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The year was 2011: I had a failing business and I was going bankrupt. I was teaching inside sales best practices to companies around the Toronto region. The reality is, all I ever thought about was touch points over the phone and number of emails sent. It became to some giant mathematical formula of building an inside sales team.

What was the throughput of every person? How many touches could they bang per day to yield certain meetings booked in their sales process? The word sales process is the key ingredient here.

In 2011, all I thought about was the sales process. Number of calls to discovery meetings, to proposal meeting or a demo meeting, number of demos to proposal, number proposals to contract and so forth. The reality is the buyer doesn’t follow that path at all.  

A buyer moves forward, backwards, up, down, sideways, they pause, they take stock in peer-to-peer relationships or questions and answers, they do online research, they get distracted from other projects. There are so many things that make up a buyer’s process.

This is what social selling recognizes: that the buyer is not going to go through your “sales process” linearly.

In 2011, I just didn’t understand that. I kind of saw the buyer following along my sales process.  Number of calls to that customer, that customer will pick up the phone with ‘x’ probability, that ‘x’ probability will land me a discovery call, and that’s a sales process.

But the reality is the buyer is going to consume, learn and question all kinds of things during this cycle. We’ve measured this journey.

We’ve taken all of the content that the buyer consumes before we actually get them live on a phone call with our SDR team. From experience, customers consume 43% of all the content they’ll consume in their lifetime as a customer before they sign.

What I mean by that is almost 50% of their learning is going to happen without us even really being involved from a “sales process” side of things.

Social selling is the most buyer-centric thing you can do because it recognizes that as a sales professional, I can’t control everything. I can’t think like that every time I pick up the phone. I’m going to move them forward. How to start with social selling you can learn here.

The reality is they’re not going to move forward, they’re going to move backwards, they’re going to move sideways; I can’t control that. What I can control is, I can be the voice that helps them along the journey, when they are ready to move along that journey.  

They will be ready to move along that journey when they have enough information to make informed decisions and when their internal and external events align to the priorities of the organization. And my job, as a sales professional is to connect the dots for them.

Great social sellers realize:

  1. The buyer has nothing to do with the sales process.  
  2. I cannot control what the buyer consumes, learns, touches or who they speak to.
  3. I must facilitate and try to connect the dots within that journey. I must do my best efforts to help them along that track and not get too sidetracked. I must give them enough information so that they can answer all their questions, objections and concerns and start moving forward.

Social selling should really be called digital buying behaviour change management. Social selling isn’t about “selling” — it’s about helping the buyer along their journey, and always thinking about how to better serve that customer.

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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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