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The Sales Review

Learn about emerging best practices, strategies and insights on B2B sales today dedicated for the modern sales organization.

Back To Basics: What Social Selling Is and Isn't

Posted by Miriam Auer on Dec 13, 2017 1:39:44 PM

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basic social selling.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ve certainly heard about social selling by now. Although social selling has become table stakes for some companies, I find that there is still a lot of confusion about the term and what it is.

To understand what social selling is, first you have to understand that today’s sales teams have evolved. Questionable selling tactics like cold calling down a list with zero context no longer work, instead they’ve adopted a more buyer-centric approach

There is without a doubt a dramatic change happening for today’s sales organizations but the evolution of the sales landscape is ongoing.

Now what is social selling? Social selling is the process of developing, nurturing and leveraging relationships in a digital environment to sell products or services. This definition looks at Social Selling from the buyer’s perspective. Buyers use Social Selling by working within their peer-to-peer networks, and digesting content to arm themselves with information and make informed buying decisions.

What Successful Social Selling Looks Like

There are still a lot of myths, assumptions and falsities on what social selling is but what does being a successful social seller really mean?

CSO Insights defined social selling as becoming the new normal. In their research, they monitored two practices within the last four years: “Social media is a highly effective tool to identify new business opportunities” and “Social media is a highly effective tool to identify decision makers.”

What they found was that World-Class performers tackled these two practices much differently than the rest as they focused twice as much. Based on CSO Insights’ finding, the World-Class segment outperformed all others by 21 % in 2016.

Common Myths About Social Selling

Myth 1: I Don’t Need The Phone Anymore

One of the most common misconceptions I hear again and again is this “I am doing social selling, now I won’t have to call anymore.”

Wrong! Social selling is not a replacement for the phone or email. It should be integrated in your current sales process. Social selling is about building meaningful relationships, nurturing them, adding value, connect and socially surround and listen to potential buyers.

Myth 2: LinkedIn Sales Navigator Is All I Need

This is a common assumption as most sales organizations think that by using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you are already social selling.

Definitely the platform has evolved beyond general prospecting, and has become an excellent account-centric sales tool. Its ultimate value is LinkedIn speed-to-execution, and depending on the size of your organization, the scaling speed can mean huge selling hours saved.

mindset skillset toolset

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a powerful tool but just like getting keys to the Ferrari, you need to know how to drive before stepping on the gas.

Technology can be a great accelerator for your current social selling strategy but as the old saying goes, “A fool with a tool is still just a fool.”

Myth 3: marketing is supposed to do this

Sales and marketing alignment is critical for success.

According to Forrester’s Report Embrace B2B Social And Meet Buyers On Their Terms, 67% of companies need marketing to support social selling activities with content. No longer do teams work in silos; instead, successful social selling programs require sales and marketing to constantly exchange resources, expectations and expertise.

However, one lesson learned from the successful of our customers is that social selling is a sales-led initiative. The result of marketing leading a social selling program has nearly been a 100% failure rate because the sales professional ultimately does not report to those roles.

With proper sales leadership accountability, a sales professional will learn a new skill, and the sales leader will be responsible for helping to ensure that newly acquired skill is actioned into a sales outcome. 

The Benefits of Social Selling

Social selling is about integrating traditional strategies with new ones (trigger selling, referral selling, insight selling).

It is also about engaging the buyer where they are today, understand their journey, use it as a research tool socially listening etc. As you may know, 74% of today’s B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase.

Of course, social selling is about reaching your sales goals (increase pipeline, revenue and lead generation). According to our State of Social Selling Report, we found that 61% of organizations engaged with social selling report a positive impact on revenue growth.

Social selling is taking a multi-threaded approach by identifying the right people within a buying committee and engaging them. This is critical since there are now 6.8 decision-makers participating in an average enterprise purchase according to CEB.

What Successful Social Selling Is

A sales organization that has successfully adopted social selling has fully Integrated it into their sales process. You have a strategy and a daily routine in place to:

  • find highly qualified leads,
  • socially surrounding them,
  • engage with them
  • educate them and
  • develop the network

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Miriam Auer

Miriam Auer

About the Author

Miriam is focused on helping companies assess their readiness to launch a social selling program. Based on client industry and needs, she assesses the best internal resources to deploy for training.

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