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Episode #147: How to Get Started with Social Selling, with Dennis Mathew

Grad Conn

July 23, 2021  •  27 min read

Selling has always been about relationships. But on social media, this concept is generally ignored. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook become the equivalent of the non-stick pan guy at the state fair, making as much noise as possible to get attention. On today’s episode, Dennis Mathew and I talk about how to create genuine, authentic social selling relationships that will actually benefit your customers — and you.

Dennis Mathew is a social media and marketing consultant. You can find him at: The Classic Partnership.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
Sweet sounds and Jimi Hendrix just pulling us into another great, Unified CXM Experience podcast. And as always, I’m your host, Grad Conn, I am the CXO or Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr. And today I’ve got a great guest. I love my guest shows, these are always my favorites. I’m super excited about today’s because we’re going to be talking about social selling, which is something I’ve been all over and been talking about for a lot of years. And so it’s just great to be able to spend a whole show on that today. So let me introduce Dennis Matthew. He’s a social media and digital marketing consultant. And he’s worked for companies like IBM, MasterCard, and Bank of Montreal, and he’s a real innovator and leader in this whole area of social selling, especially as it applies to financial services. So Dennis, welcome to the show.

Dennis Mathew
Thank you, Grad. Thanks for having me here.

Grad
And you’re coming here to us from Toronto today or actually Mississauga, right?

Dennis Mathew 
That’s right. That’s right. M..i..s..s..i..s..s..a..u..g..a. That’s how I learned to spell that when I was a kid. I lived in Mississauga. I learned to play hockey in Mississauga. I lived in Mississauga for many years, as a kid, my parents moved there from New York. And my dad was working at J. Walter Thompson. And we lived in Mississauga. And it was a great time of my life, a great time to be a kid and, you know, a street full of kids playing street hockey, and oh, gosh, it was just wonderful suburban life in the 1970s. Probably a little bit different now. But how long have you lived in Mississauga?

Dennis Mathew 
Close to about 15 years now. So, but a lot has changed. The city has changed a lot from those days. I don’t see street hockey.

Grad 
Is there still a Sheridan mall?

Dennis Mathew 
There is. And I believe they’re going through a big renovation right now,

Grad 
Really. So I used to go to the Sheraton mall with my mom. And we would get a hot dog at the hotdog stand there. And I remember, there’s a movie theater and I remember Planet of the Apes opened there. I wanted to see it so badly, but my parents wouldn’t let me see it because it’s apparently too scary. But Sheridan Mall was great and there was a Dominion there. And we used to shop there. And my favorite part of it is that the groceries would go on this conveyor belt and the groceries go on the conveyor belt into the back of the store, then you’d pull your car around and they’d put your groceries into your car for you. It was so amazing. We talk about customer experience all the time, I keep harkening back to things that happened a long time ago as being great customer experiences, and I wonder what happened to them all. But anyway, that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about social selling. So why don’t we go on the forward machine here and get focused instead of the way back machine and then let’s talk for a second about what social selling is. So why don’t we define it? So why don’t you just lay down a definition, you know, through your elevator pitch, give us some clarity around what it is. So people know what in fact we’re talking about today.

Dennis Mathew 
A lot of times, social selling gets confused with a lot of other stuff. In a nutshell, it’s building relationships for sales or nurturing leads for sales using social channels. A lot of times people are active on social, but it’s not done with a deliberate intention of either generating leads or nurturing your audiences or growing your network. And social selling is that deliberate process through which you do every activity with the intention of ending up getting a lead or a sale. If I were to define it, it would be social selling is the process of developing relationships as part of this entire sales process and using tools like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, the works.

Grad 
Okay. And it someone’s a great social seller, what would that look like? Or what would that mean to you? And someone says, “Man, that person is amazing in social selling”, what kind of things would they be doing? How would you see that they were a great social seller?

Dennis Mathew 
So like in this in the traditional space, where you wouldn’t want someone to cold call you, cold calling is kind of dead. Like you know, in this day and age, you really need to warm up your leads. A good social seller is not someone who sends you a connection request on LinkedIn. And the next thing he or she does is “Hey, by the way, I’m a salesperson for this”. It’s actually engaging or interacting with your connection. So reaching out on social has probably replaced the cold calling bit, but then the entire process of adding value, engaging, having conversations on social and then making it natural to flow through to a process where you show your value and show your expertise and your thought leadership and then create that space to actually make a sale. So social selling is an entire process. It’s not that one off thing where you reach out to a contact and expect it to close, but it’s actually nurturing that whole relationship.

