As the number of users of social media continues to grow, the boundary between our personal and professional lives begins to overlap. Unsurprisingly, the customer buying cycle is also beginning to change. By the time a prospect has reached out to a sales rep, in most cases they already know what they want because they’ve done their research on social channels, canvassed their peers on community forums and downloaded materials. Where the customer goes, so does sales.
Carolyn Charles, Project Specialist and Bernard Chiu, Project Specialist, have been helping to lead the effort to transform traditional selling at Cisco into social selling. Their social selling strategy leverages the skills and expertise of Cisco sales reps by giving them the tools and support they need to interact and engage with customers in this new and constantly changing environment.
I spoke with Carolyn and Bernard separately to discuss the innovation that is taking place within the Social Selling program.
In part 3 of a 3-part series, Carolyn talks about regional differences and how different groups are leveraging new social selling capabilities. Read Part 1: Innovation Starts with Sales for an introduction to the social selling program at Cisco. Read Part 2: Attribution for Accurate Metrics for a view into how Cisco is tracking the impact of Social Selling.
JR: You’ve rolled out Social Selling into APJC (Asia Pacific, Japan, China) and EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia), how are things going? Have you noticed any differences in how the regions are adopting these new capabilities?
The Americas team is a little further along in the program because that is where it was rolled out first. For EMEAR & APJC, this is quite new and they have a real passion for it; they are thinking outside the box and actually innovating beyond what we have formally rolled out. For example, one of the sales reps in EMEAR has created a group for his partners. They are thinking creatively and are pioneering new ways of working with their customers and prospects.
JR: Have there been any surprises in the Social Selling program?
CC: I never thought we’d get SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) so quickly. We were very surprised it happened so soon and so quickly. I was also pleasantly surprised how up for it the sales guys are—how supportive they’ve been. I haven’t heard anyone saying “oh, not another thing they’re making us do” but rather “yeah, this is going to work.” They’re getting marketing support and wanting to use it in their everyday efforts, and they’re also taking the initiative and trying things on their own.
JR: At a high level, what have you learned from the program?
CC: The adoption has reflected some generational differences. Our team are generally early in career and are thus actively involved in finding the best ways to use social media in their day-to-day life. They are not just using what we give them, but are actively suggesting and trying new ideas. I’ve learned there are so many new ways to communicate, and that the sales team like to control how they communicate with their network through the type and frequency of posts they use. I think these new methods of communicating will help our sales team develop new contacts, which can be really hard to do.
JR: What do you think of the status of Social Selling at Cisco?
CC: I’m really proud that on our “Full Circle Giving Back” day, when our VP John Donovan was asked by the CEO of the charity we were supporting how they can increase their visibility to potential contributors, John said social media is the way forward. The scope of how you reach people is much bigger today, and it’s how people want to connect. I think it shows he is 150% behind the initiative. I think Cisco, on the whole, is on par with most other enterprises of this size, but I also think there is a lot of excitement. There’s been a shift — new talk from Cisco’s leadership that sounds very powerful. “Be amazing or be surpassed” was one call out that resonated with me personally. I think this is what customers want and how our social network will evolve. It’s going to get more and more exciting.
Jennifer Roberts (@rideboulderco) is a Social Media Marketing Manager and leads the Social Selling program. Carolyn Charles is a Project Specialist and co-leads the Social Selling program.