Sales Reps: Embrace Social Selling to Boost Sales Effectiveness

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Sellers Are Still Maturing Their Use of Social Technologies

Today’s enterprises invest in a variety of social media technologies to expand their social selling program’s capabilities. But while a high percentage of sellers use social media to generate leads (55%) and expand contacts (59%), sellers miss opportunities to leverage social technologies in the following ways:

  • Listening and learning about buyer needs. Although 77% of respondents reported adoption of a social listening platform, sales teams are not adequately leveraging these solutions. Sellers lag 18% behind their marketing peers in using social to listen to buyer preferences. This gap signifies a missed opportunity for sellers to uncover new opportunities and more effectively close existing ones.

  • Establishing their personal brand. Sellers that have a strong reputation on social channels will be top of mind, credible resources to buyers seeking to solve business problems. However, many sellers miss this opportunity by not focusing enough on building their personal brand across the relevant networks.

  • Educating buyers with thought leadership content. As buyers increasingly turn to social to learn about vendors, sellers have the opportunity to share relevant content that boosts their credibility as a consultative partner. However, only 42% do so today.

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Social Selling Is A Priority

Sales and marketing leaders see promise in formalizing their approaches to social selling. According to our study, 49% of B2B enterprises have developed a formal social selling program, and 28% are in the process of doing so. Virtually all respondents see value in a social selling program; only 2% reported having no plans for establishing one. Social selling is gaining momentum because:

  • Buyer journeys are increasingly complex. Empowered buyers prefer to self-educate, gain third-party validation, and rely on peers to learn about new products — and increasingly prefer to use social networks to do so.

  • Companies need new ways to stay top of mind with prospects. Increasingly complex and lengthy sales cycles as well as more stakeholders involved in buying decisions require that B2B companies develop new approaches for keeping influencers and decision makers engaged throughout the buying cycle.

  • Sellers and marketers see social as the dominant sales channel of the future. More than a third of the decision makers in our study (36%) believe that social selling will become the default way to engage with buyers in the future.

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Today’s B2B sellers face many challenges. Buyers that are inundated with information and messaging are desensitized to legacy sales tactics delivered through traditional channels. These buyers prefer to embark on self-guided journeys through search and social networks, and they don’t want to be sold to. More stakeholders — often with competing agendas — are involved in decisions, buying cycles take longer, and the efficiency of digital interactions frequently trump the desire to meet in person. As a result of current and expected future B2B buyer preferences, it is essential for B2B companies to have a comprehensive social selling strategy and supporting technologies in place. Social engagement must be leveraged across all phases of the cycle, allowing B2B marketers and sellers to engage with buyers on their terms.

Key findings of this study include:

  • B2B companies turn to social as the dominant sales channel of the future.

  • A formal and comprehensive social selling program is key to sustaining success.

  • B2B sellers are not yet executing social selling in a comprehensive, programmatic way.

  • Sales and marketing teams need to work together to drive social selling success.

Excerpts taken from the Forrester study “Social Selling: A New B2B Imperative”