Grad 
So I get that. And I understand that. But you know, if I look at my LinkedIn inbox, which I have in front of me right now, that is not what’s happening in there. Right, I’m getting connection requests, and I’m a very liberal connection request accepter, and I am a vicious connection request unaccepter when they abuse them.

Dennis Mathew 
A decliner?

Grad
So yeah, so I always take the attitude of ‘I assume good intent from everybody’. And so I don’t spend a lot of time reviewing everyone, because I don’t have time for that. So I accept pretty much everyone’s connection request. I have like 20,000 LinkedIn connections now. But if somebody starts to like, be badly behaved, chippity, choppity, they’re out of there. Yeah. But it’s funny. Most of them are not that bad. But most of them say things like, “Hi, Grad. Thanks for connecting. I’d love to find 20 minutes for proper introduction” for the company he’s talking about. I don’t respond, then he writes me. “Hi, Grad hope you’re doing well, let’s find 15 minutes”. I keep waiting. It’ll be 10 minutes. Five minutes? Do you have a minute? But it’s like, but I don’t even really know what they do. I would have to go to his profile, research his data, there’s no value here. And this is just one of my top messages. My other one is the once more like, did you read my mail? Or I must have gotten lost in spam? Or I really think you should be like… No, I am actually ignoring you because you’re not giving me any value. And I don’t feel comply, to respond to your out of the blue message. Because you sent me a cold call out of the blue, why does that create an obligation on my part to get back to you? It doesn’t, right. I’ll give you one more example, the worst one of these. So this, so much of what I see is the opposite of what I would think social selling would be. And you know, I’m very easy to connect with socially. I’m into all sorts of cool stuff like Legos, and rockets and Star Wars. Like, I’m not a confusing person to connect with. And nobody does it. Nobody connects with me that way. It blows my mind. My favorite one was the person who wrote me, and he said, “When I was in your position, I responded to every single inbound message I got. And, because I knew that one day, I’d be in the other position. And I might be proud of the fact that I did that. And only, you know, an ungrateful son of a b… like you wouldn’t respond to me or something like that …” and I thought to myself, “Wow, really, you respond to every single inbound cold call? No wonder you’re not in that job anymore. What in God’s name are you doing with your time?” But talk to me about this, like when you’re coaching people. And could you please coach more, by the way, can you get to more of these people? But when you’re coaching people, how do you talk to them about how to do those initial connections? What does it mean to connect socially?

Dennis Mathew 
You hit a very important point there because that’s what spamming is all about. Like, that’s not being genuine, that’s not being authentic in your connections. And it’s just like a spray and pray like they’re just trying to reach out to 15,000 people hoping one of them, it’s not a good return on investment, if you look at it, because one, you’re spamming, you’re wasting everyone’s time. The right way to do it, and I keep telling everyone, be authentic, it doesn’t take a lot, because that’s what smart tools do for you. And there’s so much intelligence that you can get with the right kind of tools, but it’s also having the patience and the persistence to do it the right way. Because when you do it the right way, you see great results coming out of it. And when I talk of results, and the reason why you should not do it that way is pretty simple, because I’ve seen so many case after case where when you’re providing value, it automatically gets you the kind of results you want. So when an investment advisor talks about something new that’s happening or federal rate change, or something that would really resonate with their target audience, it will get the attention of their target audience but without being salesy, because you’re providing value, you’re being part of the conversation, and even being part of the conversation is not in a very salesy way but you know, actually adding value to that whole conversation is how you stay top of mind and that’s what social selling is. It’s that complete effort of reaching out to the right kind of people, sharing stuff of value, it’s an exchange, it cannot be a one-way street where just because I reached out, I expect you to give me a business in return, and then continuing the conversation through social and then it naturally progresses to. And sometimes it’s just staying top of mind because when they need an investment advisor or an insurance broker, just because you’ve been in that space, you’ve been constantly sharing stuff, you’re top of mind, and that’s when they pick up the phone or call you or message you or ping you saying, “Hey, got a minute to chat?”. And we’ve heard so many stories like that, where just out of the blue, someone just responded or liked, or you engaged with somebody by liking their post, which has got nothing to do with …., it could be a new cottage they bought or something. But just the fact that you engaged opens up doors of new conversations or new business,

Grad 
I’m often surprised that people don’t send more articles when they send these cold outreaches.

