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Malin LidenVice PresidentSAP Experience
In 2014, SAP did a pilot to prove the hypothesis that social selling works. Three years later, the company has trained more than 5,000 sellers who are achieving success. eMarketer’s Jillian Ryan spoke with Malin Liden, vice president at SAP Experience, about how the company approaches social selling, why training is so important and how its top sellers have a quota achievement of over 160%.
eMarketer: How do you define social selling?
Malin Liden: In social selling, the keyword is “personal.” It is utilizing people’s personal knowledge and personal relationships online to discover opportunities, build rapport and get business done.
Social selling requires a building of trust and value in a social media relationship. How can we pull people in our direction with that trust instead of pushing ourselves towards them? It’s a completely different way of doing business, and that’s why it’s a cultural shift and transformation.
eMarketer: Tell me about SAP’s social selling program and the transformation you have led within the company.
Liden: The challenge was getting salespeople to trust the process and believe it works. To transform, we had to prove it works by doing a pilot early on. We took two same-sized teams selling offerings with relatively short sales cycles, and both of them had LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
Equipped with the same tools, both of them thought they were doing social selling, but one group was a control. We only took one team through the one-week enablement and training program. We taught them the principle that governs our social selling approach: You don’t [chase] the customer, but feed them things that are so interesting that people will come to you. Nine months after the training, that team did seven times more pipeline [building] than the other team.
eMarketer: You mentioned “feeding things” to the customer. Are you referring to content? Can you talk more about that process?
Liden: Content plays a big role, but social selling starts with social listening. If you listen to your audience, then you’ll know what sorts of content will resonate with them. It also helps sellers map out other relationships and content related to that topic.
You have to go where your target goes and then find out who they are already listening to. Then you follow that person to understand what other interesting conversations are happening.
This gives sellers a sense of what topics are trending with prospects, and we produce targeted content off that intel. Then we send our sellers out with this content to look for conversations where they can engage in a very targeted and very thoughtful way that adds value to the dialogue.
eMarketer: Do you see social selling being a major endeavor at SAP in the future?
Liden: We were early adopters in 2014, and we’ve invested a lot in our programs. Compared to most companies, we are very mature. In two years, we have certified over 150 local trainers. These internal experts are social selling champions who help their colleagues create those moments of success, keep the momentum up and help people execute.
Thus far, we have trained over 5,000 people at SAP. We have 10,000 LinkedIn licenses in use, and we know that our top sellers have a quota achievement of over 160%. This is massive and with this model, we intend to scale.
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