How social selling helped Lenovo reap dividends

Nick Reynolds, CMO, Asia Pacific, Lenovo

Two years ago, Lenovo realized it needed to change – fast. The reason: their traditional B2B buyers were "radically changing." 

Cold outreach, which includes cold calls and different forms of mailers, was not working. In large enterprises, where IT purchase decisions were made within IT committees, the company found that many of such decisions were already made before Lenovo engaged with them.

So, the company sought to find out what is going on. After an exhaustive study, they saw a new group influencers emerging within enterprises.

“Two years ago, we did a market segment study on who is buying IT in organizations with 100 or more employees. We found a group, which we call IT progressives, who were 20 times more engaged with technology and social media than all the rest of the IT decision makers,” Nick Reynolds, CMO, Asia Pacific at Lenovo said. 

Reynolds described these IT progressives as being typically younger, having a much bigger impact on vendor selections and influenced IT purchase decisions than the more traditional IT buyers. More importantly, they were using social media to conduct a lot of their research and influence buying decisions even before Lenovo had the chance to walk through their doors.

“We found that on average 16 hours were spent on the vendor selection in the decision-making process, with 67% of all the people in the IT committee more likely to consider a vendor like Lenovo if we educated them through the decision-making process. So, we decided positioned ourselves as a thought leader in IT,” Reynolds said.

Becoming a thought leader

Lenovo’s journey into social selling really began in its quest to become a thought leader. To become one, it decided to focus on content management.

“So, we shifted to using content to influence the IT buyer journey. This was important for us as it was a strategic shift to becoming a thought leader and engaging through lead nurturing and delivering information through a simple IT portal,” Reynolds said.

To create the right content, the company dug deep into its talent pool. The company built a team of advocates who activated and encouraged their audience to participate. The move eventually saw 25% of the Lenovo’s staff in the Asia Pacific region sharing content on a monthly basis.

The company focused on two social media platforms – LinkedIn and Twitter – for sharing thoughts in short form or content links. To manage it, it used Voice Storm. It also created a new content portal to share long-form thought leadership pieces, and invited its customers to read and engage. 

Overall, Lenovo shared over 135,000 pieces of content that generated 33 million impressions and resulted in 62,000 engagements. Twitter follower numbers rose to nearly 60%, and LinkedIn followers exploded to 115% in just six months.

“Our goal was simple: Position ourselves as a thought leader, create content and amplify through our channels. And it has been very powerful and reached a bigger audience,” Reynolds said.

Becoming a social seller

Reynolds and his team wanted to do more. It is one thing to engage and educate; it is another to close deals, create healthy pipelines and meet quotas.

So, Lenovo dived headlong into the concept of social selling in LinkedIn. “Social selling is a natural extension of thought leadership and content sharing. Early feedback we have had is that it is almost like a secret weapon for winning businesses,” he said.

The company initiated a social selling pilot in Australia and its global accounts sales team. They tracked each salesperson by the Social Selling Index (SSI) tool that LinkedIn provides. The strong focus on using social media to share and develop warm leads worked.

“Six months ago, we had an average [SSI score] of 31; now we are up to 61. It helped [our sales team] to leverage their network and get warm introductions. It is far more effective than cold outreach,” Reynolds said.

How effective? According to Reynolds, sales reps had better pipelines 45% of the time, saw average size of their deals increase by 13% and were 51% more likely to reach their quota.

On the marketing side, Reynolds used the data and metrics for driving effective marketing campaigns. It also allowed various teams to leverage each other's contacts to drive sales in other product lines.

“It took a bit of internal alignment, for sure. But we saw our customers beginning to understand that Lenovo does a lot more than PC and tablets. By using LinkedIn and Sales Navigator, we made it easier to leverage contacts and get warm introductions,” he said.

Marketing is also spending less on traditional B2B efforts, such as eDMs, DMs, telemarketing, events and such. "Typically, I spend 38% less money on traditional B2B marketing, and we are still able to hit our targets with social selling,” Reynolds said.  

Get the buy-in first

Reynolds is not planning to sit on his laurels. While Lenovo has had a good start into social selling, he knows that he needs to keep the momentum and get the entire company involved. Also, he is planning to build more targeted campaigns using the data from social media.

However, it was not an easy start. Reynolds noted that getting the buy-in from the senior executive team was vital. Reynolds noted that Board members and the senior management teams are often very competitive and may not want to get into social media for a host of reasons. However, he advised not “take no for an answer” from them.

“Do not listen to your CEOs if they say I am not going to use social or [social selling] is not for me. I did not take no for an answer, but instead I convinced with data,” he said. The bold move into social selling worked, and Lenovo has never looked back since.

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