2 Reasons Social Selling is Not Currently Working

VengresoStrategy & Leadership 2 Reasons Social Selling is Not Currently Working
There exists a chasm between social selling practitioners and not.

2 Reasons Social Selling is Not Currently Working

The Evidence Shows That Social Selling Works

If it’s true that social selling works, then why aren’t more organizations enjoying success with social selling practices? The difference is in the chasm between those who are successfully practicing social selling and those companies not yet practicing social selling at all.

To explain this chasm, let’s look at some useful facts. In June 2012 Aberdeen Group published their results of a survey of sales professionals. Among their findings, 46% of sales teams that use social selling practices make their quota, versus 38% of sales teams that make their quota without social selling. In a recently published 2014 study of B2B sellers from PeopleLinx, sales teams that build relationships in social networks, fully embrace and optimize their social selling activity achieve a 15% to 20% lift in top line revenue.

So, why aren’t more organizations embracing social selling yet? The PeopleLinx study offers two compelling realities that help explain this chasm.

Social Selling Requires Behavior Change

I don’t know about you, but I am as guilty as anyone at being resistant to change. It’s just human nature. Social selling is in fact an approach to selling that is – by some standards – unorthodox. When you consider that social selling has to occur in two dimensions, it makes behavior change that much more daunting. One dimension is the individual sales person who needs to change behavior. The other dimension of behavior change is in sales management.

The reason social selling requires behavior change is because it requires new activity, which requires more, not less time. So, some behavior has to change because the modern sales pro using social networks and content marketing practices will need to spend time doing these new activities. Add to this that, similar to training for a marathon, the results from social selling are not necessarily immediate.

Unfortunately, some sales pros begin doing “random acts of social” for a period of time, only to abandon their efforts because either the results didn’t show up quickly, or there is no support from sales management.

Lack of Maturity of the Sales Team

We are born, we live our lives and (hopefully) we mature as we gain experience in life. Maturity doesn’t happen to us quickly. It takes time.

Perhaps the most compelling finding in the PeopleLinx study is that some individuals are mature in their social selling practices, but generally sales organizations are not yet mature. Here’s the breakdown of their Social Selling Maturity Model.

SSMM - PeopleLinx


Source: The Social Selling Maturity Model (SSMM) from PeopleLinx

Stage 1: Random Acts of Social

In stage 1 of the Social Selling Maturity Model, sales pros (as mentioned above) are experimenting with social networks randomly. Even a casual commitment to using social networking and content marketing practices is considered random, typically with little or no support from management. As the cliche goes though, “it’s better than nothing,” but it yields very limited results.  The report estimates that 60% of B2B sales pros are still in this stage.

Stage 2: Policy

Eventually, the organization begins to create policy to support social selling. Often, it’s a defensive move to minimize risk of employees engaging on social networks. The marketing team provides guidance and structure to the sales team on how to engage online in social networks. In certain industries, the compliance team gets involved to ensure compliance with strict industry regulations. A documented policy is written. An effective policy is constructive. Sales pros should be empowered by a policy. The policy should instill confidence so that they can engage online effectively. The study estimates that 25% of companies are are at this stage.

Stage 3: Training

Not surprisingly, as we climb up the maturity model we begin to witness more investment and commitment from sales organizations. When an investment is made in training sales pros, participation begins to escalate from about 25% to 75% of the sales team. Training is provided on a range of activities including how to build your personal brand, proper etiquette, growing your network, prospecting without spamming and content sharing. At this stage, the marketing department provides vetted content for the sales team to share in social networks. Organizations that offer a formal training program experience a 7% to 8% lift in top line revenue. The study estimates that 10% of companies are are at this stage.

Stage 4: Integration

At this level of maturity, organizations want to scale and measure results. Training alone doesn’t offer scalability. Integrating social selling processes into CRM is the most effective way to enable scaling and accountability. As processes become more structured through assignment of “to-do’s” from marketing and/or sales management, they should be easily distributed and tracked through CRM integration. Organizations that integrate social selling with CRM experience more participation and a top-line revenue lift of 10% to 15%. The study estimates that just 5% of companies are at this stage.

Stage 5: Optimization

This stage is akin to self actualization. At this point in time, there is not enough empirical data to suggest that B2B sales organizations have achieved optimization. This desired state is where an organization is capable of measuring business impact from social selling activity to understand things such as:

– which social network produces the best results?

– which content performs best for us?

– which companies are we reaching / not reaching through social?

– which online relationships have the greatest influence on our results?

As social selling practices continue to evolve among B2B sales organizations, the empirical data will become available to provide these valuable insights.

Stuck in Phase 1 and 2

As Michael Idinopulos, PeopleLinx CMO states, “the vast majority of companies (roughly 85%) are stuck in the first two stages of the maturity model, where the benefits of social selling are relatively small (1-2% top line lift).” It’s no surprise that Idinopulos predicts that social selling success is a multi-year journey with 2020 as the projected timeframe when social selling will be common practice for most sales organizations.

Social Selling Guidance

If you run a sales organization and want to begin or accelerate your social selling success, we can help. If your company has more than 1,000 employees, contact [email protected]. If your company has less than 1,000 employees contact me directly.

Bernie Borges

Bernie Borges is CMO of Vengreso, the leader in digital sales transformation. He's also Host of the award winning Modern Marketing Engine podcast. His book Marketing 2.0, was an early playbook in social media strategy. Bernie is also a trainer and speaker. He has a passion for guiding clients in aligning marketing and sales for accelerated revenue results. Bernie enjoys kayaking with his family in Tampa Bay, going to hockey games and you'll find him at the gym at 6am Monday through Friday, rain or shine.

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