In this episode, the host Rob Da Costa is joined by Arnaud Belinga, co-founder of Breakcold, a social selling and CRM platform. They discuss the importance of social selling and how it can be used as part of a business development strategy. Engaging with prospects on social media platforms such as LinkedIn is becoming increasingly important, especially for B2B businesses. They also discuss how to use automation in a smarter way as part of social selling. They also highlight some success stories of using social selling strategies to build personal brand authority and gain referrals.
Arnaud shares his experiences of creating his own start-up and lessons learned along the way
[00:00] Social Selling: The Key to Your Sales Strategy
[05:24] The Importance of Engaging with Prospects on Social Media As Part Of Your Sales Process
[09:40] Two Strategies for Effective Social Media Targeting
[12:10] Be Warned Against Improper Use of LinkedIn Automation
[17:46] Top B2B Sales Pros Avoid Automation for Success
[20:37] Sales and Marketing Lines Blurred: A New Trend
[28:04] Experience Matters More Than Age In Business
[29:41] From Bad Programmer to Marketing Professional: Tips & Insights
“Social selling is essentially a way to do B2B sales with social media." — Arnaud Belinga
“The only way to close customers when you don't have a clear advantage and distinguished offer is to be the most likeable service provider." — Arnaud Belinga
'If you're operating with a clear niche, then it becomes much easier to identify your ideal target customer and therefore it becomes much easier in LinkedIn search to find those people.'" — Rob Da Costa
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Rob Da Costa [00:00:00]:
In today's podcast, I want to jump into the concepts of social selling. Now, I think we all understand that we should be using social media as part of our business development strategy, but perhaps, like me, in the past, you've done it in a rather ad hoc way. When you get a moment, you post sporadically, and you comment on other people's posts sporadically. But there has to be a better strategy than that, right? So in today's episode of the podcast, I'm joined by Arno Belinga and we are talking all about social selling as a strategic part of your sales process. So, really fascinating topic and let's jump into the show. I'm Rob de Costa, and this is the agency Accelerator Podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests' experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. Good morning everybody and welcome to this week's Agency Accelerator podcast. I am really excited to be joined by Arnaud Belinga today Arnaud is the co-founder of Breakhold, which is a social selling and selling CRM platform. Now, in full disclosure, I am a user of Breakhold and I really love the product. So I was keen to have honoured on the podcast to dig into the topic of social selling, what it is and why you should be using it. So, first of all, welcome to the show. I hope I'm pronouncing your name vaguely correctly and not with a nice French accent like you would have.
Arnaud Belinga [00:01:43]:
Yeah, it's correct. It's Arno. So perfect.
Rob Da Costa [00:01:48]:
Thank you. So, welcome to the show. And first of all, when I was kind of doing the research for the podcast today, I noticed that you had studied tax and law. So I have to start by asking the question, why did you take the leap from doing that to starting your own software company?
Arnaud Belinga [00:02:05]:
Yeah, sure. So initially I've done low studies and I was a training lawyer in pretty big law firms in Paris, Kirkland and Ellis. It's a pretty well-known law firm, the biggest in the world, actually. And yeah, I was doing MNA tax law. Precisely. And ever since I started my studies in law, I told my mom that I would end up doing a startup anyway. And so, from day one, even though my studies, they last for seven years in total, because I actually became a lawyer, but I just never practised. And throughout my studies, to pay my studies tush and fees, et cetera, I was always enjoying online businesses, services, SEO, eCommerce, and pretty much everything related, but not tech SaaS yet because I don't code. At the end of my studies, toward the end, actually, I met Matto, my co-founder. There was a good fit. We started to do some projects together and, yeah, we put like forty k pounds in savings in Fremont doing some services, and then when we graduated, we jumped directly into the SaaS train. And yeah, I never actually ended up becoming a lawyer like most of my friends.
Rob Da Costa [00:03:28]:
Well done, it's good to you ended up following your passion and we'll talk a little bit more about the company and the product a bit later. But first of all, I just wanted to get you to give us a bit of a definition of what social selling is and where it fits in the sales process or the sales funnel so that our listeners are kind of with us on the same page about this.
