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Hi there and thank you for listening to The Business Storyteller Podcast! I’m your host, Wilson and in today’s episode, we’re diving into the idea of social selling. What exactly is social selling and why do brands need this as part of their strategy?
This is the question that we’ll answer today and it’s my privilege to speak with an expert on this topic, Joe Escobedo, founder and CEO of Esco Media. Joe is one of Asia’s most respected B2B marketing and sales leaders. He has advised over 12,000 executives, from fast-growing startups to Fortune 500 brands, on building brands and businesses online. On top of that, he has been a contributor for Forbes, Inc, and HuffPost with his articles garnering more than 1 million views.
Hi Joe, welcome to The Business Storyteller Podcast I’m so glad to have you with us today. How are you doing?
Doing good. Thanks for having me, Wilson.
Well, I’ve fairly introduced you a bit, but I’m sure our listeners would love to hear from you directly. Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your career journey and also more about Esco Media?
Yeah, I think you gave a pretty good summary. If I look at my career journey, for those who are interested, I started out as a business journalist many years ago in China. Worked in PR and comms doing B2C for Nike, Mercedes-Benz, and then joined the dark side, B2B about five years ago and I’ve been doing work for a lot of B2B tech companies like Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce. It has been quite a journey over the past, I would say 15 years.
There are a lot of milestones that I’m sure you have achieved throughout the period. Thank you for giving us a short glimpse into your journey so far. Let’s get our conversation started today and we’ll be talking about the what and why of social selling.
For those who are not familiar with the term social selling, can you introduce this concept further to us?
Yeah, so I think there’s a big misconception when it comes to the word social selling because people hear social selling and they think, “I have to use social media to sell my products or services”, and that’s commonly what happens and there’s a lot of bad practices. A lot of executives know – of just getting these spammy InMails or LinkedIn messages from people who are basically trying to push their products upon you. So that has been kind of the traditional idea or misconception of social selling.
But what we try to teach in our training and online is that social media is really a tool to build relationships with your target audiences. It’s as simple as that. It’s about putting the social element back in social selling rather than the selling element. In fact, the selling portion shouldn’t even happen on social media. It should happen offline. Either one-on-one, a catch-up like this, or over coffee. You shouldn’t actually be selling online. What you could be doing your best is just trying to facilitate a meeting, which is honestly the hardest part. The way to break it down in our training is the three C’s of social selling.
So the first thing you need to do is you need to build a credibility. This comes in through your LinkedIn profile, through the content you put out. You need to be making sure that you’re portrayed as someone who’s credible and knowledgeable about your particular industry or particular space.
The second thing we want to look at is once you start to establish that credibility, how can you start amplifying? This is where content comes into play and so that brings to the conversation. Creating great content, like this is a great example, I followed your content. You followed mine. And we naturally just got talking about podcasting and you invited me on your podcast. And so the conversation happens very naturally because you put yourself out creating this content I have as well too and people just gravitate toward people like that.
So, that brings us to the third portion which is conversion. Now, this is the thing that many people jump straight to, so they skipped credibility. they skipped the conversation, and they go straight to conversion. “How can I book a demo with you or how could I book a 15-minute call with you?” And people just aren’t ready I always think about it as the dating analogy. It has been said many times but many salespeople when they’re reaching out, get down on one knee and they are hoping that everyone is going to agree to marry them. Marry them on the first date, which never happens.
So that’s where bringing the three C’s – credibility, conversation, and conversion, which is it could be a podcast partnership like this. It could be a coffee, it could be a one-on-one, whatever it is, but that’s what we’re looking at when we’re talking about conversion. So that’s how I summarize social selling.
Those are really great insights about your three C’s and I think we’ll uncover a bit more about that later on as well, but I love what you said because I think at the basis of all of that you mentioned, it also comes down to trust and relationship with your customers and your audience. I’m keen to learn more from you.
You have been in the marketing industry for close to two decades now. Why do you think brands and businesses should place an emphasis on social selling at the present time?
