Social Selling Adoption is Growing. What About Results?

Is social selling already the new normal or are organizations still figuring things out, or not even trying it yet?

Over the years, we’ve identified two critical success factors for social selling success. One is the alignment of the social strategies between marketing and sales. The other is the adoption rate across the sales force when it comes to the regular use of social selling tools as part of a seller’s workflow. Today, let’s discuss the latter, the adoption rate of social selling tools and the impact on sales results.

In 2017, we saw that adoption rates of social selling tools drive sales results in a significant way. And results are even better when the organizations’ social strategies are aligned between marketing and sales. Let’s have a look at the 2018 data based on our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study.

More and more organizations are improving their adoption of social selling tools: the low adoption rates (below 50%) decrease, and the adoption rates between 50% and 75% increase.

The adoption rates of social selling tools are growing. In 2017, 71.2% of organizations reported adoption rates below 50%. In 2018, that number is only 61.8%, which is good news because more organizations have moved to higher adoption levels. In 2018, 27.4% reported adoption rates between 51% and 75%, compared to only 15.8% a year before. This group has almost doubled. The number of organizations that reported adoption rates greater than 76% is about the same in both years.

So, the good news is that organizations continue to integrate the use of social selling tools and techniques in their selling processes and workflows and are moving from adoption rates lower than 50% into the range of 51%-75%. Now, the next question becomes: what is the impact of social selling adoption on sales results?

The better the social selling adoption rate, the better the win rates for forecast deals, compared to the study’s average win rate of 49.5%:

  • Adoption rates between 51% and 75% show +3.4 points, which is an increase of 6.9%
  • Adoption rates between 76% and 90% show +12.0 points which is an increase of 24.2%

Is this just for win rates? No, there is more good news. The performance impact for quota attainment shows a similar trend: Improvements in the 51%-75% range are 5.4%, and 15.5% in the 76%-90% range.

We have been researching the area of social selling for a couple of years now, and based on our data, research and experiences with clients, these are the critical success factors to drive social selling adoption:

  • Aligning the social strategies across marketing and sales:
    It’s a prerequisite and a critical success factor at the same time. Only such an alignment ensures clarity for the sales force and consistency. I will talk about this in more detail in a follow-up blog post. Click here to learn what I shared last year.
  • Develop a holistic social selling approach to drive adoption:
    We discussed the impact of adoption rates here. Now, the question is how you can drive your adoption rates. Here is what’s not driving adoption: investing in LinkedIn and Sales Navigator and rolling it out based on technical-features-and-functions training. You might remember that this practice almost killed your CRM implementation. Does it ring a bell?
    So, avoid it here at all costs. Instead, develop a holistic approach of social selling along the entire customer’s path, and integrate the technology in your selling processes and workflows.
  • Implement social selling training based on your processes and use cases:
    Design training that’s based on your integrated selling processes. Make sure that the training is focused on your sellers’ use cases: HOW to leverage social selling tools to engage and connect with the right buyers. Make sure that the training respects the modern buyers’ four key preferences.
  • Implement a social selling coaching program in parallel:
    Your social selling training will fail if you don’t implement any reinforcement mechanisms. In parallel to the social selling training, develop social selling coaching training for your sales managers to get them up to speed. Your sales managers are actually your key audience. They should attend your training and your related social selling coaching training. Leverage their street wisdom to design the entire social selling approach.
  • Make sure that there is shareable social content available for your sellers:
    That’s the other side of the social selling coin, the content. With all the new tools and the newly developed skills, if your sellers have nothing to share, it’s hard for them to apply what they learned. They need content. Content comes from different places and has to cover the entire customer’s path when it comes to sales enablement. It’s a bit simpler for social selling; you can focus on prospecting first. Here, you need a lot of content that is valuable, relevant and differentiating for your target buyer roles. Ideally, you have a content framework that helps to tailor content, for instance, to your target buyer role, your target industries, and the problems you can solve. Blogs, podcasts, videos, prepared tweets and status updates that engage with the audience are required to fuel the social selling engine. And don’t forget to include calls to action.
  • Measure progress and success, but only measure the right things:
    The more technology we use, the bigger the danger of measuring everything simply because we can. Don’t do it. With the increasing power to measure comes an increasing responsibility to identify the metrics that are truly useful for achieving your goals. If in doubt, always focus on quality instead of quantity. Focus on outcomes, not on activities.Stay tuned! Our social selling discussion will continue.  

If you haven’t already, have a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Lots of “how to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.

Questions for you:

  • How did you implement social selling in your organization?
  • Did you integrate social selling in your selling processes, powered by the related technology (social CRM)?
  • What did you learn so far? What worked, and what didn’t?

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