General Electric: BtoB social selling — Live from Member Meeting 31

Coverage of this session by Sharon Gilmartin of Connect with her by following her on Twitter.

1:30 —'s Patrick Higgins introduces General Electric's Global Manager, Digital Strategy, Rich Narasaki.

1:31 —  Rich: People think of GE as consumer products, like light bulbs or appliances, but that's only 5% of our business. The rest is industry.

1:33 —  Rich: Have sold industry-wide products like gas turbines through social media channels – an unexpected benefit of social.

1:35 —  It's about where your customers are and where the conversations are happening. Social is less about the transactions and more about opportunities to enter the sales cycle. Time for examples!

1:37 —  Rich: Example one: Go where the fish are feeding. Interpretation: Pay attention to your company's social graph. Example two: Let the fish come to you. Interpretation: Build trust and nurture. Example three: Wait for the fish. Interpretation: Listen for leads.

1:38 — More on example one: Your company's social graph leverages your network. LinkedIn is a no-brainer for this.

1:40 —  Rich: GE's Social Graph includes over 300K employees, 160K of whom are on business networking sites. Using LinkedIn and other networking sites facilitates the connections between your company and the people you're trying to reach.

1:42 —  When using your network to connect with new people, ask questions to make the connection more meaningful the same way you would in an offline conversation. GE has seen nine digits in revenue thanks to this model. Don't underestimate the value of your company's social graph!

1:44 —  Rich gives an example of when nurturing trust happened in Australia with many mid-market companies who were looking for thought leadership. GE found what was of most interest for them and responded to those needs by building and hosting a closed community for them to engage with each other. Keeping it a closed community was key.

1:45 —  The payoff from this community is that GE harnessed two “warm” leads per week through this community.

1:46 —  Rich says listening for leads is GE's newest area. They had sales people go into online communities to listen, and they found that there were many opportunities for them to engage, including sales, that they had no idea about.

1:49 —  Key points: know where your audience is engaged. For GE, it's LinkedIn. Then, establish contacts. Don't reach out to people out of the blue. Finally, be patient enough to nurture relationships and maintain your company's reputation throughout the process.

Q & A:

Q: How many of your salesforce were already using their social graph? How did you attribute ROI to that program?

A: Rich: “A few” of GE's salespeople were evangelists, less than 50 people. That highlighted the opportunities, and those evangelists got the program up and running. GE measured and attributed return based off of initial contacts. No clear way to measure, and it's difficult to track, but it's a great source of leads.

Q: How many LinkedIn groups do you have and who serves as moderator or admin?

A: Rich: Several dozen with varying levels of sophistication. About 10 are managed closely, each with a community manager and a well thought out goal or strategy. Community Managers are the ones who keep people engaged, but it doesn't have to be full-time work. It can be a matter of hours a week.

Q: How do you get your employees not on business networks to engage?

A: Rich: We at GE are a competitive bunch, so the competitiveness helped drive momentum and increase activity. We did a company-wide, month-long promotion encouraging employees to join LinkedIn. We helped them create a profile and understand SEO.

Q: Was there any opposition when you went through connections to build other connections? If so, how did you handle that?

A: Rich: There was a little bit of that, but many key clients had several connections across GE. Doing a warm reach out and saying you want to be collaborative helps build the relationship within your own contacts and makes people more willing to help.

Q: How would you follow up with the leads once sales has initially contacted them to get credit for social leads?

A: Rich: Tracking is difficult and it's very manual. It rests heavily on your sales team and the quality of their records. It's an ongoing and continual effort.