Effective Social Selling Part 1: Formally Aligned Social Strategies

At CSO Insights, we have analyzed at the impact of social selling on sales performance for many years. With our 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study we researched social selling for the first time from a specific sales enablement perspective. And with our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Studywe did it again. Let’s have a look at a key prerequisite and its performance impact: aligned social strategies.

More organizations now align their social strategies. Almost half of organizations are on their journey to achieve a formal alignment. One-fifth have already formally aligned social strategies.

As last year, we identified the alignment of social strategies across marketing and sales as a critical success factor for social selling effectiveness.

What we mean by that is that marketing and sales have a common approach for how to connect and engage with prospects and customers digitally along the entire customer’s journey, ideally across all channels. It requires having a shared dynamic value messaging framework, which ensures that value messages are consistent whether they are used on a macro level (website), or on a micro level (prospect or customer interaction). It also means that processes and technology along the entire customer’s journey are aligned and, ideally, integrated.

We have seen that only one-fifth (20.7%) had formally aligned their social strategies, whereas all others reported having no alignment at all or informally aligned social strategies.

This year’s data shows some good news and also opportunities for improvement. The good news is that organizations are getting better at aligning their social strategies between marketing and sales: this year only 31.6% had no alignment, down from 40.0% last year. Looking at informal alignment, the trend is reversed with 39.3% informally aligned last year, jumping to 47% this year. The fact that the “no alignment” percentage has shrunk and the “informally aligned” percentage has grown suggests that many organizations have worked to evolve their social strategies. The percentage of those with formally aligned social strategies is almost unchanged: one-fifth of the study participants. And this one-fifth sees the biggest performance impact.

Aligned social strategies can improve win rates for forecast deals by 15.2%

Let’s look at the performance impact of formally aligned social strategies. The 2017 data confirms what we stated last year: no alignment is only a recipe for poor performance.

No alignment doesn’t even lead to average win rate performance (the 2017 study’s average is 51.8%).

Informally aligned social strategies are a phase organizations have to go through on their journey to formal alignment with integrated campaigns, enablement services, social and enablement technology, etc. However, organizations at this stage could achieve results that were slightly better (52.5%) than average. This is a confirmation for these organizations that they are on the right path.

Once formally aligned, performance results are again way above average. This year, those organizations could achieve a win rate for forecast deals of 59.7%, which is an actual improvement of 15.2% (or 7.9 percentage points) compared to the average win rate of 51.8%.

With repeated double-digit performance impacts, the question is no longer “do we need social selling?” The question is “How do we get it right?”

It’s sales force enablement’s strategic and orchestrating role along the customer’s journey that’s best positioned to ensure a holistic and successful implemention. As with other enablement services, social selling requires a cross-functional approach that covers marketing and sales (and ideally also service) to achieve an integration of strategy, process and technology along the entire customer’s journey. And most important, the social activities have to be integrated in your process, methodology and IT landscape. Only then can consistency, adoption, and performance impact be achieved. Only then can social selling skills beyond social tools be successfully developed, applied and reinforced to create a significant impact on sales performance.

Stay tuned: next time, we will talk about the impact of social selling adoption on quota attainment.

Questions for you:

  • Are marketing’s and sales’ social strategies aligned in your organization?
  • If not, why do you think there is no alignment?
  • What challenges do you experience when implementing social selling?
  • How do you measure social selling success?


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