It’s a very good question. I think, at the end of the day,- it doesn’t matter if you’re in B2C or B2B, particularly in B2B, you’re buying from another person. Now, many people think you might be buying from your organization, but at the end of the day, I’m buying from Wilson. Because I like Wilson, I trust Wilson. I know he can deliver on whatever he promised because I have that existing relationship with him. That’s something that a lot of organizations forget is that people not only buy from your brand name, they also look at who are the people, who are the team is actually delivering upon that promise. I think that’s where social selling and having a face to an organization is really powerful, so that’s one.
The second thing that’s really important is if you look at it from the algorithm, so or fortunately, guessed how you look at it, the LinkedIn algorithm tends to favor more individual posts versus companies. So you can see a company post have let’s say a million followers and maybe two or three people like that. Those two or three people are probably their employees. So whereas you could have maybe a thousand followers and you’re an individual and you could get massive engagement and conversations. Going back to what we’re saying is people relate to people more than they do brands in terms of entity. That’s another advantage is leveraging a team to build up not only the awareness but also get a lot of inbound inquiries.
I think Dreamdata, the team over there does an incredible job at that. Laura, who really kick-started their social selling journey along with their co-founder and CEO has really built up a cultural DNA of everyone sharing not just product stuff because I think everyone gets tired of that. But everyone is generally sharing either insightful data and strategies on analytics, or they’re sharing entertaining memes or GIFs. All the different things that you would want to consume as a prospective buyer. I think they’re a great example of an organization that has done that very well.
I think that you also mentioned that it’s a way of humanizing a brand as well. Putting a face like what you say to a brand. So that is the present but perhaps in the longer term, 10 or 20 years from now, how do you envision the idea of social selling to look like? How is it going to impact businesses and brands?
Very good question. I think you started seeing this in different spaces, particularly in B2C is the concept of more than influencers is content creators. I think eventually more B2B brands will hire people like yourself, Wilson who are content creators, who are able to generate not only the right content, but able to amplify, able to distribute it across relative channels. They are going to become incredibly valuable because if you look at the playbook most B2B companies are doing, it’s the same thing over and over. We run a webinar. You have a landing page. We send follow-ups , etc. But the great thing about content creators is you get to have a unique spin on different things.
I was actually working on a webinar promotion right before this call and the idea was to combine two different concepts, one of which was this idea of the CMO Confessions we’re running with ON24. And it’s a kind of executive chat and I tried to marry that with pop culture. So I found this hilarious movie in which this family is giving these very hilarious takes on their own confessions and trying to melt those together into something that people would actually want to watch. That’s something I’ve done a few times recently and people really like it because it breaks away from the usual, just static images or static posts. I think content creators will become even more powerful and much more sought-after going forward.
I love that insight about the future and what we can foresee the trend would look like as well. Let’s talk a bit more about ‘The 3C Social Selling Framework’ that you have developed. I know that you’ve trained brands to adapt this framework with a lot of success. Would you mind giving us more insight on this? Perhaps you would like to elaborate further on all of this?
I think we have implemented this in multiple organizations but going back to the first C, credibility. One thing we always try to do with all the team members is the top three things you see on your LinkedIn profile are your banner, your profile photo, and then your headline. If you at a bare minimum just update that, that’s already much better than 99% of people because most people just have their name. Maybe a photo that’s five to ten years old. Maybe it’s blurry. And then they have their title. That’s it.
It doesn’t really tell you what is the value add. What we try to do is obviously the bare minimum. Have a photo that portrays who you are. For me, I wear the same shirt in different colors in every episode and most of my talk. So I try to keep that consistent with my own profile photo. I’m usually smiling. That’s kind of my personality. If I look at my banner, my banner is because I host the B2B Marketing Asia podcast as well as develop branded podcasts for other organizations, I have kind of a snapshot of all the different faces that have been on the show. So it’s really about highlighting them, not so much me because people see enough of this ugly face already. We want to highlight some of the people who have been on the guests and so I have that kind of wallpaper as my banner.
And then the headline is one that is quite tricky because it’s very difficult to do from your own point of view. How do you position yourself? One thing I’m working on for a university is how do we take what people are already saying about you? Because if you think about a brand, a brand isn’t what you say about yourself. It’s what people say about you. So I’ll give you a couple of different examples. One of which is people always ask me. I have the moniker next to my name, “B2B brand builder”. Now, I would like to think I thought about that because I’d feel very smart, but that wasn’t the case.
