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Managing Marketing: The concept of social media for sales in B2B relationships

Tom Skotidas
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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Tom Skotidas is the Founder and General Manager of Skotidas Consulting Group, specialising in social and digital demand generation. Here he talks with Darren on the power of social media to generate sales and revenue as well as build business reputations and relationships.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today we’re going to be having a conversation about where the rubber hits the road because I’m lucky enough to have Tom Skotidas here who is a B2B marketer and a social selling expert. Welcome, Tom.

Tom:

Great to be here, Darren.

Darren:

It’s interesting for me because a lot of people are inclined to think of B2B as the poor end of the marketing mix. It really bugs me how B2C and brand advertising is seen as the sort of lead and B2B is the poor cousin. Why is that?

Tom:

When we say, ‘a poor cousin’ we usually mean it receives less budget, a lot less budget than B2C marketers get, and also when you work with B2B marketers you find that most of the budget they give you, as an agency for example, is campaign based or quarterly based rather than over 12 months as a retainer.

So, the reason for this poor cousin status–there are a few, but probably the biggest one is B2B marketing and organisations in general are seen as sales focused, sales team focused. And it’s the sales team and the sales leaders that are seen as the heroes of the business and the marketers range from well-regarded all the way down to the department of arts and crafts or colouring-in department.

Darren:

Yeah, very much a support role to the sales team because the sales team is (in most organisations) where the money actually hits the till isn’t it?

Tom:

That’s correct and if you speak to most CEOs they’ll tell you that they speak to the sales leaders ten times before they speak to the marketing leaders. That’s changing but it’s changing at a pace that I’m not very comfortable with. I’d like to see a faster adoption of marketers being seen as critical business builders but that’s the reason why.

If sales is driving B2B organisations then why would we invest a large amount of budget in the marketing department as opposed to consumer where the website and other digital and offline channels are seen as the actual sales channel.

Darren:

You see, I thought, being a copywriter, when I worked on B2C I got to make a big television ad and when I went out socially people would go, ‘oh you work in advertising. What did you do?’ I could point to the television ad.

When I worked in B2B I was doing brochures and when people went, ‘oh you worked in advertising. What did you do?’ ‘Did you see my brochures for those plumbing fittings we sell to architects?’

There’s also part of an ego thing in there, isn’t there? It’s not just a financial.

Tom:

There’s a whole bunch of reasons, Darren, and also if you look at B2B marketing 80% of it, and I realise people might disagree with my number of 80%, but I’ve been in this segment a long, long time and in my opinion 80% is events.

You speak to B2B marketers. What are you doing? Events and emails. They’re thrashing emails out to their existing database. So, if you look at marketer’s B2B budgets, usually it comes down to smashing their existing email list or events.

Darren:

The ubiquitous golf day.

Tom:

Yeah, and then you get the rest. Now that might not be 80%. For some companies, it might be 70 to 60% but I’ll stand behind the fact that the majority of B2B marketer’s budget is around events and those events are set up for sales teams to network, rub elbows and close deals.

Darren:

Build relationships.

Tom:

Yeah, that’s right. And the adoption of digital channels and social channels especially is lagging because of it. That focus on the number one son or number one daughter being sales people and not marketers.

Sales and Marketing? Or Marketing and Sales?

Darren:

Look, we’ll get to that in a minute because that’s really interesting; the role of social media. But let’s go back a step because it always amazes me how people go sales and marketing whereas I’m inclined to think it’s marketing and sales chronologically in building relationships.

What is it for you and what do you think the relationship is between the two?

Tom:

If you look at my heart—how it beats– it’s probably 65% sales person, 35% marketer but I try in my approach and everything I do to use marketing as the front end. I believe that it’s marketing and sales because everything we do is marketing and the way we even sit with our prospects is marketing.

I often call sales people ‘in-person marketers’. Imagine if we actually changed the job title from sales manager to in-person marketer? I realise it sounds a bit wanky potentially.

Darren:

Or relationship marketer because that’s what we’re doing.

