In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff interviews Jill Rowley as they discuss what it means to be an advocate marketer.
Jill is a social selling evangelist and start-up advisor. She describes herself as “a sales professional trapped in a marketer’s body.” For much of her sales career, she says, she sold to marketers. And being a great sales professional, she became an expert at knowing her buyer. She got to know them at a human level, at a company level, and at that buyer’s industry level.
Over her career, Jill’s been a top sales rep at Eloqua and a sales consultant at Oracle. She and now runs her own consulting business advising GE, among other organizations. She also has a portfolio of tech companies in which she is an investor and advisor.
“I’m a busy woman,” she says.
Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.
This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
What is Social Selling?
I think people today are still learning a lot about what does social really mean from their point of view, from the companies, from the marketers? But what do you think the difference is from a sales point of view? Because people think of social and are like, you know, I’ll tweet and take pictures of what food I’m eating for dinner. How does that help me in my job?
Social media is marketing, and that’s really about reach. Social selling is about networks, and it’s about relationships. When I work with sales and talk about social, I never talk about social media. Because really they think of social media as a marketing job. And that is quite true. I teach them about social networks. And networks layer on three different things to media. One, they layer on someone’s identity. So Michelle Huff, for example. Who is she? Where has she worked? Where did she go to university? Where does she live? What’s her experience? What skills does she have? One, identity.
Two, relationships. Who are our mutual connections? Who do we have in common? What groups are you a member of? And then three, interests. What does Michelle care about? What does she like? What makes her tick? And that’s what I get from social networks as a sales professional, because social selling is about using these networks to do research on your buyers, to be relevant to your buyers, to build relationships with your buyers.
How Do You Use Your Network?
If you put it into practice, where do you start? Where do you first go specifically? And then with that tidbit of information, how do you actually use it in a conversation so that you don’t seem like you’re just name dropping random facts?
I go to my best friend Google. And I search Michelle Huff. And it gives me all sorts of options to then click on. Usually, I go to LinkedIn. I don’t hear a name without wanting to go to LinkedIn to get context of who Michelle Huff is. I’m just looking for the dot to connect. Or multiple dots to connect. Because I’m trying to break through to you, and I want it to be about you, not about me. Not about I’m Jill Rowley, I have 52 quarters on quota, I this, I that. No. I want it to be about what we have in common, and the people that we know who are in the same universe, and the things that we care about.
So I go and I look at LinkedIn. I look at things like have people written recommendations for you. And I try to pull from that. Sometimes I’ll find even unique words, like this guy is a mathmologist. I look for things that then I can quote or cite. So I do all the LinkedIn scanning. If you’re on Twitter, oh my, I go look at you on Twitter, and when I follow you on Twitter, it then makes some recommendations of other people I might want to follow. And that’s how I found your husband. So all of a sudden we go from professional to a little bit personal. And then I look at who you’re following. And I start to understand who influences you. Who do you trust? Who do you learn from?
Then beyond that, I’ll look to see if you’ve been quoted in an article. I’ll look to see if you’ve been interviewed, and if you’ve spoken at events. I do a ton of research at that individual Michelle Huff level so that I can really understand who you are and what you care about.
How much time do you dedicate to that for each person?
It depends. It depends on my role as a sales professional and what I’m trying to accomplish, the outcome that I’m trying to get to. So if I’m an SDR and I’m trying to get a meeting, I will do the level of research that I need to secure that meeting. If I’m an enterprise field rep and I’m going in for my 9th meeting with GE, I’m going to do a whole lot more research. For example, I do a ton of work with GE, as I mentioned, and any time that Beth Comstock ‒ their chief of growth and innovation, and their former CMO ‒ any time Beth sends a tweet, I’m notified in real time. So it really depends on my role in sales, how deeply am I building a relationship and how “real time” do I need the information.
What Is Advocacy Marketing?
Your best sales people aren’t on your payroll. They’re your customers who are willing to advocate for your brand, your company, your solution, your people.