Dennis Mathew 
Part of the training that we do is sometimes even coaching on what kind of language to use, or what kind of value you provide. And the stuff that you can actually give your target customers. So it could be a white paper, or it could be a consult, but not again, not coming across as someone just trying to reach out to as many people but actually giving value in exchange and being authentic in the space that you in and most times they are experts in their space. Because they’ve been in that space. They know what the ins and out what coming down the pipeline or new regulations coming. And it’s just talking about those things. Because that matters to your clients. I have an example of a real estate agent who actually got leads simply because he worked out a niche of investment properties. And he started giving out tips and he just grew his follower base because people who are interested in investments in real estate just gravitated towards his content. And he got so many new leads simply because he was doing the right thing in the right place.

Grad 
What other techniques do people use in financial services?

Dennis Mathew 
Financial services, one of the biggest benefits of doing social selling the right way is that it helps them stay compliant. Because everyone makes mistakes on social and it’s just having those guardrails in place so that you’re not saying the wrong things, or you’re not over committing or you’re not saying stuff like guaranteed returns, or stuff which could put you or your organization at risk. So from a financial institution standpoint, it provides those kinds of guardrails, helps employees stay compliant. But as well, leverage the power and the potential of social media so that they can grow their business, grow their books, and actually help everyone. It’s a win win. Financial services space, they have seen social selling grow, I’ve seen a lot more banks opening up to it. Because earlier, they would be very conservative and say, “Hey, no social, you cannot do social media”. But now they’ve opened up to it. Our customers have moved to social, why would you not talk to them in a space they are comfortable in and do it in a compliant manner without putting your organization at risk. And then there’s been so many more extensions to this whole thing. So not just individuals but stores or branches can also leverage social selling to connect with their community. And that’s such a value add that happens, especially with COVID and pandemic times we’ve seen that, when you don’t have the traffic coming into your store, how do you get out to your community or tell them what you’re doing? That’s where social selling comes in really, really handy.

Grad 
So if you’re sitting down with a company who’s not doing it right now, they’re asking for you to detail the benefits, do you have like hard numbers that you give them? How do you convince them this is something they should make an investment in?

Dennis Mathew 
Depending on which space or which kind of clientele it is, but I would say in very clear terms that like there are three very, very big benefits that any organization can get. One is decreasing costs. Because if you were to compare social selling versus any of the other marketing efforts that you would need, the costs have way, way lower, because imagine if you had to spend that kind of money in advertising or any other medium to reach that kind of audience, the sheer amplification of your message is at a fraction of the cost. So lowering of the cost is one big benefit. Staying compliant or you only know the value of compliant tweet, when you don’t get sued, or someone doesn’t come after you saying, you know, because of your social media post, I ended up losing so much money or … so staying compliant is the second big benefit that I clearly show. And then the generating of leads and new contacts. And I’ve had examples where we’ve tested out pilots for social selling in smaller groups. And in less than six months, we were able to register almost 100 million dollars’ worth of new leads. And these were like a sandbox environment we created to test whether this thing actually works with people who are not comfortable using social at all, but just giving them the right tools and the right process, equipping them to open up to a lot more windows of opportunities. And that’s very cool.

Grad 
So how did you get into this? What was the journey that you went on to like, I mean, it sounds awesome. I’m not criticizing either, by the way, I’m always fascinated by how people end up in certain areas and have certain passions. So what was your journey of discovery? I’ll tell you mine in a minute, too. After you tell me yours.

Dennis Mathew 
It was kind of accidental.

Grad
That’s the best kind. That’s the best kind.

Dennis Mathew 
Yeah, I was doing traditional advertising at Ogilvy and Mather for IBM. So when I started off, if you look at a marketing budget, it would be at 80 to 85% traditional like TV, newspaper, radio, and digital was just starting off. So we would have a few online and those banner ads that was about all digital that we would do. But in less than three years, it completely shifted. And the ratios moved from 85% online digital, to just about 15% TV and radio, just namesake, just having some ads happening. So that was the light bulb moment for me when I realized that the world has moved on to digital. And so that’s when I sharpened my expertise on the digital space, worked a lot on MasterCard, and a lot of other brands. So I started off in the social media team at Bank of Montreal. And in those early days, we were doing just the enterprise handles as in the company’s Facebook page or the company’s LinkedIn page. And we realized that a lot of employees were on social. So one, they were scared, because they were always worried that they would put the bank at risk, or they would say something. So they were very cautious. They were not using it the right way. And some were doing it, but doing it without the right kind of training, so there were all kinds of problems happening. And that’s when we took advantage of a program called ‘For Social Selling’, where we could put everything in a well-documented templated process where you were equipping the employees, you are empowering them to use the power of social and then reaping the benefits in so, so many different ways.