Tom:

That’s right. I think that every single thing that we do is marketing whether it’s marketing the corporate brand or marketing the personal brand sales for me is actually the outcome. Sales are what you see on the balance sheet or the income statement. It’s not actually a process. For me everything is marketing and sales is more of a financial result.

Darren:

Professor Mark Ritson has an interesting way of distinguishing marketing and sales and I disagree with him on one of them because this they could never work together and that is; marketers are all about increasing margin–adding the value to the product that you’re selling so that the customer will pay for the perceived value.

Sales people are usually incentivised on volume. They want to sell as much as possible even if it means sacrificing margin to do it. So, they want lots of options and they want lots of opportunity for flexibility to be able to sell by meeting the customer’s needs. Whereas marketers are about making exclusive products – exclusive as in this is the only place you’ll get it -because that is where you can create margin.

But he says the two are diametrically opposed. I don’t think that makes it impossible for marketing and sale to work together.

Tom:

I agree, it doesn’t. And by the way I think that those behaviours are manifested because of their job descriptions and their KPIs, which have been set by people who don’t know any better in many cases. So, I don’t blame them for exhibiting those behaviours but even if we agree that those behaviours exist as they are I really think it’s about ongoing training and conversation.

That might sound a bit weak and fluffy but how many times have you heard of a CEO forcing their divisions to sit down every two months and have that ongoing conversation of force this, make this a KPI every month? I don’t. I’m aware of many companies where marketing and sales still have that antagonistic relationship.

I would put the whole sales team and out them through a week of marketing training and I’d take the marketing team and put them through a week of sales training. I’d have marketers go out in the field and sell their hearts out and I’d have the sales team sell nothing for a week and just do marketing. I reckon that would produce some great dividends for the company.

Darren:

There’s a story about an Australian creative director who said to an automotive client, ‘I want you to think of me as your best sales person’. He goes, ‘good, you can start on Saturday at our central dealership and let’s see how many cars you can sell’.

We need to be careful because also there are different skills. They are complementary but they are different skills in building a desire or a relationship that will lead to a sale and actually the relationship that creates the sale.

Tom:

Agreed. And again, it goes back for me to back-office marketers/ in-person marketers. Some people are better at in-person marketing and some people are better at back-office marketing and I think that they’re complementary.

What is social selling and how does it work?

Darren:

From my perspective you’re the king of social selling because the first time I heard about the concept of social selling and everything I’ve ever read online about it is written by you, Tom, so that makes me think of you as the expert.

So, what is social selling and why is it still (it appears to me) to be in its infancy?

Tom:

Social selling has a lot of definitions and I’m just another one of those. My definition is: social selling is the process of using social and digital channels to build your brand, build your company’s brand, meet more prospects and customers, and generate more meetings and deals.

Really then, if that’s what I’m saying it’s social marketing for sales enablement or social media marketing for sales enablement and then if we take that further into the basic truth it’s how to be a greater sales person and marketer at the same time.

So, if you took the greatest sales person and marketer in one human body–what do they do? They can do that through social media because it scales them. It scales your brand, it scales your content, it scales your relationships but it’s just a tool at the end of the day.

Darren:

It’s interesting you called it social and online or digital. You didn’t use the term social media because one of the things I think people struggle with is a lot of marketers use social media as a media and in actual fact my personal experience is that it’s much more powerful as a social platform or channel as a way of engaging people.

Is that the way you see it and how you need to think about it to make social selling work?

Tom:

I agree. I don’t think about social media. It scares me actually. On a personal level, I would admit to this, although I understand and use every social channel I find them intimidating on a personal level because I’m 45 years old and I grew up without a mobile phone and I’m used to just calling people and spending time with them at the café—what we’re doing right now.

So, I use Facebook only as a photo album and I occasionally write nice things but usually I’m using it as a photo album so I’m not really a great social media user. For me, social selling is using a tool. It’s a better hammer.

It really is a better tool and the truth is people say LinkedIn is social selling, and LinkedIn is a fantastic tool but there are other tools and as long as I keep finding tools that make me a better sales and marketer or marketer and seller I will keep using them. If LinkedIn is no longer relevant I will use Twitter or other platforms.

