This is the second post in a series based on a ZS social selling survey of 125 sales leaders.
Last week, Ashish Vazirani introduced the “Six Building Blocks of Social Selling” along with some initial insights from a recently completed survey that ZS conducted with 125 sales leaders across various industries, including high-tech and telecom. In this post, I’ll focus on “social branding,” which is probably the building block with the lowest barrier to entry, but it’s essential that sales reps get it right in order to successfully drive productive social selling behavior.
Our framework defines social branding as the use of social media to establish and advocate a sales rep’s expertise, reputation and credibility in the market. Social branding is more than just creating a LinkedIn profile and joining Twitter. It’s about leveraging these and similar digital platforms to establish a professional brand for each individual sales rep, and earning the right to engage prospects and customers as a trusted source of information. It goes beyond simply being “findable” on social media to substantiating the value and expertise that a sales rep can provide to his customers and prospects.
We surveyed sales leaders from leading B-to-B companies to understand the current state of social branding and the perceived impact that it has on their sales forces. Here are some of the key findings that we uncovered, as well as suggestions for how to take action:
- Many companies have adopted social branding, but few sales reps within those companies are on board. Ninety-seven percent of high-tech and telecom sales leaders report that their sales teams are using social media to establish a professional brand in the market, but while social branding is widely adopted at the company level, adoption within companies is still lagging behind. Only 37% of high-tech and telecom sales leaders (26% across all industries) said that social branding is used by more than two-thirds of their sales reps.
For companies with low adoption, we observed a few key barriers to further penetration. The most common is uncertainty that social branding will have a positive impact on sales performance (53%), followed by legal concerns regarding managing the use of social media (45%), lack of interest (30%) and lack of executive support (28%).
- Adoption among sales reps will continue to grow. Despite the barriers mentioned above, 46% of sales leaders said that they likely will implement practices in the next year aimed at increasing the use of social media among their sales reps to establish a professional brand. What’s interesting, however, is that our survey results show that the best will get even better when it comes to social branding: 61% of sales leaders who currently have high adoption of social branding among their sales reps plan to implement practices to drive further adoption, while only 28% of those currently with low adoption plan to do so.
- Perception differs from reality when it comes to social branding’s impact. Sixty-seven percent of high-tech and telecom sales leaders agree that building a professional brand through social media increases sales force effectiveness, and 60% believe that it’s worth the invested time and resources to do so. However, only 30% (or 40% across all industries) agree that sales reps with an active social media presence are more productive than those who are inactive or don’t use social media. A disconnect exists here between the perceived impact that social branding can have on a sales organization and what is actually realized through adoption.
Three Tips to Take Action
In order to successfully implement social branding, high-tech and telecom vendors need to enable sales reps to establish an authentic professional brand by sharing relevant insights and content that earns them the right to engage with B-to-B buyers through social media channels. To do so, first make social branding part of your formal sales training and onboarding process, helping sales reps build and establish their expertise, reputation and credibility on social media. Seventy-six percent of sales leaders who have done so agree that social branding has a positive impact on sales force effectiveness, versus 61% for those who have no formal training.
Second, enable penetration of social branding behavior among sales reps by recognizing and rewarding success stories, demonstrating both the positive impact on sales performance and buy-in from sales leadership. Sales leaders with a greater adoption of social branding among their sales reps (that is, more than two-thirds) reported having fewer issues with showing a positive impact from social branding (46% vs. 58% overall), and less difficulty gaining support from executive leadership (14% vs. 25% overall).
Third, create and curate relevant and timely content for your sales reps to share with their social networks. Fifty-six percent of sales leaders agree that sharing relevant and timely content through social media is an effective way to establish a professional brand. Seventy-seven percent of those sales leaders also agree that social branding has a positive impact on sales force effectiveness.
Stay tuned: In the next post of this series, we’ll explore the use of social listening to uncover insights that can drive greater sales force effectiveness.
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