I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of Social Selling lately—and there’s no question that it’s evolving. I’m reminded of Social Selling evangelist Jill Rowley and Steve Woods, co-founder of Eloqua (now the CTO of Nudge), who described the evolution of Social Selling well. They said it reminded them of the marketing automation space.

The marketing automation space was created Steve Woods for Eloqua in 2000. Fifteen years later, it’s a staple for the marketing industry. Marketing automation has taken archaic based marketing and turned it into insights analytics based marketing.

Whether your company is ready for it or not, there is a progression happening. And the future of Social Selling lies in the creation of digital selling departments. Enterprise level organizations are already doing this, and over the next five years, it will be the norm.

What is digital selling?

Digital selling is a mechanized system for inbound and outbound lead generation through digital.

I’ll explain more about digital selling below, but first, it’s important to understand where your organization lies in the learning curve. Where are you in the life cycle of the future of selling, and how do you get there?

There are five stages in the learning curve life cycle.

Digital Transformation Progress

Stage 1: Selective Social Activity

Stage 1 is where inconsistent social activity happens. At this stage, a handful of sales professionals are using tools such as LinkedIn for research, booking meetings, and connecting with people. There are no best practices or scale at this stage, but some sales professionals are making money by using such tools as LinkedIn.

The problem with this stage is that it allows only a small pocket of sales professionals to make quota, but it isn’t helping your business as a whole to achieve your sales goals or revenue targets.

If your company has no formalized training program, governance, or best practices, and only a small number of sales professionals are meeting their goals, you’ll know you’re at this stage.

Stage 2: LinkedIn Training: Tips, Tricks and Tactics

At this stage, a company first discovers the power of LinkedIn. With Stage 2, there may be some formalized scale. You may invest in LinkedIn Premium for your team or purchase LinkedIn Sales Navigator. With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, LinkedIn will conduct a handful of training sessions. You also may outsource your training to a consultant, but this training will be limited to a very tactical approach on how to drive business through LinkedIn. Interestingly, Sales for Life was founded in 2012, and we had evolved to this stage in 2012-13.

You’re in Stage 2 if:

  • You’ve purchased LinkedIn Navigator licences or Premium;
  • You’ve gone through some training; and
  • Your team is changing their profiles, doing advanced searches, or building leads and account data bases for their accounts.

Stage 3: Social Selling

Social Selling is made up of three major components:

1. Insights-based selling. For the first time, marketing is involved in this process. They help to develop content for sales professionals, who act as the distribution army to help get content into customers’ hands and help them through the buyers’ journey. Sophisticated marketers know they need to create content that converts and will ultimately drive future inbound leads.

2. Trigger-based selling. In trigger-based selling, you’ll leverage tools such as LinkedIn to identify job change alerts, or Google alerts to notify you of mergers & acquisitions activity. Another great tool is called Inside View.

3. Referral-based selling. With referral-based selling, you’re using tools like LinkedIn to see the roadmap between one person and another.

Social Selling

You’ll know you’re in the Social Selling stage when:

  • Marketing and sales enablement are working together as one unit to educate sales professionals to leverage tools, process and best practices; and
  • You’ve started the process of creating greater content and insights that will allow the sales professionals to work more closely with their customers.

Stage 4: Digital Selling

This is the beginning of the future. With digital selling, you have started to achieve sales and marketing alignment. Some enterprise organizations are now developing in-house digital selling departments, whose job is to manage new inbound and outbound leads leveraging digital technology and content.

You’ll know you’re at this stage when you’ve achieved true sales and marketing alignment. This occurs when:

  • Sales and marketing understand the buyers’ journey.
  • They’ve road-mapped a content calendar in advance to specifically answer buyers’ pain points based on the buyers’ journey.
  • They’ve created a joint content library that can be used to help a specific buyer at a specific time at a specific time in the buyers’ journey.
  • They attend each other’s meetings, and understand there’s one funnel and the importance of working together.

Stage 4 Sales and Marketing

At Sales for Life, Version 3.0 of our training, which will be released in the fall of 2015, has really embraced digital selling as a department for organizations.

Stage 5: Digital Transformation: Sales and marketing integration

This is the future. At Sales for Life, we’ve created consulting best practices to help build digital selling departments within organizations. This involves the complete integration of sales and marketing. A job posting may cite specific sales or marketing roles; however, when a candidate joins the digital selling team, they lose their role and everyone works together on one team—called the Revenue Team.

Digital Transformation Integration


The digital selling department may have a content marketer, a sales development representative, and a sales professional on staff, working on one team together to create, measure, and analyze the effectiveness of content together. Digital selling departments monitor the digital consumption story of every lead opportunity and client in the database. They use content as the litmus test to measure the probability that a prospect can turn into a customer.

The future

Digital integration is the future, particularly at the top of the funnel where companies are starting to build a factory that can not only drive inbound leads but also execute external inbound lead generation—not just with phone and email but through leveraging digital insights to start new conversations.


Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

Leave a Reply

Login First!

Related Blogs

Dec 10, 2019 8:00 am
Overcoming Social Selling Objections From Your EMEA Leadership Team

Lately, sales leaders have been asking me how to overcome social selling objections from EMEA leadership teams. There’s no question that there’s a tremendous growth opportunity for social selling, or modern digital prospecting in EMEA because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – a relatively new European privacy law, which has dramatically restricted the … Continue reading “Overcoming Social Selling Objections From Your EMEA Leadership Team”

Sep 20, 2019 1:04 pm
Social Media for Sales vs. Social Selling: What’s the Difference? [Infographic]

For years, the above has been a recurring question that I’ve received from sales executives, business owners, and sales leaders. They often misunderstand the word ‘social’ in ‘social selling’ by connecting social media with what their children do on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, instead of correlating ‘social’ as a mechanism to do two important things:

Aug 30, 2019 1:00 pm
Train The Trainer: What Most Sales Enablement Strategies Are Missing

After seven years of working with 350-400 customers, it recently dawned on me that there’s a fundamental flaw in the sales training industry. For context, consultants like us typically go into market and provide sales leaders with basic training on how to be a coach of modern, digital sales skills. We then train the sellers … Continue reading “Train The Trainer: What Most Sales Enablement Strategies Are Missing”

May 28, 2019 2:04 pm
Let’s Talk Sales!

This Podcast is about the inspirational journey of Jamie Shanks, the CEO of Sales for life who has trained over 100 thousand personnel across various verticals in sales. He provided training in six continents in organizations such as Microsoft, Oracle, American Airlines, and many more! He has also authored highly acclaimed books such as Spear … Continue reading “Let’s Talk Sales!”