9 Things Everyone In Sales Should Know About Social Selling

July 20, 2016 Richard Bayston

When sales people hear social, they think, oh great. Let’s go create some awareness, shall we? It’s easy to see where that response comes from. But it’s no longer accurate. Major social networks can be good places to actually sell, not just tickle up vanity metrics like ‘likes.’ Particularly, social channels excel in areas where sales faces challenges: generating qualified leads, accessing the buyer’s journey early, and addressing post-purchase retention and referral.

 

1. The Buyers Are There

Buyers are definitely on social networks. Specifically, male (75%) buyers who are 18-34 (51%) working in IT (73%) or business (49%) are on social networks. (Source)

In fact, 46% of decision makers are now aged 18-34 - the largest social media-using demographic. (Source)

 

2. Buyers Use Social To Buy

They’re using social networks to make purchase decisions - they’re not just hanging out.

84% of B2B executives use social media to research purchase decisions; 72% of B2B buyers use social media to research specific solutions. (Source)

75% of B2B buyers are significantly influenced by social media. (Source)

Buyers are forming connections with sales people on social channels.

Buyers’ social media connections with potential solutions providers have risen by 57%. 92% of B2B buyers use social media to engage with sales industry thought leaders. (Source)

 

3. Social Delivers For Sales

And from the figures, it looks like social selling does work.

78% of reps who use social selling outsell their peers. (Source)

63.4% of social sellers reported an increase in their company’s revenue, compared to 41.2% of non-social sellers. (Source)

And what about the dog at every rep's heels, quota?

Social sellers were 23% more likely to exceed quota by 10% or more than non-social sellers. (Source)

Perhaps most importantly, social selling should be an easy sell to sales because it answers a vital pain point.

 

4. Social Excels At Lead Generation

Social selling is most effective for lead gen (80%), pre-sale relationships (82%), and post-sale relationships (92%). (Source)

80% of top sellers use LinkedIn to create highly targeted prospect lists, and 86% use it to conduct in-depth prospect research. (Source)

 

5. Social Selling Meets The Buyer Earlier In The Journey

Social selling lets reps access the buyer earlier. Time was, if a buyer wanted to know about a product they picked up the phone or even got in the car and spoke to a sales rep in person. Reps had significant control of the sales process. No more. 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. (Source)

57% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer talks to a rep. (Source)

93% of sales start with an online search of some kind and conversations with leads through digital channels cut time to close by 20%. (Source)

The sooner sales gets in on that process the sooner they can offer buyers something worthwhile and thus the sooner they can start buyers on the road to purchase from them. What gets you in that door?

Social.

Corporate Visions found that B2B decision makers chose sales reps who entered the process while they were deciding on a provider just 26% of the time. That’s where most reps enter the process now. By contrast, they opted for reps who entered the process earlier, at the ‘what to do?’ stage, 74% of the time. (Source)

 

6. Managers Aren’t Convinced

So shouldn’t social selling be a no-brainer?

Maybe.

But sales pros don’t agree on whether social selling works.

55% of B2B sales pros don’t believe social selling is adding anything to their organization’s bottom line. (Source)

But at the same time, 73% of reps find at least one social network valuable, usually LinkedIn. (Source)

 

7. Social Selling Needs Process Too

Maybe there’s a lack of structure and process, holding reps back?

Only 8.5% of social sellers have a program that’s fully integrated into their sales process and stack. (Source)

Only 31% of sales pros say their process even includes social at all. (Source)

Everyone else is making it up as they go. Just 22% of reps feel like they’re competent to do that. (Source)

And only 22% of sales pros say their companies encourage social selling. Only 11% train reps in social selling. Most troubling of all, just 6% of companies measure the effects of social selling. (Source)

How good is that training if only 7% of companies offer but don’t quantify? Probably not that great.

If we’re going by data, more sales organizations than ever should be embracing social selling. Instead they’re testing the waters.

On the other hand…

 

8. Sales Reps Aren’t Doing The Basics On Social

Reps could be doing social a whole lot better.

Social can be used to sell. But it’s there to converse and share. Getting into the right conversations with the right people and sharing the right content with them is social table stakes. It’s what you have to do to get in the room where you can sell. Maybe millennials are so successful at social selling  - 44% of them use it - because they instinctively understand the ante. (Source)

11% of social media profiles still have stock ‘avatar’ images. Fix this - it’s making you look unprofessional and untrustworthy. And 95% of folks on LinkedIn are using business card type headlines as their profiles. That’s just making you look dull. (Source)

And reps aren’t doing basic stuff that would make social selling more effective either.

53% of sales reps (probably) aren’t even on LinkedIn. (Source)

Those reps who are on LinkedIn aren’t joining groups.

There are over 2.1 million groups on LinkedIn, giving access to communities with specialized interests. (Source)

39% of reps are in fewer than 10 groups; 30% are in fewer than 20; 31% are in 50 or fewer. (Source)

52% of reps have less than 500 connections. (Source)

And if they do manage to reach someone who’s interested, only 47% have any contact information on their profile. (Source)

Reps suck at linking social networks together too: just 19% have their Twitter info on their LinkedIn profile, for instance. (Source)

 

9. Reps Aren’t Reaching Out With Content

Worst of all, reps are poor at doing the one thing that social really enables: they’re not sharing content.

We know that finding the right content at the right time is a challenge for sales people: in one survey, only 20% of sales people felt they had access to the content they needed when they needed it. (Source)

But on social channels the situation is even worse.

Just 3% of account executives are using social networks to share relevant content. (Source)

That, like being more active on social and getting basics like profiles right, is something reps can do for themselves without waiting for managers to build a process for it.

 

Conclusion

Social selling gives salespeople a way into the buyer journey while they’re still open to a new approach, not just a new product. And it gives you a means to engage with prospects, generate, qualify and nurture leads, and demonstrate value effectively and early. But you have to use it right. For reps that means:

Fix up your social profiles so they look and sound professional. This is what you’re ‘wearing’ when you meet new prospects so make it look respectable.

Link your social profiles! Add contact information. Most sales that start on social don’t get closed there.

Have content on hand ready to share. Links to blog posts are cool but many B2B buyers will want to cut straight to heavyweight stuff. Have your white papers and use cases where you can draw them quick!

Finally…

Join groups. Follow people. Get involved. It’s not about ‘awareness’ or whatever, but you don’t get to sell if you’re not in the room.

For teams and departments it means the slog of building yet another component into an already complex sales process. But effective training can make reps more likely to use social selling and be more effective at it. And when social fits so well into the two most problematic areas of the funnel - lead gen and retention - can you afford not to?

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