Always Be Educating: An Interview with Jill Rowley, the Social Selling Queen

You may know Jill Rowley as the Social Selling Queen.

Jill Rowley is nothing short of brilliant when it comes to social selling. I first met Jill at the MarTech Conference earlier this year, and we’ve been rollin’ in the social selling conversation ever since.

I was honored to have her join me on a Google Hangout to share her insights with our audience. Drawing from over fifteen years of experience at Salesforce, Oracle, and Eloqua, Jill offered some great takeaways for B2B sales and marketing professionals who want to improve their social selling game.

Before we dive into Jill’s social selling swimming pool, here are a few fun facts to get to know her better:

Favorite books?

• The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work by Mark and Cheryl Burgess
• A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive by Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt

Favorite social selling pros on Twitter?

• Jamie Shanks – Social selling expert & partner at Sales For Life
• Barbara Giamanco – Social selling speaker & author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media
• Amar Sheth – Social selling advocate & principal at Sales For Life
• Trapit – Platform for social selling & employee advocacy
• PeopleLinx – Social selling application
• Seth Godin – Best-selling author & blogger
• Gary Vaynerchuk – CEO of Vaynermedia & host of the #AskGaryVee Show
• Clara Shih – CEO of HearSaySocial
• Sheryl Sandberg  – COO at Facebook
• Arianna Huffington – Co-Founder & Editor-In-Chief at the Huffington Post

If she weren’t the Social Selling Queen, what would she be?

A singer or an actor. Jill has always admired the talent of performers and has often dreamed of being one herself.

Watch my full interview with Jill Rowley here:

Building a New Category is Tough, But it Gets Easier

Jill Rowley is no stranger to breaking ground on new sales and marketing categories. She helped to educate the world about SaaS and marketing automation before the terms were mainstream, and now she’s doing the same with social selling.

When Jill was at Salesforce fifteen years ago, the term “cloud” did not even exist. What we now know as the cloud was then called ASP (Application Service Provider). Jill was instrumental in helping to create a movement around the concept of SaaS and cloud computing technology. From that point on, she consistently held disruptive roles at every organization she was a part of — including her role at Eloqua as the “EloQueen.”

Educating the market about social selling is easier for Jill because the audience is similar to that of marketing automation. One reasons the two are similar is that they both require marketing and sales alignment, she points out. “Sales leadership has to drive social selling initiative,” Jill says, “but the project will not work without cooperation from marketing.”

What is Social Selling?

If there is one thing you take away from this blog post, let it be this definition of social selling straight from Jill:

“Social selling is defined as using social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to do research on the buyer, the buying committee, the people who influence the buyer, and do the necessary research to be relevant to build relationships that drive revenue.”

Jill believes marketing and sales professionals should use social selling to have a larger conversation with the buyer. “It is kind of a buzzword right now,” she admits. “The bigger conversation beyond social as a channel is that the modern buyer is digitally-driven, socially-connected, mobile-empowered, and has unlimited access to not only information, but to people.”

Social networks have traditionally been viewed as six degrees of separation — that is, virtually any two individuals are connected by a chain of no more than six people. Jill believes that online social networks have shortened the degrees of separation and have made it much easier for people to connect.

Jill goes on to explain social selling in more detail. According to her, it involves “using social over time [and] sharing good, quality content that is useful, compelling and engaging that demonstrates subject matter expertise.” This, she says, “helps people solve business problems or achieve goals. Then, we go from using social to find buyers or information about buyers to being found by the buyer.”

The Changing Tide of the B2B Buyer

Buyers used to be reliant on the brand, the salesperson, and (oftentimes) a customer reference. The advent of social media has opened up the proverbial Pandora’s box by offering the customer unprecedented access that they never had before. This shift requires the mindset of the modern seller to be, as Jill put it, “I’m not here to sell. I’m here to help.”

“The buyer has changed more in the past ten years than in the past 100 years. That is a massive shift. This is the reason that social selling has taken off at the speed of light.” – Jill Rowley

The role of the modern salesperson is to help the buyer “solve a business problem or achieve a business goal,” explains Jill. “I’m really more of an information concierge, facilitator, and educator who really understands the world in which my buyer lives.” She adds, “I’m not ‘always be closing.’ I’m ‘always be educating.’”

To do this successfully, you have to truly know your buyer. “You have to understand your ideal customer profile. Whatever you product or solution does, whatever business problem it solves or whatever goals it helps the customer achieve, you really have to understand who is the right fit and who will get value from what you are offering,” Jill explains.

However, she’s quick to qualify the concept of being helpful by saying that this does not mean that sales professionals should stop asking for the sale. “At some point, you have to get the buyer to buy,” says Jill. “The closing part of the sales process has not changed as much as the front end of the buyer journey.”

She really drives her point home when she says that “opportunities that close fastest and for the highest value are those who come to you via a referral from a colleague or a peer.” It’s clear that social selling helps facilitate customer referrals in a whole new way.

Social Selling Strategy: SMB vs. Enterprise

“It is really important for small businesses to leverage their entire employee base to help amplify their message and help educate people in the networks of their employees,” comments Jill. “Companies can achieve a true competitive advantage by leveraging their entire employee base and, ultimately, their customer base along with their partner ecosystem.”

The challenge for enterprise businesses is not sales and marketing alignment. Rather, it is alignment within the entire marketing department.

Jill told a story from a previous job when she met with her company’s marketing campaigns manager and noticed a buyer journey map on his office wall. It was very comprehensive, complete with content mapped out for each stage of the sales cycle. Why didn’t every single person on the marketing and sales teams have this map, Jill wondered? She made a copy and brought it to the product marketing team, who had no knowledge that this even existed. It was an excellent resource, so the failure to collaborate within the marketing department was disappointing.

The 3 Stages of Social Selling

When it comes to social selling tools, it’s time to “beep, beep, back up the bus,” Jill said. There are three stages of social selling and “over 60% of companies are in stage one” according to PeopleLinx.

Stage 1 consists of activities such as:

  • Small teams using their personal social accounts to share thought leadership content
  • Consistently sharing content via a corporate Twitter account
  • Establishing a LinkedIn Group
  • Content publishing and sharing

Stage 2 is where companies:

  • Realize that social is a channel to be leveraged more strategically
  • Recognize that great reach is often accompanied by great risk
  • Begin to implement governance, precautionary guard rails, and social media policies to guide employees.

Stage 3 is where companies mature in their social selling and the real training begins. 

Companies often jump into social selling tools too quickly before providing their team with enough learning opportunities, workshops, and coaching for the why, what, and how. More investment is needed for both sales reps and leadership teams on new selling behaviors and measuring the effectiveness of programs. It’s also up to the marketing team to provide sales with a content library that is aligned to the buyer journey and personas.

Huge thanks to Jill Rowley, Social Selling Queen, for taking time to share insights with our audience. I think there are incredible takeaways here for both sales and marketing professionals — regardless of what stage of social selling they’re in.

Learn More About Social Selling & Account-Based Marketing

We’ve written before about how social selling and account-based marketing go hand-in-hand, and Jill’s interview definitely reaffirms that. Both social selling and account-based marketing require alignment between sales and marketing, and both involve building a relationship of trust with prospective customers. To learn more about account-based marketing and how to incorporate it into your B2B marketing strategy, download the Beginner’s Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing now.