Social Selling Hype and Reality

Branson Space Travel2                    This article was first published on LinkedIn.

Just recently I had the privilege of attended a summit on Social Selling hosted by LinkedIn. I was impressed with how far B2B Social Selling has come in the last 12 months in many notable corporations.

There are some amazing success stories that reaffirms that Social Selling is driving an evolution in the way we sell and the way organisations buy. I am convinced that the Social Selling leaders will take market share from the laggards.

That said, there is a lot of Social Selling hype that needs to be watered down.

I developed the following list after reading much of the recent ‘thought leadership’ content on Social Selling and listening to, and learning from, the presentations and discussions yesterday.  I present them as my thoughts and would like you to share your experiences as we are all learning about how to effectively use social. Let me know where I’m right, where I’m wrong and what I’ve missed.

StormHype 1: Social selling is taking the B2B sales world by storm.

Reality: There is still a relatively small percentage of B2B organisations and salespeople leveraging Social Selling effectively.  However, the ones who are -and are strategically implementing it – are achieving significant results that I am sure will compel the laggards to follow quickly. This is evident in the many successful case studies now emerging.

Hype 2: LinkedIn’s SSI (Social selling index) is the best measure and predictor of sales performance since the pipeline or funnel.

: SSI is a measure of outcomes achieved via social activity on LinkedIn.  It does not measure sales activity or sales success nor does it measure the outcomes of your social activity on other platforms..  I believe one key value of Social Selling for salespeople is in lead generation – i.e. finding and connecting with prospective customers, developing some level of relationship and trust to the point where you can take it off line to have a face to face discussion. However in my mind SSI does not measure leads.  It measures the outcomes of all activity up to but not including confirmation that we LinkedIn SSIhave an opportunity. That said, the experience of the successful Social Selling organisations confirm that on average if an effective salesperson’s SSI measure
is high he/she will drive significantly more qualified leads than via any traditional prospecting method – assuming their target customers are on LinkedIn.

By the way if you want to check your own SSI click here.

Hype 3:  Social Selling is ‘selling’. That is, if you conduct effective Social Selling you will be successful in sales.

Reality: The word ‘selling’ in Social Selling is a misnomer – I believe any B2B salesperson worth their salt don’t sell on social – but they do engage and prospect and they know when to take it off line to start selling.

To be successful in B2B (non commodity) sales you need to be able to sell face to face. Adding Social Selling to your repertoire, I have no doubt, will accelerate your selling capability.  However if you cannot sell in the first place then no matter what your SSI, you will still not sell. You need the ability to qualify, discover and create value. You need to be able to authenticate value for the customer. You need to be able to negotiate and close the business.  Social Selling, as measured by the SSI, will lay much of the foundation for this but that is all.

Hype 4: Social Selling is easier than old forms of prospecting such as cold calling.

Reality: Let me emphasise – ‘Social selling’ is not easy.

By comparison the process of cold calling is easy. (I can hear your exclamations). It’s easy to buy a database and email and call a list.  I agree call ‘rejection’ may be tough for many but the task is easy – mind numbingly easy.  Making a hundred calls and succeeding with only a few of the hundred – or sending hundreds of emails with even poorer results. I know there is more to it than this but bear with me while I make my point.

By comparison Social Selling is hard work performed over significant elapsed time. First you must build a formidable, digitally based, personal brand that projects your unique promise of value, That alone is no easy feat. Then researching and connecting with executives, decision makers and influencers on ‘social’ takes time and skill. Nurturing social relationships with those executives by sharing content that is of relevance and value takes significant work, time and skill. It is far from easy.

However the rewards can be outstanding. Good social sellers can achieve over 90% success rate when making an approach to set up that first face to face meeting with a connection they have nurtured.  I see salespeople achieve it every day. I achieve it myself.

Hype 5: Social selling is a simple tactic – it simply bolts on to your current sales strategy and processes

Reality: Social selling will fail if you do not rethink the way you sell. Your sales strategy and your sales process need to evolve with it.  I have recently heard so many  say “I tried it and did not work for us”. Every single one of these when pressed agreed that they had put their ‘toe in the water’ – they had not thought about how they need to change, and then commit, in order to be successful.

For more on social selling strategy read my comments on “Ignore the LinkedIn social selling experts, until …..

Let me remind you of all of those stories about CRM failures in the past.  It’s the same risk that we face with Social in this early in the adoption curve.  Let’s learn from the CRM failures to help Social Selling succeed. In CRM the high rate of failure was because we overlaid CRM on struggling sales organisations – and over poor sales processes and reluctant salespeople  – who were not ready for it. We had not driven the change that was necessary for success. It is the same for Social Selling.  In my experience if you are not ready for the change don’t deploy it until you are. That said if you are in this boat perhaps you might start to find out how to get ready or risk losing market share to the early adopters.

Hype 6: Social is all we need to engage with prospective customers as we move into the future.

Reality:  This one is obviously wrong.  As Paul McCord says in Top Sales WorldIt isn’t our prospect’s responsibility to respond to us in the way we want to connect with them; it is our responsibility to connect with our prospects in the way they will accept”.  There are many channels of communication that we use to engage with customers and most of these will continue to have their place for the foreseeable future.  And I am sure new ones will emerge quicker than we can cope with them. We need to ensure we be prepared to adapt our customer engagement strategies as this world changes.

Hype 7: LinkedIn is the only Social Media platform you need to use in B2B.

Reality: LinkedIn is currently the most valuable platform for B2B however as we mentioned in hype 6 the customer chooses the platform – not us.  If the customer is active on Google+, Twitter, Facebook or any other channel we need to be there too.  Your target audience dictates the platforms you use.

In this article I have talked about Social Selling hype – not Myths.  There a myriad of SS myths, 15 of which are well documented by Tony Hughes here. I commend his article to you.

These above are my top of mind ‘Social Selling’ hypes from my  experience.  I hope you find my thoughts of value. What Social Selling’ hypes have you experienced? And what is the reality in each case.  If we all understand these it will ensure greater success in our implementations. Over to you!


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John works with companies who are striving to grow high margin revenue by retaining customers, creating value for customers and strategically acquiring new customers. He loves successful and happy sales teams who are driving positive change for their customers. He coaches sales professionals who are keen to enhance their career. He helps them develop their skills and capabilities and enhance & leverage their personal brand.

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