I don’t even call it social. I use social selling because everybody knows it as such. I just call it great sales and marketing and this tool just happens to be one of many so for me it’s still about offline. I’m a bit of a dinosaur but I’m a dinosaur with great tools.

Darren:

Yeah, but I think what you said earlier, it allows you to scale—you can reach a lot more people. TrinityP3 has 21,000 Twitter followers and I personally have about 10,000. That’s more people that I can engage and interact with than I could ever imagine. Making 10,000 phone calls would be impossible.

Email databases of 15,000 marketers and advertisers. It allows me to scale but the other thing I liked about it was that you talked about social as a way of building brand reputation and taking that all the way through to getting the appointment where the sales or transaction happens.

Tom:

That’s right. Surgeons; kidney surgeons, neurosurgeons, thoracic surgeons, they don’t do selling. They do great work. They know their product and most of their leads are in-bound. I like the analogy of trying to be a surgeon and not have to use out-bound and I admit I use out-bound a lot but my use of out-bound has decreased over the years as my reputation grows and my in-bound grows in its place.

I think one of the reasons that sales people don’t use social selling as much (going back to your question about why is it still niche?) I think most sales people struggle to even hit their basic targets.

My opinion is between 50 and 80% of all sales people are not hitting their targets and if they are it’s inconsistent. I think – and this might be controversial but I’ve lived this industry for so long – most sales people are not well suited to sales or their companies are so brutal and they have such ridiculous KPIs they can’t achieve them, which in itself means they shouldn’t be in those roles.

So, whether it’s the company’s failure or their personal failure most sales people should not be in sales. It is my belief that in the next three to five years sales roles will become less and less. There will be redundancies. There will be firings because sales people should not be in those roles. Sales people should be re-purposed or fired or made redundant and be let free to find the roles they’re made for.

One of the reasons for this is technology will make these roles less critical, like marketing automation and social selling is hard. You know how hard I work at social selling. I don’t use social selling as that blue pill to work 50% less; I work my ass off because I’m so persistent like a dog with a bone.

And because I know my product and because I persist in not just sending one email but I will follow up twice, I’ll connect with people I don’t know but I’ll use a personal script that takes me eight minutes to write. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m that kind of guy. That kind of behaviour is not social selling. That’s real life persistent behaviour that then needs to cross over into social selling.

If you are the sales guy that’s not hitting targets because you’re not persistent or you’re not an expert, social selling will not fix you. In fact, Joe Reilly said this, ‘if you suck offline you’re going to suck more online’.

Darren:

Well, you’ve just sucked at scale really.

Tom:

That’s right—you suck at scale. If you have bad spelling, if you write in an arrogant manner, if you share the wrong type of content in real life, if you’re just not good at your job or display the wrong behaviours you’re going to magnify this incompetence on social media.

On the other side if you are persistent, know your product so well, and listen, and think about your customer’s pain points, social selling will work for you but that’s probably 20 to 30% of people in sales.

The importance of metrics in social selling

Darren:

It’s interesting because in this conversation one of the things I’ve noticed about your language; 80%, 20%, 65%, 35%, there’s very much a mindset around metrics, measures and the like and yet that’s one of the areas that I personally see a lot of marketers struggle with, this idea of actually having performance metrics and holding to them.

Now, you did bring up a minute or so ago that sometimes those metrics are unachievable and they have to be realistic metrics that you’re trying to achieve. Your objectives need to be realistic. But why do you think so many people are shy or nervous about having performance metrics?

Tom:

Well I think the metrics are just not discovered because there is no rigour in the first place. Take social selling; I as a marketer fund a social selling programme with five of my sales colleagues and I’ll admit to being sometimes useless at entering data into the CRM.

I’ve gotten much better over the years but I have been and continue to be in some cases useless at it and the problem with that is that marketers fund a social selling programme. The sales guys generate 20 leads but then don’t enter them into the CRM or enter them using the wrong attribution field so instead of marking them down as social selling they mark them down as events or some other field.

