Social selling. By now you’ve certainly heard of it, but are you entirely sure what it means, or why it’s so important?
Often conflated with social media marketing, which is about creating content targeted for each platform in order to drive user engagement and “sharing”, or social media advertising, which is literally ad creation, social selling is something entirely different.
Social selling allows salespeople to laser-target prospects, establish rapport, and maybe even reduce or eliminate the need for cold calling.
By leveraging their own social network to find the right prospects and build trusted relationships, salespeople experience better lead generation and sales prospecting process, ultimately leading to the achievement of sales goals. Why? Because building and maintaining relationships is just easier within a network that a customer trusts.
Make no mistake: Social selling is not just about gaining access to contacts. Social selling is about building relationships and listening for the right moment to join the conversation and present a solution to a problem. The goal in social selling is to address a pressing need to make the prospect’s life easier, not to become another online pest that bombards strangers with solicited tweets and private messages (that’s just spamming -- don’t ever do it).
So, why should you care? I’ve provided a lot of statistics in the next section that speak to the importance of social selling, but here’s the most compelling reason to care: 78% of salespeople engaged in social selling are outselling their peers who are not engaged in the practice. Social selling works. Period.
Here are a few more points to consider:
1. Social selling produces real relationships and real results.
Salespeople have traditionally relied on the (dreaded) process of cold calling to build rapport with prospects, but with minimal results: 90% of top decision-makers say they never respond to cold calls.
By contrast, social selling allows you to listen in on conversations relevant to your industry—known as social listening—giving your sales team the ability to identify new leads that are already talking about your business, your competitors, or your industry, so you can reach out to them slowly with useful information when the time is right. The first point of contact is personalized, relevant, and helpful -- instead of intrusive and cold.
31% of B2B professionals say that social selling tools allows them to build deeper relationships with clients.
Better yet, building a strong network through various social media channels allows you to seek out introductions to new sales prospects through existing mutual connections, creating an immediate sense of trust and rapport. That trust is an incredibly important resource for both clients and salespeople, with 87% of B2B buyers saying they would have a favorable impression of someone introduced through their professional network.
The numbers just don’t lie. Internal LinkedIn data shows sales professionals with a strong social selling index—a measure based on how well salespeople build their personal brand, focus on the right prospects, engage with relevant content, and build trusted relationships—have 45% more sales opportunities than others and are 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas.
Objective Management Group, my partner organization, agrees with the science behind sales force excellence:
-38% of companies who use social selling report that they have more opportunities in their pipelines, and:
2. Prospects are looking for you, too.
Just as sales professionals use “social listening” and other social research strategies to identify and get to know potential clients, those potential clients are using their own social listening and social research strategies to find their potential vendors.
75% of B2B buyers and 84% of executives use contacts and information from social networks as part of their purchase process.
Your customers are halfway through the purchase process before they ever engage with your sales team. If you’re not actively engaged in social selling, you’re missing a lot of sales.
Beyond the initial sale, keep in mind that customer loyalty is driven by a salesperson’s ability to deliver unique insight, a skill that salespeople can initially demonstrate through their social media content sharing, and later confirm through their ongoing social connections with past clients. Teams engaged in social selling have a higher customer renewal rate, too.
3. Social selling is a “must have” in the new job market
A whopping 71% of all sales professionals—and 90% of top salespeople—are already
using social selling tools. Among younger salespeople, the numbers are even higher, with 78% of all millennial sales professionals using social selling tools and 63% saying those tools are critical or extremely critical to their sales performance. If you’re not allowing your sales team to use social tools and equipping them to do so, it will be more challenging for you to recruit top sales performers, especially from the millennial demographic.
Is social selling a standalone strategy? No! By no means am I advocating that salespeople hide behind their computer screens and hope that their mere presence will magically put opportunities in their pipelines. By contrast, the data shows that the most effective hunters use all available means to win prospects while non-hunters shy away from all available means. Great salespeople are motivated enough to adapt and leverage all tools that are available to them.
Check out this data from Objective Management Group's (OMG) evaluations of more than 1.7 million salespeople:
If you have not yet incorporated social selling into your funnel, you’re likely already losing business to more socially savvy peers. If you’re ready to get started implementing best practices and how to get started, give us a call.
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.