process of leveraging social media

Social selling—the process of leveraging social media to form deeper relationships and generate sales—is in a state of rapid growth. However, research from CSO Insights suggests that world-class organizations are two years ahead of the pack when it comes to implementing social selling strategies and achieving success.

Another thing that sets top performers apart from their competitors is alignment between sales and marketing departments when it comes to social selling. In this article, we take a closer look at why your sales to marketing ratio impacts your social selling results and how to strike the right balance between them.

Why is Social Selling Important?

Thanks to the growth of social media, social selling provides salespeople with a powerful sales prospecting tool, allowing them to establish communication channels with new and existing customers and develop their own personal brand. However, it also allows marketing departments to share key marketing content, or put out key marketing messages, in a way that is less overtly promotional and more helpful to its audience.

With the right social sales training, salespeople are able to reach out to existing and prospective clients on a more human level, forging relationships based on trust, sharing and usefulness. When this is combined with effective collaboration with marketing, social selling can also establish entire businesses as being more personable.

In an interview with CSO Insights, sales leader Lee Bartlett said that with social selling, “sales and marketing are more closely aligned to deliver a consistent sales-based message… They can no longer effectively operate independently.”

It is, therefore, essential that marketing teams provide salespeople with appropriate educational content and messages. For this to take place, it is necessary (and certainly recommended) that social selling actually begins with marketing, to give individual salespeople a foundation to build upon.

Social Selling in Marketing Training

Unfortunately, despite Bartlett’s words, many companies still view social selling purely as a sales function. Successful organizations align their social selling efforts to the customer journey, facilitate collaboration between sales and marketing, and recognize that social selling is a topic that’s relevant for both teams.

The marketing department is more adept at creating promotional content than the sales team, and tends to have a better understanding of how to position and include brand messages, SEO metadata, and calls-to-action. For this reason, it makes sense that marketing should produce a steady supply of content for social sellers to use and share.

The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study found that among companies with no alignment between the social strategies of their marketing and sales departments, 37.2 percent of salespeople were unsure of the primary benefits of social selling, suggesting a lack of effectiveness.

Yet, where alignment does exist, this number drops to just 16.9 percent, and salespeople are more likely to see benefits in terms of sales prospecting, relationship building, and improved win rates.

“Aligning the social strategies between marketing and sales simply means to apply, as we always recommend in sales force enablement, a ‘customer core’ strategy,” says Tamara Schenk, Research Director at CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group. “Then marketing and sales can align their social strategies along [the] customer’s journey to create a comprehensive, focused foundation for successful social selling.”

Balancing Sales vs. Marketing

This clear need for alignment between sales and marketing means that in order to implement a successful social selling policy, the ratio between sales and marketing involvement matters. Indeed, organizations need something akin to parity when it comes to the number of staff from each department and the time they put in.

Without the right ratio, salespeople are left with a lack of useful content to share, which severely restricts their social selling abilities. One possible consequence is that salespeople end up spending time on content creation, rather than sales activities. This also runs the risk of salespeople focusing too much on developing their own personal brand instead of building brand awareness for the organization itself.

“A lopsided organization with, say, 10 salespeople and one marketing representative is not a winning formula,” said Barbara Schwenk, in an article on LinkedIn Pulse. “Those salespeople have no air cover, no quality content, and nothing to bolster their efforts with legitimacy.”

It is, therefore, sensible to invest in marketing first, so that social selling can be aligned to an established strategy and so that salespeople have no shortage of content and sales-based messages to deliver.

Learn more about sales and marketing alignment in our post Smarketing: Keeping it Real Between Sales and Marketing.

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.

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