Innovations come in clusters. The mobile revolution couldn’t take off until it was supported by a vibrant app ecosystem, more powerful processors in phones and reliable cellular service virtually everywhere.
The same is true with sales organizations. Social selling alone can’t deliver a seamless sales experience or record-shattering performance without a critical mass of interrelated sales innovations to support it. Digital has forever changed the buying process. The sales teams will need a cluster of innovations behind them to be effective at the new speed of B2B purchasing.
Here's a brief overview of the structural supports a sales organization needs to have in place behind the scenes so that social selling can power up the revenue powertrain.
1. An always-on social media machine
Three out of four B2B buyers rely on social media to help them make purchase decisions, according to the IDC.
For C-level execs at those same companies surveyed, 84 percent relied on advice from their social contacts before closing a sale. Give sales teams the tools and the training to expand their networks.
2. A well-supplied content factory
Two-thirds of the buyer’s journey is now digital as buyers seek out their own answers online. The call to sales to provide product information is a relic of the past. Buyers are still talking to sales early in the process, though.
Buyers are interacting with network connections who can help them solve real-world problems, not just picking out selections from a catalog. Sales professionals have to provide content with real value and answers that can’t be found in a simple online search. Buyers are looking for experts, not order fillers.
3. The three transitions of digital transformation
Social selling has been most successful when it is just a component of a digital sales organization that aligns the efforts of sales with marketing, customer service and customer success teams.
Simply training sales on social media, buying LinkedIn Sales Navigator or implementing an employee advocacy program does not bring the kind of ROI that market leaders enjoy. The three transitions required for true digital transformation are: platform integration, organizational redesign and a true shift in company culture.
4. Tuned technologies for sustained engagement
A good example of how a traditional firm adapted to a digital sales culture is the story of CBRE, a global firm that sells commercial real estate. A case study by Cognizant explained how CBRE took their entire paper-based marketing materials and put them into an iOS app with interactive content and video so that their sales team could create world-class presentations on the fly.
5. Recurrent training cements behavior
Sprint sent sales professionals through a 10-week training program on social selling skills, and 95 percent were able to gain certification with a 40-percent boost to their Social Selling Index (SSI) scores on LinkedIn.
Sales professionals need support from leadership and recurrent training to incorporate the principles of social selling into their new routine.
The Bigger Picture
There’s a great deal more to say about the new sales ecosystem, but the most important point is that it takes time and dedication to reorient the sales organization. Social selling techniques are fundamental for reaching the digital B2B buyer. However, they are only one subsystem within a comprehensive digital strategy.
What does this mean for your organization? How can you transform and grow during the most uncertain of times? Disruption in every industry is rewriting the rules of what it takes to be successful. The new sales ecosystem, built on a cluster of innovations, is the driving force behind the next generation of leading market performers.
This post was originally published in July 2017 but has been updated for accuracy.