one-way conversation is not how social media is supposed to operate. […] Being able to have that two-way conversation in a social channel is going to be increasingly more important.”

She went on to talk about how her team is trying to develop guidelines and training to encourage their agents to be interactive on social channels outside of just publishing the content. She said, “Giving them the ability to feel comfortable with the right phrasing, the right frequency and the tools to be able to feel like they’re comfortable being an essential community manager is going to be that next step.”

Take Measurement to a New Level

There’s one area where marketers across industries often struggle: metrics. In an industry like financial services which is slightly behind the curve in digital transformation, this struggle can be even more pronounced.

Michelle Smyth, director of retail social media at the Royal Bank of Canada, understands the importance of setting up an organization for continued investment in a social selling program. Currently, her team measures earned media value (EMV). Because their sales force is so metrics driven, they like to see the marketing contribution month over month, year over year. The challenge she encounters is that it’s often difficult to understand the exact role that their social selling program plays in closing deals.

Smyth shared, “I’m really excited for the future of measurement – the more that we can measure and show the impact of local marketing, the more [our advisors and agents] will do [it]. We need to be smarter about how we use that data real time and engage with the salesforce to help them be as successful as they can.”

Dudzinska also sees a need for more refined measurement in the future. She pondered, “Are we thinking about measurement in the way that we should be? I think as we drill into more personalized approaches that will give our advisors more opportunity to create cross-sell opportunities, to really think about the client journey, when and how social media is being used. We’ll have to redefine those metrics.” She also gave voice to what many feel, “It sounds daunting, I’ll be honest. We’ve got something in front of us that will challenge us and will make us think. But equally, coming out of the other side in [a few years], I think we’ll see massive milestones that we’ve been able to make as an industry.”

Conclusion

From authentic, human connection to the metrics that can drive best practices, the future of social selling seems firmly grounded in progress happening today. Aside from the three areas outlined above, we also believe the future of social selling will span digital channels, delivering an integrated and consistent conversation across channels. What do you see for the future of social selling? Let us know @hearsaysystems on Twitter! Use #futureofsocialselling.