Building an Empire
WHAT A YEAR
Empire Selling has just completed its first 12 months in business and what a ride it has been. Our mission was to provide critical social selling and marketing training to employees at companies around the world. We ended 2018 having provided classroom training to more than 2,000 employees at companies ranging from small startups in New York to Fortune 100 companies including American Express and MasterCard. We even got to visit Sydney, Australia and hang out with SAP.
In 2012, I had the honor of launching LinkedIn’s own social selling business and bringing LinkedIn Sales Navigator to market. It was one of the proudest moments of my career up to that point.
Despite being an industry changing product, one of the biggest challenges for Sales Navigator customers was driving adoption of the product. Sales leaders could see the value but struggled to get sellers to leverage it effectively. At LinkedIn, we were able to provide some level of support through a small team of Sales Product Consultants (SPC) and the InStruct program. Unfortunately it had to be generic enough to allow us to scale the limited SPCs and we were forced to focus heavily on features and functionality.
Empire, as a concept, was conceived during those early years at LinkedIn. I saw an obvious gap in the market to provide highly customized social selling and marketing training to companies for LinkedIn Sales Navigator, but importantly for LinkedIn as a networking platform too.
THE EARLY CONCEPTS
An early concept for a training topic was around how to leverage LinkedIn to shorten the time to trust. In a series of experiments studying judgement from facial appearances, Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found it only takes 100 milliseconds to form an impression of someone from just looking at a photo of their face. Some 80% to 90% of that first impression is based on just two qualities—trustworthiness and competence.
The concept developed from the importance of a photograph to the entire profile. Think about this. Most people join LinkedIn to get a job or change jobs. They upload their resumes which become their LinkedIn profiles. By definition, a resume details tactical responsibilities (i.e. prospecting, managing accounts, closing) and key achievements (i.e. performance against quotas and attendance at Presidents Clubs). My hypothesis was that buyers would more likely want to engage with the seller if she read about the seller’s passion and rich history of helping other customers just like her achieve their goals combined with customer case studies and videos. This was the realization that a specific program was needed to teach sales people how to elevate themselves in the mind’s of their buyers from ‘typical sales people’ just wanting to make a sale to ‘trusted advisors’ with the interests of their customers as their number one priority.
My passion project had begun. I set out to design a prescriptive social selling and marketing methodology that companies could simply embed into incumbent methodologies or leverage independently to acquire new customers and deepen relationships with existing customers.
My subsequent experience as VP Sales at Sprinklr expanded my knowledge from social selling with LinkedIn to digital selling and marketing with Twitter, Facebook and 21 other social channels globally, the broader web and mobile technologies.
First order of duty at Sprinklr was to roll out some simple strategies and tactics across the sales team around profile optimization, network building and content sharing. The results were immediate. We started experiencing almost 50% higher response rates to our email and InMail outreach and the opportunities for warm introductions increased more than 10x. We even experienced an increase in inbound leads from potential customers who had read marketing material shared by the sales team.
Next was to pitch LinkedIn Sales Navigator to executive leadership. That was the easy part - we subsequently purchased a license for every member of the sales organization. The challenge came, as suspected, with adoption. So why was adoption poor across other teams around the world? LinkedIn training was not tailored to our sellers, target markets, buying personas, competitive landscape etc. If sales people do not immediately see relevance and applicability, almost all new programs are non-starters. For the next 8 quarters, I tested training concepts, strategies and tactics around LinkedIn and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. I tested material on interns through to our executives.
LinkedIn recognized the success of the Sprinklr digital selling program with 63% of revenue being influenced by my program and 10.4% larger deals. Sprinklr is now valued at $1.8bn.
During my tenure, I ran evening and weekend classes to test the expanded curriculum externally on sales professionals, sales and marketing leaders and executives. I secured the validation required with attendees waxing lyrical about the methodology from companies including Salesforce, Oracle, Amazon, IBIS, Trust Pilot, Global Relay, SaleMove and many more.
Attendees waxed lyrical about the methodology from companies including Salesforce, Oracle, Amazon, IBIS, Trust Pilot, Global Relay, SaleMove and many more. I had the required validation.
“I have a background in social media software and it's strategic use for marketing from previous experience and my background in business school. Recently, I attended the Social Selling Boot Camp by Empire Social Media, ran by Dan. I can easily say that Dan provided more value throughout the night than the courses, articles or experience I've had in the past. He is an authority on Social Selling and really knows his stuff. Not only was the overall strategy insightful and thought-provoking, the tactics and tips he was able to demonstrate made it easy for me to make adjustments with my own social presence and how I approach social selling” - Tom Johnston, Commercial Account Executive, Salesforce
By the end of my tenure at Sprinklr, I had a prescriptive and proven methodology around LinkedIn for both client acquisition and deepening the relationship with existing customers. Giving my notice to Sprinklr in the summer of 2017 was a defining moment in my career. No longer would I be constrained by the limitations of others. My creative juices were flowing. It was go time.
LET’S START WITH THE NAME. WHY EMPIRE SELLING?
LinkedIn is HQ’d in the Empire State Building in New York. Empire Selling was created in New York which is the Empire State. The deeper reason is because of what Empire Selling solves for sales professionals. We, as sales professionals, have to build an empire in a target account or a target region to be successful. We need to build trust. We need to win over detractors. We need be able to find, relate and engage with everyone in today’s consensus purchase. We need to go wide and deep into a company to win new customers. We need to go even wider and deeper to deepen relationships with existing customers. We provide those strategies and tactics to leverage social media and digital more broadly to their advantage and build their Empires.
THE WORLD’S ONLY SOCIAL SELLING AND MARKETING METHODOLOGY
Executives play a critical hands-on role with Empire Selling. Our Executive Program teaches executives how to sponsor programs effectively internally and how to become the face of their organization externally, the voice for their industry, and the catalyst for explosive growth.
“Empire Selling takes ‘social’ to the next phase of maturity, which is a quantum leap ahead, aligning the whole organization around engaging with clients and prospective clients holistically and with authenticity. This means Marketing, Sales, and the Executive team all have a role to play - and that is a real game changing approach” - Pat McCarthy, SVP and General Manager at SAP
Marketing teams learn how to produce content for their sales teams to use at every stage of the socially selling process. Our Consensus Matrix provides marketing teams, for the first time ever, with the ability to map existing assets to a proven social selling requirements matrix. Marketing teams are able to identify gaps and ensure sales teams have the right content and know what assets to use to engage economic buyers, champions and coaches and keep them engaged to close and beyond.
Our Programs teach sales teams and their leaders prescriptive strategies and tactics to engage potential customers and keep them engaged through their buying cycle to close and into their customer journey. They learn how to effectively plan, prioritize and execute activities into their territories, be them geographical or named accounts. We teach them how to find the right people at target companies, relate in ways that differentiate them from the competition and engage in the ways buyers want to be engaged. Sellers use the methodology to build pipeline quickly, shorten sales cycles and maximize deal sizes. Sales leaders learn how to coach and performance manage sales teams against the methodology.
“The sales people that leveraged Empire Selling averaged results almost 20% higher than their peers and our software sales at SAI Global grew 35% year on year” - Michael Orrick, EVP Commercial, SAI Global
Our Advocacy Program educates all employees on their role in advocating for their companies to their own personal and professional networks. It’s the educational step before deploying a technology like LinkedIn Elevate, for example. Employees have to understand the why before being handed technology.
Our goal is simple. To continue to provide classroom training to 5,000 customer facing employees at companies around the world.
We are well on the way and have plans in place to accomplish this goal in the first 6 months of the year. The more people we can train, the more families we can impact. Simple.