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Bill Banham: An employer brand is an organisation’s personality and proposition. An employer brand not only helps attract top talent but, when done right, it supports the sales process.
Your employer brand is your voice, your values, your ethos and offer. It’s the messages you give out across every media channel at every online touch point in the employee lifecycle.
In this episode of the CPSA's Social Media and Tech podcast, we will be considering How To Create A Powerful Online Employer Brand. We'll discuss what the role of the employer brand in attracting top talent, how salespeople can leverage a strong company brand to grow sales and the consequences of not projecting an attractive, authentic brand identity.
Our guest today is Jamie Shanks. Jamie is one of North America’s leading Social Selling experts. He has personally built Social Selling solutions in nearly every industry, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations.
Before starting his first sales agency, Toronto-based Jamie was the Director of Sales at two software companies. Jamie has trained 1,000’s of sales professionals from Fortune 500 companies to solopreneurs.
Welcome Jamie. Thanks for being with us today. Please tell our listeners about yourself and SalesForLife.
Bill Banham: Welcome Jamie, thanks for being with us today. Please start by telling our listeners a bit about yourself and Sales for Life.
Jamie Shanks: Fantastic. My name is Jamie Shanks. I am the CEO of Sales for Life. We are the world's largest management consulting firm on the topic of Social Selling. It's a niche within a niche.
We built this curriculum we call Social Selling Mastery and 70,000 plus sales and marketing professionals world-wide have been trained on this certification program. What it's meant to do is help sales professionals, their leadership, marketing and sales enablement all build an ecosystem that ensures you build a greater pipeline, shortening the velocity of the sales deals, winning the mindshare of your customer, all while leveraging digital technology like social media.
Bill Banham: Today we're focusing on a particular type of social selling if you will. It's the projection of the employer brand online. To start with, can you tell us what, in your opinion, is an employer brand.
Jamie Shanks: It is, I consider it a business within a business. I have been an employee. I've also been an employer and I encourage my employees to build a brand within a brand because people buy from people first.
Fundamentally, when a customer is doing business with my company, or our customers, the reality is they're buying into that sales professional that they like and they trust and that they feel has added enough value that they can say to themselves, "I want to partner with this firm because this organization is going to help me through my questions and concerns."
To answer your question the simplest way is you're a brand, so you are a business within a business and your ecosystem might be one account or it could be hundreds of accounts. But, that is your business.
Bill Banham: Okay. So there's a fundamental importance in the sales person developing their personal brand to reinforce sales and the company but let's focus for the time being on the employer brand itself. The overarching company brand. Why is it important to create that employer brand?
Jamie Shanks: Because the reality is the mindshare of the customer is being pulled in a thousand directions and the choice used to be, it used to be where the customer would bring in a business and then that business was providing new ideas and insights in the boardroom. Right? So a presentation would click on and that company would provide all kinds of new data and insights that frankly, the customer didn't know was happening within their industry or their ecosystem.
Now it's caveat venditor. Let the seller be aware that the employer, the business, could be Googled, can do competitive analysis online. The reality is the buyer knows as much about the business as they think they need before they need to place a call or do business with that company.
As an entrepreneurial business you have to recognize that the mindshare of that customer is being pulled not only to your direct competitors, but to like-minded businesses and other initiatives. You're fighting for wallet-share. And wallet-share requires you to be top of mind at all times. Otherwise, like a cat with a string it just migrates to other places.
Bill Banham: I'm loving these terms, Jamie. Wallet-share, like a cat on a string, this is great.
You write a lot on the Sales for Life blog about how Social Selling isn't really about selling per se. Rather it's about being up front, authentic, having real conversations, understanding the needs of the long-tail of audience niches out there. How does this principle of authenticity and being seen as a resource show itself in an employer brand strategy?
Jamie Shanks: Yup. So, first thing with an employer brand strategy and whether you're an employer of one or an employer of many, I think back to how we started this business and I recognized that I needed to be what's called a content concierge.
Whenever an organization goes through a digital transformation a lot of the ideas and the intellectual property and the insights, they're not accustomed to putting out in the public market. So this is a new venture for them so what they'll end up doing is curating other people's great ideas. Because your customer is still thirsty for this knowledge. They're looking for somebody to arm them with enough information to make informed decisions.
So, your first step is you could say to yourself, "Okay, I need to identify who my ideal customer is. And I need to be the gateway of bringing them new ideas that they frankly never would have found on their own or thought of on their own. I've kind of pushed them off their status quo. The employer brand has the ability to be that digital newspaper. That's what it is. You become this digital newspaper in which the customer can learn about a topic. And over time, you can then start shaping your own original insights based on derivatives from other people's curated insights. And that's what we did.
