Jennifer Roberts

Jennifer Roberts on social selling with LinkedIn at Cisco Systems

Likes and retweets won't build a sales pipeline.

“We've all heard the hype on social selling,” says Jennifer Roberts, Marketing Manager at Cisco Systems.

“But likes and retweets won't build a sales pipeline,” she says.

In her Member Meeting presentation in San Francisco, Jennifer explains that at Cisco, social selling enables their sales reps with new tools and capabilities to reach their customers. Because in the end, she says, “Our sales reps are still Cisco's best brand storytellers.”

Why make the transition to social selling? Because it's where their customers are.

In fact, J.D. Power and Associates reported that 87 percent of their survey respondents said engaging with a brand socially makes them more likely to buy their products.

“How often do you pick up the phone from a number you don't recognize? Social can help our sales reps translate that cold call into a warmer introduction,” Jennifer explains.

By measuring their sales reps activities on LinkedIn, Cisco is able to benchmark against their peers and find new opportunities.

For example, the Social Selling Index is a resource on LinkedIn that ranks the way companies use the platform in their sales process. Using these four components for the sales representative's success, it creates a score:

  1. Have they created a professional brand?
  2. Are they connecting with the right people?
  3. Are the nurturing those relationships?
  4. Are they sharing valuable info?

At Cisco, they use this social selling model based on LinkedIn's Social Selling Index.

Social Selling Model

Executive buy-in and the right training is critical.

“You have to have a have an idea of what you want your executive team to support you with.”

Jennifer explains that to get their approval, figure out the specifics on how your executives can best help you. She also says she can't stress the importance of supportive training enough.

“An effective training program is really what's going to distinguish the success of your program,” she says.

As Cisco's sales reps largely ignored their embedded LinkedIn training, Jennifer says it was more of a cultural change than a technological change that helped them understand social selling. To provide ongoing support at Cisco, they've hired vendors to help them continue to earn adoption and standardize training.

Jennifer says one of her favorite real-world applications of social selling took some innovation.

An effective training program is really what's going to distinguish the success of your program.

One sales rep created two private groups on LinkedIn: one for his customers and one for his partners. On his partner's private group, the sales rep shared stuff like blog materials, product information, and other content for those partners to create their own content. On the customer side, he gave them a safe place to ask questions and get additional insights within the private group.

And while this method wasn't initially part of their social selling training, Jennifer says by giving this rep resource training, he's become one of their most successful use cases on LinkedIn.

“Social should never be used in isolation.”

In another example, one rep used Outlook and to determine who he was connected with and who he wanted to connect with on LinkedIn. Jennifer says that he developed a variety of new contacts, but more importantly, he took time to nurture those relationships.

“It wasn't about the quantity of his network but the quality of his network. Because he got to know those customers and added significant value, he was really able to drive new opportunities and by far had the most success in the program.”

Watch Jennifer's full presentation from our Member Meeting in San Francisco here. You can also follow her on Twitter and ask about her cycling adventures in Boulder, CO. Jennifer's been a member of since 2014.