Hear me out for a moment — we’re going to take our salesperson hat off and are going to tap into our marketing alter-egos (briefly, I promise).
Over the past decade, the rise of social media and the emerging field of influencer marketing has turned how companies advertise and sell their products upside down. Between 2014 and 2019, the increase in influencer marketing spend mirrored the decrease in print advertising spend. With this in mind, it’s no secret internet influence has been on the rise for years.
Let’s also take into account social media usage. At the start of 2020, there were over 3.8 billion active social media users globally, with 99% of social media users accessing their platforms from mobile devices, making the content they consume via social media constantly accessible for nearly half the world’s population.
Taking these data points into consideration, it is important to understand that influence can take form in a number of ways and isn’t necessarily reduced to influencers sharing sponsored content in hopes of selling products on Instagram.
Now go ahead and put your salesperson hat back on so we can talk about what it means to be a sales industry influencer.
Though you won’t see them sharing Instagrammable content promoting specific products and services, online sales influencers provide valuable thought leadership and insights from their expertise to motivate and inspire others in their field.
Wonder what it takes to become a sales industry influencer? Here are some common traits influential salespeople have in common.
Qualities of Sales Industry Influencers
Industry knowledge and experience.
A clear, defined niche.
The ability to motivate others to take action.
They are compelling storytellers.
Consistently provide value to their audience.
1. Industry knowledge and experience.
Though there are influential salespeople who are at different points in their careers, they all have a love for sales and a deep sense of industry knowledge. You don’t necessarily need to have had a decades-long sales career to inspire and motivate your peers, however, you do need to have a proven track record of effective sales performance under your belt.
If you’re relatively new in your sales career, that doesn’t mean you can’t build influence from where you are. However, it does mean you should focus on dedicating time to learn the ins and outs of where the industry has been and where it is going to make yourself more credible and knowledgeable.
2. A clear, defined niche.
What area of sales do you specialize in? Are you a SaaS pro? Do you have extensive experience leading B2B sales teams? Do you have a proven method for developing new sales reps into all-stars?
Whatever your specialty is, lean into it heavily to differentiate yourself and build your influence. By having a specific area of expertise, you can become a go-to for your niche. Having a well-defined niche is particularly helpful for booking speaking opportunities and features focused on specific topics, which provides valuable exposure helping you build and share your message.
3. The ability to motivate others to take action.
Sales industry influencers aren’t only sharing their knowledge and expertise, they also inspire others to act.
The ability to motivate and inspire others is critical for building influence in the sales space, and by sharing content that is designed to support and inspire your sales peers you can build a strong online presence. As you look to build influence, include calls-to-action that can empower your peers to actively engage with what you are sharing.
4. They are compelling storytellers.
Think of the most influential people you know — what comes to mind? Did you immediately think of their personal story or of a story you have heard them tell? If so, that’s not by accident.
Effective storytelling is critical for building influence. Whether an influential individual has mastered how to tell their own personal story in an interesting, compelling way or can skillfully tell the stories of others in an engaging manner, the ability to connect with others through story is critical for building trust and influence on and offline.
5. Consistently provide value to their audience.
One of the most effective ways to gain influence, especially in 2020, is to consistently provide value to others. Many online influencers build a following by sharing content that appeals to their audience. Whether they share tangible sales tips, lessons learned from good and bad deals, or data that is hard to come by anywhere else, influential individuals have mastered the art of providing value to others.
By sharing content that supports the goals and objectives of your audience, you give others a reason to follow and engage with you. It also creates an exchange with your audience — you are providing valuable information with them in exchange for their attention and engagement.
Influential individuals tend to be one step ahead. They rely on fresh, emerging data and insights to lead their industry on what’s next.
As you share content and information related to your niche, constantly be on the lookout for evidence-based data that has not been widely shared. If you can stay ahead of the pack and are among the first to know about relevant data and trends, this can give you a major upper-hand in building your influence online.
How to Build An Online Presence, According to Notable Sales Experts
We talked to some movers and shakers in the online space to learn how they put these qualities to use to build influence and authority online. Here’s what they had to say.
