Social Selling vs. Social Prospecting – Trish Bertuzzi

trish-bertuzzi-400If you are selling technology, chances are someone in your organization is saying, “social selling.” But, what really is “social selling?” I recently talked with Trish Bertuzzi, CEO of The Bridge Group (@BridgeGroupInc) and author of The Sales Development Playbook, about social selling and many other topics in her book related to sustaining a sales business. Trish offers opinions on how to recruit and retain sales development or inside sales people. She then discusses how you should lead them and retain them since they play an important role in the buyer’s journey. We talk about what the future holds for this function in terms of B2B sales and digital marketing as bots and AI take over some of the buying process.

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[Partial Transcription Follows]

What are some of the big takeaways from the sales development Playbook?

I think there’s a couple big takeaways but let me preface that we are sort of giving you the overall view of the book. The book is written for anyone in management that has a sales development team. Whether or not you have direct ownership of that team, really doesn’t matter because if sales owns it but you’re in marketing you still need sales development to maximize your demand generation efforts. I’ve written it with that sort of high-level view and I broke it into six core elements which are strategy, specialization, recruiting, retention, execution and leadership. Most companies are good at two and great another one or two but to really make sales development rock you have to execute flawlessly on all six.  The book isn’t about theory it’s about execution and the “whys” of how you can implement sales development.  At the  highest level that’s what the book is about.

So the book is like a recipe for sales development?

Yes, it is a recipe but it’s a recipe where you can swap out ingredients.  By that I mean not everyone’s business is the same. If I’m talking to not to give them the same advice I give a startup in the cybersecurity space. There are variables in play when we build out our sales development strategy and I help people identify those variables, think them through and then based on those variables create their own special recipe.  

What is  some of the feedback that you’ve heard from executives after reading the book at the start ups and of the large Salesforce type companies?

It’s interesting because I think the start ups get the most out of the first piece which is how do you figure out your strategy. I mean there are two flavors for sales development. There’s setting introductory meetings and then there is creating and qualified opportunities.  Dramatically different strategies.  People are often confused on which way they should go. In the first section helps people figure out what your strategy ought to be based on your variables. Start ups relate to that very well. Where I think later stage companies relate is in a couple key areas. First they like innovative ideas around recruiting and retention and execution. What are best practices around execution. I think there’s something in the book for everyone.

Who are the best recruits for sales development rep?

I think there’s some common denominators who makes a better sales development rep. Those would be someone who has curiosity.  If you’re not curious about your buyers and how you help them build a better business, then you’re just going to be a human bot. That is a SPAM cannon and delivering boring messaging. If you’re curious about your buyer and you learn about your buyer, I think those are the kinds of people that make the best sales development reps. Those people combined with people with a desire to perfect their craft. Self learners — those are the people I think those two characteristics are great. Obviously they need to be organized articulate but the differentiators are curiosity and perfection of craft.

Where do you find these guys?  What’s the most common tenure?

The average tenure is 1.4 years.  The reason I know that, once again I’m looking at the silo of B2B tech, which is our specialty. We do research and if your listeners choose to go look at that research at, they can download for free or 2016 metrics and compensation report. I think they were 353 companies that participated this year. I’m pretty rock-solid on what the tenure is. Where you find them is a more challenging question. Typically people are hiring SDR’s first or maybe second job out of college. How do you find those people? You’ve got to be super creative in how you find them. In the book, we tell you a couple different ways. Where we get really creative is in recommending things like having an Instagram strategy for recruitment as well as a Glassdoor strategy for recruitment. You do all the traditional things, but to stand out above the crowd you’ve got to be innovative.

How have the social media platforms influenced the sales development function?

When people talk about social selling, by the way is such a misnomer, social doesn’t sell, people do. Maybe we should be calling it social prospecting. I actually thought about trademarking at one point. When people refer to social selling, 95% of the time they are talking about LinkedIn. How do you use LinkedIn as part of your strategy? It really depends. I think LinkedIn, followed by Twitter, maybe followed by Facebook depending on who your buyers are. Therein lies the rub. You have to fish where your buyers swim. If your buyers aren’t engaging on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram for that matter, you know your social strategy doesn’t make any sense. You have to be where they are. I think that’s point number one in any social strategy. Make no assumptions. Do your research and see where your buyers are. Once you have identified those channels, engaging with them on those channels is a critical success factor. By engaging I don’t mean pitching. I mean delivering valuable content. Participating in conversations that don’t necessarily lead down the path to you. Learning more about them. What are their challenges? What are they talking about? What events are they going to? What are they reading? Those are all things that should be part of a sales development strategy.

Do Sales Development Reps really know their buyer and can they engage on social if their tenure is only 1.4 Years?

