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Podcast Pit Stop: Donald Kelly on Why You Should Care About Social As A B2B Seller

Why You Should Care About Social As A B2B Seller

In episode 70 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Donald Kelly, Founder & Chief Sales Evangelist of The Sales Evangelist.  Join us as we explore the world of social selling for B2B sellers and why it matters.  Donald will walk us through his Social Selling Framework, including the connect, share, and engage stages, and provide practical tips for integrating this framework into your sales strategy.

As a renowned sales trainer, keynote speaker, and consultant, Donald has helped countless B2B sellers and entrepreneurs worldwide to boost their sales performance and increase their revenue. He's also the host of The Sales Evangelist Podcast, featured in Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!


Pitstop Highlights


Why Sellers Should Leverage Social

Since the pandemic, email outreach has gone up by 50%, but the reply has decreased by 30%.  To help improve this number, you should look to foster relationships on social first, which then leads to engagement.  The result is that an email between two people who have connected on social is not only more likely to be opened, but responded to.    

"If you have relatively good content and you're a human being and not just a pitch fest, it provides that you can start those engagement conversations"


The Process Of Engagement In The Social Space

LinkedIn has over 900,000 users, but only a very small percentage (2%) post content even once a month.  Therefore, if you post good content, you have a higher chance of getting impressions.  The more people that you have in your network that are actually potential customers, the higher chance you have of having people engage with your content.  You also need to engage with your posts (i.e. don't "post and run").  A good way of going about this is asking a question when someone comments. 

TL;DR:  if you want to have success with social selling, you need to connect with your ideal customer and share relevant and engaging content.

Connecting with VP of Sales in B2B Tech Through LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, a disproportionate number of people like posts vs. commenting on them.  To make yourself stand out, not only should you comment on a prospect's post, but you should @ them and ask a question relative to what their post was referencing.  Then, after they answer, drop a personal connection request with a note.  If you want to go above and beyond, send a video message.  These steps virtually guarantee a high level of engagement.

"  I leverage that post in my connection request"


Connect with Donald



Full Transcript

Brendan Tolleson: Hey everyone. Welcome to Pit Stops Podium, the RevPartners Podcast where we talk to execs who've competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson, and I serve as the CEO of RevPartners. I'm delighted to have with me today, Donald Kelly for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium.  Welcome, Donald.

Donald Kelly: Hey, thanks for having me, man. I'm excited too.

Brendan Tolleson: Well, I'm excited to talk to you, Donald. I know you and I get to serve together in the Revenue Council for HubSpot, so this is a fun opportunity for you and I to do a podcast. So, um, for those who may not know who Donald is, Donald serves as the founder of Sales Evangelist.  And, and Donald, this is a, a great opportunity for you to give that pitch on who Sales Evangelist is and why our audience should be excited about it.

Donald Kelly: Well, you know, as a, anyone that's in, revops or anyone that's in sales leadership, you know, the struggle when your team is supposed to build pipeline.  They're doing the cold calls, they're sending out emails, but no matter what they're doing, they're still not getting enough deals in the hopper, not three to five Xing what's in the pipeline, and, and then also having a tough time closing that. Well, our team fixed that. Um, whether that's through one-on-one coaching or our group cohort programs or working consulting with organization, we help them to build pipe effective pipelines, try to get sellers through at least three to five x and then also convert a high percentage of that. And it's, it's a lot of fun. And we do a lot of free content as well with our podcast and some of the other things that we give out and do. 

Brendan Tolleson: What, what inspired you to do that? What was the experience you had that said, Hey, I need to build this practice to help other. 

Donald Kelly: Bro, it wasn't, it, I, I wish I could tell you that it was a plan.  I was doing a, I was doing software sales and, prior to that, I'd done some stuff in the managed IT world, and then I'd done some things in the healthcare space and selling e H R, and I just had a really tough time and I did all the dumb stuff. Like I, I broke all the rules and did everything wrong.  And backing my head against the wall. Finally, went through some training, saw some success, and I started to just like evangelize about selling. And my buddy was like, bro, you should consider a podcast. And I was like, what is a podcast? This was 2012 and fortunately we started doing it and um, then it was all just like in right place, right time, because then one of our other, one of his friends was writing an article for entrepreneur and said, Hey, who are some upcoming podcasters?  This new medium. Mentioned me, we got mentioned there, and then people started to find a podcast through Apple directory and got a coaching client here and there. And eventually got to the point where I was using all my vacation days for speaking at events or working, with clients before June. So we didn't have any summer trips and my wife got frustrated and we got sponsored as well for the podcast.  So just kind of made sense for us to evaluate. D is this viable? So 2015, I made that hard decision to jump ship and, haven't been back since and it's been growing. And now we have a team of, 14 individual contractors and also full-time folks, and we love creating content and we love, helping people improve their sales and build pipeline.

