How does a global technology company that powers billions of transactions across the world of commerce make use of social selling?
Tell us about Pitney Bowes and what you do there?
Pitney Bowes is a global technology company. We offer a wide portfolio of products and solutions, all which enable commerce in the areas around customer information management, location intelligence, customer engagement, shipping, mailing and global eCommerce.
I’ve been with the company now for, coming up for three and a half years. And I’ve got a dual role whereby I oversee global social media activities for the software solutions part of our business, but in addition to that, I also lead the global social selling program.
How did you implement social selling within Pitney Bowes?
This started out basically as a pilot program. I would say there were a couple of factors that kicked off this initiative. Firstly, it was a case of those folks that were working in the sales or business development capacity were finding it incredibly difficult to generate new leads and new opportunities via what I would class as being your traditional methods, i.e., cold calling. And whilst obviously the marketing activities that we were running which take in various different channels were working well, we need it to become a little bit more savvy anyway, and start to think, dare I say, outside the box and become just a little bit more innovative.
And I think what kicked it off was back in, I think, 2013 at a sales kick-off event that we were running in the US. And we had a panel discussion, and we had a customer who was invited to be part of the panel. And he, at one stage during this discussion, stated that he started and ended his day on LinkedIn. And that kicked off the alarm bells, so to speak, because you think, “Hold on a minute, we’ve got a senior exec here from a big organisation who’s just stated that he’s spending time in the morning and at the end of the business day on LinkedIn. How many other people like him are doing the same thing?” And so that was where we really started to begin to explore what we now know as social selling.
Tell us about your first group of social selling pioneers?
We started this off as a pilot program; so working with a small number of individuals. I think it was about five or six that were based in UK. And what it was, was basically first of all, educating them as to the role that social media can play when it comes to sales enablement. And the whole concept here was about building a sales pipeline and accelerating the sales process.
And I worked with LinkedIn in previous organisations, so I had a good understanding about this. And it was a case of me then conveying that over to the individuals that were going to be a part of the program, the pilot program. There were a number of individuals that were, how can I put it… dismissed the idea. Old school people that didn’t quite believe that social media was a new part of the sales enablement process. They just thought it was a case of posting out pretty pictures of kittens and dogs and what have you. It was a case of, “Okay, the individuals then that’s skeptical, these skeptics, let’s forget about them, okay? They’ll follow, okay? Let’s focus on those individuals that are very up for this and quite happy to bring it on-board.”
So coming back to your question, we selected the five or six individuals. I began working with them. I started to introduce them to LinkedIn. We started to look at their LinkedIn profiles, and the first thing was to optimise their profiles. So build their profiles out, position themselves as subject matter experts, build the credibility, align their profiles to Pitney Bowes and the various lines of business that those sales people might work within, and really have their presence on the platform as polished as we possibly can before we then go ahead and undertake any sort of outreach kind of activity.
From there on, we brought on board some Sales Navigator licenses. We trained up these five or six individuals on how to go ahead and use the licenses, and all the features, and the functions that the licenses had to offer. And I would work with them and effectively hold their hand throughout the process. And it was incredibly successful. The five or six individuals that were on this pilot program really started to see that it was just opening doors for them quite early on.
I think we recorded the first, let’s say, piece of business or ROI within probably about five months of kicking the program off. And from there, it basically grew to the extent that…with the software business having so much success with the program, other areas within Pitney Bowes all started to hear about this period because I’m putting together internal case studies and just communicate into the business how successful this program has been. And as a result, I’ve got all these other people that are putting their hands up to say, “Well, hang on a minute. I want a piece of the action here.” If these guys are having so much success, then we need to look to expand this program which is what we’ve done over the past three years. And it’s now become a global initiative, global program that encompasses every single line of business within Pitney Bowes.
Is social selling now a natural part of every salesperson’s day?
To a certain extent. We employ globally somewhere in the region, I think it’s about 15,000 people. Now, I’m not going to say that all 15,000 individuals, all those that work in the sales or business development capacity are on-board with the program. The idea here is that a certain number of them are going to be using Sales Navigator, but some of the others, they’ll be using some of the engagement techniques, the best practices. And hopefully the goal is in time to come, yeah, hopefully we’ll have every salesperson or individual that works in business development in the program.
— Paul Lewis (@paul_a_lewis) May 24, 2016
What were some of the challenges you came across and how did you address them?
I think probably the main challenge, like any kind of project anyway, is to actually to get it off the ground. And it was a case of, first and foremost, finding an executive sponsor within Pitney Bowes that would help champion the cause, somebody that believed in social selling and the role it had to play. And thankfully, there was an individual who we were able to identify. And he really helped to not only get the project off the ground, but actually to accelerate the whole project anyway. So he was able to portion off some budget to it to bring on-board the Sales Navigator licenses.