Arnaud Belinga [00:03:49]:
Yeah, sure. So I would say social selling is essentially a way to do B, two B sales with social media. In social selling, you pretty much have three pillars. You have sales prospecting and outreach, so traditional sales prospecting, but using social media, so sending messages on LinkedIn or on Twitter. But the second pillar is then relationship building, meaning you engage with people, you like the post, you commend the post, or the tweets, et cetera. And I would say the third pillar of social selling is content creation. So posting on socials, whether it's on Twitter or LinkedIn, and so ultimately, social selling is both inbound and outbound sales in a way because of this. And so you can insert some social selling strategies at pretty much every single stage of your customer journey. And yeah, I think we're going to talk about more.
Rob Da Costa [00:04:51]:
Yeah, that's great. And I think most listeners will get that and they probably do some of what you've described, and I'm listening. I'm going to be the guilty party here as well because I understand this and I have a sporadic approach to posting on social media and spending time every day trying to comment on people's posts. But could you share with us some sort of strategies or techniques that businesses can use to effectively leverage social selling?
Arnaud Belinga [00:05:24]:
Yeah, sure. I think the most common and basic strategy will be simply to engage with your prospects, whether they are cold prospects or warm prospects, meaning that you already had a sales call with them. Because until LinkedIn rise and Twitter, as well as social selling platforms, kind of the only way to follow up on a lead in the past was just email. And so it was really hard to stay top of mind until you did maybe some retargeting ads. But it's not the best strategy. And a simple strategy would be just to make sure you connected with your prospect on LinkedIn. First step, engage with them when they do post. Obviously not everyone posts every single day, but nowadays most people, at least post once a month or they have all post and so you can still engage with this previous post. And because you engage with them when I say engage. I mean, like and most importantly commenting, because many people like, but very few people actually do comment on posts. And so when you will comment on the post, the person, your prospect will most of the time reply to you. And because they reply to you, it will signify to the algorithm. Okay, so you pretty much like this person or it's someonein your first degree connections on LinkedIn that is important to you. So when you will post, in return, the post will be pushed into the feed in priority in the first 10 to 20 posts. And so a very basic strategy, without even doing any form of outreach is just engaging with someone. The person replied to you because they reply to you. When you will post on socials, they will see your post in the feed. And even if they don't like it, even if they don't comment on the post, it doesn't matter because they will see your post, and you will have impressions. And that's why I always talk about this with some friends. We see lots of LinkedIn gurus or influencers who have viral posts with 1 million impressions. And actually, most people who close deals and make businesses, they don't go beyond 1000 or 2000 views per post. They don't have tonnes of likes because most prospects, they're not very active, but they're just talkers. They are on the platform, they're scrolling, they're reading stuff, but they're not mainly liking, et cetera. I have a very good example of it because yesterday I have a friend who got viral with a B, two B post on LinkedIn, pretty much sharing his story. He got 1 million impressions, 1 million views in 24 hours, 12,000 likes, thousand comments. And then I asked him, did you got any business out of it yet? And he told me, not even one conversation. And so there's a difference between making posts about really something that can bring your business and go viral. And I think there's a misconception also about this. So, yeah, simple strategy, engage. And even without reaching out, just because you engage with someone, also most of the time people will say, oh, I saw you commented once or twice on my post, so should we connect? Should we have a call? It's very natural.
Rob Da Costa [00:08:59]:
Yeah, that's so interesting. So a couple of things there we shouldn't be going for the vanity metric of millions of views. The other thing I didn't realise, so I'd learnt something here, is that I guess it's obvious really that when you comment on someone's post, the algorithm is then going to show your post to them in future. So that's a really good reason. But if our listeners are like me and they've got hundreds or even thousands of connections on LinkedIn, then it makes it really difficult to find those people that you really want to get engaged with amongst the hundreds or thousands of other people. What’s your thoughts there? How do you narrow that down?
Arnaud Belinga [00:09:40]:
Yeah, I think there’s two strategies. There's a strategy if you don't have a budget and a strategy if you have a small budget. So when it comes to the strategy, without a budget, you can just use the regular philtres on LinkedIn. And so you can philtre your connections by city, by the job, just using the search bar. And so from there you can just by typing keywords essentially. Same with Twitter. Twitter is actually more simple for that. You can just type some keywords related to your ICP because, you know, maybe most of the time the head of sales or whatever, and so you can quickly find them that way. But if you have more a small budget, meaning you can afford LinkedIn Sales Navigator and actually LinkedIn Sales Navigator, I think the first two months when you never bought it, it's free. So it's also a good strategy to use it on the free plan, the free trial, I mean, is just using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, filtering with first-degree connections and then ticking the box that says posted in the last 30 days. So you're making sure these people are a minimum active on socials. And so by default, it will eject all the people who are not active and then using the keywords, again, the size of the company, because Lincoln Sales Navigator is way more advanced. You can find your ideal customers and filtering the noise of all your connections because at the end of the day, if you have an agency or service business or maybe a SaaS software that target enterprises, you don't need to target thousands of people. You can just have a list of 5200 ideal customers and just working hard on them to build B, two B relationships. And at some point you will close them for sure, whether it's in one month or six months, or in a year, if it's a very high ticket, sure.