Brendan Tolleson: That's great. It's fun to, well, it's always fun to hear an entrepreneur's story and , I mean, there's a lot of parallels between how RevPartners started, but it's, it's fun to hear you just, hey, this is an, I don't wanna say a passion, but as an interest. , and ultimately that led to you having your own business, which is really fun to see.  So thanks for sharing. But, do, before we get into those tactics that you help companies implement, we do have a tradition here at Pit Stops to Podium, and that's to get to know our guests Outside of work. So, we're human beings, not human doers. So what, what are three fun facts our audience should know about you 

Donald Kelly: Yeah, fun fact number one, I was born in Jamaica, moved to United States when I was a kid, when I was nine, so I chat sometimes if you wanna go through the rest of the podcast interview on chat, like . Um, so that's one. Number two, um, my, I have a, a wife and a little kid. A little guy. He is, three and a half and we're down here in South Florida.  And then fun fact number three, being in South Florida and from. I don't like seafood. Um, wow. I know, right? Um, one of those people that take up space in Florida probably should give it to somebody else. But it's funny, we had to clean all the fish and the crabs and stuff and one day I was just like, I don't think I like this.

Brendan Tolleson: I'm probably dating myself a little bit. I don't feel like I'm that old, but I was telling one of our, newer employees, I was talking about cool runnings, which yeah, I'm on. Yeah. I'm assuming you've seen, and I got a lot of blank stares when I was referencing Cool Runnings and it made my heart very sad.  Cause that's all time classic. 

Donald Kelly: Isn't that crazy? Us older millennials feel like old people to these Gen Zs. 

Brendan Tolleson:  Yeah. I'm, I'm learning. I'm older than I thought I was. , well, thanks for sharing a little bit about, um, kinda your background and, and your family. , your, your, your, distaste for seafood, which is definitely, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I get it.  So, let, let's move into to the big idea and so we've, we've talked a little bit about what, what you do at sales evangelists  and I really wanted to isolate more to one topic. I know there's a lot that you talk about and a lot of practical. Insights. But I think one thing that, especially as we've moved in, in kind of this, digital first type of selling environment, you know, post covid, um, let, let's talk a little about your social selling framework. I think in the past people probably have felt like social distraction, and now people are starting to see it as an investment. Um, but would love to get your perspective before we get into how they should leverage social, more so why they should leverage. 

