What is it about the term “Social Selling” that gets people riled up? If you listen to enough conversations on LinkedIn surrounding sales, you’ll get lots of differing opinions. Many say that sales people should concentrate on honing their sales skills rather than social media skills. Some discount social altogether as a non-starter. Others swear by it as the holy grail of lead generation. Who’s right?
Recent research by the Sales Management Association has shown that a whopping two-thirds of companies surveyed don’t have any sort of social media strategy in place for their sales teams. Yet according to Sales Force’s 2015 State of Marketing Report, 64% of marketers surveyed see social media marketing as a critical enabler of products and services, and 66% say that social media marketing is core to their business. In fact, nearly twice as many marketers in 2015 categorize social as a primary revenue source than in 2014. So why the disparity in nailing down a good social strategy for sales teams?
It’s Not Just the Marketing Department’s Job
Social media most often falls to marketing departments because it’s their job to take care of advertising and PR—to be the “media” face of the company. They’re supposed to be generating leads that fill the sales pipeline, right? It’s up to sales to do the relationship building. The problem is in the perception of the role that social media plays in business. For most, it’s still seen as an advertising medium. Get in front of as many people as possible and start generating leads—enough to give the CMO some figures to justify using this channel. However, building a brand profile and throwing money at advertising isn’t going to change your perception in the marketplace. It’s how you interact with people and build relationships that counts.
Ted Rubin, author of Return on Relationship and How to Look People in the Eye Digitally, says it this way:
The purpose of social selling isn’t to troll social channels for leads—it’s to build relationships with people. And what’s one of the best ways to begin building a relationship with someone? Help them with something! Isn’t that what good salespeople do? It can be as simple as just lending an ear, offering to make an introduction to someone or suggesting a solution to a problem. Good salespeople are natural networkers and listeners offline as well as online.
The Numbers are Compelling
According to a 2012 Social Media and Sales Quota Survey conducted by Social Centered Selling and A Sales Guy Consulting, 72.6% of sales professionals surveyed who use social media out-performed their peers who didn’t, and 23% were more successful than their non-social peers in exceeding quotas. Other numbers from the survey show a relationship between social media usage and closed deals:
- 54% of survey respondents tracked social usage back to closed deals
- 40% closed 2-5 deals using social media, and 10.8% closed more than five
However, 75% of respondents said they were given no training in effective use of social media. That’s a pretty dismal number. When it comes to turning leads into sales, the relationship-building work lands squarely on the shoulders of sales teams—yet the lion’s share of social media funding usually goes to marketing.
The Salesforce report indicates that the top five digital areas where marketers plan to allocate more budget are:
- Social media advertising (70% plan to increase spend)
- Social media marketing (70%)
- Social media engagement (67%)
- Location-based mobile tracking (67%)
- Mobile applications (66%)
Spending remains heavy in campaign-oriented tactics for most brands, yet outside of customer service, the relationship a prospect has with sales staff is what they’ll remember about your company. Their experience with the people in your organization builds their perception of your brand. For good or ill, that experience is what they’ll remember and share—which can make or break a company’s social reputation.
So why aren’t more resources allocated to helping salespeople use social channels effectively? I think it comes down to a campaign oriented mindset. Most C-suite still view social as primarily an advertising medium because that’s what they’re used to. They’re comfortable with handing advertising off to an agency and can easily measure the ROI. Social conversation, on the other hand, doesn’t have bells and whistles, and it can’t be measured the same way.
A Change in Mindset is Needed
The corporate attitude towards social is flawed because it ignores the true potential of the medium to scale relationship building in a way that advertising cannot—to cement human-to-human bonds that result in trust and brand advocacy (which leads to more sales). While sales teams could benefit greatly from social training investment, they’re barely getting any attention. This needs to change.
There’s always a tendency to look for a magic bullet. However, social selling is more about social helping. It’s a mindset issue, not a tactic. There’s no substitute for doing the work of listening, connecting and building solid relationships, and the numbers show social selling can scale results. Invest more in empowering your sales teams to use social channels effectively, and you’ll see a much bigger ROI.
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