I had lunch with Laura Ramos, she’s the VP of research, analyst at Forrester. And she wrote a research report on advocate marketing. And we had a real blunt conversation. I’m a huge believer in advocate marketing. And I don’t think enough companies are investing in it at all. But the first problem that we normally see when companies are investing in advocate marketing is they’re so focused on how do we get something out of our advocates, not how do we be the best advocate of and for our customer.
And that’s how you earn advocacy. And I think that starts all the way from you can’t have crappy products, you can’t have false advertising in marketing, you can’t have reps selling bad deals to bad-fit customers. One of the things I think salespeople don’t do enough of is building relationships based on what I call a “give to give” mindset, a cultural value system, if you will, of “I’m going to give value without any expectation in return of getting anything.” And the excessive generosity of giving value is not really understood by sales professionals because we’re often a victim of the quarterly number.
And I think it’s a widespread problem at a rep level and at a leadership level, of being accountable for a number, and not thinking enough in investing in that longer-term relationship, and giving value regardless. I’m not saying a rep gives value to anybody and everybody. It really needs to be in that here’s my ideal customer, I understand it so well that I’m giving value to anybody who fits that ideal customer profile. It isn’t just everybody in the whole world.
It’s alignment. It’s marketing focusing on the same person that sales is focusing on, and the product team building for that person too. And that’s how you make sure your promise to the market, what you’re fulfilling, that relationship is kind of consistent from end to end.
And understanding all the way to the expand and the advocacy, who are we as a company delivering the most value to. Who are we delivering the most value to, and understanding why we’re delivering the most value to them, and how we’re delivering the most value to them, and then feeding that into your marketing strategy, and into your sales strategy. You might have a new vertical industry that starts to emerge based on understanding from the customer success team, that this is a new area that we don’t have many customers like this, but we’re delivering so much value for this customer, we should go get more of these. And that’s where technology can help, too, with predictive, and lookalikes, and stuff like that.
The Role of Marketing Automation
I guess since we talked technology and given my space, how do you see marketing automation playing in all of this?
I think it’s the foundation. I mean I absolutely think marketing automation has that customer data. And ensuring that your marketing automation system is well-coordinated with your CRM system, so that you do have that closed loop in understanding from brand to demand to expand to advocacy, that you can analyze those metrics. It still baffles me how few companies – how there are so many companies who haven’t even invested [in marketing automation].
There was a recent Forrester report that revealed 25 percent of non-high tech companies have even implemented marketing automation. And then I think Sirius just recently said of the people who purchased, 50 percent are rethinking their existing implementation. I think a lot of it does come back to what’s the plan for it, how are they wanting to use it.
Same thing with what I’m trying to do in sales, and trying to drive from analog to digital, trying to drive from steak dinners and golf to social networks and such, to drive from social selling as something that an individual does to something that an organization does, and coordinates it with marketing and sales, and training and enablement. It takes functional discipline and it takes individuals who have the skillset of bringing process, bringing data, bringing infrastructure, and bringing cross-functional collaboration into the organization. It all comes back down to people, not technology.
To wrap up, one final question. What are three things we should know? This could be B2B, sales, marketing related, anything that you want to discuss.
I think the most successful people, whether you’re in sales or marketing, whether you’re the president of the PTA, whether you’re raising money for art, the most successful people, they share their knowledge with others. They share their network with others. And they care. They truly care about helping other people. And it’s amazing when you focus on how you can help, versus how you can market, how you can sell the results that you’ll achieve. I would say in anything you do, figure out how you share your knowledge ‒ because knowledge is power ‒ how you share your network, how you be a resource, a connector, and truly caring. If you’re in sales and you don’t care about how you help customers and you’re doing it for the money, get out. The world doesn’t need you in that capacity.
Find something you care about. And I think that’s applicable above and beyond just the work. It’s great advice. And thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast. I really enjoyed our conversation.
It was so fun, Michelle.