Social selling is largely misunderstood and ignored by seasoned sales professionals because it seems different.  And in that perception of difference lies its presumption of difficulty.

But is it? Is social selling uniquely so different that it’s just difficult to understand, apply and master? This question is rhetorical, of course.

The greatest advantage of social selling is in its simplicity. The greatest disadvantage of social selling is also in its simplicity.

So let’s break this down and truly focus on the fundamentals of social selling.

The Social Selling Trifecta

First, to understand what social selling is and isn’t. Let’s start at the very core.  Instead of arduous words and drawn out essays, let’s use vivid imagery and bring it to life.

Research

Quite simply, a sales professional that doesn’t research (the buyer, their company, their industry are the basics) is asking for trouble.  Buyers today are simple yet we make them out to be complex (my friend, yes you reading this; you’re a buyer too).  Invariably, all we want is information – we want to be educated more and sold less.

So in this world, when we come to the table armed with research, we add layers of context to the experience.  This is how I’d argue we all want to be sold.

Collaboration

Social media platforms exist for a few simple reasons; one of them is to be social.  And therefore it’s surprising to see how many sales professionals and leaders have profiles but don’t interact.

Our job as sales professionals is to have conversations where we see buyers online.  In addition to being collaborative and social IRL (in real life), we also need to do this on social platforms.

“But Amar, my buyer doesn’t have a profile on _____ platform!”

That’s an objection I hear quite often, to which I ask is that the only buyer in the account? Is that the only person worth targeting? Is there no one else worth influencing?

Collaboration requires us to spread our message far and wide.  Often, and we all know this, more than a few people are involved in a buying decision, particularly with B2B.

Examples of collaboration include tagging buyers in posts/comments, commenting on what you hear buyers say, sharing insightful commentary and content, and more.

Communication

This is the one characteristic of social selling that sales professionals assume is the only one.

Prospecting with InMails, private messages, etc. is common place now.  The question is why sales thinks this is the only aspect of social selling.  The reason/answer is simple:  this is the part that’s the easiest.

What most sales professionals focus on is using platforms like LinkedIn to find potential buyers and then sending them the prospecting messages they would have sent on email.  When prospects don’t reply to this, they then claim that social selling doesn’t work.

Is it the message or the medium?

Ideally, the textbook scenario that works wonders is the following:

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

The entire case I present to you above is almost foolproof.

These are skills that all sales professionals claim to have and ones they practice in many areas of their career. So if we think about social selling in the context described, the rest just become a matter of mastering mechanics.

But the change is slowly happening.

Allow me to step into the age conversation for a few moments.  In a recent data crunching exercise by LinkedIn, they discovered the following:  reps that are 45+ have LinkedIn SSI scores that are 21 percent higher than reps that are 27.

What can we infer from this?

  1. Social selling is learnable

Indeed, social media isn’t a magic unicorn that is only tamed by millennials.  Quite the opposite. Seasoned sales professionals with commercial discipline and sales knowhow need only the mechanical understanding. Once learned, they can easily apply their known expertise on this new platform.

  1. Social selling is relevant

Per LinkedIn, social sellers produce 45 percent more sales opportunities in the pipeline and have a 51 percent greater chance of meeting quota. Even according to our data at Sales for Life (across hundreds of customers and 90K+ sales reps trained), we’ve seen a healthy 20 percent pipeline lift in 6 months or less.

  1. Social selling has broad applications

It’s incredible to see how our perceptions are shaped by environmental bias.  To this day, I hear these biases being expressed all the time.

Here’s generally how it goes. When asked “what does social selling mean to you?” I typically hear that it’s for one or more of:

  • Inside Sales
  • Marketing
  • People with large accounts
  • People with small accounts
  • People in North America, but not Asia

These are all fallacies, period.

Social can be used by multiple people in multiple scenarios.  It’s not just about using LinkedIn, it’s about using a suite of tools to accelerate relationship building, leading to pipeline building.

The Bottom Line

As you see, social selling isn’t difficult, it’s just different.  It’s a mechanical difference that can be overcome through training and ongoing reinforcement.

The common perception that it’s only for young people or those that are digital natives is false.  The data shows it, both quantitatively and anecdotally.

What are your thoughts on this subject? What does social selling mean to you and why do you feel so many questions persist about it?

Send me your thoughts @AmarSheth on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn here.

Amar Sheth is the VP for Customer Success at Sales for Life.

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