Donald Kelly: Yeah. Um, so I, I, I just hope this doesn't come across like a LinkedIn plug.  Um, but I, I am passionate for stuff and I get excited for it. So it's one of those platforms. Here's what I would share. Um, LinkedIn. Gartner actually did a, a study, and this was post pandemic. I mean, I think we're still post pandemic, but it was that it showed that email outreach has gone up by 50% since the pandemic, so since 2022 or 2020, um, you know, and so forth.  But the reply rates has decreased by 30%, and that's probably gone even further. When I look at my emails, I delete a lot of email. What gets me sometimes, and I think it's where salespeople get caught up, is that they get amazing subject lines that prompts open. So like, you know, quick question still gets me every once, so I'll open it, but I will not, I don't reply to all of those.  I may, so we see on like, you know, on our Apollos or in HubSpot or whatever tool we're using, we see the open rates and then we get all fancy and excited, but we're not getting the high response rate. And this is where a lot of, leaders come in and here's the. Those emails don't have any relevance. They don't have, relevance, meaning they, it's a, you know, we, we build a list, we pull it out and we send it out to everyone.  But it doesn't necessarily have relevance to you as the individual seller, individual prospect, and then also, I don't know you. So that also brings up the barrier right out the gate. And then that doesn't lead to the, there's no form of engagement. Then that doesn't lead to conversation and doesn't lead to appointments.  Social is the total opposite though, what I've seen, if you're not doing spamming and this is why it works so well, um, when you are able to build that relationship with someone on a platform, and I, and I don't, and I don't wanna say relationship cuz it makes it all a sudden seem like I need to be connected with you for like 10 years, but when I have some kind of relevance to you when there's some kind of reason. So might say, for instance, we connected, saw that you recently had a job, change. I dropped a nice little message about that. Not to pitch you, but just to make a human, human connection like you just did here with me and seafood.  But we have some kind of connection. Then we move into the idea of engagement. This is where we, we once we have some relevance, so I can connect with you for a particular reason too, then we can engage and we have con conversation going back and forth. Once that starts to happen, the magic is that as our natural byproduct, when I do send my first email, I have a higher chance of the email not only getting open, but also getting a response because they tie back to what we.  Point of reference, there's something that we tie that connect to. I might say something to the nature of Mary. Um, you know, again, it's Donald, we talked about me not liking seafood being here in South Florida. Um, I hope I, I I'll next time you come to Florida, I'll treat you to some of the nice restaurants and yes, it will be seafood.  Um, the reason I'm reaching out is because of X, Y, Z. Um, and now we can tie that back to her role, the relevance to that, but social allowed for that to happen because there's a pool, everybody's gathered. And if you have relatively good content and if you are a human being and not just a pitch fest, it provides that you can start those, one.  Engagement conversations and those engagement conversations when translated to email increases a chance. So I am a big proponent of it. There's several strategies that I teach and we can go into some more of those, but that's on a surface level why social works so much more. And it's, again, it's, the email just automatically comes to the point where people feel like, it's like a, I don't know, we, we know we're gonna get a hundred emails, We know half of them are gonna go into the spam folder. Yeah. And we don't, a quarter of those are gonna come from our team or more, and then we know we're gonna get hit with like another third of those from people who are just like trying to sell us something. So automatically we say the email isn't a annoyance right out the gate and we are trying to shoot them like fly.   And if that's the case, if there's, if, if, if, if I look at it and I see that you're, you don't, I don't know you. Automatically, I see you as, um, as, as interrupting me or distracting or disrupting, and that doesn't make it fun for me to reply to you. So anyways, I've been going on for a minute there. I get too passionate about.

Brendan Tolleson: No, I think that's, I mean, it's definitely true if I look at my inbox, guys just. I have, well, I have a problem. I've got 12,000 on red messages, but most of those are, either some alert, through one of our systems, or it's somebody trying to pitch me on something and I, I don't even bother to open the email because it's to your point Yeah.  And I think what you're alluding to is, yeah, I mean that people, that my, what I'm doing with my inbox is what most people are doing at this point. There's a  fatigue, email fatigue, um, and, it's turning. Humans like people and do projects and not the actual relationship. And I think what LinkedIn does, associates that name to an actual person, and it forces a, a change in approach.  So let's talk a little bit more about, you know, you kind of started to itemize a little bit of, of the approach. I think you talk about connect, share, and engage. Um, so help our audience understand that that process of, of what you've seen to be successful in the social engagement.