Small things like that, Darren, hard to believe but it happens every day where the marketer then runs reports to find the attribution of leads and revenue against a particular channel and when social selling comes up they find maybe one lead or $20,000 in pipeline when in reality the channel produced a lot more than that.

So, marketing and sales, because of the disconnect often even when metrics are trying to be implemented they’re not because they’re not being reported. I’m not bagging sales people here; I’m just bagging the whole system. It’s kind of kind of broken when it comes to capturing these results.

Darren:

Yeah, I think there’s also a sense of failure. People are scared of having metrics and yet metrics are so important. I remember, as a kid, watching the Apollo 11 and NASA calls it telemetry—all of the readouts of how the capsule is performing as it blasts through space. To me business is the same thing.

If anyone’s running a business they almost need that telemetry, that dashboard of performance so that they can constantly tweak it. And yet it seems that when things are down, instead of working out how to optimise it, there’s a real tendency to start blaming, finger pointing isn’t there?

Tom:

Which is normal human behaviour. Marketers are often under-budgeted but their bosses have high expectations of leads. Sales teams continue to clamour for a high number of leads and a high quality of leads.

Darren:

Do our job for us.

Tom:

Some of them don’t. Some of them expect to do a lot of their own demand generation. I know when I show up to a CMO’s meeting I do my own demand gen. I don’t rely on marketing to do it for me but the system is marketers need to produce a high number of leads that are high quality.

Sales people and account managers demand that flow but marketing people are not given budgets that allow them to invest in the right technology, in the right channels. They go back to what they know or to what they know will at least work well enough like events and email or tele-sales, which are increasingly becoming outdated channels.

That doesn’t mean they don’t work but they’re increasingly becoming more and more irrelevant so the system is really in trouble and the only person that can fix it is not the head of marketing or the head of sales but it’s the CEO or the Chief Commercial Officer.

They have to figure it out that they have to create a directive that fixes metrics, fixes co-operation. If they don’t, you’re looking at single digit percentage improvement over the years.

Darren:

This is the big thing that came out of the US late last year: there was a report on CMO tenure (that had dropped again) and they interviewed CEOs as to what was the number one reason that they terminated a CMO in the past 12 months and it was failure to deliver growth.

And yet, many CMOs don’t feel that they’re directly responsible for growth.

Tom:

It’s true.

Darren:

It’s interesting isn’t it that there’s a complete misalignment or disconnect between the various parts of the business and yet if I had a rowing team you’d have to say most companies have the teams all pointing in four different directions and rowing hard on the oars.

Tom:

I love that analogy. I’m going to be using that in the future—I don’t know if I’ll give you credit for it.

Darren:

That’s ok.

Tom:

I know a CMO, a very close professional friend and a great CMO who told me within three months of joining a company he quit because he had been promised to have budget and investing channels to grow the business.

When he joined he was given a list of events the CEO expected him to design and create and run, which would have effectively eaten up all of his budget and turned him into an event marketer as opposed to a CMO and the CEO would not budge because that’s what the CEO expected of marketers.

So, we really, really need CEOs and Chief Commercial Officers just to start understanding digital and why they have to stay relevant and it has to come from them down.

Balancing short term sales results with longer term brand value creation

Darren:

One of the issues around this whole idea of performance expectation is all listed companies will report on a quarterly basis. Private companies may be on an annual basis and you made the reference before that one of the things about B2B marketers is that you’ll often get your budget in three-monthly instalments depending on performance.

How do you, as a marketer or a social seller or a B2B marketer, keep your eye on the short, the medium, and the long-term results because that seems to be one of the biggest challenges. The CEO/CFO are looking at ‘what are we going to report each quarter?’

But a marketer has to be thinking not just about filling the bucket today but how do I continue to set myself up to fill it in 6 months, 12 months, 2 years’ time?

Tom:

That’s such a hard thing to do. My advice, which is self-serving and biased but I believe in it – I don’t see marketers doing this in B2B or even in B2C but B2B especially – I would sit down every fortnight with two or three agencies that I would go and literally source to come in and present their ideas to me.