Rob Da Costa [00:11:38]:
And that's sort of banging the drum that I always bang, that you should have a clear niche, because if you're operating with a clear niche, then it becomes much easier to identify your ideal target customer and therefore it becomes much easier in LinkedIn search to find those people. If you're trying to be a generalist targeting everybody, then you end up taking a very scattergun approach and that's very hard to find those people. Can I just ask your view before we dig into this a bit further? What's your view on using LinkedIn automation tools to do some of this outreach?
Arnaud Belinga [00:12:10]:
Yeah, obviously I'm quite biased because we do have a sales CRM with social media integrations, but it doesn't do any automation. That's why we don't have users banned on our platform on breadcall. And I think it's a good question because most people who use LinkedIn automation tools actually don't know how to use it properly. So first they will have very bad results because they don't know how to do sales prospecting. Most people two-thirds of people don't know how to use these tools properly and so they also don't know how to handle the limits of LinkedIn even though these LinkedIn automation tools help you to add that. And so they get the account restricted temporarily, sometimes forever. So it's really a pain and unless you're really good at automation, kind of a little growth hacker. I would not recommend to use LinkedIn automation tools because you can get banned pretty much however, if you just use it not heavily, I mean, just for some smart automation. So you can use automation, just not for outbound but you can also use it for inbound. So maybe to do some sequences where you do follow up on people you've talked in the past, it might be useful. And because you already talked to these people, LinkedIn algorithm will not consider this as like spam automation because you already had a full conversation with them. So there's actually tonnes of ways to use LinkedIn automation tools. But unfortunately, people use it more for the heavy stuff and like you say, they target everyone because they will just type a keyword. Yeah, I want to target lawyers and then it will take all the lawyers into a list and sending messages, etcetera, when actually they don't know that after five or six pages. When you do that with LinkedIn automation tools, LinkedIn will show you other people. And so I've done this mistake in the past. I wanted to target B, two B sales in the US and I ended up with really very bad connections. It polluted my feed. I spent two days deleting some of the contacts and so people use it to target thousands of people at once when they should use it in a smart way on 5000 people at a time and doing more little campaigns. But because they are business owners, they kind of do everything. It's a whole other job to master automations and kind of be a growth accurate or using VPNs, et cetera. So yeah, it's kind of a debate but it is the same for cold emailing sometimes also people there struggle.
Rob Da Costa [00:15:04]:
And full disclosure, I am a user of LinkedIn automation but I'm not an expert, but I would say I'm not a novice. So isn't it annoying when you get those connection requests and you accept it, and then the next minute you get a sales message from them? And I'm like, I always send some sarcastic comment back, and then I unconnect. With them because they've made no effort to get to know me, to like me or trust me before they try and sell to me.
Arnaud Belinga [00:15:32]:
Yeah, exactly. You're totally right. And the thing is, it's no longer 2017 when this kind of tools rise to the top and now people, they can detect that instantly. You pretty much flagged and they will not reply to your follow ups. I have some people. I have like seven, eight follow-ups with really not related messages, not relevant, sorry messages. You need to be more smart about it nowadays.
Rob Da Costa [00:16:07]:
Yeah. So I'm going to do a little bit of flag waving for your product Breakcold now because I knew I needed a CRM system because I just had an Excel spreadsheet or a Google sheet, and then I discovered Breakhold. And what I really love about this is it gives me a curated dashboard of contacts for me to comment on. So just to say a little bit about Breakhold, it's a typical CRM system, but it also enables you to connect with the contacts, Twitter feed and LinkedIn feed. And if you do that, then you get a dashboard of all of your leads in your CRM and like, a curated dashboard of all of their LinkedIn stuff. So it actually enables me to comment on the people that are really important in my world right now. And so I schedule 30 minutes every day just to go through that dashboard and like and comment on people's posts. And as you said, that started them to come back to me and say thanks or whatever. And I'm starting to build a bit of a relationship with them. So at some point in the future, when I reach out to them to say, hey, why don't we jump on a call or have a chat? They know who I am. So there's more like to say yes to that than it being like a cold outreach. So I really love the tool and I am going to put a link in the show notes to this podcast episode for people who want to take a look at the tool. And I very rarely sort of bang drums for software on these podcasts because I want to be as neutral as possible. But on the other hand, I also like to share tools and techniques that I know are working for me because then I know they'll work for the listeners of this podcast as well. So, good job.