Donald Kelly: So two days ago LinkedIn launched deep sales. I had the fortunate opportunity to get access to that for like the past three months. It's the, the new, new, components of Sales Navigator. Um, absolutely remarkable. Just like great stuff. But one of the things that they do, um, LinkedIn has on their new, um, like rollout, they show that they have, I think, close to 900 Thousand members, like, like users, 900,000. But here's a crazy part about that. Only about half of, um, um, maybe about half of those are active, um, maybe going on LinkedIn once a month. And of that, let's say, so we're looking at 450, million people. Um, of those 450, only about 2% of those people are actually posting content on the platform. Like regularly, like regularly being monthly. Like that's, it's bonkers. It's crazy. Yeah. That's such a short number, small number of people. But here's the concept. Why? Because so many people on LinkedIn, they feel like I don't have, it's a professional network, so I don't wanna show some, share something that's not too professional. I can do that on ins, on Insta or on , Facebook, maybe even Twitter. But I'm not gonna do that on LinkedIn. I don't wanna be called out by my peers. And that's the problem that that many people. So the, the strategy that we teach people is one, you need to post content because if you're posting content and if it's good content, you have a higher chance of getting those  impressions that are being given only to those 2% of people's right now.  So that's the very, very, very first thing. Whoever's listening to this, even if you're not cur writing your own stuff, curate content, share something. Number two is to connect. I did an , some, when people go through our LinkedIn program, I have them take look at their LinkedIn connections and I say, filter that.  Filter by your ideal customers. So for me it's VPs of sales directors of sales CROs, and then we look at it and see how many of those connections actually fall in that category. And it's always fascinating. People are like, oh man, like only 10% or only like 15% or whatnot. So I'm like, why in the world are we connecting with so many of our random people who are not gonna be potential.  For our business, right? Why are we connecting with these others? And the key there is that if I'm gonna share content and only a small percentage of the people on my actual connection are gonna see that content, LinkedIn, LinkedIn algorithm is gonna feed it up to, I need to make sure it's disproportionately in my favor.   So the more people that I have in my network that are actually potential customers, that actually are my icp, the higher chance I have of having people engage with my content. So the critical side there is that you need to connect. So connect with, sorry. Connect with re with people on LinkedIn. I tell people at least five to 10 connection requests per day to people who are your ICPs.  And it's a personalized connection request, um, to them. Then you need to make sure you're sharing relevant content since only 2% of LinkedIn people share content. And then this part where mostly a lot of individuals don't. If they do post, they kind of like post and run, but you need to. So whenever somebody posts on your LinkedIn Pro on your post, even if it's like three people, even if it's like your mom, just go ahead and engage with those individuals.   Ask a question. If they share a comment and start engagement, you can then take that into the chat or into the dm and that starts more conversation. But I promise sellers, and I've seen this over and over and over again, if you wanna have success when it comes to social selling, you gotta connect with your ideal customer.  Make sure a lot of more, more people in your. Or folks that are gonna potentially be customers that can see your content. Two,  share relevant content, engaging content and the, I mean, you have so many tools nowadays to do so, you can go to like Google and search biggest challenge for um, you know, marketing directors and then as what as byproduct Google is gonna tell you, here's some blogs and then it's gonna go down to what people are searching for when it comes to challenges that marketing directors. And those are the topics that you take and you create. On relative to, or go back and write down the top 10 issues, the top 10 common questions you get on a day-to-day basis or on a weekly basis from your potential customers, um, or from your, folks you serve. And then you could take that and put it into content and format. So let's say for instance, mine is like, you know, should I do, um, what's the best way to write a cr, a cold. Then I might say cold email sucks as my subject as my LinkedIn cap in all caps. Then I write a post about that. Why cold email? People say, cold email sucks, but here's how you can fix it. And I might talk about how social selling can help you to get, make it warm and then give a a call to action at the end.  Tell me, is that, am I off on that? Do you have a better tip? Let me know the comments, but this starts engagement and it starts going, cause that's something that people have. But those are three strategies and we can go deeper into each of them, connect with your ideal customers each day, build up your pool of people, share relevant content, and then start engaging with those people.

Brendan Tolleson: I like the, um, yeah, it, it makes a lot of sense and I, I like the practical aspects of it. When you talk about connect. Hey, just find five people a day, um, that fit your icp. Then as it relates to share, make it relevant to that audience and the, the, and giving people. I think the hard part people have a share is, where do I start?Um, yeah, and it's like, don't overthink it. To your point, only 2% are actually sharing anyways. So by even just sharing, you're a differentiator. Um, and then just ways in which you can think through that. , and then to your point about engage, cause I mean, engage. Yes, there's,   mean, one, it actually helps in your impression in terms of posts, but two, you're creating that connection with, well, you're creating a more, a warmer connection with the person you've already reached out to,  to, to go back to the first point around. Connect with those five people. Sure. I mean, this goes back to what we were talking about earlier with the whole email piece. How do you, I think you kinda talked about point of reference, um, as, as a really key ingredient when you're doing those connections, what are some tactics that you would recommend to people? So they say, Hey, you're right. I go after VP of sales. I, I look at, you know, companies in 500 to 2000 employees segment, in this specific, like in B2B tech as an example. What are, what are some TA tactics they can take to say, Hey, here's so I can get those five connections to say yes to that request, as opposed to just that person ignoring it.

