Insights on Social Selling from LinkedIn’s Survey of Sales Executives
“The world of business is going through a seismic shift in how we engage with our clients; therefore, there will be leaders and laggards throughout this evolution,” says Alexander Low, Head of Client Development, JLL. But what he is referring to? What’s this great change in how salespeople interact with their prospects? The answer is the same change that is revolutionizing all of our lives–the revolution is social networking–which in the business world, when it is used to find and nurture clients to maximize quality contacts, is called, “social selling.”
Social selling is about leveraging your social network (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and achieve sales goals. LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, reports that 72.6% of people using social media as part of the sales process outperform their peers and exceed quota 23% more often.
Social selling provides an advantage by offering more access to buyers and more feedback about any problems. Social selling allows salespeople to use social media to interact directly with their prospects, answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy. It’s all about enabling your prospect to make an easier purchasing decision.
Equally important to social selling is the ability to measure it, to quantify the value of your social selling. When discussing measuring, Paul Albright, CEO & Co-Founder, Captora explained that “sales feedback should be continuous – daily activity, sales pipeline development results, opportunity to-bookings conversion rate, sales cycle for each deal, and average sales cycle across sales’ deals.” It’s all well and good to have a robust network of contacts, but if the network itself isn’t working for you by providing fruitful insights into whom to contact, then your network is lying fallow. It’s not producing the kinds of information from sales metrics that you need. That’s where solutions can help by using predictive data intelligence to score and prioritize your leads.
With the advent of social selling came powerful new measuring and predicting engines, which help social selling to take root in the world of B2B sales. Digital communication strengthened one-on-one relationships by enabling more frequent and meaningful communication. This is in addition to predictive lead scoring and analytical insights provided by companies who have elevated predictive sales analytics to a science.
Any sales executive will tell you that in order to succeed as a salesperson you have to lead with a focus on the relationship. The deal is closed through the interactions and it is social selling which increases the value of your interactions. Research shows B2B decision-makers count their interactions with salespeople as the major determinant of whom they choose. When explaining the value of social selling, Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, Corporate Visions explained that “salespeople who show a knack for presenting edgy, counterintuitive industry insights,” by for example writing articles which can be accessed by all those in a social network, “can make themselves a go-to source when their contacts are ready to buy.”
Although interest in social selling is significant, and more and more companies are reaping its rewards, there are a couple of reasons why adoption is lagging. One is that there is a lack of people who understand how to get a positive return on investment by using social media. Another reason is that there is seldom support from the top–many C-suite executives are not social themselves.
One way to teach those old dogs (no pun intended) new tricks is to show results. When recounting how she employed her social network in her first job at a time when the business environment relied on cold-calling, Lingsey Boggs, VP Enterprise Sales & Social Selling, etailinsights, said that she had the least amount of calls on the activity report–but, the flip side was that she was exceeding her quota quarter after quarter by using her social network contacts, as opposed to fishing in the cold calling waters. “My managers soon developed a different and foreign mindset of embracing quality versus quantity,” Boggs said. “I taught the sales organization my social selling methodologies. And they are still practiced there today.”
“Less is more,” agrees Barb Giamanco, Social Selling Strategist. “Salespeople can spread themselves too thin. They need to define their social selling strategy, they need to be social media savvy.” Research from Harvard Business Review, MHI Global, CSO Insights and others, indicates that buyers are clearly saying they want to work with salespeople who can help them solve business problems and who also collaborate with them to craft solutions.
Collaboration and trust are still the basis of any good sales relationship. It leads to productive rapport, knowing you can ask questions and get them answered. Fulfilling the buyer’s desire prior to sale, and finding the right buyers are the salesperson’s objective. Social selling, coupled with predictive and analytical insights, is leading modern salespeople to the right leads, and allowing that salesperson to nurture that lead until closing.
If your company isn’t utilizing social selling resources, your company has underutilized assets and unrecognized revenue is waiting.