Time To Turn Your Sales Team Social?

In May of last year, Aberdeen Research Group released a study on social selling in which they revealed that sales reps who have leveraged social selling in their sales process are 79% more likely to attain their quota than those who don’t use social selling in their sales process (15%). The study also cites that the industry average of reps who hit their goal is only 43%.

Recently, Lattice Engines sponsored a study done by CSO Insights in which they looked at Sales Performance Optimization: Sales Strategy and Key Trends Analysis. In the report, they discover that less than two-thirds of sales reps hit their own quota last year and only 57% of companies reached their targets for revenue. One of the key findings is that sales reps spend 20% of their time doing qualifying research (approximately 1 full day out of the work week).

This is time comprised of LinkedIn research, the company’s website, identifying trigger events and talking points from news or press releases, etc.

Want more proof that it’s time to have your sales team be more social? The Sales Management Association surveyed 140 firms this past spring and found that 96% of them use LinkedIn at least once a week and spend an average of six hours per week on the professional networking site. That’s approximately one full work day spent researching prospects or potential prospects.  The study also found that two-thirds of the responding firms have no social media strategy for their sales organizations and that 80% believe their sales force would be more productive with a greater social media presence, which lends further support to the Aberdeen statistics mentioned previously.

The reason I cite these statistics is that it still seems to me that companies have yet to embrace social selling or implement any form of a social selling into their sales process. But, there is hope! LinkedIn’s Head of Marketing for Sales Solutions, Ralf VonSosen, believes there will be a strong need for social media training in sales forces and it will be widely addressed “within the next 9-12 months”.

Here are five reasons why your company’s sales team needs to be more social:

1. Shortened sales cycle: Everyone has heard now that the buyer’s are 60-70% through the buying process before they are ready to speak to a sales rep about their solution. The buyer’s are engaging in online communities, asking questions from their peers to provide feedback on products, and researching solutions prior to any sales conversations. You want your sales team in a position to listen and monitor what is being said in these forums and allow them the freedom to respond to the conversations through thoughtful, value-adding responses, not with sales pitches

2. Relationship Building: Social media channels offer the opportunity to build relationships with a limitless amount of possibilities globally. The best part is that most of these channels are free to join or create accounts. Through these social media channels, your sales organization has the ability to access unlimited information, prospects, and alliances or channel partnerships.

3. Lead Generation: This is an activity that is usually at the forefront for most sales teams; generating new revenue opportunities. Once your sales team has established themselves on the appropriate social channels (where your prospects are), they should be constantly monitoring and listening to what is being said and engaging when the discussions warrant it. Within many social media outlets are sub groups of prospects; ones who will “raise their hands” when they are interested in looking at certain products/services.

4. Competitive Intelligence: Some social sites, like Twitter and LinkedIn, allow you to categorize, list, or “file” prospects into specific segments. One of these segments should always be your competition. Follow and listen to what your competition is saying and identify which contacts your competition may be targeting. This can be an ideal situation in which you are able to “steal” a deal from your biggest competitor.

5. Increased Productivity: I have already addressed this point with some of the statistics shared above, but it still bears mentioning. Your sales team is already losing one full day of their time that should be spent establishing new relationships, nurturing accounts and closing new business. Social intelligence provides the ability to minimize the time wasted researching, prospecting, and identifying trigger events. It also provides new opportunities if your sales team is monitoring and listening to their channels properly.

Barbara Giamanco recently discussed social selling as “a way to define an evolved sales process that is based on changed buyer behavior.” She has been one of the early proponents of social selling and working with businesses to implement a social media strategy for their sales teams. She has defined social selling as “the process of using social media to network, prospect, research, engage, collaborate, teach, and close all with the purpose of attaining quota and increasing revenue.” Considering most sales teams look to accomplish these same goals, doesn’t it make sense for your sales team to be more social?

So I ask you, isn’t it time for you to train your sales team on how to be more social?

Jonathan Catley is the Online Marketing Manager for MD Connect, Inc, a performance-based online medical marketing agency. Jonathan currently oversees the sales and marketing functions at MD Connect and is a strong proponent of social selling. You can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.