Defending the LinkedIn Selfie with a Social Funnel
"So I wanna go someplace where we know somebody who can plug us into the social pipeline." ~Lloyd Christmas
In my prime, I was making 5-10 thousand cold calls a year. I would talk to 10 people a week, only setting 1-2 meetings. My lack of success didn't have anything to do with a lack of skill. My lack of success had everything to do with metrics that were outside of my control. So I started looking into what I could do differently. In 2017, using the approach below, I have watched our engagement as a team go from 4% to 18% and are currently rising. In 2012 I would have 12 conversations on the phone or by email if I was lucky now. It's closer to 60 conversations a week or more. Those are the leading metrics I track every week.
You don't have to agree with me, but numbers don't lie.
When you joined this platform, you had an expectation. That expectation most likely centered around making connections and furthering your professional career by absorbing wonderfully written and compelling content. There's one problem, though, when you logged into LinkedIn today, it wasn't filled with wonderfully written content. Well, some of it was, I guess. Most of it was a combination of selfies and low-quality videos. You know, the kind of pictures that seem like they would have been so much better, and they just asked someone to hold their phone and videos that were filmed in the front seat of someone's car, most likely while they were driving it.
The last thing that would ever cross your mind certainly wasn't a quote for the single most significant piece of cinema in history. Still, if it was, it was probably closer to John Denver being full of it than Lloyd introducing you to what I want to discuss. I'm talking about a place called "Asssspeeeen." Ok, I'm joking. This is all about the social pipeline.
Before I begin, you have to understand what a marketing funnel is first. Marketers [the digital kind] distribute content to specific people at different stages in their buying process. As a certified Hubspot aficionado, I'm inclined to describe their version of inbound marketing to you, but for the purposes of this blog, I will save that for another day. Hubspot breaks the buying process down into three categories, each designed to direct the reader/prospect towards the next step in the funnel. Marketers may call this nurturing or a workflow. Regardless of what it's called, we are all currently in someone's workflow. And no, I'm not going to waste time proving that to you.
- Top of the Funnel: This is content that is clearly created to generate some awareness for you. "You know what, I didn't realize I had that problem, now thanks to you, I do."
- Middle of Funnel: This is content that provides some kind of consideration for its audience. "Wow, now that I got smart on a problem I just realized, I now have options on what to do next. Thanks!
- Bottom of the Funnel: This is content created to provide its audience with a decision. "Wow, now I know the right choice to make for a seemingly tough decision. I'm so glad that content guided me down the right path."
Once you understand the types of content marketers use to nurture a prospective client through a funnel, you can process what a social pipeline is. Typically, the point of a marketing funnel is to convert a casual visitor into a qualified sales lead. That's not precisely the point of a social pipeline. Well, at least in our case, it is not.
For the Sales Development Representative, or SDR for short, our specific purpose is to establish and build relationships online, ultimately to schedule a meeting with a qualified prospective client. I believe that "building a relationship" for genuine reasons vs. setting a meeting is more important. However, solving the prospect's problems puts food on the table for my family. So how do we do that? Well, it's simple. We have taken the marketing funnel and converted it into our own style of the pipeline. Please note, it is sometimes necessary to be generous in your thought process. Get over your preconceived notions of what a post should be and what it actually is going to be different. Think engagement to convert someone from a conversation to a meeting.
Top of the funnel---------------->Engagement Style Post
This is a personal post. This can range from a post about a client, a friend, a new employee, anything so long as it is a photo. This is typically the post that puts traditional salespeople over the edge, but you will see engagement if you can get over it.
Middle of the funnel-------------->Opinion Style Post
This is typically but not always an industry-related article or video. The idea for this type of post is to add a paragraph or context above the actual article telling the reader why you like the article, what they might get out of the paper, and wrapping it up with a call to action.
Bottom of the funnel---------------------->Share their content.
Most salespeople [In my opinion] believe that the only content worth sharing is their own content, or worse, their company's content. It's expected, but it's more annoying and less engaging than all other content. It will most likely become white noise to your audience at some point. I'm not telling you to skip posting about your company, I'm telling you to diversify yourself, and you will see results. If you want ROI, share your prospect's content and engage with it. The rules for this are simple: you have to read it and tag the prospect in the post. Adding context above the article on why you enjoyed the piece and why you believe your audience will is key to your success. Technically that's your personal brand, but I don't have time for that now.
Here's an example: By the way, this is a great article written by Kenny Madden. Here is the link to the actual article.
The funnel can seem too confusing but think of it this way. In a perfect world, your audience will be much more likely to engage with the content you share if they know more about you. If they liked the first "engagement" style post, they are more likely to engage with your "opinion style" post. So when it finally comes time to share their content, they will be flattered that you thought of them and will be more willing to sit down with you for a meeting. Social selling is about reciprocity, think in those terms, and you will be successful.
It all starts with a Sales Navigator advanced search. We need to ask ourselves, who are the accounts and contacts we are targeting? That part is easy, engaging with active people, there lies the challenge and the solution. Salespeople often ask themselves, how do I connect with a contact who is not active on social media without making a cold call? Easy, find other people from the same company who are and prospect them. Last year I had the opportunity to hear Gary Vaynerchuk speak at Hubspot's Inbound Conference. He made a point about prospecting on Facebook that was a real takeaway for me. He said, "Prospect everyone at the company and be specific about your purpose. If your post has enough impact, the person it's intended for will have it on their desk in the morning." I believe that is the same for all prospecting.
As the Chief Disruptur, I am committed to promoting the idea of approaching sales strategy with a marketing mentality which is why I have lived in the middle of the funnels mentioned above. Which, is also why I created a Sales Playbook to act as a guide towards success using this strategy. I measure everything, and everything changes. I wrote this piece to explain why I do what I do and really to help those struggling with their understanding of what "social selling" is.
I wrote this article not to sell you anything, just to help my audience understand who I am and what we do here. If you have an idea, a comment, a concern, a disagreement, or you want to fix my grammar, by all means, contact me.