Social Selling, 3 Years Later

It’s been 3 years this month since I started teaching Social Selling, and 3 years since the launch of LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator.

What’s interesting to me is that there is still such a divide among sales professionals with respect to social selling.  There is the enthusiastic “all in” group who started social selling practices early on and are embracing all of the enabling tools, engaging with prospects, and sharing content on a regular basis; the “dabblers” those who use the free or budget version of LinkedIn but no or little Twitter or other platforms; and the firm disbelievers.

This month CSO Insights put some numbers to these groups. Here’s the solid proof that social selling – leveraging social media for sales engagement – works and social sellers outperform by a significant amount.

CSO Insights Sales Best Practices Study compared world-class performers with all respondents over the last years and found compelling data.

“Social media is a highly effective tool to identify decision makers – there is a gap of 40% between world-class and all respondents”

My observation has been that one of the inhibitors to more world-class adoption is the lack of good Social Selling Training.  That’s not my bravado.  I run across a lot of folks who think they know social selling because a resume writer helped them with their profile or their social media marketing guru gave them some pointers on blasting out messages.  First of all, knowing how to use a tool is isn’t the same as understanding the nuances and best practices of prospecting via social platforms, and second, neither of these tie back to the stages of the buyers journey.  There are specific ways to drive engagement via social that should be incorporated into your sales cadence touches and the stages of the buying process.

Tamara Schenk a CSO Insights did some research on this as well. In their 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, the respondents indicated that most social selling was ineffective.

No surprise there.

“Social selling has to become an integral part of sales methodologies and processes along the entire customer’s journey”

Sales Enablement, not HR or Marketing, should be responsible for social selling education. It needs to be incorporated in the overall sales training curriculum.  And if you are just starting out, begin with the sales managers first and get them on board.

So what’s next for Social Selling?  Will the Microsoft merger with LinkedIn change the value of that platform for sales?  Probably not.  At this week’s San Diego Chapter AA-ISP meeting, one of the panel members talked about how his Inside Sales team uses Sales Navigator as a key part of their toolset for Account Based Selling.  That’s not going to change and in fact we should see even more improvements and investment in the platform as a result.

Bottom line, Social Selling has an investment value and there are tools beyond just LinkedIn that make it useful. Large companies with big teams add solutions like rFactr  and PeopleLinx to help with content management and measurement. And there are Twitter tools like Socedo,  SocialQuant  and RiteTag.  And HubSpot has a lot of value with the social insights it brings to the CRM for both sales and marketing.

So the days of the free LinkedIn platform may be over.  But if we are used to investing in good sales tools and training, that’s ok.