Within the past five years, we’ve seen the emergence of social selling from a buzzword to now table stakes within many sales organizations. Just like any channels whether it’s email or call, if you provide a sales organization with a network of contacts then they’ll inevitably figure out how to leverage it effectively.
Based on our Social Selling Adoption 2017 Report, 59.2% of social selling users report that social selling is having a significant impact on sales and revenue growth which speaks to why more and more companies are adopting social selling.
What Is Social Selling and Why Is It Important?
Before we get into what emerging industries are adopting social selling and why, many sales organizations still question what social selling is and why it’s important now.
To start off, the data tells a compelling story:
- 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase decision according to Forrester
- 84% of CEO's and VP's use social media to make purchasing decisions via IDC
- 78% of sales pros using social media perform better than their peers via Forbes
The data creates a compelling case for sales organizations to engage socially and digitally because buyers are learning without you. It means that long before you think about adding value to a prospective buyer via the phone, email or presentation, the buyer has been learning without you.
Being dismissive of this means you’re allowing your competition to educate your buyers with their industry insights, content and information before you do. To stay relevant and rise above the noise, you must have a positive impact on your ability to enhance your buyer’s experience.
As you start to understand how social selling can be relevant to your own sales process, one question that arises is, are my customers receptive to social selling at all?
Your Customer’s Reception of Social Selling
As we talk about adoption within the past five years, the standout industries who have emerged as innovators are Consulting/Professional Services, Information Technology and Telecommunications & Software.
This doesn’t come to any surprise for two reasons:
- Most technology companies are quite progressive in nature
- Their respective buyers are also quite progressive
Even from our own customer data, 25.2% of our customers who have adopted social selling training sell to buyers within IT & Engineering, 20.6% in Operations and 13.1% in Marketing.
Let’s dive into different emerging industries now.
Emerging Industries Primed For Social Selling
Within the last 12 to 24 months, something interesting has happened. Industries like Financial Services, Manufacturing and Healthcare/Medical Technology are starting to cross the chasm.
Here is some telling data from LinkedIn:
As we progress, let’s unveil the data and see what’s driving the change within these emerging industries. Let’s also discuss the challenges each industry faces and how social selling can help.
As B2B buying behaviours start to match consumer buying behaviours (thanks to Amazon), more and more buyers are going online to do their research, engage on social and conduct their due diligence on companies.
Logically, financial services and social selling are an ideal fit because they address these challenges:
- Identifying the right audience and build relationships
- Longer sales cycles
- A growing number of financial services professionals are already on social
Your respective buyers are indeed online and are indeed looking for solutions. Now sales professionals within financial services must think about how to find those prospective buyers, engage them, educate and continuously develop their networks
The risk adverse nature of financial institutions has traditionally been the roadblock to more progressive methods in comparison to technology companies. In an interview with Dan Swift via Hootsuite, he discusses the transition, “within the last two years, I’ve seen a fundamental change in mindset around social media in the industry. Conversations are no longer completely focused on compliance because the technology ecosystem has evolved, and advances in education and training have helped ease the fear.”
According to LinkedIn, social sellers in financial services are first-degree connected to over 10 million LinkedIn members across 74,000 companies around the world who are interested in learning about and looking for information on financial services.
Gradually financial institutions are warming up to the massive opportunity through social media as a way to engage secure new clients, engage more effectively and build ongoing relationships with potential clients.
Social selling within healthcare and medical devices is a topic that isn’t talked about a lot.
However, the lack of discussion is the root of a poor distinction between social media marketing and social selling. Cari McLean, director of social media at HIMSS clarifies this by saying “The key for any business, including healthcare businesses, is to understand that social media really isn’t about social marketing; it’s about social selling.”
The need for social selling in healthcare makes sense because for several reasons such as:
- A high level of difficulty identifying the right buyers for your medical device/solution
- Complex sales cycles selling a complex product
- Changing business, technology and processes are pushing
Social selling is a long-term strategy and as John Crowley, Vice President, VitalSource GPO at Cardinal Health, says “Social selling is like eating an elephant – do it one bite at a time.”
Crowley shares this reference guide for healthcare sales professionals:
Understand that social selling within healthcare and medical devices means having your sales team enabled and educated about what it means to provide value, be helpful and do positive networking through social media.
Within a growing industry, it also means you want to position yourself as a guiding resource and industry expert. It also means you have to be the right person who is looking to understand the customer’s challenges and collaborate to identify the right solutions.
Overall, the pace of the manufacturing industries adopting social selling has been quite molasses-like. Like many industries, some of the reasons heard time and time again are “my buyers aren’t even online?”
So are they actually submissive to the idea of being online?
In a Cisco article by Andrew Lach written in 2012, he challenges the argument of “customers not being on social” with “Rather than focus on the relationship, many in the manufacturing industry are only looking at the medium (Twitter, Facebook) and how B2C companies use social media.”
Social selling needs to be expanded beyond just LinkedIn and Twitter as B2B buyers and engagements with customers are about relationships based on expertise.
Interestingly enough, although the adoption has been slow, the cumulative Social Selling Index Growth in Manufacturing/Industrial has grown 2.3X from 2012 to 2016 according to LinkedIn.
For many manufacturing sales organizations, you have to slow down to speed up. Focus on the fundamentals by starting simple:
- Share industry knowledge through social to establish credibility of being a resource
- Focus on building your brand online to differentiate yourself from competition
- Leverage LinkedIn and other platforms to find insights on specific customers
The Tides Are Turning
If you work within one of these industries, or within an industry you think doesn’t adopt social selling enough, share this post with them. The tide is turning for many industries crossing the chasm but social selling isn’t a light switch, it’s a long-term strategy. The value of social selling is important and will be important for most industries because evolution is a necessity in sales.