"I read ‘Naked Conversations’ written by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel almost 15 years ago. They said to stop being 'salesy' and start being real, and that advice has stuck with me. Connecting with people online means you have to be vulnerable and open in your conversations. The internet is an intimate place to communicate. It helps to see the connections you make on platforms like LinkedIn as real people not just likes or followers.
To break through the noise, the fastest route is straight to heart.
Sales has changed fundamentally, especially in the last couple of years. The most surprising thing about sales today is that even the most aggressive sales organizations have to think deeply about being authentic in every interaction. Anything that can bring you closer to the customer’s point of view is valuable. That includes the medium. For example, I use video a lot because it is more personal.
If I put information out for others to consume, I want it to count in a stream of information. Perfection isn’t necessary, but being as genuine as you'd be with a friend or family member is important.
Both of my parents are poets, and being an Irishman, I love to tell stories. Storytelling is essential to sales, and influence happens through being able to structure a story in a way that makes someone feel like this is their story, that they’re the hero, and that you understand where they are coming from.
To break through all the noise out there, the fastest route is straight to the heart. Do your research, understand your audience, then help as much as possible."
"Creating an online presence is a team sport. We encourage everyone on the team, from sales to engineering, to contribute to our online brand and work together as a team to create momentum.
Internally, we have a Slack channel to support the social posts that team members create. This provides internal visibility to brand building and allows the team to support one another. Early likes and comments from the team also help the post perform.
If you care deeply about a topic, it’ll be easier to write about and will be more interesting for your audience.
My best advice for those looking to build an online presence is to not use their platform to sell. Seriously, don't sell. Sales calls and recorded demos are the time to sell. Creating an online brand is the long-game and it’s not about the transaction. If your social posts have a hint of sales, people will eventually tune out.
Write about the things you care deeply about — not the things that you think will generate buzz. If you care deeply about a topic, it'll be easier to write about and will be more interesting to your audience.
Lastly, don't overthink it. At Vendr, we use a buddy system where a team member edits for grammar before the writer presses send. Overthinking will lead to fewer posts, which leads to less engagement. Be genuine, be consistent, leverage your team, and watch the audience grow."
"I had 35 years of experience in sales, sales management, and executive sales before I started publishing content in 2010. It started when a super-smart, new hire from the HubSpot Sales Blog team, Leslie Ye sent out an email asking for help from the sales team.
She was hired to write about sales and wanted to get some real-life experience. She was a great writer and editor and she had a way of constructing my thoughts into a logical progression, which was no small task. So we started meeting every other week and publishing the result on the HubSpot Sales Blog.
Together, we had a great cadence for creating content. Leslie would explain the goal of the article. I would talk and Leslie would write on the board or in a notebook, and she would use our discussions to craft written content.
Start with the goal of the content, and build from there.
Over time we collaborated on dozens of articles. Many of them were amplified on HubSpot’s social media channels, which provided great visibility. I started getting opportunities to participate in podcasts, webinars, and other sales platforms. Most of the things that we wrote about were topics that we learned in the sales motion throughout HubSpot’s scale from zero to $500 million.
Leslie and I spoke about it at INBOUND ‘16, and it turns out she is as good a public speaker as she is a blog writer, editor, and thought leader.
My advice to building influence in the sales field:
Stick to your area of expertise.
Start with the goal of the content and build from there.
Think about the best way to emphasize important points, and make sure your content is easy to understand.
Publish and use social media to amplify your message.
Be prepared for haters and people looking to antagonize — it comes with the territory.
Plan out at least 24 postings in advance so you can share consistently.
If you are going to blog, include quality images — images are incredibly valuable for making your content easy to consume and eye-catching."
Ultimately being an online sales influencer is about leveraging your knowledge and expertise to support, motivate, and inspire others in your field.
While having a strong online presence may not be what helps you close more deals, it can help you gain valuable opportunities and exposure to make you a more well-rounded sales professional.
Originally published Jul 14, 2020 7:30:00 AM, updated July 14 2020