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Building a social selling program: Think big

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 fifth blog in a five-part series (read part 1, part 2, and part 3, part 4) where I’ll share findings from my experience that I hope will help your organization launch, scale, sustain, and, ultimately, win on social media. 

When I first launched a social selling program in late 2010, I recruited volunteers to see if we could prove that social media was an effective tool for financial advisors. We initially asked our advisors to pay for access to our social media solution, but not many wanted to pay when they could manage their accounts themselves. Since the cost was a blocker, we initially piloted with a very small group. 

Things evolved quickly as the program matured. By early 2013, as we moved from the adoption phase to the engagement phase, I learned that starting small was a mistake. When we piloted LinkedIn Sales Navigator (then LinkedIn Sales Executive), I learned that, although starting small was the easiest option, there was a significant downside. 

When I eventually rolled out Sales Navigator to 250 financial advisors, I learned more from the larger group. I saw that the tool increased user activity, as well as sales. With a larger pilot group, I also noted, based on activity, that the program wasn’t for everyone. Had I launched with a smaller group of 25 users, I wouldn’t have gleaned those insights. 

The size of your test group directly impacts the quality of the data you generate. Starting with a smaller group may yield the results you want, but they come at a cost. By selecting a smaller group of highly-engaged users, you may get a false impression that the program is successful. Piloting with a larger group offers a more accurate sample of your program’s performance. This lesson has been reiterated throughout my career. Even though it’s attractive to select top-performers to pilot your social selling program, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be highly engaged. By building a larger pilot group, you have a sample that’s more reflective of your organization and can help test the new technology. 

In October 2017, we soft-launched Grapevine6 (now Seismic LiveSocial) with a “friendly market group” of 350 financial advisors.  The friendly market group tested our communication plan, training resources, how-to videos, live training, and helped identify unanticipated issues with the rollout plan. Whether you’re launching Seismic LiveSocial or another social selling platform, I’d highly recommend identifying a friendly market group to help test your rollout strategy and transition. Their support is invaluable when it comes to finetuning your strategy before broader launch activities—especially when your user base exceeds 1,000 users.  

Rolling out a social selling platform to a field seller organization is no small feat. The team you assemble to test and plan the larger rollout should match the scale of the effort. The more you know prior to launch can help limit mistakes when you go live with your entire sales force.

If you’d like to learn more about how your business can achieve excellence, visit our resource hub for social selling.

Nate Isaacson
Nate Isaacson
Nate Isaacson works in customer success where he designs pre-sales strategy for LiveSocial implementations and helps customers drive adoption. Prior to joining Seismic, he built and ran one of the most successful Financial Services social selling programs, and is passionate about helping the industry leverage LiveSocial.