You’ve got to realise as well that the investment is not just on the licenses, but at the same time the training. It means that you’re taking a salesperson, let’s say, off the phone or they’re not on the road or out visiting customers. So there’s that aspect that obviously you’ve got to factor in.
Who was your executive sponsor for social selling?
He was a senior executive, basically ran our sales operation on the software business, and was obviously very, very focused on the sales side of things. So I would recommend that anybody that is looking to try and get a social selling program off the ground, the first thing that you do need to do is to find this individual within your organisation, this senior exec and somebody that believes in social selling, and the role that social has to play.
What social channels are most important to Pitney Bowes and why?
LinkedIn is the foremost platform that we’re using. In addition to that, yes, we bring Twitter into the fold. I’ve had examples before whereby we’ll be looking at specific individual’s LinkedIn profile, and we can see that they’ve listed their Twitter handle on their LinkedIn profile. So then it’s a case of “Okay, let’s see what they’re doing on Twitter as well.” I had a great example probably about a year ago with looking at somebody’s LinkedIn profile. And we were about to begin a process of outreach with the goal of trying to set up a meeting with this individual pretty quickly, and the guy in question was located in Las Vegas. And I found that he was on Twitter, he listed his Twitter handle on his LinkedIn profile. When we clicked through, it turned out that he was actually on a family vacation because he had been posting pictures of him and his son in Berlin, 24 hours beforehand. So the case was, “Okay, let’s wait a couple of weeks before we start this outreach process because obviously at the moment, he’s on a family vacation and he’s not at work.”
So LinkedIn, first and foremost, followed by Twitter. From time to time, yeah, we might have a look at things like Facebook or Google+ but not to any big extent.
What visual platforms do you use for sales support?
SlideShare obviously because of the ties with LinkedIn. YouTube, I mean let’s face facts today. If you want to know the question or the answer to a question, you’re going to go onto Google. If you want to learn how to do something, then turn to YouTube. We do find that video so powerful. It’s great to be able to get across information in a very, very short space of time, and especially if you have individuals who, in their LinkedIn profiles, have content such as SlideShare presentations or videos uploaded to their LinkedIn profile. Before you start any kind of process outreach or look to open up that dialogue, check out whatever the content is that they’ve uploaded, and just get a real understanding of the individual in question and the organisation that they work for.
I would say, just in addition to LinkedIn and Twitter, one of the other core channels is our employee advocacy program, whereby when you look at the social selling index which is the process by which you can measure how successful an individual is at social selling. One of the core aspects is around engaging with insights, and that’s all about posting relevant content, liking and sharing content. And with our employee advocacy program, it makes it incredibly easy for all those that are on-board with the social selling program. We’ve got a platform [Dynamic Signal] there whereby we’ve got content that has been created by Pitney Bowes. We’ve got third party content as well that we upload to that platform. And those individuals that are part of the advocacy program go on-board. They find a relevant content that they know is relevant to the industry sector that they’re focused on, etc. And then they can obviously schedule that content to post at the relevant time and that time of day. And that really is a core part of the social selling program. It makes things incredibly easy for those members. And that’s, in essence, what you want. You want to make things as easy as possible for those people who’ve come on board with the program.
— Paul Lewis (@paul_a_lewis) May 24, 2016
What technology, tools and apps do you use for social selling?
We’ve got various tools and technologies that we are using which are internally developed. I think the core one, which I’ve got to mention obviously, is the CRM system [Salesforce] that an individual will be working with. Because ultimately with the social selling program that you’re running, you need to record all of the activities, and you’re going to need to obviously go back and report back to whoever it may be, to clearly demonstrate what is the ROI that has been generated out of the program.
And the way in which we operate this at Pitney Bowes, we work with Salesforce users. So I’ve had campaign ID tags for different lines of business they are in, the social selling program. And any kind of lead or opportunity that they create when they go and create that instance in Salesforce, they will tag that opportunity with the appropriate code that I’ve had created.
In that way, we’ve got full visibility across the organisation for anybody to go ahead and see exactly, okay, how much revenue is the social selling program generating? What does the sales pipeline as a result of the program look like at the moment? Where are we with the different opportunities in the stage of development. Are we at the early stages or is there a date whereby we could possibly say, “Yeah, that deal should close by such and such a date.” So everyone has got full visibility over this, and that’s definitely a key factor when it comes to additional apps and technologies to work in.
Do Salesforce and Sales Navigator play nicely together?