Donald Kelly: All right, so this is where a sales navigator comes in. So the, the thing that you want to do here is go into navigator and then you can go and build a list of those ICPs. Now they have something called Spotlight in a bottom left hand quarter of your, of when you build a leads list and what you can filter.   And the way we do it. I filter based on one people who have been in their role in less  than the change jobs in the past 30 days, or it's 30 to 90 days. And then I also cha look at people who have posted in the past 30 days on LinkedIn. I do that purposely because then now I am getting my ICPs who are active on LinkedIn, and if they're posting content, I leverage that post in my connection request or I engage on that. So let's say you, you just posted about, um, let's make it up. , you, let's say you posted about, you guys are going to, um, some conference you're going to inbound. Um, so you headed inbound and you talk about some of those things on that. See you there. Um, but you, you know, you posted about. I might then come back and follow up on that cuz you, you, there's gonna be, you're gonna have a disproportionate number of people who actually like versus comment. So to grab your attention even more so at the prospect's name and then comment specifically about that. So if I go to so inbound, I would say, Hey, this is my first year going to inbound. What would you say is the best way to make sure I maximize my experience?  Now you feel like a freaking celebrity. Like, oh yeah, this person is asking for, to decide. Make sure you meet a lot of people. Don, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, boom. So then I drop a personal connection request and I say, Hey, it's Don. Um, thanks so much, um, for giving me that tip on, taking advantage of inbound. Um, Always looking to learn from other leaders, doing amazing things in our space. Permission. I always do this. Always, always one of my buddies. Big shout out to Jared Easley, but I use that every post, every, connection. Permission to add permission to connect here on LinkedIn. And then the funniest things come back. People are like permission granted, or For sure, of course. And then you start a conversation, what happens there, and I used to do voice messages, but I wanna give a big shout out to, Jared Gerard.He just came on my podcast recently. He said, Donald, do more videos. So I sent a personal video. At that point, I might say, you know, like, say it's person's name is Lisa. Hey, Lisa. I just wanted to put a face with a name. Let you know that I'm a human. I'm not just like Sambo. Um, I'm doing like I'm really doing it, but, um, I just wanna put a face with a name.I look forward to seeing you in Inbound. , thanks again for connecting with me. There is no way in, like, there's no way at all. You're not going to engage back with me. I mean, there's a high percentage, maybe you don't, but you probably say, of course, Donald. Love it. Never seen a video before. Thanks so much for the video. um, any, feel free to reach out. Any tips or any advice you. Now I have a plethora of reasons why you're gonna respond to my email when I do send that darn thing right now. Am I making sense there? 

Brendan Tolleson: Yeah I think it's, look, it's, it's, it's taking the extra step. I mean, it's. 

Donald Kelly: It's getting all excited because nobody does it. Yeah. Nobody's gonna do it. Because when a BDR or a, or ae, unfortunately us, us as leaders, sometimes we want those numbers or maybe we're getting from the top that we need to get down so people will, so people will then do like the blast. Like, I'm gonna do a campaign with 150 folks. But that is tough. If you're gonna get a 1% return on that, then that's stupid. Why not just go for like 25 really? People and get like some more conversations and go deep in those accounts. Cause if I'm doing this with like, say four or five people inside an organization, if I'm doing like a, you know, a ABM strategy, I am gonna have so much more conversation, a richer opportunity, and I'm gonna get more of my emails reply back, and more engagement leads, better demonstrations and so forth. That's the difference. I am telling you right now, this is why people are so irritated with emails and it's only gonna get worse. Yeah. I mean, with, with, with, with sellers who are lazy, but if you can come and be, you know, go a little bit deeper, it, it's gonna put you in a different stratosphere. I, I promise you, cuz it works for me and my team.

Brendan Tolleson: It's amazing. Yeah, I think it's, well, I probably shouldn't elicit one of your, my competitors, but Josh Bra talks about like the be redx and see a black X. It's just take, do the extra step. Um, and it's a point of differentiation and it's the whole work smarter, not harder. Like, you don't have to do the numbers game. You can actually probably do, you know, it's, it's, it's a lot of conversions and if, if you're doing it a better fashion, you can do a, a lot fewer, , but. Ultimately converting those and, and driving more opportunities for, for the business. Um, well, Donna, I really appreciate you stopping by. , this is a great opportunity for our listening, our audience rather just to get some practical insights on how they can leverage a social selling framework to be more effective in the field. Um, if our audience wants to engage with you, what's the next step they can take? Whether it's your podcast or getting, learn more about your service.

Donald Kelly: Yeah, easiest thing is to go to We have some free stuff there, free courses as well as you can hit me up on LinkedIn. Donald C. Kelly, you can check out our podcast. Wherever you're listening to podcast, just search to sales evangelist and , you can find me there. 

Brendan Tolleson: All right, Donald, thanks so much. Really enjoyed it. And , let's stay in touch.

Donald Kelly: Brendan. Thanks man. Appreciate you.

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