What You Need to Know About the Rise of Social Selling

by Robin Tinker, on Sep, 12, 2016

Why don’t you talk to me? This is one of the many thoughts that salespeople have when they struggle to get prospects to engage with them. Reps go on the hunt for new tactics to engage prospects and consumers when their current techniques fail to produce the desired results. The number of salespeople impacted by changes in customer behavior is significant. Did you know?


40% of salespeople report that it is becoming harder to get responses from prospects.

If you are feeling the pinch, know that you are in good company. Sales are tapping into their knowledge base and using proven tactics, but the expected responses are diminishing. Sales never had it easy, but those that are willing to may be able to capture more of their prospect’s attention with new methods. Salespeople are forced to “change or die” in their quest to connect and close more deals.

Whether you want to adjust to new challenges or are forced to do so, it doesn’t matter. What matters is your survival and your company’s ability to engage your consumer. One approach to this growing sales challenge may just be social selling.

According to the State of Inbound 2016 report, social selling ranks at the top of the list of priorities for sales in 2017. After the obvious needs to close more deals, improve the efficiency of the sales funnel and reduce the length of the sales cycle, social selling comes in at the top of the list, with 28% of companies listing social selling as one of their major sales priorities for next year.

What do these salespeople and corporations know about social selling that you don’t? Why are they making social selling such a priority for 2017? Learn what social selling is, why it's important and how to get your sales team and organization started to improve engagement with your prospects.

What is Social Selling?

“Social selling” is top of the mind for many organizations but it means more than using the top social media platforms. At the heart of social selling as shared on Forbes is:

“Building stronger relationships with potential buyers, based on an authentic sense of empathy and a deep understanding of the problems they face.”

According to HubSpot, social selling is viewed as:

“When salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”

Social selling relies on creating an authentic connection, and social tools should be used to establish real relationships with customers, not to just push product. Your customers are smarter than that. You have to build real connections with your prospects and, like in real life, relationships center around similar values or demographics.

[Tweet "Social should be used to establish real relationships with customers, not just push product"]

One great thing about social selling is that sales can expand their prospecting toolset beyond traditional cold calls and emails. Social selling is your opportunity to generate leads, delight prospects and build long-term, loyal customers. Provide customers the information they need on the social media channels they prefer and forge lasting relationships.

Who Does Social Selling and Why?

Social selling is not for those seeking a quick win. Sales reps need to put in time and energy to engage their audience on a regular basis to grow their network, help with referrals and connect them with prospects likely to purchase. Data demonstrates that salespeople that connect with prospects on social media may reap significant rewards. A Sales Guy found that:

“72.6% of salespeople who incorporated social media into their process outperformed their colleagues,”


"Such reps beat sales quotas 23% more frequently."

Reps that are active on social media do seem to have an edge, but social selling is not an exact science when it comes to measurement. It's not as if there is a direct correlation between shares and comments and deals closed. Different industries may have more success with it than others.

Here are examples of how social selling is done in very different industries. See how:

  • Social selling is used by Santander, a scale corporate challenger corporate bank and B2B organization, on LinkedIn; and
  • Social selling is done by Pitney Bowes, a global technology company.

Organizations that want to study how social selling helps them achieve sales goals need first to create a systemized practice, train sales on best social media practices and measure the impact of the new routine to the old when comparing the number of deals closed to previous numbers. The effects may amplify over time.

Individual online profiles are important as reps are the ones engaging. For examples of profiles used on the top social media platforms, check out:

Reps are branding themselves and creating profiles of interest. They are also learning to send personalized invitations that use research, similarities, and connections to initiate contact. No matter where you go in your career, your efforts to become more active on social will not only help you sell more but provide additional opportunities for growth and development. Social selling then becomes an investment into yourself, not only in closing deals for next year.

How to Get Started with Social Selling

This all sounds great, and you want to start capitalizing on social selling. However, where do you even begin? With so many social media platforms available and a sales team that has plenty to do already, how do you get started and create buy-in from others on your team and your organization as a whole? Paul Lewis of Pitney Bowes shared how they began to implement social selling:

“This started out basically as a pilot program. I would say there were a couple of factors that kicked off this initiative. Firstly, it was a case of those folks that were working in the sales or business development capacity were finding it incredibly difficult to generate new leads and new opportunities via what I would class as being your traditional methods, i.e., cold calling. And whilst obviously the marketing activities that we were running which take in various different channels were working well, we need[ed] it to become a little bit more savvy anyway, and start to think, dare I say, outside the box and become just a little bit more innovative.”

Their a-ha moment came when they heard a senior exec at a panel discussion being run in the U.S. share that he began and ended his day using LinkedIn. How many other people that they wanted to engage were doing exactly the same thing? This realization may have already occurred in your organization, but there can be resistance in getting started with social selling. Here's how:

1. Take the next step with your social media profiles. Your interactions need to begin with an up-to-date and complete profile that showcases your abilities and outlines benefits to prospects. Refine any outdated profiles today. Hint: the marketing team can help with suggestions and best practices.

2. Join and engage others in LinkedIn groups and forums relevant to your industry and prospects. Where are your prospects? What associations are they are a part of? Get added to those groups as well as groups interested in larger industry trends to stay on top of the newest changes and challenges.

3. Start social listening. Google alerts and other social listening tools can be used to provide notifications of trigger events experienced by prospects. Sales can quickly address a problem that a prospect may have, providing useful information or comment on changes within an organization, such as expansions or new hires.

4. Ask for referrals. This is advice often overlooked and can be implemented in social selling too. First identify the desired stakeholder, then look on LinkedIn to check for shared connections. Go to that shared connection and ask for an introduction.

5. Look for tools to identify and build a prospect list. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an example of one tool that sales reps can use to find new leads based on various attributes, such as industry, company size, or job title and determine potential prospects with whom to connect.

Sales reps need to identify their strengths and resources to engage with others online and become attractive to prospects. LinkedIn Pulse and Quora are two additional avenues available that can help reps showcase their expertise or that of their company by answering challenges that prospects may have. Publicize your posts on select channels to make the most of your efforts and attract leads interested in what you have to say.

What are your best practices for social selling? Share your thoughts below or tweet us @modusengagement.

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