Julio Viskovich of HootSuite: Using Social Selling to Enter the Buying Process

While the lion-share of attention goes more to marketing, promotion and customer service when it comes to social media, using it during the sales cycle can be just as important to a company’s ability to close the deal with prospects.

Julio Viskovich, HootSuite’s Social Media Sensei, joins us to share his take on how to successfully integrate social selling strategies and tactics into your traditional sales methods.

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social sellingSmall Business Trends: How did you become the Social Selling Sensei?

Julio Viskovich: I like the Sensei title because essentially it allows me to absorb information as well. I work with the folks that I’m training with all the time. I’m not the end-all be-all of anything. I’m learning just as much as them. So the Sensei title applies.

Small Business Trends: You’ve been at this for a number of years at a company that everybody knows about. What is social selling? What was it when you first got started with social selling and how has it evolved?

Julio Viskovich: When I first got started social selling, realistically it was having a sales person be on social media, be on Twitter, be on LinkedIn. Nowadays, there’s a whole other piece to that. So my definition today of social selling would be augmenting your current sales process with specific social media tactics.

Looking back at the early days, there was a lot of stuff going on. A lot of people were trying to evolve this term called social selling. I think it’s kind of settled down where we’re starting to see people settle on a nice definition which is very close to what I said. That it’s sales people augmenting their current sales process with social media.

Small Business Trends:  Are you seeing any of those tools actually taking the place of more traditional aspects of selling, or is it truly an augmentation?

Julio Viskovich: I think it’s really a marriage between a couple things. Trying to jump in to a completely different sales process just because this term “social selling” has been thrown around. It’s not the way to go. It’s really an augmentation and I compare it to having a Ferrari and putting your standard gasoline in it. But when you add social selling into the mix it’s like throwing high-octane fuel in that baby and watching it go. It’s pretty incredible.

Previously, people were jumping on a phone call with your sales reps and essentially having zero percent of the buying process done. Coming to them for education and to find out about the product. But times have changed with the evolution of the Internet and with digital, people are finding all that information online.

So they’re coming to the sales rep 90 percent done with the sales or buying process already. That’s a problem because if you’re not out there putting content out, being a micro-marketer putting out those content bread crumbs to lead your buyer to you, you’re going to have your lunch eaten.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the characteristics that a person should have, or needs to have, in order to become an effective social sales person?

Julio Viskovich: It really is all about listening and that’s the first thing I always recommend people to do before they jump into a conversation online. Find out where your buyers are at for that link. Whether it’s specific Twitter hashtags, just listen. Get a feel for the conversation and get a feel for how you can involve yourself and add value to that community.

I think the next piece is really making sure that you put your customer or your buyer ahead of yourself. Long gone are the days where you have those sleazy type sales people who are trying to sell cars based on the commission made on it. Now it’s about really being buyer-centric and making sure that you can put the buyer ahead of yourself in communications.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the things that hinder somebody from becoming a successful social sales person?

Julio Viskovich: I think probably the number one thing that’s going to hinder somebody’s success in this era is going for the hard sell. Applying traditional tactics to the social media part of the sales process. Now it’s there for information gathering and positioning yourself as a thought leader and putting out those social content bread crumbs that bring your buyer toward you.

But oftentimes, you still have people who are going in there for the kill. When you do that, you’ll find that the person at the other end isn’t very receptive. It doesn’t work out too well for the lifetime of that customer or potential buyer.

Small Business Trends: How does it impact the relationship between sales and marketing and even sales and service?

Julio Viskovich: That’s something I’ve been personally thinking a lot about lately. I’m in the middle of trying to make a push in coining this new term called “sellarketing,” which is a marriage between sales and marketing.

I think it’s so necessary for social selling to be successful. So on one end, you have got to have sales and marketing work together around the content you’re putting out. If you’re going to be putting out those social bread crumbs and leading the buyer to you, marketing really has to have a huge part in this. In deciding what types of content should go out. Then when you start running campaigns that are focused on certain buyers or industries, I think marketing plays a huge role in what type of content for awareness, or for consideration, or depending on the funnel stage, they have to be involved to make sure the sales people are putting out the right content.

It’s very interesting you bring up support as well. Because that is definitely another area and a touch point for customers that oftentimes, there was a divide or a silo away from sales. So when a pricing question comes into support, a traditional way of handling that for the support person might be to take a screenshot, pop it into an email, send it over to somebody in sales and it gets dispersed that way if it’s a genuine lead.

Nowadays, with tools that allow social collaboration, if a pricing question comes into somebody in support, now they can click a button and route that message directly within HootSuite, over to somebody on the sales team and they can go ahead and interact with that individual or that lead in a timely fashion. Where previously, it would have been multiple systems involved and a very time-extensive process. It’s improved things a lot.

Small Business Trends: So maybe you can tell me a little bit about the kinds of metrics that you start to use or maybe their metrics that are more traditional that are impacted by social selling? Or possibly some new metrics that help folks to understand the impact social selling is having on an organization?

Julio Viskovich: I think you’re bang on because it’s a set of metrics that sales people weren’t necessarily measured on before. I think it’s really interesting to see that progression.

So the first thing I look at is very high-level metrics when you’re looking at your entire team. Making sure that everyone’s adopted it. Making sure that everybody has a completed LinkedIn profile and a completed and market approved Twitter profile as well. Making sure that SEO is rampant throughout your entire profile, and attracting those buyers, which is one step in the right direction as far as measuring. And that’s just at a very high-level.

When I start to drill a little bit deeper though, I look at REA: Reach, engagement and amplification. It allows me to take it beyond those surface level metrics such as follower growth, or number of fans or friends, etc. That is such a bogus number because realistically you can never know how much value you’re getting out of those folks at that metric level.

When you look at people buying fans, buying followers, and realizing that just because there’s a big number there, it doesn’t mean anything. So you have to take it a step further, drill down a little bit deeper. When you start to look at, ‘Okay, I have this big x-amount of follower growth, but how much engagement are those fans doing on my page? How are they amplifying?’

So if you were talking Twitter, how many people are mentioning you? From an amplification standpoint, how many people are retweeting you? With Facebook, how many people are liking your post, commenting on it and sharing it?

The higher percentages of folks that are engaging and amplifying, you can be sure that you’re growing a community or garden as I like to refer to it. An authentic, advocate-driven garden or community.

Small Business Trends: Are there any additional tools that you use in conjunction with HootSuite to implement this social selling strategy that you use?

Julio Viskovich: One of my favorite ones is called Trendspottr. What Trendspottr does is you’re able to put a search term or a hashtag in and it brings you a list of articles that are shared currently, that are trending around that specific hashtag.

Another I’d like to touch on quickly is Get Little Bird. A nice tool that I’ve started to use lately that allows me to find influential people in certain categories. It’s amazing because it amplifies the social selling process. It sends you little missions to do throughout the day like, ‘Hey this individual here is very influential in a topic. You want to be influential and we recommend you follow them.’

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about this whole area of social selling?

Julio Viskovich: You can hit me up at JulioViskovich. I’m also on Twitter, @JulioVisko. And, of course, HootSuite.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.


Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

3 Reactions
  1. Brent,

    Social selling: Fancy title, but yes, I agree. The trend is there: Social media is now ‘in the loop’ of your marketing process. It’s no longer an option – it’s a must, IMO.