So quick back story is I was creating these superhero names for my colleagues in my previous company. And one was like a digital transformer and one with something else. I asked one of my colleagues, “Hey, how would you best categorize me? What would you give me as a superhero name?” He said, “The brand builder. You’ve helped develop the brand for our company.” I said, “Okay, that has a nice ring to it.” And that has stuck with me for so long to the point where before I introduce myself, I go, “Hi. I’m…” and they go, “You’re the brand builder.” I go, “That’s correct.” So I think having that little moniker has really helped me stand out, particularly with a name that’s not the easiest to remember (Escobedo) or pronounce. So that has really helped me.
The second thing I do is if you look at the headline is gathering all the testimonials, all the things that either your clients, your partners, your bosses, or your peers are saying about you. Categorizing all of that, copying and pasting that into a word cloud. And then once you have that word cloud, you look at the biggest words that are standing out. These are the most common words people are saying about you. One thing I tell myself and others to do is to identify what are the common words people are saying and then sprinkle that in throughout your content.
So if I do my own and I’ve done it recently. I have about 70 testimonials and one thing people keep talking on and on is about practical insights and strategies. That’s something that I wanted to imbue in terms of how we teach and how we educate executives, but I wasn’t sure if that was the messaging. I wasn’t sure if that actually resonated with people. In fact, if I look at what they’re saying, that was the case. I tried to sprinkle that in when people ask me, “What’s your approach to content and what’s your approach to podcasting?” I say we try to make it super practical such that you can apply it to that day. That’s something that once again didn’t come from me. I took it from my client, I took it from my peers and I sprinkle that back into my profile.
Well, I love all the little details and the backstory that you mentioned. Indeed, now when I think about some of the people that I follow on LinkedIn, some of who I would see them as successful branding people or in marketing, they all have all those little monikers as well. So now I can see the details of it and I really appreciate you sharing that insight with us.
In relation to that with ‘The 3C Social Selling Framework’, how has social selling benefited your organization as a brand?
Tremendously. I think every single client that we’ve gotten. Every job I’ve gotten has been through some form of social selling and to remind the audience, my goal was not to get a bunch of clients, was not to build the business crazy. It was to build relationships. And I can tell you, if I look back at my biggest clients, people we work with over the past few years, one thing constantly stands out and that is I actively was interested in them. I found something that they wrote or they commented on, and I was generally impressed with their insights. So that genuine interest, that genuine fascination with them led to natural conversations.
I’ll give you an example. One of our biggest clients for many years, he had written an article on social selling. This was about 6-7 years ago, so he was kind of a pioneer in the space. And when I was writing for Forbes and I said, “Hey, I really like your article. Is it okay if I interview you for an upcoming story I’m doing?” And he said, “Sure. Yeah, happy to.” So we did the story. It went very well. We got along quite well.
And then about a year and a half later, he calls me up out of the blue and he says, “Hey Joe, we’re doing these regional white papers across APAC and EMEA. I thought of you. Do you want it?” And I was like, “Okay sure, happy to take it on.” That led to one of our biggest accounts over about three year period, but it goes back to the goal. The goal here was not to sell him that. If I just came in and said, “Hey, let me sell you our content creation packages.” He might have been like, “I’m getting flooded with these kind of packages. What makes you special?”
But because I was generally interested in him. Once again, I was not trying to sell him anything. I just wanted to compliment him on his work and involve him in a piece. That stood out to him and he said, “I like this approach. I want to work with this person because that is how I like to build relationships. That’s how I like to work with other people.” That has been the biggest factor I think how we’ve grown Esco Media over the past four years. It’s just building relationships with cool people, smart people. That’s how we work.
That’s amazing to hear the insights and how it has benefited you. I think it comes back to what you say in the beginning, that conversion isn’t the main thing. In fact, it’s the last C before the two other C’s. So I think it’s great to be able to hear even from you how it has benefited your own organization.
So now we’ve talked a bit about the benefits of social selling for brands, but I’m sure there are a lot of challenges as well in this road. What do you think are some of the challenges that one has to overcome while doing social selling?