Thank you for asking that question. There’s one of the biggest areas that concerns me about how we on board our sales development reps. As we bring them on board, once again they’re first or second year of college, we tell them everything about our solution and we’re like, “Have at it.” In actuality, if you did really effective onboarding you would spend the first week or two not talking about what you do, but really educating those sales development reps on your buyers. For example, you’re selling to a CFO. What does a day in their life look like? What challenges do they face? How are they currently addressing those challenges? How are they measured? Then look all those other things I spoke about. What do they read? Where they are engaging on social? Finally, when your SDR understands the buyer, then you bring in your solution and tie it all together by saying this is how we help them. We’re often in onboarding putting the cart before the horse. In doing so, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

Since we’re talking about a short tenure type person, are the consumers or the buyers smarter than a sales development rep?

Smarter is a tough term to define. If you mean are they more educated about the market and the potential Solutions, the answer is potentially, yes. I mean there’s no doubt that buyers are educating themselves. We have given them access to the tools and the data with which they can do so. I think that’s a real positive. At the same time, we also have access to data and tools that tells us more about them. As much as they’re self-educating, so should we as sellers be self educating about our potential buyers. Not only at company level, but at the personal level as well. We have the tools at our disposal that enable that.

Where do you point people to educate their SDRs?

You just led me down the path to self-promote, so I will go there. The Sales Development Playbook is a really great place to start. Yes, I wrote it for managers, but I think that resonates with reps as well. I’ve been contacted by many SDRs who found value in the book so I think that’s one place. Our research. Our blog. Our LinkedIn group. We own the largest inside Sales Group on LinkedIn called the Inside Sales Experts Group. It’s 100% discussions. No spam allowed so lots of great conversations there. There are a number of vendors who are doing unbelievable work and educating SDRs. The information is at your fingertips you just need to go find it.

What about the phone? Do people use the phone anymore?

I think it’s making a huge comeback actually. I don’t know about you, but how do you feel about your inbox?

I read this article on how to organize your inbox.  I have all of these labels and each label has a different follow-up action like waiting for a reply. I had this zero inbox strategy until I went out of town on a conference trip and it got backed up. A lot of times what I do when when people email me and I really want to talk to them, I tell him you’re going to have to call me. I can’t get it done. I can get more done in a conversation versus the email back and forth so phone guy first and foremost. Which is why I asked the question. I can get much more done and I get it from SDR perspective. I’m taking my job back 15 years now, I get the answer. I get the yes / no.

Exactly! I don’t think we need more pen pals in our lives. Email is now like nothing but white noise.I look at my inbox every day and I’m going to guess I get, I don’t know, hundred and fifty emails everyday. It’s just like oh my God leave me alone. You are delivering no value and you’re not telling me a story. Whereas my phone, I average 7 to 11 calls a day. But, I average a hundred and fifty email a day. So let’s say 80 of them are outreach. Where am I most likely to pay attention? Now having said that, I’m with you. Conversation leads to conclusions, right? You can’t handle objections on the email. You can’t really deliver value within the context. You know there’s content and then there’s context. They say content is King, context is a God. I got that from John Barrows. It’s a fabulous statement. It depends on how people want to communicate. Some people want to communicate via email. Some via the phone. Some via social. That’s why you have a blend of all these different media trying to reach your prospective buyers. At the same time, you need to be telling a cohesive story. It’s not a one-and-done. If you send me an email and I don’t respond. Then you send me another email to say I haven’t heard from you in regards to my first email, I literally want to punch you in the face. That bump email strategy is the most frustrating strategy on the face of the planet. Whoever is a proponent of that, please go away.

Yes, who is teaching these people to do that? That’s the worst because from a buyer’s perspective it’s just negativity. You’re just you’re giving this negative attitude toward the person that is not contacting you at this point should be deleted from the internet.

There’s a couple vendors that are proponents of that. Here is what is wrong with it. One, it references a failed attempt. What are you going to just keep doing it until there’s 50 emails attached? I’m never going to respond. It proves that you’re not worth the effort. There is automation that’s doing that. I’m not worthy of you doing some research about me and delivering something that’s personalized? No. You are just going to put me in your bump strategy.  Finally, I think it annoys me because it’s like, “who’s the boss of me?” You’re demanding my time and attention and you haven’t earned it. Get out of my inbox! Makes me crazy.

What you do in your spare time?

This is a really hard question for me. If I was not working what would I do? I would golf more. I’m a terrible golfer but I’m a passionate golfer. I said I would never write another book but I do have one in my head that I’m noodling on. I might I prove myself a liar. I’d cook more. I don’t know I’d read more. I probably start another business. I love being an entrepreneur and I wanted my head that has to do with helping female entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.