The Business Case For Social Selling - Why You Need To Get On Board

Tony Hughes

Tony H - social selling


Without doubt, there is a problem in B2B selling. Gartner Research believes 85% of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention by 2020. Buyers are clearly in control today and in many B2B sales organizations only 40% to 60% of sales people meet or exceed their sales targets.

I believe that 30% of B2B field sales people won't have jobs in professional selling by 2020 and this will be due to their inability to adapt to the forces of commoditization and disruption to deliver the necessary value to funds their roles.

Inadequate management is a key contributor to poor sales performance and sales managers need to focus on coaching and driving the activities and behaviours that create success in their teams. According to Jason Jordan, co-author of Cracking The Sales Management Code, 83% of sales metrics being reported in systems such as CRM cannot actually be managed. Sales people need guidance to become truly consultative and create the right conversations and value for both customer and employer. According to Corporate Executive Board research, 95% of buyers expect insight from the seller yet 86% of sales people fail to differentiate. Forrester research findings state that 85% of sales engagements fail to meet buyer expectations.

Sales teams need to step up and execute at a higher level and when they do, the results are transformative. According to Corporate Visions research, 74% of buyers choose the seller who first provides insight and value. The best sellers don't talk about themselves, what they do and how they do it; instead they establish their credentials before a meeting to instead focus on why the conversation is important and what can be achieved for the customer supported by a strong business case.

The biggest issue for sellers is therefore securing meetings with the right people at a point in time where they are able to shape requirements and help set the agenda. When leads come to the sales organization it's then very difficult to exert the right level of influence and that's because buyers are typically 57% (Corporate Executive Board) to 70% (Forrester Research) through their change and procurement process. According to IDC research, 75% of buyers research the seller before meeting or agreeing to engage.

The key to influence is obviously early engagement yet a Harvard Business Review article highlights that 90% of decision makers never respond to cold outreach and according to Corporate Executive Board research, 97% of cold calls yield no result.

The corollary of the negative statistics is in research conducted by C9 Inc who found 7 times more pipeline and 11 times more revenue (36 companies and 9,000 sellers) with those who embraced LinkedIn's Sales Navigator tool. LinkedIn themselves analysed a cross section of new and existing sellers who increased pipeline by 45% and the probability of achieving their sales targets by 51% simply by improving their standard LinkedIn social selling index (SSI) scores.

According to Steve Richard at Vorsight, "In B2B selling only 3% of your market is actively buying at any given time, 57% are not ready and 40% are poised to begin." Importantly, their buyer's journey begins online and this is why social selling matters.

Social selling also matters because social buying is a reality - we live in the age of massively empowered buyers. Our customers can research and commoditise what we offer with just a few clicks. They can assess our assertions of value and then introduce competitors with ease. Sellers therefore need a framework for attracting customers through strong personal and corporate brands that enable early engagements of influence. Individuals as well as corporations need social strategies for complex business-to-business (B2B) selling where, according to CSO Insights, there are on average 6 people involved in the typical buying decision.

Before we explore social selling it's important to again understand that those who spam, push, annoy, narcissistically drone or aggressively sell are unfollowed and disconnected as quick as a click. Connecting to someone new and then immediately seeking to sell is a serious mistake. I define strategic social selling for business-to-business (B2B) as follows:

Social Selling Definition: The strategy and process of building quality networks online that attract clients and accelerates the speed of business and efficiency of selling, as achieved with personal human engagement through social listening, social publishing, social research, social engagement, and social collaboration.

On a foundation of a 1) strong personal brand, I have identified the other elements that enable the best results in social: 2) Social Listening/Monitoring, 3)Social Research, 4) Social Content Publishing, 5) Social Engagement and 6) Social Collaboration.

In my definition, technology is merely an enabler but can be leveraged to create truly incredible results with the right strategies. Obviously, social initiatives are supported by the use of technology and social platforms but it's really all about human connection and interaction to provide real value through insight or assistance with relevant content and conversations.

Social platforms, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google have driven the era of personal brands and a new reality of transparency. The days of being able to project a manufactured persona are gone... people can quickly uncover the reality of who you are, how you operate, how well you're connected, and the value you offer... all before you ever get to say a single word on the phone or face-to-face. Social proximity is a real factor that enhances or undermines potential connection, often without the seller ever discovering how their network (or lack thereof) helped or hindered their efforts.

Your social strategy will depend on what you're seeking to achieve and where your market is but don't fall into the trap of becoming busy in social without having a strategy for both connection and content. For example, think about the reasons for posting in LinkedIn Publisher or creating Facebook pages. Are you seeking to attract and build an audience platform? Are you wanting to evidence your credentials? Are you wanting to provide insights and credibility to support your new business meeting requests? Are you wanting to proactively deal with potential objections you could encounter? Are you seeking to associate yourself with admired brands and thought leaders? Are you perhaps chipping away at commonly held myths about your disruptive solution set to cause a sea change?

Social selling is a strategy, not a set of technologies. Most importantly, you need to know exactly who your target audience is and what insight or value you can provide before they would be interested in what you sell. Once you know what you're seeking to achieve and have defined goals and metrics, then you can design your strategy and action plan to cascade down to the individual elements.

The business case is simple. Those B2B sellers who consistently improve their LinkedIn SSI scores increase pipeline by 45% and the probability of achieving their sales targets by 51%.

Click here to get your LinkedIn SSI score now with links explaining how your score is calculated by LinkedIn

SSI is the new KPI for B2B Sellers


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