The State of Social Selling Tools [Insights from Forrester Study]

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks


Forrester continues to lead market research on the topic of social selling. With incredible past insights on WHY execute a digital sales transformation, Mary Shea and the team have now begun reviewing social selling tools.

As you’ll see in the data, these tools are evolving from niche point-solutions, to more robust platforms for engagement, enablement and amplification.

In fact, let the dollars be the dictator—when “social selling” was initially coined, there was minimal VC or PE funding in the market. Fast forward to 2017, and this category has seen >$250MM in new funding.

You can add the article to your market research here.

You might be wondering, what’s critical to understand about these social selling tools? What criteria defines standard operations, best practices & best-in-class?

Standard Operating Procedure:

  • Sales Operations (in partnership with marketing & sales enablement) is actively considering and budgeting to accelerate the digital customer conversation. If LinkedIn Sales Navigator (for your account-based sellers), Employee Advocacy, and/or Video-based platforms (like Vidyard GoVideo) aren’t on your radar… you’re not even hitting the baseline of sales development best practices. You’re in the midst of testing, trialing, and pushing your sellers off their status quo.

Best Practices:

  • You’re in market with some of these tools. You recognize that great tool investments start with leadership buy-in, a centralized “skillset” of training, and then adding tools on top as an accelerant. You centralize skills on specific tools (like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to maximize proficiency of PointDrive), but still have a “platform-centric” sales cadence/motion/sequence. You’ve altered your sales cadence/motion/sequence for each seller to fit around the platform, and the platform is, for the most part, complimentary to a seller’s day-to-day routine.


  • Tools and platforms are only a mechanism to execute a sales play better, faster, and cheaper than a manual process. All sales platforms are mechanized into your sales process to highly influence a sales objective. You’re not changing an effective sales process because of a platform. You find great tools/platforms and wrap the platform around your process to accelerate the customer conversation. Your team recognizes that executing 3-4 digital sales plays to precision is far, far, far more valuable that “platform proficiency” on multiple tools.

Key takeaways from Forrester’s data:

1. Social Tools Provide Access To Decision Makers In An Unprecedented Way – With 44% of C-level executives interviewed not answering their phone and email being super-saturated, sellers are looking for a more direct, authentic path to decision makers.

Whether it’s WhatApp, LinkedIn InMail, direct Twitter messages, SMS, etc., sellers must find new ways to bypass the noise to convey vital information to buyers. Social selling does not mean LinkedIn is THE platform. Your local market and buyer personas might be better engaged with Facebook Messenger or Xing. The message here is that a platform is only in place to accelerate your sales play, which highly influences a sales objective. No seller will alter their sales objective to adhere to a platform’s capabilities.

2. Social Tools Humanize And Synthesize Insights For A Customer – Welcome to Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. What are you doing that’s bold & different from your competition to provide insights FIRST?

Based on Forrester data, 74% of deals are awarded to the seller who is FIRST to provide value and insight. Tools like video (we use Vidyard GoVideo) allow a seller to first humanize themselves, then dispense market best practices (synthesizing all kinds of data) in 60 seconds.

3. We’re Only In The First Wave of Social Selling Tools – Use the marketing automation sector as your predictor for future expectations. These tools started as point-solutions, then became highly capitalized, partnered with consulting companies to scale/evangelize, then were acquired by true platforms.

Look for this trend to continue, and drive the social selling tools to consolidate, become part of larger cloud ecosystems, partner programs, etc. Where there are 18 tools today (which will grow to 100), in a few years 5-10 companies will rule 90% of the market share. Let your past experiences with fragmented marketing automation tools be a lesson to you on what will eventually happen in our digital sales ecosystem.


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The Ultimate Guide to Social Selling