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Social Selling: the evolution of sales

Updated: Dec 4, 2018



On October 23rd, I was invited by Visionary Marketing founder Yann Gourvennec, the Program Director, Advanced Master's in Digital Business Strategy at Grenoble Ecole de Management, to join a Webinar to discuss Social selling and to prep, I was happy to round up the following thoughts around social selling.


Hootsuite defines social selling as “An important new approach to selling that allows salespeople to laser-target their prospective, establish rapport and trust through existing connections and networks, and possibly even ditch the dreaded practice of making cold calls.”


If you take away the marketing lingo from this statement, what you’ll find is that social selling is the natural evolution of what salespeople have done since the beginning of time.

Before the internet, salespeople used community-based connections and networks to create inbound marketing opportunities. Now they can use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social networks out there to do this work digitally.


Before social media, you used email, instant messaging, and direct messaging to reduce your cold-calling efforts. There’s a good chance you’re still doing this.


Then there is the “dreaded” cold call. If you’re in sales and can’t approach a stranger about what you offer, then why are you in this career?

Here is the reality of social selling: some might offer a quick profit through direct messages and others might tell you that it gives you another tool to always be closing the next deal.

It is neither of these.


Social selling is your best option to show you’re interested in the issues and pain-points your clients face. It allows you to prove you have something that will solve their problems.


Are Digital Handshakes Just Like Old-fashioned Ones?

One of my colleagues specializes in what he calls a “digital handshake.”

He describes this concept as a value promise that is offered to a prospective client. Just like you might shake someone’s hand when you greet them for the first time, this value promise must be firm and trustworthy.


It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just can’t be limp.


And that’s the problem many salespeople face today. They offer a limp handshake because they haven’t taken the time to get to know their demographics.


One-on-one relationships are important. We must build relationships to create loyalty in the world of sales. To reach that relationship, however, we must be able to understand what makes our core markets and demographics tick.


People are in our core demographics because they have similar pain points. We know their needs and wants because we’re trying to sell them something of value in that arena. So, why aren’t we using this information to our advantage?


Don’t tell me it is because there is a fear of a cold call. That’s an excuse.

We don’t use this information because we’re unsure of how it should be used. If that uncertainty hits our social networks, then all we can offer is digital handshakes that are limp.

People in the past made deals because they were confident in the outcome. They knew their neighbors would keep their promises and pay them, so they’d start a tab. The same principle is true today, but in reverse.


You must be confident in the outcome that can be achieved. Then your promises will be believed, which will open up the doors to start selling.


Key Facts About Social Selling

Although you’ll find websites that offer 100+ key facts about social selling, there are only 5 key facts that really stand out.


LinkedIn says of social selling that it creates 45% more opportunities than other forms of sales and is 51% more likely to reach a quota, outselling competitors 78% of the time.


Sales for Life says companies who are social selling are 40% more likely to hit their revenue goals.


CSO Insights adds that 1 in 3 B2B professionals believe social selling allows them to build deeper client relationships – which means 2 in 3 professionals believe the opposite.

About 40% of B2B professionals say that social selling reduces the time required to research new leads, says eMarketer, with about 30% saying that they have better relationships and have earned more leads.


And Bambu adds that over 90% of B2B buyers use social media to engage with thought leaders in their industry, with 84% of C-Suite professionals using it to make purchasing choices.


Most salespeople say that getting new prospects is becoming more difficult. It is difficult because of fear. We must not be afraid to reach out to people, build networks, and establish relationships.


But we must not abandon our proven sales techniques either, says Peak Sales Recruiting. 55% of high-growth companies (defined as an organization with a minimum of 40% growth over the past 36 months) are using cold calling techniques and those who aren’t using them are experiencing 42% less growth.


Social selling is not a replacement for cold calling; it is another layer of relationship-building that must be included as part of the lead management process. Both can work on their own, but they work better together.


How to Start the Process of Social Selling

We are still doing cold calls. We’re just doing them in a different way today.

Let’s use Facebook as an example. With social selling, there are three primary strategies you would use to begin this process.


After creating a Facebook business page, you would begin to engage with other businesses. You might like a post, share something interesting, or leave a comment in the hope that it will be reciprocated.


You would respond to any posts from your followers. You could ask a question to start a conversation or post content that addresses community concerns. All of this can be tied into the products or services you’re offering.


Be consistent. If you stop engaging with your network, then you’ll be forgotten.

Different social networks will tweak these strategies here and there to fit with community expectations. On Twitter, you might create lists of prospects that are in different positions within your sales or marketing funnel.


On LinkedIn, you might use advanced search options to uncover new connections within your existing network.


The goal is simple: instead of interrupting your leads, you’re trying to add value to their lives in some way. When that value reaches the correct threshold, then you’ll have created a new, loyal customer.


That brings up one final important question: how do we define value?


Definition of Value in Under 100 Words

Value is a feature, service, product, or innovation that is attractive to leads and customers because it solves problems, meets needs, and relieves pain points.


Even though it was written in 2013, Michael Skok’s excellent piece for Forbes takes you through the 4 steps needed to build a compelling value proposition.


If you make a promise, you must keep it. Customers abandon brands and businesses because the value-promises being made don’t meet their expectations.


A Final Thought on Social Selling

Sales have always been successful when they focused on the processes of relationship building. If you established credibility and rapport, then you had the chance to close a deal.

In the past, you could do that with a handshake. Today, you can do that with social selling.

With social selling, you have another tool to use that will help you identify problems and find solutions for your prospects. You’re more productive because you can discover this information online instead of in-person.


We cannot be afraid of any selling tool – including the cold call. Social selling is not a replacement. It is an evolution that gives us another layer of opportunities to pursue. Use it effectively and you’ll create more chances to close deals.


Or choose to be afraid of it and watch the competition get another win.


The choice is up to you.