Social Selling (Part 1 of 6) - The definition of success

John Smibert 09 Oct 2019

Social Selling Part 1

There is considerable debate about the importance and effectiveness of 'Social' in business to business (B2B) sales activity. Many see it as a new fad - a diversion from our focus on real selling. Others have been quick to embrace it - some successfully - and others not so successfully. 

In order to gain some clarity in this debate - and learn what we need to do to succeed - I asked Tony Hughes to:

  1. explain what he defines as social selling,
  2. tell us what he measures as 'social selling' success when applied to our sales process
  3. to outline what he believes we need to do to ensure success.

The outcome of these discussions will be published over 6 parts:

  • PART 1: Social selling defined and the success formula - 5 pillars
  • PART 2: Pillar 1 - Social Listening
  • PART 3: Pillar 2 - Social publishing
  • PART 4: Pillar 3 - Social Research
  • PART 5: Pillar 4 - Social Engagement
  • PART 6: Pillar 5 - Social Collaboration

PART 1: B2B Social Selling Defined

TonyHughesIn this first interview Tony defined social selling as "the strategy and process for engaging and connecting with people to accelerate the speed of business.

So by definition a key measure of success is the'acceleration of business' we achieve using 'social' when compared with not using 'social'.

Tony claims that in order to achieve this success organisations - and individuals - need to deploy 5 pillars of social selling.  He goes on the explain what these 5 pillars are and why they are important in order to succeed.

See part 1 of the interview series below.

Tony is a leading author and keynote speaker in the word of B2B sales and sales leadership. He is well known for his strategic selling book "The Joshua Principle" and for the RSVPselling methodology.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John Welcome back! I'm delighted to have Tony Hughes with me again - welcome, Tony!

Tony: Hi, John!

John: Tony, you've written a lot about social selling recently, and sometimes I wonder 'what does it really mean?' Have you got a succinct definition of social selling?

Tony: Yes, I do. But just before we get to that, there's two really important things to consider. The first thing is that social selling is really a misnomer - I think you agree with that.

John: [laughs] Why we called it selling, I've got no idea - we never sell on social!

Tony: Yes, but everybody loves buzzwords, and that's the term that's been used. Social selling is kind of relevant in business-to-consumer, but social selling in a B2C context is very different from selling in B2B.

John: Yes, I agree totally.

Tony: My definition for social selling in business-to-business is 'it's the strategy and process for engaging and connecting with people to accelerate the speed of business'.

John: Strategy and process to engage and connect - okay.

Tony: Yes, yes.

John: That makes sense. Now, I've heard you talk about having five pillars that underpin that definition. Can you just quickly tell us what those five pillars are?

Tony: Yes. So, he first of the five pillars is 'Social listening'. When we're in 'social', it's really no different to selling to people in the real world. We need to be great listeners, we need to listen to our brand being mentioned in the marketplace - because if there's something negative, that's a customer service opportunity - and we need to listen for our competitor's brands being mentioned, because that may be a sales opportunity. But more importantly, we need to listen for trigger events.

John: Trigger events, the old trigger event, we talked about that before - really important.

Tony: Yes. Yes, events that happen in the marketplace that can indicate that there's actually opportunity. So, the first thing is "Social listening'. The next thing is 'Social publishing'; we can publish content in 'social' to attract people to us. But more importantly, if someone checks us out online and we've got a meeting request in, or before we turn up and see them physically, we need to show them that we're a person of insight and gravitas, where they'll want to take that meeting.

John: Really important. And that's part of building your own personal brand, isn't it? Your unique promise of value you're putting out there.

Tony: Yes, exactly.

John: Yes. The third one?

Tony: The third thing is 'Social research'. So, before we meet people, we need to research. There's so much information available out there on people and companies and industries now that give us the ability to connect with good context.

John: Good. And the fourth?

Tony: The fourth thing is 'Social engagement'. It's been said for a long time that cold calling is dying - it's certainly hard, the success rates are down below 3% - but blasting emails out to people as a way of trying to connect has got similarly really poor success rates. So, if you can connect to people using social proximity, find people in your network that can provide introductions, so use social as a way to engage with people, have a look at what groups that they're participating in online. You run a great group in LinkedIn.

John: The Strategic Selling Group, yes.

Tony: Yes, exactly. And people will be part of Special Interest Groups. We don't want to stalk people inappropriately, or jump into discussion threads and start selling - that's a big no-no in 'social'.

John: But if they raise a subject you have something a say on, there's no harm in going back with your own opinions or comments or suggestions.

Tony: Yes, exactly. Yes, so then start to engage in 'social'. And the fifth pillar of B2B social selling in my mind is 'Social collaboration'. It's actually more relevant as we engage our own teams, our channel partners, using a CRM system properly, using collaboration tools. We know that you get a much better result face to face with people, but if you're selling a commodity and you have to travel long distances, simple tools, like - for example - Skype is a social selling tool that enables us to collaborate with people at low cost.

John: Great, great. I understand the definition, and now we've got five pillars, so I'd like to come back together and talk about each one of those pillars, if you don't mind, Tony.

Tony: That would be great - thanks, John!

John: Look forward to it!


More interviews with Tony Hughes:



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