The business of selling has always been social. Though the end results of generating new revenue are still the same, the tactics—like anything in life—must change to meet the current landscape.
The art of bartering is sales in its earliest form; for the most part, it was transactions between people from different villages, tribes or communities—each with their own resources they would use to exchange for other resources. It was a trying process that would sometimes require long journeys across land and sea.
This person-to-person contact built strong relationships, developed confidence on the side of the buyer and seller, and with something as symbolic as a handshake, salespeople would put their reputations on the line for their product or service. This evolved into modern telemarketing call centers and entire phone banks that leveraged the ability to connect with customers at a scale unheard of just a short time earlier.
As the 21st century rolled in, email became more prevalent. I remember one of my first jobs where email was just starting to be used. Whether salespeople would have access to email or whether it should be reserved for the executives was actually a heavily debated topic.
Can you imagine not having email?
Email became the new tool for salespeople to communicate with prospects without having to go door-to-door or hoping to reach them on the phone. Unfortunately, though, email was also overused—and the ultimate result of trying to play the numbers game was labeled SPAM.
Not so long ago, I was a sales rep carrying a quota in a highly competitive market. It was clear to me then that the sales tactics being passed down from my predecessors was not working. Dialing for dollars and pitching anyone who answered the phone were losing battles. I had to make an important decision: Do I persist on the losing path or do I get off the beaten trail and do something radically different and surely disruptive?
This brings us to our newest sales tool, social media. Not just a tool for marketing, social media becomes a precision instrument for social selling. The art of listening and engagement at a global scale can be very profitable if done right.
The social buying process has turned sales sideways and given the buyer more control. Buyers no longer have to get information from salespeople; today, they can self-educate, research best-of-breed technologies, and ask their trusted connections for recommendations.
Now, instead of making lengthy discovery calls, sales professionals are expected to have social insights on their prospects and an understanding of what’s going in the industry.
These new trends have led to interesting new developments. For instance, executives may even follow other executives' social profiles in an attempt to stay connected, informed, and available for collaboration whenever it’s feasible.
The age of social selling is upon us. High-performing companies like IBM, ADT and Salesforce (among others) are already reaping the financial and brand benefits of empowering their sales teams with training in social selling and access to the best tools available.
Do you think B2B buyers are going to stop connecting with other professionals in their industry? These social buyers have larger budgets, buy products more often, and spend more money overall.
There are now 5.7 billion people searches each year on LinkedIn, and that figure is growing rapidly. Is that number going to reverse course?
Do we think plummeting cold call rates are going to suddenly stabilize, reverse course, and get better? Today, cold call rates are 3% effective and dropping. Tomorrow, do we believe they’ll get better and get to 5% and then to 10% success and beyond?
Are plunging email response rates going to improve? Do we really think that as the volume of email increases exponentially, we’re going to reverse course and soon our reps will enjoy far higher email response rates? Do think voicemail response rates will start soaring again, too?
In such a world, isn’t it inevitable that your sales reps will be at a severe disadvantage without LinkedIn? Indeed, how could they do their jobs without it?
To learn more about social selling best practices, join me on July 24 for the Live Webcast: ‘Using Social Connections to Turn Prospects into Customers’.
About the author:
Koka Sexton is one of the most recognized social experts in the technology industry. With ten+ years of sales experience and a passion for social media, he has become a leading mind of social selling, a topic that he promotes through global speaking engagements and customer trainings.