I think there’s a couple different ones. One of which is just the fear of putting yourself out there. I think that’s what stops about 90% of people that I speak with, whether it’s the training or executives who reach out to me. This is not just fresh graduates. These are senior executives, VP’s, directors in their organization. They said, “I’ve been wanting to do a video for years now, but I just don’t feel comfortable. I don’t have the confidence to record the video or even publish it. What I always tell them is at the end of the day, particularly on LinkedIn, no one really wants to see you fail. It’s not like one of those platforms where we’re like we want to mock and ridicule each other. We want to see each other do well, so I think having that in mind is really important.
The second thing to remember is it’s going to sound harsh, but no one cares about you. What I mean is everyone cares about themselves. The reason they are on LinkedIn, the reason they are on Twitter, or whatever platforms is they want to learn. So if you can teach me something, I don’t care if your hair is messy or you have bags under your eyes or your shirt is a bit wrinkled. Whatever it is, I don’t really care. What I care about is, can you teach me something that’s going to make me think in a different way, or it can be something I can apply to my day-to-day job? If you can do that, then you have me. Everything else, I don’t care about. When you think about it from that point of view when you’re creating content, it kind of takes the stress off of you. Because you don’t feel like you have to speak perfectly or you don’t have to look perfectly on camera. You just have to share your insights, your learnings and hope that it resonates with people. So I think that fear is probably the biggest.
And the other thing, which I think is really hard is for people to sustain the momentum. This is where we come in with our training and workshops is how do you build a cohesive content strategy whether it’s from a brand’s point of view or an individual’s point of view? Because I was guilty about this- and I still am to some extent. It’s getting much, much better. It’s talking about specific pillars. When I first started LinkedIn and social selling, I will talk about everything under the sun. I like photography. I like traveling. I like marketing. I like sales. It was all over the place. So now I really try to hone in on what are some of the things where I can add the most value? Things that I’ve actually done. Things like podcasting and writing and training, and then I share those. I try not to deviate too much so people kind of know what they expect from me.
This is a great example. I did a series on social selling. I think I did like 7-8 straight posts and then the amount of inquiries from people saying, “Hey, you do social selling. Can you teach us or can you work with our leadership team and so on?” That has been kind of two obstacles and key learnings for me over the years.
I think it’s so reassuring and encouraging for business leaders to know that there are going to be challenges when it comes to this but also, there are ways to see beyond that. All of us have a certain value or lesson that we can share and something that we can bring to the table for our friends and the network that we have on LinkedIn. I remember I discovered you on LinkedIn also through your posts and seeing your series on social selling and seeing a lot of people commenting on it. “Wow, this guy knows what he’s talking about and I’d love to invite him to be in our podcast.” And here we are today, so it has definitely worked out for you.
So with your years of experience and I’m sure you’ve been speaking with aspiring business leaders. If you could give them three tips for doing social selling successfully, what would that three tips be?
I think it kind of goes back to what we talked about is kind of first know it sounds very cliché but know who your audience is. This is hard to do I think for most entrepreneurs because when you’re starting a business or even for executives, you’re kind of going as wide as possible. You’re saying, I want to relate to everyone because that’s how I’m gonna grab a bigger audience, but in reality that doesn’t work. So really going into a niche audience. In my case, I started the B2B Marketing Asia podcast because there are a lot of marketing-related podcasters. Some B2B, but they are either US or Europe. I really wanted to hone in on B2B marketers in Asia Pacific because once again that’s where my expertise is. That’s where I’m fascinated. That’s where I think that it’s under leverage in terms of the quality of speakers. So the first thing is really having a clear understanding on who your target audience is and niching down.
The second thing we talked about already is, what is your value proposition? What do you want to be known for? Is it your unique moniker like brand builder? Or is it some kind of value proposition that once again came through based on what other people are saying? What is it you want to convey or share with the audience?
The third thing really goes back to another C. Bonus C we’ll call it. It’s consistency. You’re not going to start getting flooded with leads or podcast interview requests if you post one time and just say, “Where’s all the business coming from?” I always tell people, equate it to your favorite television or Netflix series, if they do one episode, you might be interested. But you’re probably not going to get hooked on to it versus if they have like 10-20 episodes you can kind of binge watch and so on.
