This is the final post in a series based on a ZS social selling survey of 125 sales leaders.
For those of you who have teenage kids, you may relate when I tell you that it drives me a bit nuts to hear them qualify their responses with “kind of” and “sort of.” When I ask them what they mean, I get a blank stare, and I then have to point out that “kind of” or “sort of” is neither here nor there—it’s noncommittal.
Over the past two months, my colleagues have shared findings from our recent research on social selling, as well as a framework called “The Six Building Blocks of Social Selling” to help sales leaders develop their own social selling programs. The findings tell me that sales leaders, like teenagers, are noncommittal, at least when it comes to social selling. They’ve “sort of” adopted social selling, so this leads back to the question posed at the beginning of our series: Is social selling just a fad?
One of the takeaways from the research is that the current implementation of social selling presents a series of contradictions. For example, in our study of 125 sales leaders, we found that, while 85% of sales teams across industries are using social selling and 65% report that it was implemented by sales leadership rather than individual reps, only 24% of sales teams say that social selling is a widely adopted and formal part of the sales process.
Moreover, 32% of salespeople learn tactics as part of a formal sales training and onboarding process, which means that the vast majority of teams learn through access to optional training (29%), or learn from peers or are self-taught (39%). When was the last time you attended “optional” training?
Meanwhile, 63% of sales leaders agree that the adoption of social selling practices increases sales force effectiveness. However, only 21% of sales teams track and measure defined performance metrics.
In an earlier post, I wrote that “social selling is as old as the concept of sales itself. The fundamentals of effective selling remain the same. Empathy, relationship building, active listening, providing insight and reinforcing value are essential. New collaboration platforms and virtual communities haven’t changed the rules of engagement, but they have changed the tools of engagement. Social media channels are merely another way for salespeople to exhibit these behaviors.”
If this is the case, and if customers really are doing more of their learning, shopping and buying through digital channels, then how can we, as leaders in the sales profession, do such a poor job of enabling our teams with these new tools?
To enable your sales teams, I encourage you to revisit the six building blocks to determine which ones fit into your social selling program:
- Branding: Use social media to establish and advocate for a sales rep’s expertise, reputation and credibility in the market.
- Listening: Drive market-, competitive-, customer- (organizational and individual) and opportunity-level insights by proactively monitoring digital media channels.
- Organization: Build the sales team through organizational design and hiring processes to most effectively integrate social selling.
- Collaboration: Boost the sharing of internal best practices, as well as deal collaboration and the dissemination of content through digital environments.
- KPIs: Drive and reward desired social selling behaviors by defining and tracking measurable performance metrics.
- Selling journey: Enable your sales teams to use social networks to actively engage current and prospective customers during the buying and selling journey.
By considering these building blocks, sales leaders can adopt three approaches to more effectively enable their sales teams to engage in a social way:
- Pay closer attention to customers. To understand customer needs and engage in a relevant way, sales teams should take advantage of social networks and monitoring tools to understand customer needs and gain critical insights on how best to engage. These tools also help the selling team gain valuable insight and create connections to avoid cold calling.
- Improve internal collaboration. To best meet customer needs, the sales team must be coordinated. Social collaboration tools can help organize the selling team, improve identification and sharing of best practices, and recognize and reward the selling behaviors required for effective team-based selling.
- Engage in a meaningful way. With greater customer insight and a range of engagement methods, the selling team can connect in a more relevant, authentic and meaningful way. Engagement within and through communities can lend credibility to the seller and allow multiple perspectives to be considered.
To remind you of these building blocks and some of the key findings from the research, download our social selling infographic. We hope that these findings and insights help you move your teams away from the middling, noncommittal ground of “kind of/sort of” social selling.