“Social selling is a lifestyle, not a sales technique.”
– that sums up the hour-long interview I had with Tim Hughes, the Social Selling Pioneer and UK Business Development Director of Oracle, during which he explains his philosophy of social selling, his team’s use of social tools and techniques to close deals at Oracle. This article provides many hints and tips for anybody wishing to get started on selling smarter.
J: How did you start social selling and how do you define it?
T: It all started when we noticed that the buyers process changed 3 years ago. Customers are more empowered in looking for information before making a purchase. Most customers come up with a short list of 2 or 3 sellers. We can’t just hope that we’ll be on that list of 2 or 3, especially if you’re a small business or a startup. It is getting more important to have a social presence being engaging and educative for the potential buyers that are doing their research. Companies that wish to succeed must stand out from the crowd and become recognized thought leaders for their market sector.
My definition of social selling is first to have a presence online so that you appear when people are doing the research. Our team is undergoing massive transformation in the way that they sell, part of it is about using social tools, part of it is just doing things different, for example, not turning up with a big pack of powerpoint slides or using storytelling.
I don’t restrict social selling to one particular platform or one particular idea. The way I see it as a sales guy with 27 years of experience is that: my buyers and prospects are using social as a way of buying, so I don’t see why I can’t use social as a way of selling.
J: What are the tools and tech stack you have in place at Oracle to implement this transformed way of selling?
T: The sales process we use is classic – identify accounts, contacts, engage and sell – that hasn’t been changed for decades. It’s the technology that’s changed. We’re using:
- LinkedIn (sales navigator)
- IKO System
- Oracle Eloqua (marketing automation)
Our sales people are seeing great results with Eloqua, our marketing automation tool for nurturing and opt-in.
J: How are you using IKO and how is it complementary to Linkedin sales navigator?
T: I’ve found LinkedIn and IKO to be two very useful tools in this new way of doing sales. I go to Linkedin to look for information and it’s a great platform for engaging people.
Nowadays we use IKO mainly for account-based marketing (ABM).In mid-market team, where they’ve got 20,000 accounts to go for, they will probably take one step up the pipe to look at the accounts they should be targeting first with the lead scoring on IKO. For my team since we already have named accounts we use IKO to identify the best contacts within our named accounts for growing the network within the organization. On IKO we also get important insight from which we will then be able to curate relevant content that would interest those contacts.
There are certain amounts of overlap but they are two different tools with two different functions. We use IKO also for de-risking in flight deals – to check on which of our competitors our potential clients are in contact with. Often you’re winning just by that little bit of edge, and IKO gives us that edge.
J: What advice would you give to sales teams initiating a change to do social selling?
T: The first thing is to get executive stakeholder (C-level) buy-in, and the second thing is to start a pilot program with people who are socially aware, so that they can lead the change.
J: How do you see social selling in the near future? How is it affecting sales people’s lives?
T: Social selling has a very bright future – it’s going to change and evolve – some people are closing deals with facebook and whatsapp. Every day we need to be learning and experimenting. With social selling the prime selling time (PST) that we used to talk about no longer exists. There is certainly a blurring between work and play. Work life balance becomes even more important. Another challenge is that most people doing researches are socially native and can filter out noises easily – so sales people need to make sure they become a signal and not a noise. It’s important that they raise the level of their content and their profile to stand out and be recognized.