The Science of Social Selling: 5 Studies that Prove the Power of Social

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

Social sales involves much more than just tweets and posts. It is a way of nurturing prospects into long term business partners for a potentially limitless source of repeat sales and an expanding network of referrals. Now, a body of new scientific research and social selling studies are beginning to establish which aspects of social sales have made it so effective on a grand scale.

The science of social selling has been so effective because we are hard-wired to make connections and see similarities. This skill has helped us survive over the centuries and it is key to our greatest achievements. Here’s an overview of what the leading edge of science research has to tell us about the effectiveness of social selling with the world’s most social animal.

1. Influential Incidentals

A social selling report from researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that salespeople achieve a greater success rate when they share with prospects incidental connections like birthdays and shared experiences like growing up in a certain area. UBC Marketing professor Darren Dahl explained, “Those incidental similarities can actually shape the situation in terms of your desire to buy and associate with the product or company and your attitude toward the product. It overflows onto the purchase experience — even though, rationally, it really shouldn’t.”

2. More Sales in Less Time

Social networking excels at shrinking the amount of prospecting time to allow more time for sales. In one of the most extensive surveys of its kind, the Social Media and Sales Quota Survey sought answers to whether social sellers are more effective overall. They discovered that nearly two thirds of sales professions who used social networks were able to outperform their peers, and on average their sales exceeded their peers by 23 percent. While achieving these sales numbers, over half of social media users spent less than 10 percent of their sales time using these channels.

3. Cold Calls: The Anti-social Way

The cold call has been the staple of sales from the very beginning because it is the fastest way to expand a prospect pool, but success rates have been understandably low. Social sales has proven to be much more productive in turning strangers into professional connections. The Harvard Business Review, in an in-depth study of traditional sales techniques, revealed that:

  • 91 percent of sales meetings do not result in a sale
  • Only 1 out of every 250 salespeople exceed their targets
  • It takes on average $1,760 of profit per sale to cover the cost of failed sales calls.

With the bar set so low, it’s no surprise that social sales outperforms traditional sales by building relationships and establishing themselves as valuable business resources.

4. Relationships = Revenue

Accenture’s 2013 Sales Performance Optimization Study established for many sales managers the critical link between strong customer relationships and sales revenue. The report concluded that their “ongoing research has regularly found that enterprises thrive by revolving around customers versus their internal processes.” Their recommendations for greater sales effectiveness include:

  • Provide social sales training for the 93 percent of sales professionals who have not received adequate preparation for using social channels.
  • Improve communications between sales, marketing and service to provide a single, customer-centric experience.
  • Integrate internal processes and handoff points between sales and marketing.
  • Create a standardized process where information collected from social media can be converted into dynamic sales leads.


5. The Changing Role of Sales

The Corporate Executive Board’s 2014 Top Insights for the World’s Leading Executives reported that 77 percent of B2B buyers do research online before reaching out to sales and 57 percent of them have already made a purchase decision before talking to a sales person. Referrals, search and blogs are the top three sources used for information during their buying process. The essential role of sales has changed from information provider to influencer.


More data on social selling continues to collect all the time and keeping up with the research can become a fulltime obsession. The key takeaway is that with all the advances in technology, demands for greater productivity and our increasingly busy lives, it is often hard for professionals to connect with others on a personal level. Social selling breaks down those barriers by sharing content that prospects can use, developing the sales professional’s reputation as a resource and offering solutions that simplify complex problems. That way, sales emerges as a natural result of primarily social behaviors. 

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The Ultimate Guide to Social Selling