This is the fourth post in a series based on a ZS social selling survey of 125 sales leaders.
My colleagues and I have recently shared some insights on social branding and social listening—two of our “Six Building Blocks of Social Selling”—based on our recent survey of 125 sales leaders across various industries. Unlike those previous building blocks, which typically are the first that we think of in connection with social selling, social organization isn’t at the center of the social selling conversation. This third building block refers to a set of internal practices that make use of social networks to help build more effective sales teams.
Our framework defines social organization as the building of a sales team through organizational design, hiring processes and lead routing to most effectively integrate social selling. To successfully enable social selling, B-to-B sales leaders should consider social selling when structuring, hiring and deploying their sales teams. We see companies implementing social organization practices in three ways:
- Evaluating social media presence and social selling competency during the hiring process for new sales reps
- Incorporating connections or “social proximity” (for example, the closeness or strength of a relationship through social networks) when designing account or territory coverage
- Considering connections or proximity when routing inbound leads to sales reps
By leveraging social selling information in this manner, sales leaders can build a sales organization that can deliver on desired social selling behavior and drive increased sales effectiveness.
We surveyed sales leaders to understand the current state of social organization and the perceived impact that it has on their sales teams. Here are some of the significant findings, as well as suggestions for how to take action:
- Adoption of social organization practices is still in its infancy. While 53% of high-tech and telecom sales leaders report that their companies are considering social selling in some fashion when structuring, hiring and deploying their sales teams, overall adoption is still in its infancy. Of those 53%, only 17% are using social insights in more than one of the three core aspects of social organization, and only 7% are using social insights across all three.
Furthermore, drilling down into each area of social organization reveals that adoption is relatively low across the board. Of the high-tech and telecom sales leaders that we surveyed, 27% report evaluating candidates’ social media presence as part of their hiring process, 23% say that they incorporate social connections when assigning account or territory coverage, and 27% look at social connections when routing inbound leads to sales reps.
For companies that aren’t using social organization, we observed a few barriers to adoption. The most common is uncertainty that social organization will have a positive impact on sales performance (43%), followed by legal concerns regarding managing and leveraging social media information (35%), and a lack of executive support (34%).
- Sales leaders see the value in adopting social organization practices but are still hesitant. Despite the barriers mentioned above, high-tech and telecom sales leaders are fairly optimistic when it comes to the potential impact of adopting social organization practices. Sixty-seven percent agreed that incorporating social connections or “proximity” into lead-routing guidelines would increase sales force effectiveness. Fifty-seven percent agreed that using social proximity for account or territory planning also would make their sales forces more effective. Finally, 43% believe that social media presence and competency are important criteria for recruiting and hiring productive sales reps.
- Sales leaders who’ve adopted social organization practices are reaping the benefits. Adoption of social organization practices may be low, but the perceived impact is high, and those sales leaders who’ve implemented these practices have even greater perceptions of the impact on their sales force effectiveness. For sales leaders who’ve incorporated connections or proximity into lead routing, 80% agree that it has a positive impact on sales effectiveness. Of those who haven’t, only 39% agreed that it has a positive impact. Sixty-five percent of sales leaders who’ve incorporated social connections or proximity into account or territory planning agreed that it makes their sales forces more effective, versus 37% for those who haven’t. Finally, 77% who consider social media presence and social selling competency as part of their recruiting and hiring process think that they increase sales effectiveness, while only 32% of those who haven’t done so think that they would.
Getting Started With Social Organization
Our findings show that there is untapped value in implementing social organization practices. To successfully do so, high-tech and telecom leaders need to define which competencies and characteristics are required to be a social sales rep in their organization. This means understanding which social selling skills your sales reps should learn in order to successfully engage your customers and prospects. It also means taking an honest look at how your current sales team matches up to the desired social selling competencies and characteristics that you’ve defined, as the skills of newly hired millennials may differ from those of your more established sales veterans. Ensure that you have processes in place to evaluate social selling aptitude when interviewing candidates, and to “upskill” your sales reps as part of your formal training and development program.
Next, revisit how you currently determine your sales reps’ alignment to accounts and customer segments. In today’s more customer-centric world, the practice of assigning opportunities based purely on geographic territories is misaligned with the “relationship is king” sales mantra. Instead, look to see if there’s a better way to assign them by also considering the number—and, more importantly, the strength—of their existing social connections when determining who should cover a given account or industry.
Finally, think about expanding the criteria you use to route inbound leads to include social proximity. For larger B-to-B sales organizations that may have multiple sales reps or roles covering a specific territory or account, it’s often a challenge to decide which rep gives you the greatest chance to win the business. More than likely, it’s based on things like past performance, bandwidth or physical proximity. While we’re not suggesting that you remove these criteria altogether, we see some organizations going a step further to consider social proximity, such as LinkedIn connections, common contacts or shared past employers and education. However, keep in mind that it’s not just about connections, but rather the strength of the relationship indicated by the connection, which can be very difficult to accurately calculate. If you have best practices for measuring the strength of social connections within your sales organization, please share in the comments section below.
Next up, in part four of our series, we’ll explore the use of social collaboration practices to drive sales effectiveness through internal social platforms.