Arnaud Belinga [00:17:46]:
Yeah. Cheers. And just to add some notes on this, I have a lot of friends that are in B two B sales in startups and actually the top sales, the top 1% sales, who are always reaching quotas and exceeding quotas, they were already doing that, actually, so they were already looking at what, your tweets, your LinkedIn post. They engage with prospects because they know sales cycles can belong. That automation, it's not for them because it generates, it's more pretty much like agencies and smaller businesses that do services. It's not just a subscription, $29 a month where you can do volume, you need more strong B two B bond to get going, to close the deal and to gather a call. And they were already doing that, but they had to open so many tabs a day because if you want to do what you can do on Bright, call for example, essentially to do social selling manually in this regard would be to go on LinkedIn. For example, if we talk about linking type the first name, last name of your prospect, then click on the prospect, then click on Activity, then click on Post and then only then you can engage with the post. And some people in this regard they will just put in Chrome or Safari as favourite so they can go to this place in one click, but it's not scalable. And you open so many tabs that LinkedIn also can get you restricted because if you open too many tabs, like 100 tabs a day or in one browser LinkedIn will thing because they don't know how to distinguish automation from no automation. And so yeah, we just made a way to do it in an easy way but if you don't want to do it manually it's totally the go to way. It's a bit time-consuming, you won't do it in 50 minutes a day like Rob but at least you can get it going and have start to see results. Yeah.
Rob Da Costa [00:19:53]:
And I feel like I don't know if you agree with this, but since I've been working in the agency world since the 90s, probably before you were born, then those days, you could take a more scatter approach. You could buy a cold list and you could email that list and you would get some business from it. And I feel like as social media has evolved and more specific outreach has evolved, that scattergun approach just doesn't work anymore. And in fact the opposite of that personal approach is the one that works. So we have to find ways of doing that. What do you feel like the future of social selling is going to be like? What trends do you think we're going to see?
Arnaud Belinga [00:20:37]:
Yeah, I think it's something we already seeing. Meaning that the frontier between sales and marketing is kind of vanishing. Meaning that salespeople are doing more and more marketing and marketing guys are doing more and more sales. And so now you see because in the past they were just people who do cold call, emailing and then there were the marketers who do the marketing things, whatever the size of the company. And nowadays you see people who do sales, they send emails, cold emails or do some calls, but they're also doing posts on social media and engaging with the prospect that they had on calls. And so they don't do outbound, they don't do inbound. Now they do oldbound kind of. And so I think it's a trend that's going to go bigger and bigger. And even some companies that traditionally were heavy on cold calling and cold emailing, now they have salespeople, but the salespeople are only doing content on LinkedIn and they call it sales. So it's interesting to see this kind of dynamics and I also think it's going to be more and more relevant because obviously we're talking about LinkedIn here because it's the most famous b two B social network. But Facebook, for example, is already used heavily when it comes to b two B for SMBs. Twitter as well, especially in the English speaking countries, alerts of SMBs going from almost zero to a million a year, 5 million a year as an agency only through Twitter. And so I think it will start to expand to all the social media and even where there's no feed, where you can engage, but just in community based on Telegram discord, there's already a lot of B two B thing. Technically it also fits into the social selling category. And so I think the key in the future will be, you know, your ideal customer customers profile and your role will be to identify if most of them, they're only active in one social network, b two B social network, or if you have to get a presence pretty much everywhere or at least on free socials. And so you kind of a living ad because everywhere on where they can be, whether it's Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you can engage with them on cross platforms and stay top of mind. And at the end of day, I think the more we advance in time, the more everything gets commoditized. Meaning like services, lots of people, they already have the same offer, then even the packaging can be similar. When it comes to software businesses. It's also getting common sized with the rise of AI, but not only AI. And so your only way nowadays to close customers when you don't have a very different advantage and a really distinguished offer is to be the most likeable service provider. Meaning it can be your B two B brand, but it can also be you as a founder, as a business owner, creating trust around your expertise. With socials, it's a huge part of it with content, but also just engaging with prospect. Because if there's like free agencies that are on a prospect and they pretty much offer the same thing, same pricing, et cetera, all free, they have the same case studies, in the end, the prospect will pick the one with which he feels the closest to and who is the most likeable. And I'm pretty sure, like all the listeners here will agree that the easiest deals they've closed was when they build the easiest or the best b two B relationship with really simple thing during a call or before a call. And so I think it's going to be more and more relevant as automation is going crazy and everyone can spot automation, even AI. AI was new recently, but now people can spot AI easily as well. So yeah, I think this will always make the difference.
