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Things You Didn’t Know About “Social Selling” An interview with Apurva Chamaria

Apurva Chamaria, Vice President and head of global brand, digital, content marketing and marketing communications for HCL Technologies, a 7 Bn US$ global IT major. Under his leadership, HCL became the fastest growing brand in the Inter-brand top Indian brands league table for 2 years in a row (No. 18 in 2015) and debuted in the Brand Finance Global 500 2015 league table at No. 497 with a brand value of 3.1 Bn US$. In the last 2 years the HCL campaigns have won 70 prestigious global and regional brand and marketing awards. In his 11 years at HCL, he’s performed various roles including being CEO Vineet Nayar’s EA, Sales Director at HCL America, driving business development and leading Marketing and Strategy for Enterprise Applications Business.

Tejas: What inspired you to write on “Social Selling”?

Apurva: I first discovered social selling in Jan 2012 while researching on how to bridge the gap between sales and marketing. I was immediately struck by the power of the concept and realized that there was little information available on how to learn and then successfully implement social selling for your organization. I spoke to many global social selling experts and companies who were experimenting with social selling with varying degrees of success in the absence of a well-defined process and a guide for social selling. This inspired me to first learn, then implement, then consult and finally write the book.

Tejas: How is “You Are The Key” different from other books on social media?

· Practitioner’s written social selling book: This book has been written by practitioners who have implemented social selling for a $6.8 billion, G2000 Company spread across 31 countries. There were multiple learning’s during the implementation which have been incorporated in the book. All concepts mentioned in the book have been applied, tested and modified based on the experience and outcome.

· Enterprise social selling framework: This book provides a practical approach to launch the social selling program for an enterprise. Enterprise social selling framework defines the roles & responsibilities of the various stakeholders, governance framework, which if followed properly can assure successful adoption of the social selling program.

· Structured approach: The success of social-centered selling depends on the adoption of training for which an organization needs to follow a structured approach. “You are the Key” book contains a structured approach which starts with the basics and goes on to a step by step of social selling process which makes it easier to apply in practice. This book has been written keeping in mind beginners as well as an experienced audience.

· Peer reviewed: Senior professionals from the industry have reviewed & shared feedback on this book. All the feedback is based on practical situations & experiences in social selling field.

· This book can also be used as social media book as it coaches the reader about B2B social media

Tejas: What are the 3 key takeaways from the book?

Apurva: The top 3 takeaways from the book are:

1. All the world has become social so if you are not leveraging social as a business development tool, you are fast getting left behind.

2. The sales world was always about “ABC = Always be Closing” — it’s now moved to “ABC — Always be Connecting”. Sales People who don’t realize it risk being extinct.

3. It’s no longer about interrupting, pitching and closing. It’s about listening, diagnosing and prescribing”.

Tejas: Share 2 of your favorite Social Selling case studies? What do you like the most about them?

1. HCL Technologies because it’s global social selling program increased LinkedIn engagement by 31x and 350 Mn US$ of new order booking was influenced.

2. IBM because they were one of the earliest to adopt social selling and trained more than 1700 sales executives even in the pilot program which they later scaled up.

Tejas: According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes which social media marketers are making today?

1. Very Little Interaction — Social Media Marketers forget that you should never do those things on social media that you would not do in real life. They become guilty of just broad-casting and not really participating in conversation. Lack of conversation with your clients and followers decreases value of your social presence and you don’t build on valuable relationships.

2. Spamming -The other mistake people make is to throw links on the internet on all the social networks. Why post irrelevant links? They never work without a context and a story which engages users.

3. Using excessive hash-tags which dilutes their utility.

Tejas: “Content Curation, Creation and Publishing” out of these 3 which is most important for selling something online?

I would say Content Creation because Content Creation doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people who are not in the habit of writing. If thought-leadership is defined as the company you keep than by curating and publishing content from thought-leaders you are sending out a message that you are well-read and informed on the topics / topics you want to be known for..

Tejas: How do you think “Big Data” would impact Social Selling in the future?

Apurva: Big Data would impact Social Selling in the many ways. While there is no limit to the breadth and granularity of information that can be gleaned from Big Data marketing analytics, marketers should at a minimum be looking to gain the following insights from data listening:

· Buyers are of various types but generally can be standardized to comprehensible “buyer personas” that marketing and sales teams can watch for, understand and serve.

· Find out what the various buyer personas are saying about your brand and products (and those of your competitors!)

· Find out what needs and products are trending and what buyers are asking for and complaining about online.

· Analyze data to see which sources of information various buyer personas turn to, and which information is most influential upon their purchase decisions.

· Path to purchase — identification of the unique steps a buyer takes from inception to purchase. Knowing how buyers gather information, establish options and make decisions is the critical context that makes social selling programs tick.

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