I think that same mindset needs to be when you’re putting content out there and building relationships is, it’s not just a one-time thing. You have to be doing it every day, even if it’s like 10-15 minutes a day, checking other people’s posts and commenting on that. So you have to build a lot of your interactions and engagement by not creating content, but by commenting on other people’s content, which I seen some folks do. That might be helpful for those who are scared to put out content but are interested in others. It just commenting on other people’s posts.
Well, those are really great tips and I think some golden nuggets that our listeners would be able to take home today. Thank you for sharing those. We’re in our final question for this episode. From your experience, I’m sure you’ve helped and witnessed many brands that have grown through social selling. So if there are perhaps some examples of brands or individuals that are excelling in this, can you share some examples with us?
Yeah, so I really like once again, a bit biased, the Dreamdata guys because I’ve had them on the podcast and I like what they have done. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I like their style as well. I think it’s very different and that Laura, and I’ve complimented this to her is her posts are very candid. A lot of times people think, you have to have a proper camera, like I do a proper mic. You have to have proper lighting. That’s not the case. What really fascinated me about her initial video was just her just walking around Europe, just talking to her phone. They are as simple as that. They are dynamic because she’s always in a different background. Her personality is very engaging as well. And so that really shows us that we don’t have to have these high production facilities put on nice videos. You can literally just walk around and record stuff with your phone and I think that really stood out to me.
The second thing I think, once again, I may be biased because I tend to like memes and GIFs. So they tend to generate a lot of humorous content around B2B, which most folks aren’t doing. I think going back to an underleveraged skill or tactic when it comes to B2B marketing is adding humor. I’ve seen this in just how I interact with people. So I have a very self-deprecating style of humor that I tried to inject in either my post or comments or messages, and I’ve had people in the past week. I can show you screenshots saying, “I love this post or I love this comment. It’s the best one I’ve gotten on LinkedIn. I’m a huge fan of yours now just because you sent me one message that had a meme or a GIF, or whatever it was that I thought was relevant to that conversation.”
They (Dreamdata) are one that I really like because I like the content and also from interviewing them, I know it has had tremendous success on the growth of their business. They kind of have a win-win where you’ve learned something and then you get to help them grow their businesses as well too. So yeah, it’s worked out very well for them.
Thanks for sharing the example and we’ll be sure to also link that in the show notes so that you can also check out the example that Joe has mentioned here. Joe, thank you so much for sharing so many valuable and helpful insights with us today. I’ve enjoyed learning from you and also understanding more about social selling and its importance for businesses and brands. So thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and for sharing with us.
Now, before we wrap up this episode, I’d love to ask you some fun questions to help our listeners learn what inspires you as a person. My first question for you is this, what is your favorite movie?
One of my favorite movies is a cult classic called Office Space. If you’ve ever worked in the office or corporate environment, you’re going to relate to this one. It’s directed by Mike Judge who was a brilliant director and writer who did Silicon Valley, many of their kind of cult classic comedies. Office Space is one of my all-time favorites.
I’ll definitely have to check that out. My second question for you is this, what is the productivity app on your smartphone that you would recommend?
I live and breathe the Google Suite. They have me shackled to them. I use Google Docs as I’m riding on a train. I use Google Slides for all my university presentations. Google Sheets for our CRM. That’s one that I’m constantly using every day.
My final fun question for you is this, if you’re not doing what you’re doing today, what do you envision yourself doing?
That’s a good question. I think I’ve finally gotten to a point where I really enjoy what I’m doing. I enjoy writing. I enjoy creating content and I enjoy teaching other folks. So, I’m very fortunate and blessed at this old age of mine that I get to do things that I love. I would do it for free. I get to do it as part of my business.
That’s the ideal life. Thanks for sharing that as well. Well, that was fun and I trust our listeners have also enjoyed knowing you better and what inspires you. Finally, I’m sure some of our listeners would love to stay connected with you or reach you. How can they do that?
We’ll be sure to also link that in the notes so that you can get connected with Joe. If you’d like to get connected with him to learn more about social selling, you’ll know where to find him. Once again, thank you Joe for coming on this episode of The Business Storyteller Podcast. That’s all for today’s episode. And until the next one.
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