The problem with social selling

We recently commissioned a survey of 200 reps and managers. The participants represented a variety of ages and tenure but they all came from B2B sales organizations with more than 250 employees. The survey explored a number of topics including prospecting, hiring and social media. We’ll release the whole survey in an upcoming ebook but I wanted to share something that caught my eye: 77% said that social media had no impact on closing deals.

This result didn’t surprise me. I’ve been hearing comments like this for the last few years. For all of the talking, writing and training that has gone into social selling it isn’t getting love from reps or managers. It’s almost like a reverse dirty little secret: we all talk about it but no one does it. Many reps think that while social selling sounds good that it’s really removed from the core function of sales, closing business.

I think gap from the promise of social selling to the reality of it lives in the expectation. Sales people were promised that social selling would make their jobs easier and that they would close more business. What they got was that sales is still a tough job and they still have to work just as hard to close business. The problem with social selling lives with the definition and expectations.

I think there are three key things that help place Social Selling in context and set the right expectations.

It Should Be Called Social Listening: The best thing a rep can take away from social media is the opportunity to listen and learn what prospects and customers like, want and need. Social media is a platform for asking questions, gaining insight, learning from peers and making some new friends. That’s also where the value lies for sales.

Social doesn’t take the place of selling: Social media is not a sea of easy B2B leads. There I’ve said it. Yes creating and sharing content and knowledge is a good way to create interest and demand but you still have to qualify, nurture and close those customers. You also need to generate leads from connections, marketing and other tactics.

Think beyond the sale: I think a lot of the value in social media for reps lives in the opportunity to keep in contact with existing contacts and clients outside of formal calls and meetings. By engaging and sharing relevant content with clients you build another opportunity in your day to stay top of mind and keep an eye out for opportunity or problems.

Social Media offers a lot for sales but it needs the right context and expectations. Social media and social skills can take their spot in the sales tool bag right beside the sales skills, hustle and all of the other tools that make reps successful. It builds on strong sales foundations it doesn’t replace them. What do you think?

Comments (2)

We share the same experience.

Ben Martin @Social_Ben

I think your right – social media can’t close business. Though to say it had no effect, I find it hard to believe. The problem is tracking where awareness for the originating contact came from. TV, Paper, Digital, Social. Today’s salesperson must consider that their prospective clients have access to 20 times more information today than they did 5 years ago. With that in mind are they findable for the skills they have. Are they creating content to attract the client. Social platforms are just another tool. that will not replace the traditional methods in a sale process. face2face will remain crucial in relationship building. This is an evolutionary step forward and using social media in the right way will enhance these methods. Social listening is a great term – creating a social wrap – even better

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