Rob Da Costa [00:25:13]:
Yeah, it's really interesting because I always talk to people about why they need a clear niche and a clear position and they don't want to be commoditized. Because I always say when you're commoditized? How do you differentiate yourself usually by price or service level? Are you being the cheapest or offering ridiculous levels of service? But actually you're adding a third dimension to that to say well, if you want to stand out as a commoditized offer, having a really strong social presence and building your brand or your personal brand is a super great way of doing that. So I think that's another big reason why people should be doing this and.
Arnaud Belinga [00:25:47]:
I have a very good example about it. In France, my home country, there's a guy called TIO Leo and essentially he built a Facebook ads agency and it was offering the exact same thing as everyone else. It was a newcomer in the market and just using LinkedIn building a personal brand authority on the topic, but most importantly connected with his clients. So every time he started to getting clients was bonding with them. So the clients, they like him even more because it's just not a service provider, it's more than that, it's B, two B friend, so there's more referral, et cetera. And in the span of two years, which is not very much, he went from pretty much zero to, I think, 300k in monthly wrecking revenue for his agency. And obviously he has a good service delivery, but pretty much all the other agency does do. And he was saying that. Yeah, at the time, two years ago, he was the only one doing that. Using social selling as an advantage to grow his agency. Nowadays everyone in France in his niche are doing it, so it's way harder and so you always need to have a clear positioning but I'm sure for the listeners out there in your niche, some people might not doing it already so you have a clear advantage doing this.
Rob Da Costa [00:27:24]:
Yeah, and I think that it's a good reminder that in business, even in a B to B business, we are doing business with human beings and we're building those one to one relationships with humans. It's humans that make decisions, it's not businesses make decisions. So we need to keep building those one to one interactions. Really interesting stuff on those. So let me ask you the question that asks all my guests now you possibly have the distinction of being the youngest guest I've had on this podcast. The question I'm going to ask is if you go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be? Now, that's not going to be that long for you but it may be advice about your studies, I don't know. But what would answer to the question be?
Arnaud Belinga [00:28:04]:
Yeah, I think I would say start now because when I was 18 years old, before going to uni I wanted already to do some businesses and when your parents are not entrepreneurs, you're not surrounding by entrepreneurs and you don't have a lot of money in your family. The classic path, it's pretty much do some studies, doctor or lawyer or engineer. And, yeah, I just followed that path because no one did some studies in my family, but maybe I should have listened to myself, because in the end, I ended up doing for seven years. And then when you actually do start a real business, not just side hustles, kind of, you still have zero experience. So in the end, it's not a matter of age, I think, it's the matter of experience. And so if you're starting at 18 years old, at 27, ten years later, you will have ten years of experience. That's why sometimes we see on social some youngsters and we think, yeah, they might be scammers, but they're not, because they started at 16 years old, 17 years old, and they didn't went to studies for some reason. And so the only thing that they were doing for ten years was this. I think people underestimate this because in the first two years, even if you have some success directly, it always takes time to build your process, to get experience, I guess.
Rob Da Costa [00:29:41]:
Yeah, well, that's great advice. My journey is a bit similar to yours in different ways, because I did a computer science degree and I started out as a bad programmer at IBM, was my first job and I absolutely hated it. And I quickly realised that I wanted to work in the marketing world. But anyway, good advice and thank you so much for joining us today been really interesting. As I always say, I always know a good guest because I could talk about the topic for ages, but I know the listeners will find this really useful. Now, if people wanted to find out more about you or reach out to you, where would they go?
Arnaud Belinga [00:30:16]:
Yeah, they can send me an email at Arnaud Belinga, email@example.com, or they can just go on Brackhole.com and say hi in the live chat and asking for honour and the team or myself will reply to you.
Rob Da Costa [00:30:35]:
So, yeah, great stuff. Well, I'll put those links in the show notes. I'm really excited to see where the product goes over the next few years and thank you so much for joining us today.
Arnaud Belinga [00:30:45]:
Yeah, cheers. Thank you very much, Rob. Bye.