Grad 
That’s cool. I mean, my story is similar. It’s not a complete accident, by the way. You recognized an opportunity. And so I was at Microsoft and was responsible for the B2B commercial business in the US. And there were these rumblings about this thing called social selling and I went to LinkedIn, and they were rolling out Sales Navigator. So I wrote THE first check for LinkedIn, which obviously worked out really well for them, but brought them in the boat, got Judson Althoff to sponsor it and get into it, got some teams using it, got some good early results. I think for me, a lot of it was how do you get organization-wide adoption? What I would do is I would go to the sales teams … there were always innovation-oriented sales teams like the ones working on Azure at the time. And you know, some of the earlier plays and those always would be the most mavericky salespeople who would take the biggest risks and you give them a new tool, they generally try it because they’re willing to kind of go after anything. And then they would tell someone, and they would tell someone, and they would tell someone, and it spread like wildfire. And the great thing about salespeople is if you give them something that works, they’re all in. You just need the right ones. we sometimes call them bell cows, you know, you put a bell on a cow in the lead and then the rest of the cows follow the bell. And if you can find those bell cows, service them like crazy, make sure that they’re using it well, they will spread the word to the rest of the company before you know it. And you we ended up probably struggling to keep up with demand as opposed to having to push it. I was going back to Judson every couple of months and asking for another 1000 seats. It was something else. So, but to me it was a little bit of I’ve always felt that it was important to sort of keep your nose in the air and smell the new season. Right? You know, there’s always something new coming in. And then it doesn’t always turn out like, not everything turns into a thing. But a lot of times it does. And so if you can get in there early, you can be really powerful. And you got in there early, obviously. And it’s been an amazing career trajectory for you too. So that’s very cool. Well, this has been great and hopefully people in the audience who think a little bit about social selling, if you’re not doing it right now, you really should be. It’s a little bit of sort of the stepchild of advocacy, kind of related but not exactly the same thing. So, advocacy and influencer marketing and social selling are all in the same camp, which is empowering broad swaths of your employee population to do part of the marketing job for you. It’s an extremely powerful technique because you’re leveraging networks. One of the things that was very cool at Microsoft, the number at Sprinklr’s a little different, but I can’t release it. But at Microsoft, the number was public, which was of the 50,000 employees we had in the US, their connections equaled 65 million people in the US.

Dennis Mathew 
That’s right. And that’s the power, right?

Grad
Yeah, right. So it’s this amplification, essentially every businessperson in the US you could get to through someone at Microsoft, and so the power of that kind of network amplification is something people don’t completely understand. Okay, Dennis, I get that. So, now let’s talk about extensions. What kind of extensions do we see to social selling when they want to go to the next step?

Dennis Mathew 
Great question, Greg. So with a lot of companies that you spoke about, you have the early adopters, you have people who understand social, and then you have the slow ones who are very apprehensive about social. So once you get a great program in place for employees, another great extension to this is, if the company or the brand has branches, or stores or locations, you could actually empower each location to be active on social. So instead of having just one Facebook page, you might end up having 1500 Facebook pages, or each store has its own presence. But then you’re talking local, you’re talking to your community, it’s hyper local in nature. And it’s very powerful, because now each branch is just talking to their small footprint, it’s extremely engaging, you know the kind of audience, it’s like a neighborhood store, which you know, you know everybody but you’re doing it all on social. And that’s probably a great extension to a social selling program. It starts off with employees, but then you create individual profiles or extensions for your branch network or your store networks. But again, this is like the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that you can do, but definitely worth considering having an extension for branches.

Grad 
Let’s dive a little deeper. So this time, I’m going to get a branch focus, I get that. But then how do you roll that out? What’s the enablement program look like for that?