Yes. So as part of the, let’s say, on-boarding process when setting up and configuring your Sales Navigator license, you have the ability to sync your Sales Navigator license with Salesforce. So any contacts or accounts that are assigned in your name in Salesforce, that’s going to be ported across automatically into Sales Navigator, which makes life incredibly easy for the salespeople. Instead of having to go through it manually, and find these individuals, and find the companies, it’s all done automatically.
How do you measure success, and do you know what business was won with social selling?
I mean, again, this comes back to obviously we’re recording everything in Salesforce. So there’s the full visibility there. I think more to the point, what has helped to actually expand the program internally is to report back to the business on the success stories. So think of it as internal case studies whereby I will record or work with an individual that works in sales or business development anyway as to “Okay, talk me through the process here. How did you identify this individual? Were they mutual connections? What was the process of outreach? What else did you bring into the fold here to help a business case maybe or get your foot in the door at that organisation and really, really just build out the entire story which you can then share internally with other individuals?” And as a result, that has worked incredibly well.
Secondly, I produce, on a monthly basis, an internal email that goes out to everyone that’s part of the social selling program. It also goes out to other individuals that might work in a marketing role or demand generation role or whatever, as well as senior execs.
And it comes in a variety of different aspects, but one of the key aspects, as well as reporting on any business wins, is around the social selling index and the leaderboard. So we bring that gamification aspect into the equation, and I’ll list the top 10 individuals within Pitney Bowes and what their social selling index score is. And it’s quite amazing because I can send the email out, let’s say, on a Monday, and by the Tuesday, I’ve had half a dozen people at least that have then come back to me to say, “I can see the 10 people that are on that leaderboard, and I’m not there. What can you do to help me so that next time around when you produce this newsletter and send it out, I can be up there?”
This took me by surprise, but it’s great to see that individuals are so inspired to want to be within that top 10. What I’m about to do as well is to try and incentivise it as well by saying that the top three individuals every month, they’ll receive an Amazon gift certificate, £25 or £50 or something. It just brings that element of competition which sales guys love. They thrive on that. And that’s absolutely fantastic.
Does he social selling leaderboard correlate with the actual sales leaderboard?
I have to admit, there are individuals that may not necessarily have a particularly high social selling index score, but do seem to do very, very well in terms of generating leads and opportunities. Having said that, if I look at the leaderboard anyway, those that do have high scores, 75, 80, they’re carving out lots and lots of opportunities, and they seem to be recording a lot of success as a result of the activities. I think if they weren’t as active on LinkedIn as they are, I don’t think they would be as successful as they are, if that makes sense.
What are some brands that inspire you on social?
I can’t say that these brands are necessarily engrossed in social selling, but I’m pretty sure they probably are. I think the three brands that do jump out at me. L’Oréal, they do some really great, creative campaigns especially around LinkedIn, and utilising some of LinkedIn’s APIs. And I’ve been really, really impressed with what they’ve done. GE, I would say the second one. GE is an amazing organisation anyway, and I’m just always interested how they can make things like jet engines or items that may not necessarily be particularly, let’s say, hugely of interest. How they can take items like that and just be able to social campaign which just makes it incredibly captivating. So I’m very, very impressed with what they do.
And I think the other company, and I’ve never flown with them, is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines who, again, I think are amazing at what they carry out on social media. I saw just last week that they’re now using, I think it’s Facebook Messenger whereby you can now access your booking and through Facebook Messenger, I think you can get your boarding pass. And I think that they’re very, very quick to jump on board the latest technology, and they use social media to showcase that incredibly well.
70 years have flown by…https://t.co/z9PxywdHUy
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) May 21, 2016
What’s next for social selling?
It’s a tough question. I’m going to take a real broad approach to this. I think that there could be an element of predictive analytics coming into social selling whereby you can predict based on previous activities that somebody has carried out, what they might be doing going forward. I’m certain that if we look at social selling, it’s mainly, let’s say over the past few years, been focused around your large enterprise organisations. I can see it now though within Pitney Bowes, but more and more small- to medium-sized businesses are now having a presence on LinkedIn, as well as individuals. And I think that the SMB marketplace is going to boom on LinkedIn as well.
I think social selling is going to become increasingly visual. So like you were touching earlier on with SlideShare and with YouTube, I think the video element and the visual element is going to be a huge part of social selling going forward. So there’s that aspect, and possibly the convergence really of lots of different social channels.
I did touch upon this earlier on whereby you look at an individual’s LinkedIn profile, and then if they’re on Twitter, you go and have a look at that. I think it’s going to be even wider. So is the individual on Instagram or Pinterest and you’ll start to take a much broader view, not just LinkedIn. Although I would say probably most of the engagement and the outreach to kick start that dialogue will take place on LinkedIn, but I’m sure that other social platforms will really begin to play a big part in the overall social selling landscape.