We didn't have ideas ourselves at first. But the more we learnt about our industry and our customers and the ecosystem, we saw what other people were publishing and we said, "Well, we have a different spin on it. Or a different opinion. Or we can elaborate on it." And that's where our original content derived from.
Bill Banham:Let's now switch back a wee bit and talk about the attraction of an employer brand to potential candidates. In your opinion, how important is the employer brand to a sales person looking for their next job, or maybe their first job. So for example, if a company does a bad job of letting people know that they offer top commissions, benefit packages, training and so on, are they less likely to get at the purple squirrels, those top candidates? Or, are today's salespeople looking for more than the traditional messages of commissions and benefits and opportunities to make lots of money.
Jamie Shanks: I think that it is going to be one of the most profound shifts in the talent migration business or recruiting business ever in its history. And I have a theory on it that we've only begun testing, but the reality is I haven't been able to put it into full motion.
I am a huge believer that a great top employer from a brand standpoint will become, as an individual named Grant Cardone would quote, "Become a lighthouse, not a tugboat." And what he means by that-and Gary Vaynerchuk at VaynerMedia's done a fantastic job of this where they get 8,000 resumes a month. And they have people who volunteer to work there for free. And why? Because what they did online is they made themselves a destination.
I want you to picture three circles. This is my theory and this is what we wanted to do at Sales for Life as we grow. Picture these three circles, one bigger than the other. The first is stories about what it's like to work in a service based business at Sales for Life.
The next circle might be a little bit larger on the sales and marketing community in the Social Selling community.
And then the third circle is what it's like to live in Toronto and be in an entrepreneurial environment in the city of Toronto or in Canada.
In all three of these circles you are leveraging digital assets. Whether those are videos or photos or infographics. And you're constantly peppering the market and showing a day in the life of what that sales professional's actually, what their life would be like.
And I'm a believer that in the future a sales professional will shop from company to company, much like you shop for a home online. You will go online. You will experience the 360 view. You'll have all kinds of data points that will give you a sense of what it's like to live in that neighbourhood before you've even lived in that neighbourhood.
And I'm a believer that the future sales professional will have wanted to feel like they have lived virtually through the experience of working at that company, before they sign on the dotted line. Because otherwise the devil you know will be better than the devil you don't know. And so companies that can perfect this, and make the future candidates feel like, "I have to go work there. I've been watching them for six months or a year. This is the kind of culture I want to be part of." That's what I believe will be the biggest migration in the talent space in recruiting ever.
Bill Banham: So the secret sauce here is to be able to project your brand in a way that is engaging, it's different, it's attractive. But as an entrepreneur yourself, do you believe that start-ups, solopreneurs, and other new brands can really compete with the bigger brands when it comes to the time investment, the money investment on social media platforms to be out there at all times and saying the right things?
Jamie Shanks: 100%. But you have to - and I had this conversation only a couple weeks ago with somebody. I'm going to use our business. 20 employees. Okay? So we're a multi-million dollar business but we're not a billion dollar business. So I can't compete in the city of Toronto against Salesforce, or NetSuite, or Oracle so I have to look at my strengths.
So the type of candidate that would want to work here at Sales for Life is somebody that wants the ability to know what it's like to be an entrepreneur because they want to be an entrepreneur one day. So we'll be so open-book and transparent that they'll know what's in the bank account at any given time. And they can make decisions on not only their own little business unit, but they can see day in day out what it's like for one day when they become an entrepreneur.
So I can sell that as my strength. What it would weed out is people that are the company man or lady wouldn't survive in this type of environment. And anybody that's shopping solely on price, I'm going to lose 100 times out of 100. So what I need to do is online, and then of course as you get the opportunity to move from online to offline, you need to constantly be demonstrating the strength that you have. The reason you would want to come there. And you can become a lighthouse for those types of people.
When we were two people, and then we got a third and a fourth and fifth, every person that's ever come on board here. Of course they're being recruited by SalesForce or bigger companies. But the reason they're here is because five years, 10 years, 20 years from now, they will all become entrepreneurs themselves.
Bill Banham: Thank you very much. Great answer. Let's now talk a little bit more about something we touched upon near the beginning of this show. And that's the benefits of kind of a two-pronged strategy if you like in terms of developing one's personal brand and having a very strong company brand to back them up.
What are the benefits of a strong company brand to a sales person seeking to leverage their company's reputation to grow revenues?
