How to Train 23,000 Salespeople in Social Selling

In Part One of a recent interview, Oracle’s former Social Selling evangelist Jill Rowley reveals the secrets of teaching a global sales force how to use social media to connect with today’s B2B buyers.

Jill Rowley

How do you go about training 23,000 sales professionals in social selling?

Before I can teach someone what to do or how to do it, they need to understand why.

Why they should do it?

Why it is in their best interests to do it?

So my program at Oracle starts with educating the sales professionals on the change in the buying process, and in the B2B buyer, and really helping them understand that the buyer today is very different than the buyer 10 years ago.

How has today’s B2B buyer changed?

Today’s buyer is digitally-driven, mobile, socially-connected, empowered with unlimited access to real-time information about business problems, products, companies, competitors — about all sorts of things.

Also, buyers don’t have to rely on brands, or companies or salespeople for information, because they can find that outside of the corporate walls.

And what’s happened is the trust between the buyer and the brand is really at an all-time low – hovering at 30-ish percent – whereas the trust between buyer-to-buyer, person-to-person, peer-to-peer is at an all time high – around 92 per cent.

So, helping sales professionals understand that the buying world, the buyer, the buying committee has dramatically changed.  Therefore, social and social networks are where the modern sales professional can do research, networking, relationship-building, and can use these channels to earn trust.  And earn trust by sharing content that is useful, that is edu-taining, insightful, and informative… and of value to the buyer, regardless if the buyer buys the salesperson’s product or not.

That’s why we start with the “why”… really helping these sales professionals understand, “Yes I get it”.

Social media is chaotic, it’s crowded, it’s noisy, it’s confusing, and it’s unfiltered.  But when you layer onto social media, what you get with social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter, even Facebook, Slideshare and YouTube, you start to layer on [sales]people’s identities:  who they are, their experience, their skills, their interests.

And then on top of that, layering on relationships: to whom is this person connected, who is this individual following on Twitter, who influences this individual, who is in this person’s circle of trust. So, helping the sales professional understand that in the unfiltered world of social media, you will get lost very quickly.  But in the world of social networks, you will learn how to do modern-day, technology-enabled research, networking, relationship-building, collaboration, sharing and prospecting.

Really, it’s just like the evolution of the phone… to email… to web… to social.  This is just the next iteration, the evolution.

The “why” is so important, because that is the mindset shift that reps need to have.  They need that new “aha” moment.  And then once they get that, then you say, “Here are the new skills, and here are the enabling tools.”

How have Oracle’s salespeople responded?

They love it.  And so all our new sales reps onboard it… they have to listen to one of my gospels.

I’ve recorded numerous “why” sessions – why do social selling – with a description of what it is at Oracle and an overview of how we are going to equip them with new skills and new tools.  So every day I’m getting new invites to connect on LinkedIn from Oracle salespeople complimenting me, congratulating me, thanking me… and that’s why I say I’m the luckiest girl at Oracle.

Another very interesting group I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time with face-to-face is our college graduate sales new hires.

We had a program called Oracle Class of 2013 which consisted of about 440 college graduates from various universities, and we brought them into a residential onboarding program.  They lived at Santa Clara University for eight weeks, and we onboarded them to sales, the foundations of business, to Oracle, their product areas of focus… and I delivered my entire social selling program to these 440 people in a face-to-face environment.

So currently, the training today consists of short, recorded, topic areas.  After they get the introduction about the mindset shift, the first module of the program is building buyer-centric social profiles.

What’s a buyer-centric social profile?

What that means is, your LinkedIn profile is not optimized for the recruiter, because you have your dream job at Oracle, right?

So now you need to think about, when you invite that CIO to connect on LinkedIn, does that CIO see “quota crusher”, “expert negotiator”, “4-time President Club winner”, ”always be closing and crushing my quota”… is that what your buyer wants to see?

Or does your buyer actually go to your LinkedIn profile and say, “Wow, Johnny has subject matter expertise in helping businesses move to the cloud… about the transformational role that the CIO plays in the modern business… that it isn’t just about setting up laptops and making sure everyone has high speed internet connections”.

So that’s module number one, building buyer-centric social networks and social profiles. And at Oracle, we decided to focus on the social networks where our buyers are.

Broadly, that’s LinkedIn and Twitter.  So we’re not teaching anybody about Facebook.  We’re not saying that people can’t be on Facebook, but we’re not optimizing Facebook profiles.  And we don’t get into the more niche networks like Reddit or Quora, because keep in mind, the program I’ve designed is for 23,000 global sales professionals.

And we have such a broad range of products and buyer personas, I had to keep my content generic enough that it would be useful and valuable for the entire sales organization.

For more insights from Jill Rowley, check out part two of this interview.



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