Social Selling: World-Class Performers Are Two Years Ahead of Average Performers

In the world before the Internet, before social networks changed our private and professional lives, salespeople had a knowledge advantage regarding their products and services; and that’s how they sold, via features and functions. This knowledge asymmetry is gone, and this way of selling is no longer successful. Now, there is knowledge symmetry. Differentiation can only be established by creating a unique form of customer value.  And salespeople, like everyone else, now use text, chat, email, and social networks to communicate and to share, in all different forms and shapes. Some salespeople are enthusiastic about “social selling” while others remain unsure or skeptical.

“Social selling” – “leveraging social media” to be precise – impacts sales performance. World-class performers are adapting their selling behaviors two years earlier than average performers.

Just a few years ago, it was hard to get data on the effectiveness of social selling. But there is now data that shows over time that those who implement social selling capabilities properly have significant performance advantages compared to those who started late or struggle with a proper implementation.

Our CSO Insights Sales Best Practices Study compared the world-class segment with all respondents over the last three years, and found very compelling data. Let’s look at the two most significant behaviors regarding leveraging social media. In 2015, as an example, the world-class segment was 7% of the overall study population; but they outperformed all others by 23%.

Social media is a highly effective tool to identify decision makers – there is a gap of 40% between world-class and all respondents

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The world-class segment is two years ahead when it comes to taking advantage of this behavior: In 2013, 33% of the world-class performers already executed this behavior compared to all respondents who started at 12% in 2013 and achieved only 27% two years later.

The second finding here is that the speed and the intensity with which world-class performers focused on this behavior is different from all respondents. Look at the difference between 2014 and 2015. While the world-class performers improved from 50% to 67%, all respondents only improved from 24% to 27%. A gain of three percentage points does not represent much progress.

Social media is a highly effective tool to identify new business opportunities – world-class performers are faster, better and more successful compared to all respondents

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Also here, the world-class segment is two years ahead when it comes to taking advantage of this behavior. Look at the data for world-class, and how fast they have developed this capability:  26% agreed on this behavior in 2013, 47% in 2014 and 72% in 2015, while all respondents achieved 28% only in 2015!

Speed and intensity are also a critical success factor. Just look at the difference from 26% in 2013, to 47% in 2014 to 72% in 2015. Significant.

Focus, speed, integration and adoption are critical success factors for leveraging social media effectively across the organization

On the way to world-class performance, there is no time to relax and to be happy with the current state. Getting better every day, that’s world-class performers’ natural and differentiating attitude.
Sales force enablement plays a critical role when it comes to developing social capabilities across the sales force. What’s not working (and we will look at other data points in a follow-up blog post) is to treat “social selling” as an isolated LinkedIn training which is not integrated in the sales process nor the sales methodology, and to forget the content component altogether, or to believe it’s a marketing issue only. It’s not. An integrated strategy is required, and sales force enablement is in an ideal position to orchestrate this initiative.

“Social engagement” is what we call our approach to covering the entire customer’s journey. It’s about equipping salespeople with skills, tools, and content to successfully navigate the change, decision and value dynamics along the entire customer’s journey by leveraging social media.

Leveraging social media on a world-class level requires enablement leaders to take a holistic and integrated approach for salespeople and their managers, connecting the dots from training to content up to coaching to drive adoption and reinforcement.

Stay tuned! More will follow.

Questions for you:

Do you have a social selling/social engagement strategy?

If so, who owns it and what’s the scope?

How do you equip your sales force with social engagement capabilities?

Related blog posts:

Sales Force Enablement: Six Strategic Issues 2016, Part 1

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