Jamie Shanks: The ability to create consistent inbound lead-flow would probably be the biggest. That the stronger the company's brand, the stronger that company will create inbound leads. But the second is if you're doing account based selling, it's that brand recognition. It's the complete understanding from the person you're speaking to. What you do, why you do it and how you do it. In my space, it is frustrating sometimes. You're four years in and you recognize that even in a business like ours, that most people can't tell you the definition of Social Selling. Let alone know who Sales for Life is.
So the bigger you make your brand, the easier it makes for those first precious seconds when you're talking to a prospective buyer to say, "Why should you listen to me?"
Bill Banham: So conversely, and I suspect I can guess at part of the answer here but, what are the possible consequences of a weak or poorly maintained online company brand in terms of sales persons seeking to leverage that brand to grow their own personal brand?
Jamie Shanks: Yeah, and I feel sorry for sales professionals who are in a position where they're working for a company that has little to no brand recognition. And has no interest in changing their digital presence. And are perhaps competing against bigger entities because you're fighting the ultimate uphill battle. You have a company that is trying to steam-or it's not even trying. It has become incognito despite itself and you as a sales professional have to, like a sledge hammer, bang your way into companies. And create awareness where you could have greased that process so much easier if you had've been educating them, engaging them online, building a digital reputation.
So that you can identify the co-at first you can go after the companies that are showing expressed interest in your business. You don't just have to pick up the phone book and call A through Z. You now can concentrate first on the companies that are interested in you. And then, as you grow a customer base, you can then start doing account-based selling, where you're targeting the types of customers you want. But it's typically based on the industries that you best serve.
It's just like hitting your head against a wall if you have no online presence.
Bill Banham: What two or three things would you suggest to a sales person to speak to their marketing teams about, to ensure an engaging online brand. What two or three activities should a sales person check in with their marketing team to ensure are happening there to reinforce that brand?
Jamie Shanks: Well the very first thing that they should be doing-so one, I'll give you two pieces. One is going to be strategic and one is going to be tactical.
From a strategic standpoint the marketing team has to recognize that the way they're being measured, and the way that they're marketing today, is useless. What I mean by that is the marketing team, if you were to ask them, pull them in a room and say, "Okay. I want you to try to figure out and ask us, sales professionals, what percentage of quota attainment, sales like revenue and sales, do you think is being either directly influenced - created by marketing - or sorry, sourced, or influenced in attributed by marketing?" And marketing doesn't think like this. Right? They're used to looking at impressions and clicks and views, which are so leading indicator, so top of the funnel. Not what a sales professional is measured on which is sales.
So from a strategic standpoint, you have to put the chief marketing officer and the chief sales officer in the room. And the chief marketing officer has to interview that sales leader and say, "Okay. What is your sales quota this year?. How many deals do you need, how many net new customers do you need to achieve that based on your average conversion rates? And what percentage of those deals did you think was going to come from my team? From marketing?"
We do this exercise with customers all the time, it's such a wake-up call. For some companies that might be 10% all the way to some companies are at 80% is what they expected from marketing. But that shortfall is the delta in which marketing needs to think of themselves like a digital agency and start building insights at the volume, velocity and probability that actually give the sales team a fighting chance to hit sales quota. Based on what the sales team thought they were going to be delivered from marketing. So that's the strategic side.
From the tactical side, the number one source for intellectual property in your company is your sales professionals. Your sales professionals are hearing the pitfalls, the objection, the best practices, everything your customer is talking about is inside your sales professionals' heads.
So what sales can do, and we call this window time, is book five minute calls with marketing professionals where marketing, just like this podcast, will ask them a series of questions. And the sales professional just needs to talk. But that conversation gets recorded. And you do this at scale. Sales rep one tells you the top three challenges that their customers are having. Sales rep two talks about the five ways to implement XYZ.
And all of a sudden you record it. You move it from a recording to speech-to-text and now you have a blog. And you do this at scale. And you can go from one blog a week to one blog a day, like us. And all of a sudden you become an insights factory. You start creating intellectual property at scale and it's coming from the best source of intellectual property because it's the boots on the ground intellectual property. And now marketing doesn't have to make up blogs. They can just shoot out what sales knows is what the customer wants to hear.
I hope that helped. Kind of a strategic side and a tactical side.
Bill Banham: It was awesome, thank you. And I think we've identified one or two potential subjects for a follow up podcast with you in the future, around how to enhance the brand by a better collaboration between marketing and sales, perhaps.
Jamie Shanks: That is the ultimate for Social Selling.
Bill Banham: For now, however, we're wrapping up so I'd just like to say Jamie Shanks, thank you so much for joining the CPSA Social Media and Tech podcast.
Jamie Shanks: Thank you so much for the invite.
Bill Banham: And listeners until next time, this has been your host Bill Banham with the Social Media and Tech podcast.
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