Who's That Gal: Ashley Ryall of UntapSocial
Name: Ashley Ryall
Occupation: Founder & Chief Strategist of UntapSocial (sales and marketing consulting)
Hometown: Weare, NH
Currently Reading: Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss
Favorite Summer night out in Boston: craft beer or summer cocktail out on the patio with friends
Favorite New Brand: HALO ice cream - low calorie, low sugar ice cream that actually tastes good
Shine text - the best daily motivation app I’ve ever used.
UntapSocial is coming up on its two-year anniversary, congrats! Can you walk us through your career background and what led you to venture out on your own and start UntapSocial?
My first job out of college was as a temporary Executive Assistant for a recruitment software company, but I knew since my sophomore year in college that I wanted a career in marketing. I spoke up about a marketing position at Bullhorn and moved to that team for almost three years where I learned social media, well. Then, I moved on and owned the social media marketing initiatives at one Boston-based recruitment firm, and then another.
I don’t know if there is such thing as an “entrepreneur” gene, but I’ve always felt this pull that I was supposed to be doing something bigger. As an introvert with a big heart and an even bigger drive to “make it,” working next to an extroverted group of salespeople every day was exhausting. I knew I wanted to work hard, but for my own dream, on my terms. I wanted to travel and have the freedom to work from coffee shops, from the comfort of my own home or from an Airbnb anywhere in the world. I sort of always knew I’d work for myself one day, and I didn’t want that day to come 10 years from now, so I bit the bullet at 27 years old.
I’ve learned more about myself in the last two years than I have my entire life. And I am eternally grateful for this opportunity that I try my hardest not to take for granted.
UntapSocial began as a consulting service to help entrepreneurs and small businesses owners actualize their social media strategy. But about a year and a half ago, I realized that the social media and personal branding techniques I had taught recruiters could be applied to any salesperson. After all, in my opinion, recruiters have the hardest sales job - they sell people. I started following the success of the social selling movement compared to cold calling (HubSpot and LinkedIn as the pioneers), and I found my niche there, especially since a social-media-for-sales expert was in high demand. I wanted to be known as a social selling consultant, so I shifted my business model away from helping individuals and small businesses toward training sales teams how to leverage social media for business development.
I hear stories about how social media has helped someone land their dream job or facilitate a meaningful relationship all the time which validates its power. Social media naturally generates peer networks for us to connect with. It provides a platform that facilitates incredible opportunities for us to communicate and build relationships. We can be influencers who have a voice. When others doubt or complain about social media, I see it’s potential - it’s unwavering opportunity. I see limitless possibility.
I have always wanted to “love what I do” and even though my business is ever-evolving, as I am, I know I’m on the right path because of the experiences I’m having.
What challenges did you face when you first started out?
For a year a half, I struggled with confidence, which translated directly into problems pricing my services. I wasn’t assertive enough to ask people for their time or their money. Having battled low self-esteem my entire life, I was associating my business with my self-worth, which came with the all-too-familiar mental abuse of “you’re not good enough” rollercoaster of emotions that tore me apart. It was awful.
Even though client feedback and referrals were both strong, I was lowballing myself when it came to pricing, and I didn’t want to come off as “cheap” because my services had great value.
The best advice I received was from profit strategist, Wendy Sabin. “Take yourself out of the equation. Look at your pricing as a business decision.” That day, I hung up a lot of limiting beliefs.
At some point, you get tired of your own shit, and you decide you’re going to do things differently. My first year as a business owner, I made only enough income to apply for food stamps. (I didn’t have to, thank goodness and a special shout-out to my amazing fiance for supporting me!) In January of 2017, I made more in that month than I made all of the previous year, and revenue is still on a steady climb.
Statistics say that over 60% of major companies don’t have social media incorporated into their sales strategy and UntapSocial’s goal is to change that. What is your client acquisition process? Do you approach them and say “Hey you need to implement social selling” or are they coming to you?
