Studies show most companies are missing the potential benefits of social selling.
According to the The State of Social Selling – 2015 Survey Results, the percentage of sales professionals who find social selling valuable increases from 67% to 96% once they are trained, whilst their successful use of social selling as part of their overall sales processes triples to 74%.
And yet only 22% of companies encourage the use of social selling, and only 11% train their employees. This seems commercially irresponsible.
In Australia, our B2B sales and marketing consultancy, Carpe Diem Consulting, recently completed research as part of a project sponsored by Microsoft Australia that revealed “social selling” remains in its infancy.
From a sample of 20 IT channel members – ranging from companies with an outbound sales force of one through to a field force of over 300 – only 9% of those surveyed have defined the social sales workflows their sales team are to follow, and are following this up with training, coaching and performance monitoring.
We found that over 80% of firms researched are happy to leave the use of “social” largely up to the sales team themselves. This lacks controls and KPIs. It is incongruent too when you consider the fact so many other sales disciplines are highly managed.
We identified the 4 reasons why this is the case.
1. “Social” selling is seen as an alternative to “traditional” selling.
It feels optional. This is wrong. It’s time to stop talking about “social” versus “traditional” selling, and see it all as just “selling”, albeit in a social world. You need to listen, research, inform and build a community of prospects and customers online and around your personal and corporate brand. You need to be an authority displaying thought leadership right across the buying journey. This is your chance to win back some control over the buying process.
It’s now all “selling”, albeit in a social world.
2. The benefits of social selling are not widely appreciated by decision makers.
Business owners and senior executives are busy with general management duties, and the weeks go by fast. They have no time to stay up to date with competitive sales and marketing trends. Add to this that “Sales” in itself can often be seen as a profession without proven methodologies and structure, and it’s not surprising the benefits of “selling in a social world” are not widely known or appreciated by decision makers.
3. The focus on “social platforms” needs to be shifted back to “how to sell better”.
If you can’t sell before you learn how to use LinkedIn, you won’t be able to sell after you learn. There’s a plethora of consultants offering what we would call social platform training. This is the wrong move. Your focus needs to be on teaching sales people to sell holistically in a social world, and then supplementing their skills and workflows with the advantage of technology platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Hootsuite and more.
4. Sales people don’t have anything to say.
When it all boils down to it, you’re either “listening”, “learning” or “informing” your market when connecting on social media. Listening can be highly profitable by identifying the key triggers you need to be aware of for your prospects. Learning demands research to understand your prospects’ environments and needs. However informing demands a flow of unique and relevant content to ensure they have enough credible, thought-leading things to say.
If you can’t sell before you learn LinkedIn, you won’t be able to sell after either.
What to do from here.
Take some action. There are plenty of resources available to help you understand the concept of social selling (beyond just Linkedin). This will give you a better idea as to what actual sales training you need to thrive in our rapidly changing world where the buyer has taken control.
Find material to help you define and structure your approach to social selling. This will give you the confidence to start the conversation internally with regards to training and investments that are required to sell better in a social world.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Call a consultant who specialises in this area and can help you get started with a proven approach that works to get you operational quickly and efficiently. Your competitors are likely doing this right now.
Set real goals around the outcomes you seek from this activity (and this does not mean just followers and fans). You want to be sure you’re on track to deliver commercial returns for the effort, usually in terms of pipeline, revenue, and reduced cost of sale.
And get the content flowing.
Research by the Corporate Executive Board indicates that it’s not WHAT we sell, but HOW we sell that makes the difference. Publishing via social media is a very efficient way to build reputation and influence the marketplace. Now more than ever your sales representatives’ own personal brands are critical – and they need approved material from your organisation to get started and maintain the cadence.
The opportunity to leap-frog your competitors by using social media to better listen, research and inform the market is here. Start now.
If you would like to explore social selling further, or see how it relates to you as a sales professional, email me at email@example.com.