Today’s sales teams have evolved. No longer are sophisticated sales pros taught to pressure buyers or use questionable selling tactics — instead they’ve adopted a more buyer-centric approach. A great change for the sales profession, but the evolution of the sales landscape is ongoing.
Some sales teams are falling behind in the race to win clients because they fail to see how and when to connect with today’s B2B buyers. Decision makers today are using technology more than ever, and in some sectors it is radically changing the traditional sales journey. Research shows that 57% of the buying decision is made before a salesperson is in the picture.
The key in this new environment is to follow the buyer and use technology to meet them online on their terms, as they begin to formulate thoughts on possible solutions. This new strategy is referred to as social selling, and since its inception in 2012, it has earned an impressive track record:
- 64% of sales teams that use inbound social selling reach their quotas, compared to 49% who don’t (Aberdeen Group);
- Thanks to their inbound social selling program, IBM increased their sales by 400% (IBM);
- 98 out of 100 sales reps who have at least 5,000 LinkedIn contacts reach or surpass their sales quotas (The Sales Benchmark Index).
Yet many sales professionals seem afraid to adapt this new method and prefer the status quo. Resisting change in this case may be more comfortable, but it is seldom a good idea to bet against progress, especially when technology is involved.
Once buyers have decided on a possible path, they are willing to engage with suppliers that are aligned with their decision. So the real question to ask is, how do I get buyers to pick me? Quite intuitively, research shows that buyers are more likely to pick you and your organization if you were present at the beginning of their research journey, providing them with insights and education.
This research tells us that sales professionals who stay ahead of this curve and adopt social selling into their daily routine far outperform their peers.
Sales pros often lament that they could win more business if they could just get themselves in front of decision makers that are open to a conversation. But in today’s environment, finding these types of prospects is getting harder, especially for pros using traditional methods like cold calling or e-mail outreach. Since buyers are far along in their research, they have already decided on potential suppliers to engage with. Persistent sales reps who eventually make contact, find the prospect to be closer to “cold” than interested.
Alternatively, when social selling is used proficiently, contact with potential buyers becomes far more productive. Sales teams find themselves meeting with decision makers who already are up to speed with their suggestions and insights, and want to discuss key points about the value proposition. It is easy to see why these sales professionals close more business – it hardly seems like a fair comparison.
Many have already realized that social selling is not simply sending a few posts that showcase your product or service. This approach is far too biased in the eyes of a buyer. Decision makers are more likely to engage with your content if your agenda isn’t so obvious. Rather you seek to provide valuable content, expertise and insights to help shape their decision journey. This approach connects the buyer and the sales professional to a more valuable discussion, and paves the way for a more personal engagement by phone or in person.
Like most things in life, when social selling is done incorrectly it yields poor results if any at all. Yet the list of corporations who have tried it, and continue to train their sales teams on these new skills continues to grow. What are these organizations experiencing that others fail to see?
That question is a little too broad for just one post, but well worth investigating.
I encourage sales leaders and sales professionals to simply take a look at what social selling entails, and consider what it can and can’t do for your organization. At least then you can make an informed decision about what is right for your organization. I regularly send out content, ebooks and infographics on social selling, so feel free to join my network by connecting with me on LinkedIn or reach out to me directly if you prefer a conversation.