I’ve always given this advice to B2B marketers, which is this; if you’re struggling time-wise to deliver a lead and you have to focus on short-term activities, keep doing that to keep your job, make your sales team happy and your boss happy but you also need to have a long-term view.

So, every fortnight go out and invite agencies you’ve never met but have a good reputation to come in for free and run a whiteboard session for you. Tell them upfront, ‘there’s absolutely no budget but this will allow you to expose your brand to me so in the future I know where to go if I have budget but come in with zero obligation’.

Do you know how many agencies would absolutely jump at the chance? I know I would if somebody said to me, ‘Tom, I’ve got zero budget but I want to know about you and social selling’, I’m there. And the infection that takes place during those sessions is brilliant because, as a marketer, you start to get this holistic view; marketing automation, social selling, banner advertising, programmatic, all of these channels and from really smart people.

I don’t see that happening. I don’t understand why. Maybe because marketers are afraid that the agency guy, after the meeting, will start harassing them but this is about expectation management, isn’t it? You can harass me in a month from now—send me an email. Really, it’s about expectation management. So many marketers are afraid of the spam. It’s one tactic I recommend.

Darren:

Or they do not set the expectation up-front because they think that the agency won’t respond. A lot of marketers think if they haven’t got the lamb chop around their neck the dog is not going to play with them.

The dog will still play with you because dogs like to be social and I know that’s a poor metaphor for agencies. I’m not saying agencies are dogs but I think there is an under-appreciation of the enthusiasm and goodwill that agencies will bring to relationships.

Tom:

Agreed.

Darren:

It doesn’t matter how much procurement and the industry push the agencies remuneration down there is something about being an advertising person that you have to have a huge dose of enthusiasm and optimism that keeps you going each day.

Tom:

But also curiosity. Marketers have to develop it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to Heads of Marketing and I’ve said, ‘we have an agency that specialises in social selling and we’ve worked with all these brands’ and I’m told, ‘Oh, we already use LinkedIn sales navigator and our team is using it’ and I’m just dumbfounded, don’t you think you should just get me in for a least a whiteboard session to find out something that we know?

Darren:

But, Tom, you’re going to be selling me something and I haven’t got time and I haven’t got budget and you’re just going to disrupt the whole thing.

Tom:

Of course. It’s exactly right. It’s disruption. It’s are you going to sell to me? I think marketers (forget me) in general should be curious, seek out leaders or experts in their field, tell them up front, ‘do not dare sell to me’. You’re going to come in for a whiteboard session. I don’t want a demo. I just want you to inspire me with where the market’s heading, what should I know? If you can do that then you’re in my rolodex set-up for the future. I think that’s what marketers need to do.

Darren:

One of the things about long-term, for me, for marketers is it’s about consistent brand building and it amazes me the number of marketers that still have part of a budget for brand, which to me is ridiculous. You do not need brand, in quotes, activities, because everything you do, every piece of social selling you do should communicate brand.

We see this especially in B2C where people spend millions of dollars making this big glossy TV ad and blast the message across all the channels about what the brand means and yet no one bothered to align the day to day communications, the selling communications to that actual brand.

Yet you could actually take all that money, align all your communications to brand and even the ones that are selling something trying to get that appointment could be re-communicating brand.

Tom:

I have a close professional friend who headed up in the B2B division of a B2C organisation but he was the head of B2B marketing and he would put big billboards at the airport and I asked him, ‘why are you doing B2B marketing by billboards at the airport? Does the airport space provide you with a lot of leads for your sales team or are you measuring some other sort of values?’

And he said, ‘I have absolutely no idea what it is doing for us and frankly I don’t think I should have placed it at the airport but my CEO flies a lot and he travels through that billboard and when he sees it he calls me and says, ‘well done’.

That is so ridiculous. Not that my professional friend is ridiculous.

Darren:

No, no but that he has to do that to keep the CEO happy.

