In my 12+ years at Guardian Life, one of the largest life insurance companies in the U.S., I developed and ran a social selling program for nearly 2,500 financial advisors. I learned a lot during my journey to build the program from scratch and see it mature. This is the sixth blog in a six-part series (read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5) where I’ll share findings from my experience that I hope will help your organization launch, scale, sustain, and, ultimately, win on social media.
In previous posts, I’ve shared some of the challenges and successes I experienced throughout my journey to build a social selling program. When I advise organizations on the pillars for a successful social engagement program, I emphasize the importance of advisor training and support.
My experience developing training strategies was born from trial and error. When we initially launched our social selling program with financial advisors, training was required. Per Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) guidelines, we purchased a three-part, 90 minute training program that covered everything except how to use our social selling software.
We later sent out an email with instructions for using the platform. Unfortunately, that content went mostly unread, which led to more challenges. Over time, we learned from our mistakes and created best practices.
In this post, I’ll share the do’s and don’ts of training your advisors for a successful social engagement program.
Step one: Require tool training for all advisors
Simply put, training helps set your advisors up for success. When we adopted LiveSocial (previously Grapevine6), many of our advisors were excited to get started on the new platform. But, before they could jump in, we made tool training a requirement.
Training doesn’t need to be a long, arduous process. Our training was designed to be user-friendly and walked advisors through the ins and outs of using the platform in 10 minutes. This was an important step toward building familiarity and, ultimately, helping advisors grow their social selling business.
We also required our advisors to complete compliance training. In just 20 minutes, we educated our advisors on the company’s social media policy, as well as the steps to link their social media accounts to our compliance platform.
So, all in all, required training could be completed in 30 minutes. While that may seem short, we also created a host of additional training and resources to support our advisors as they ramped up.
Step two: Create a training plan that’s scalable
It’s challenging to develop a training plan that meets the needs of 2,500 advisors. In our earliest days, I could tell that our missteps could easily spiral out of control. I eventually hired another staffer who could help support our rapidly growing social selling program.
We decided it was time to revise our training program to fit our audience. With a team of three, our first priority was efficiency.
Required courses are the cornerstone of social selling training, but it doesn’t cover everything sellers will face in the field. Additional training is helpful to promote ongoing learning, so we supported two learning paths to ensure our financial advisors were proficient in LinkedIn and LiveSocial.
In order to maximize our efforts, we opted for a hands-off approach. We used our learning management system (LMS) and Salesforce to automate the education journey for advisors. The automated learning path saved our team significant time, where we’d previously spent eight hours activating users each week.
We also created an intranet site dedicated to social selling. The site included various training modules which featured short tutorial videos and how-to guides. For users who still needed additional support, we provided a one-click option to schedule 1:1 training with our team.
Step three: Create actionable guides for advisors
Training isn’t just about understanding how to use a tool, although that’s important. Social selling goes beyond navigating a social engagement platform. Advisors also need to understand the fundamentals of growing their business through social media.
When we developed our training strategy, we decided to make social engagement a priority. The guide we ultimately created helped advisors navigate topics like driving activity and joining conversations. We also created how-to guides which emphasized topics ranging from LinkedIn profile optimization to building and maintaining a network.
Step four: Provide ongoing training
Retention is critical to the long-term viability of your social selling program. Consistent engagement of your advisors—from super-users to the casual user—ensures that the benefits of your program remain top of mind.
In addition to the mandatory training to access LiveSocial, we built a monthly digital marketing workshop series. We developed a rotating calendar of topics, starting with LinkedIn 101, which was the first training offered at the beginning of each month. We also hosted a “Getting Started with LiveSocial” session which was our second training of the month.
Step five: Bring along the stragglers
Not every advisor within your social selling program is destined for super-user status. Some will sit comfortably within the middle of the pack, and that’s ok. A select group—we’ll call them stragglers—may fall behind and post inconsistently or infrequently.
Every organization faces this challenge. Our social engagement program was no different. But, in order to combat it, we needed a plan. We ran quarterly reengagement campaigns in an effort to mitigate drop-off.
Toward the end of each quarter, we ran a quarterly report of LiveSocial users who underutilized the platform. In our case, this list included any advisor who failed to share less than 12 pieces of content within a 90-day period.
Sellers who shared less than one article per week were added to a six-week email campaign which included surveys about usage patterns, as well as resources on using LiveSocial. As a result of this continued engagement, we were able to move 25 percent of inactive users out of the “stragglers” category.
Building a highly-engaged, successful social selling team takes time and effort. When we first launched our social engagement program, we ran into many challenges. We learned from early mistakes and, along with our advisors, championed new best practices for ongoing training and support.
If you’re launching a solution like LiveSocial, training early and often is a key to success. As you begin to roll out your platform, keep the user top of mind, and be sure to keep them engaged as they adopt and begin to use the platform as a part of their everyday life.
If you’d like to learn more, download our guide, 3 Steps to Build Trust on Social Media.