This is the fifth post in a series based on a ZS social selling survey of 125 sales leaders.
Social collaboration refers to boosting internal best-practice sharing, deal collaboration and the dissemination of content through digital channels. It’s an integral part of working as a team in today’s workplace and can be used to augment other social selling practices, which my colleagues and I have written about in our series, “Six Building Blocks of Social Selling.”
Social collaboration can be used throughout the sales process and take the form of internal intranets, online sharing tools and even communication services. Social collaboration helps reps better distribute and gain access to relevant information that enables them to engage with customers and prospects. It drives efficiency across the sales team by encouraging reps to share best practices and start a dialogue, especially when building solutions for customers that require diverse sets of expertise. It can even be used to improve content by enabling the sales and marketing functions to work closely together to curate and develop content.
Our recent survey of 125 sales leaders across leading B-to-B companies has illuminated how sales organizations are using social collaboration and how other firms can follow suit. Below are our key findings, as well as some suggestions for taking action:
- Social collaboration is an important facet of social selling. Fifty-six percent of sales leaders across industries (63% within the high-tech sector) report that their teams are leveraging social networks and collaboration tools to share knowledge and content internally. Furthermore, 80% of sales teams in which social selling is widely adopted and a formal part of the sales process use social collaboration tools. Because social collaboration can be used jointly with social listening to enable reps to glean insights more efficiently, it isn’t surprising that 84% of sales teams that use social listening also use social collaboration tools.
- The barriers to social collaboration are unique to each industry. The primary reason cited by sales leaders for their teams not using social collaboration tools was that they were unsure that the tools would have a positive impact on sales performance (47%). Other reasons cited included legal concerns around management of the tools (36%), lack of support from executive leadership (36%), and the belief that the investments required (both time and money) were too great (35%).
However, it’s important to note that the percentage of sales leaders citing these reasons varied greatly by industry. Eighty-three percent of sales leaders in the pharmaceutical and biotech space cited legal concerns around management as the reason for not using social collaboration. Conversely, only 18% of high-tech sales leaders citied this same reason. Fifty-five percent of these high-tech sales leaders cited lack of support from executive leadership as the reason for not using social collaboration tools, while only 8% of biotech and pharmaceutical sales leaders pointed to a lack of support as the primary problem. Travel and transportation sales teams were least likely to use social collaboration tools due to a lack of interest across the sales organization (50%)—a reason that was rarely cited by leaders in other industries.
- Sales teams using social collaboration tools find value in sharing content and best practices. Among sales teams using social collaboration tools, 74% are using them to share content or insights among the sales team and 71% are using them to share best practices. Social collaboration tools also allow teams to collaborate on sales opportunities (59%) and share feedback on the effectiveness of assets provided by the marketing team (55%).
The teams using social collaboration tools for these practices seem to be satisfied with their effectiveness. While 69% of sales leaders agree that internal social networks and tools increase the flow and distribution of relevant information to help sales reps engage potential buyers, this percentage jumps to 83% among sales leaders whose teams are using social collaboration tools. Furthermore, 77% of sales leaders whose teams are using social collaboration tools agree that facilitating internal collaboration through social networks and tools increases sales force effectiveness, and 71% agree that implementing social networks and collaboration tools is worth the investment in time and resources.
Three Steps for Successful Social Collaboration
To integrate social collaboration into their own organizations, first, sales leaders should identify specific uses for social collaboration within each stage of the sales process and ensure that their teams are taking advantage of the tactic. In the lead generation and opportunity stage, reps can use LinkedIn to determine who has connections with the prospect or knowledge of the industry and then reach out to these connections to gain a better understanding of how to approach the lead, identify other potential targets and understand the industry. Reps can share content including case examples, lists of referrals, demos and reference architectures during the solution development stage. This will save time and leverage the past research of teammates. During the negotiation and closing phase, reps can share pricing models in order to get a sense of what similar projects have sold for in the past. Lastly, when servicing an active account, reps should compile customer references and case studies that can be used for future sales engagements.
The next step to successfully using social collaboration is identifying the appropriate social sharing tools for your sales team. Organizations that already use Salesforce can take advantage of Chatter to increase their internal communication without having to buy a new platform. There are many alternatives to Chatter, such as Jabber, Lync and Jive, which offer various internal collaboration functionalities. What’s important is finding the tool that best meets the needs of your sales team. Many companies already have one of these tools in place, so there isn’t necessarily a need to buy a new, shiny social collaboration platform. Instead, sales leaders could focus on understanding and driving adoption of their current tools.
In order to get buy-in from the entire sales organization, it’s important for sales leaders to identify influential reps and first-line managers to “champion” the cause for social collaboration. Like any social network, social collaboration tools become stronger and more valuable as more people make use of them. These “champions” can naturally help show how best to use the tools, demonstrate their value, and convince other reps that their use doesn’t amount to another administrative task. These “champions” also should present real-life success stories of how the tools helped them close a deal or share information that was critical to retaining a client. Sales leaders can leverage “gamification” to help boost adoption by connecting the dots between the use of social collaboration tools and sales performance or quota attainment.
Next up, in part six of our series, we’ll learn about how sales teams are driving and tracking social selling behaviors through the use of measurable performance metrics.