Tom:

That is horrible stuff, horrible that the CEO is such a dinosaur, that he needs with his eyes to see the brand.

Darren:

I had a client who phoned me up. They’d moved everything online except the CEO’s complaining because he doesn’t see any of this activity. I mean sales are good. They’ve moved online into a social selling/engagement strategy.

Sales are improving but the CEO is upset because he doesn’t see the brand anywhere. Why? Because he’s largely a Luddite. He reads newspapers and listens to the radio and he doesn’t see the activity that’s going on.

Tom:

Often marketers don’t stand up to CEOs or sales leaders. There’s a fear, right, especially in mid-sized businesses where the CEO is often the owner. It really is hard and I’ve felt this as well, to stand up and say you are wrong. You are a Luddite. You are a dinosaur and I’m here to actually keep us relevant. I don’t want us to go down the path of Kodak. I don’t want to become irrelevant.

I want us to become relevant and to be relevant you have to invest in channels that maybe you’re not in. Gary Vaynerchuk has said one thing that I love and I always laugh; a CMO asked him what’s the ROI of digital multiple times, and he’s on video saying this, and she asked, ‘what’s the ROI of digital? How do I prove ROI of digital?’ and he responded, ‘what’s the ROI of your mother?’, which is really funny if you think about it.

It’s quite confronting. What’s the ROI of digital? Who cares? What’s the ROI of social? Who cares? This is your Kodak moment. Are you going to become irrelevant and bankrupt or are you going to stay relevant? We all know digital is where we’re moving and have moved to and it’s here to stay. It’s not about ROI anymore, it’s about foundational business.

Darren:

I’d agree on one level but I think every channel you need to have some measure of performance because we have seen way too many people pour all of their budget into particular digital channels and get no result.

Tom:

Agreed.

Darren:

But that’s no different to pouring your money into television and getting no result or any channel. There has to be some sort of measure. And in a complex world it’s very hard to have cause and effect definitively.

Tom:

That’s right.

Darren:

But at least you should be able to see shifts in the metrics when you do things that you then can attribute to that activity.

Tom:

I still use the Kodak example though because in the situation I am now companies are simply not investing enough so whilst we should probably never go 100% digital because offline media and channels are still important, I still need to push that envelope and push that gospel because simply not enough is being done especially in social where I specialise.

I still find it hard to believe that channels like LinkedIn and Twitter are still so under utilised. Hopefully, this podcast and other discussions will accelerate adoption.

The future opportunities for social selling

Darren:

We embrace in-bound marketing and social content and a lot of the techniques that you talk about and it’s made a huge difference. And here’s one of the metrics that I hold by; when we used out-bound marketing our conversion rate was around 30% of leads, our in-bound conversion rate is over 60%.

It doubled because the strategy itself helps qualify those leads because people are making the effort of coming to you. So, to your surgeons metaphor that’s what’s happening.

In the next two to three years where do you see marketing sales and social going (in an ideal world)?

Tom:

I don’t know about ideal, Darren, but the way I see it going is that introduction of marketing technology, artificial intelligence, greater CRM adoption, and other marketing technologies will bring more in-bound leads to B2B organisations, will qualify them better.

And I believe that this progression will make the need for a hundred sales roles less. I think that a hundred sales roles today, three or five years from now you might need 50 sales roles to achieve the same type of volume of revenue as you do today.

I think that we’re going to find that companies will save money on sales roles increasingly as technologies grow and invest that money into more and more technology. I believe that those sales and account management roles that exist today will become re-purposed into other roles.

They might become re-purposed into marketing or into technical roles and many of those in sales will no longer be in sales forever. They will then move into becoming entrepreneurs and many of them should probably become entrepreneurs or just find other vocations but this is where I see things moving and I think social selling is one of many technologies or channels that are moving companies that way.

Darren:

Well, Tom, thanks for your time.

Tom:

Thank you.

Darren:

It’s been a fascinating conversation so; I’m just making a note here, vocational guidance—we’ll cross off sales and journalists apparently.

Tom:

I don’t know about journalists but thank you, Darren.

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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