Right now, it’s easier to promote the benefits of social media for sales because many organizations are still using traditional methods to find and retain customers. I anticipate that will change very soon.
95 percent of my clients are referrals but I have to practice what I preach (or “teach” in this case). I also use LinkedIn to identify companies that fit my specific criteria for potential partnerships and research those key contacts. If I have mutual connections, I’ll leverage those. More recently, I’ve experimented with video.
It’s more often than not that an executive wants a more active and engaged LinkedIn presence for him- or herself. Once I show him or her the ropes and they begin to see the results of their boosted online activity, the light bulb goes on. “All of my employees should be doing this!” So they make the connection on their own. They just need someone to implement the program. That’s where I come in, with formulaic lead generation strategies.
What challenges do you face when selling social media to traditional companies with older generation decision makers?
It’s a big hurdle, that’s for sure. But I believe that Social media is only “a generational thing” to a point. There’s an opportunity for us all to be more open to the fact that a lot of older generation decision-makers embrace social media, are willing to be innovative and are looking for better ways of doing things. That said, I definitely experience my fair share of people across all generations who are stuck in their ways.
I only work with people who see the value in what I do. If I’m in a prospect meeting trying to convince someone of opportunities with social, and it’s an uphill climb the entire way, I know they aren’t a fit for me, and I’m not a fit for them. You have to be willing to walk away.
My mission is to educate and help them see the value, which is done by providing supportive research about how the sales landscape has changed and that the majority of a customer’s decision-making process about a vendor is done digitally and through peer opinions.
Separately, I have been surprised how many established, reputable companies don’t have the right tools and best practices in place to succeed with social. So a big challenge for me is to decide whether or not to partner with them, knowing that we’ll have to implement the right methodologies before we can even get started.
Social media is constantly evolving and it’s so hard to keep up with! How do you stay on top of it all?
It’s exhausting, don’t get me wrong. But I love it. So it’s easy for me to keep up. I follow a small handful of the top 1% of best social media websites and influencers and attend the top conferences, but the best way to learn is to explore on your own. I try new tools frequently and monitor my own social platforms, noticing when my network is online and which posts outperform others.
The trick is not to spread yourself too thin. Don’t try to be on all of them. You’ll be exhausted, stressed and unmotivated to keep going. Know where your customers hang out online and be there - ALL IN.
What are your favorite tools for posting and KPI tracking?
I think that the tools used are less important than tracking the right KPIs.
Buffer is great for posting to social media and Hootsuite is my favorite for social monitoring (though these still have their imperfections and are constantly changing).
It still amazes me how much stock marketers put into tracking Likes and social media Impressions. The top metric you should be tracking is whether or not the viewer took the action you wanted them to take - whether that’s commenting, participating in a contest, sharing your post, submitting their email address or something else.
For sales KPI tracking, my favorite tool is the right CRM, when used properly. Two of the most important KPIs to track (in my opinion) go unloved. 1) The source code for each lead: if you spend $20,000 on lead lists and only 10% of those leads convert, how are you saving money? Know where your leads come from so you know where your sales team should invest their time. 2) Marketing wishes sales would properly track their activity in Salesforce, but a lot of them don’t. In addition to tracking # of meetings generated and # of deals won/lost, track # of lead contacts and # of qualified companies entered into your CRM, and incentivize sales if you have to. This way, you have more data to dissect, can find new pockets of money and help the team be more efficient.
What’s your #1 social selling secret, if you care to share? People don’t want to be sold to. And they’ll see past an empty sales pitch. Instead, reach them on their level, with a genuine, helpful approach. We have more access to information about our prospects than we’ve ever had before. Find common ground...a shared interest, hobby, mutual connection or piece of content that resonates with you. Your next customer wants to know that you can offer the right solution to solve their problem, but just as importantly, that you’re the type of person they can have a beer with.
What’s next for UntapSocial?
That’s a great question, and I’m still looking for that answer. I’d like to automate some of my skill sets in the form of online courses, but I’d also like to travel more and work with clients in different industries and from around the world.