We had a chat with Zoe Sands about her expertise in the field of social selling and her predictions for digital trends in 2016…
What inspired you to choose social selling as a core specialism?
I’ve chosen social selling as a core specialism because over the past 18 years I’ve been working in digital marketing client side and I’ve seen many trends and technology bubbles emerge over this time. Social Selling is by far the most fascinating for me and the one where I think it has the biggest potential to revolutionise the way we do business today. Back in the late 1990s the Internet revolutionise marketing and I see social selling doing the same thing for sales. It is an exciting time to be on the cusp of a new digital transformation in business. 2016 is going to see social selling become more mainstream and create opportunities for more businesses and individuals.
From your many years as a practitioner I’m sure you have lots of examples of lessons learnt, is there one you can share with us that helps understand the benefits of social selling?
Buyers have never been more informed than they are today. It feels like buyers have all been on accelerated buying training, similar to how sellers are sent on training to hone in on their sales skills. This has forced sellers onto the back foot, those sellers that are successful are those fully utilising social selling. They are listening more online and cultivating relationships enabling them to see opportunities and add value before their peers and competitors. From this I would say my major learning is sellers and marketing need to evolve their practices or risk failure. Social selling, social prospecting, comment marketing and social media are helping sellers and marketers engage with the modern buyer. If you unsure of these tactics then I would advise you seek out training and develop your knowledge in these areas as soon as possible.
What are your predictions for digital marketing trends in 2016?
Great question! I actually write a predictions blog every December, so watch out for this. Here are some of my predictions for 2016 are;
- Social selling will become more mainstream in 2016. I saw a lot of early adoption of social selling in the tech world. I would expect to see other industries to start to pilot and utilise social selling during 2016.
- Comment marketing will be on the rise as brands see the value in engaging with individuals on a one to one basis, but don’t confuse this tactic with social selling. Agencies will use this as a revenue stream from those marketers limited with time and resources, who outsource this activity.
- Vanity websites will become the norm particularly for those businesses that don’t operate an e-commerce or content generate sites. These sites will basically be reference points for prospects and customers to refer to during the buying process, but won’t be the first point of contact. Social Networks will be the new shop front to the world.
- Employee Advocacy will be more important than brand marketing. I expect to see businesses lowering brand advertising budgets by moving spend across to developing employee advocacy during 2016.
- Video will continue to be on the rise. It is only a matter of time before LinkedIn becomes a video profile rather than a written profile. Better brush on those video skills for 2016.
What skills do you think a successful sales person needs in the digital age?
The skills a successful sales person needs in this digital age are as follows:
- Communication – learning appropriate and timely engagement online is essential. Understanding what triggers can be used to engage a conversation and start to build a relationship online.
- Writing – a modern sales person needs to hone his/her writing skills for comment marketing and blogging. It is essential that the sellers develop this skill, it is not enough to rely on marketing to generate content, the savvy sellers generates his/her own content and share expertise and knowledge freely
- Personal branding – an understanding of how to build a personal brand in line with the business brand and utilise this to develop and nurture relationships is the nirvana. It is not easy and it takes time to develop, those that invest in personal branding will reap the rewards in the future.
- Social listening – it is essential that sellers learn and know how to perform social listening. This is a perfect way to understand prospects and build up a decision making unit before engaging.
- Relationship building – adding value and being seen as a trusted advisor online. The prospect needs to feel safe in the knowledge that he/she can do business with the seller. Building a trusted advisor status in line with a personal brand that mirrors the sellers online and offline persona is very important.
- Technologist – keep abreast of social media and utilising the appropriate technology tools to help progress sales. Being adaptable and embracing digital transformation is critical. Strong expertise in LinkedIn, Twitter and other relevant business social networks will give the modern day seller a key advantage over others.
Watch this video on “Selling in The Digital Age”. It has some interesting thoughts on how selling has changed.
When you’re not training or busy with digital marketing, how do you like to spend your time?
I love doing so many things in my spare time. My passions are a great driving experience and F1, shoes of course, my cat and exercising. Ask me about these when we meet. I believe in a healthy body healthy mind. This year I took up triathlons even though I’m petrified of swimming, a challenge I’m working on overcoming. I think it is working though, as I came second in my category on my second triathlon, so pleased with that result. Let’s see what 2016 has in store for me in terms of progressing my triathlon times and techniques. I’m planning on getting a new lighter bike, so that should shave 10 minutes off my time. I regularly take part in my local ParkRun, that’s either participating or volunteering. I also love yoga and do as much as I can and go to the gym when the weather is not that great. And at the weekend exploring more of England’s hidden treasures with my partner is great, we really like visiting London and the local national trust properties in Buckinghamshire.