I don’t know if anyone can claim to have created or invented “social selling.” Even though I was a part in creating Social Selling University, I know I didn’t invent the term. Back in 2005 I was doing it before I ever knew there was a term for it.
Books like Sales 2.0 from Anneke Seley opened my eyes to a new way of sales that blurred the lines between traditional sales and technology. As a geek, I welcomed the idea that I could find a way to blend tech into my sales efforts and the first and easiest way was to leverage social media.
As a sales person your job is ultimately to sell things and grow revenue. Social networks open up an entirely new game for you to play and it’s a very profitable one.
The early adopters were laughed at and even discouraged from using social media as a tool for driving sales. When I signed up for LinkedIn back in 2005 I saw the potential. It was a growing network of professionals that were getting "connected" with each other.
For the most part the easiest connections were people that you knew. Friends, co-workers and maybe some other people you had come in contact with. Your LinkedIn profile was your online resume that you could outline your entire career in one page. It’s a shame that many people still hold this belief. The LinkedIn profile has evolved and the people reaping the most benefits are the ones that have transformed their profiles from a resume into a business portal. A place that anyone can go to, get information from and communicate with knowledgable people in their industry. Your profile should be used as a resource, not a resume.
Then there was 2007 when I joined Twitter and it all started to make sense. I started connecting the dots between the early adopters of Twitter and my LinkedIn network and seeing that instead of just building a bunch of connections I was able to follow the real time activities of my friends and prospects/customers through their social streams. It opened my mind to a new way to engage and it more than made up for all of the unanswered emails and voicemails I was leaving.
A Twitter profile should be as mandatory as an email address and phone number for sales people. If I ever ran a sales team that would be the directive. If you don't think there is a reason to have a Twitter profile, read The Ultimate Guide to on How to Use Twitter for Social Selling.
Technology has become a necessity in sales. There are blog posts like 5 Tools To Help You Close Sales Deals and 3 Potent Ways to Use Social Media in Sales that give sales people a starting point on applications they should look at using. Not because they are they next shiny objects but because these tools when used effectively can accelerate sales cycles. Best-in-Class sales reps (reps that deployed social selling) companies saw a 16.3% average year-over-year increase in total company revenue, compared to a 4.1% increase for the Industry Average and a 8.7% decrease among Laggards “Social Selling: Best-in-Class Targeting of the Right Message, at the Right Time, for the Right Person” Aberdeen Group; 2012.
Identifying prospects, speeding up the cycles and generating revenue is at the heart of sales.
At the heart of sales people’s jobs is the CRM and over the past year we have even seen that the CRM is no longer enough and that it too has to become social. There was a great post written by Craig Jamieson called Leveraging Social CRM for B2B Salespeople that outlines some of the changes that are being made. Another article asks Should your business invest in social CRM tools? I say that if your company doesnt then you are putting your company at a great disadvantage.
“Sales is an art but you need organizational and proven methods of managing intelligence, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” Wais Asefi, CEO, Textmunication
Many analysts like Gartner and Forrester are also recognizing the need for sales people to become social. CSO Insights has a paper that explains how sales intelligence and social insights can have an impact in revenue.
The Social Selling Expert Is Born
The early thought leaders in the space like Jill Konrath aren’t "social selling" experts but they paved the way for the future of sales. They were the only ones that were writing about the art of sales and served as the educators of myself and other sales professionals. It’s because of their adoption in a new method called blogging that sales people and executives started to take notice of how to change business. It wasn’t long before more people started blogging about sales tactics and sales methodology. Now you can’t throw a social rock in the industry without finding some "expert" in sales that is willing to train your teams how to be more effective making phone calls, sending emails and organizing your business.
There are now over 1000 people on LinkedIn with the word “social selling” in their bio. A couple years ago that number was ZERO. I’m excited to see that the term is getting traction. The Social Selling Revolution has made it’s way all the way to the Enterprise and huge corporations are putting time, money and resources into training and equipping their people with best practices and tools to be winners in this new era. Look at placed like IBM and ADP, they are both adopting social selling and even becoming leaders in the space.
Over the past year many tradtional sales methodology trainers have adjusted their positioning to cover social selling and there are people like Barbara Giamanco who wrote the book “The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media” who helped pioneer the practical use of social media within sales.
Be careful of the “experts”. There are some great people and organizations out there that know a lot about social selling, best practices and ways to implement it, but there are also many people that call themselves experts that are really good at optimizing your LinkedIn profile and that’s the extent of their expertise. Before anyone starts sending me tweets about how that’s offensive, let me explain…
Social selling is bigger than one network . It’s the ability to leverage social networks in a way that builds and leverages your connections to get the job done. There are many social networks out there, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook are the big 3 in the US. and being an expert in LinkedIn doesn’t make you an expert in social selling. It’s a great start though.
The Future of B2B Sales Is Social
The future of sales is a social one. As I said earlier, companies that don’t adopt social selling and that don’t find a way to put that social intelligence into their CRM will be at a huge disadvantage in the market. Executives need to start planning on how they are going to enable their sales teams with next generation tools that will make their sales teams more effective.
Technology is a double edge sword. Just as sales people are moving into the future, the buyers are already ahead of us.
Email technology has made it so that I don’t get junk anymore. It’s filed away automatically based on flags or even my behavior. If you’re not someone I’ve communicated with before or don’t have a connection to, I will probably never see your email. Tools like SaneBox or even good ol’ GMail only serve up the email that I want to read and if something slips through it take a click of the mouse to make sure it never gets past again.
Advanced phone systems now have virtual gatekeepers and eventually your phone will know if you want to be bothered by a caller based on your behavior, your contacts and your phone logs. I’ll be buying stock in that company when it’s created.
Applications like InsideView changed the game and have disrupted the sales role by giving sales people the ability to cut down research time, gather actionable insights and leverage their connections in new ways. Besides getting general information sales people can now look at multiple social insights of their customers/prospects and engage with them with more relevance than ever before. [granted I work there but this isn't a paid advertisement]
We are going to see the application of social selling increase across every industry. It's not a matter of if, but when it’s going to touch your company.