Dennis Mathew 
So what you would do is you would have each branch or each store having its own social media presence. So for example, you would have your Mississauga neighborhood bank branch will have its own branch Facebook page and a branch Twitter handle, where it’s talking about stuff that’s happening in that community itself. So if there is an employee appreciation event happening, you use that because it’s just for that small location, it doesn’t make sense for the entire country to know what you’re doing at that level. And then it’s empowering the branch employees to be actively engaging through social from the branch’s page, or the store’s Facebook and LinkedIn page, you create advocates, you create fans. And you’re able to do better customer service by having a social presence for your branches or your stores

Grad 
And all done compliantly as well. I mean, I think that’s part of the magic of that. And making sure that there’s AI in there that will detect off-tone and regulatory compliance issues and make sure that those posts don’t go through until they’re reviewed by a team. So that’s the thing that makes everyone help sleep at night, which is, I’m empowering my employees and I’m helping make sure they don’t make mistakes because they’re not doing it deliberately obviously either, you know, an accident’s an accident or enthusiasm or whatever, but those enthusiastic accidents can have a lot of consequences and so it’s good to be able to step in front of them.

Dennis Mathew 
Totally and also the amplification piece of it, your message instead of being just shared on one handle, now it can go across … you’re creating one piece of content, but it has a lot more lives now, because you’re able to share it in different … and you can tweak it to meet each region’s specific requirement, I have a very good example of how we actually used it, where there was a flood in Alberta, one of our branches, and the branch was doing a lot of good stuff to help the community like they were setting up tents, they were giving away food, water and stuff like that. And they wanted to reach out to the community to know that you’ve got help here. By having that branch presence, they were able to effectively get that message out. Can you imagine the missed opportunity if that was not there, there was no way for the branch or the store to tell the community what they were offering? And that’s when we realized that there’s so much power in having individual branches or stores also having a social media presence.

Grad 
Well, one of the things that people don’t realize, there’s two things that people, I think, don’t fully realize. One is that – this has been true for a number of years now – but your followers, very few of your followers even get your posts in their feed, let alone see it, like forget about seeing it, right. But then it’s like half a percent now may even get the post in the feed, and then you have a smaller percentage actually see it because they’re actually reading their whole feed that’s just gotten more exacerbated over the last few years. And the only way to get around it is to do paid advertising, or what we’re talking about right now. This leveraging of the existing networks is essentially a hack to create organic amplification that allows you to take a post that normally would mostly fall on deaf ears to suddenly be amplified to thousands or tens of thousands or more people. And I think that that is the hidden power of tools like this. And also the influencer tools and advocacy tools, those things are able to kind of get around those algorithmic issues that make it so difficult for a company to get any kind of presence on social platforms.

Dennis Mathew 
Totally, totally, you hit it so well, that’s it exactly. And it’s also the engagement that you would see. A post on an enterprise page, which concerns the whole country may not get that kind of engagement, when that same thing is put across on a smaller footprint. But it’s a much more engaged audience because they know everybody at the store, they know what they’re dealing with. And you know, you definitely see a bigger jump in the engagement levels as well.

Grad 
Cool. So anything else to add here? I’m a bank, I’m thinking about doing this. Kind of this, you know, just pretty good deep dive, you know, how many people do I need to implement a system like this? Am I looking at a large team? What’s the training load look like?

Dennis Mathew 
No. So that’s, that’s the beauty of it. Because you can do it with as little as one employee, it totally depends on each organization. And these people are already – this new generation has grown up on digital – they are already savvy; they’re doing their own Facebook. So by giving them the right tool, you’re actually benefiting from their expertise. And personally, I’ve seen amazing levels of creativity coming in from the branch level, because they come in with fresh insights, they come in with fresh ideas, and it’s the tick tock Instagram generation, which is they learned a few cool tricks. And they’re doing it in a compliant manner. It’s all power to the, to the brand itself, right. So when you roll out a program like this, you’re basically paying to have a branch presence, which beats the algorithm without having to invest a lot in terms of training, and you just have all these packages ready in a tool and you just roll it out to your teams who already are comfortable with social.

Grad 
Awesome, awesome. All right, Dennis, thank you very much. This has been a fantastic session and a really deep dive in social selling. If people want to know more, do you have a website? Or where should they go to learn more?

Dennis Mathew 
They can go to the classic partnership.com that’s the best place to get hold of me. Thank you so much, Grad.

Grad 
Classic partnership.com Okay, good. So Dennis, thank you very much. So for the Unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO or Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr. My guest today has been Dennis Matthew. He’s a social media and digital marketing consultant for some of the leading financial services and technology firms in the world. And that’s it for our show today. I will see you…next time.

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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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