7 Critical Skills of the Social Seller

The market is evolving.  The Social Seller is replacing the traditional prospector. No more are the days with five hour time blocks to cold call. Successful Reps now spend their five hours tapping into social networks to win business. Why? Because Buyers spend more time online, gathered around their social networks. Today’s Buyer finds influence in Twitter and LinkedIn, not their email or voicemail.

Fig 1: The Social Sales Cube*

Why Buyers Want Social Sellers

Successful Sales Reps are on the leading edge of the Social Selling movement. They are buyer-centered and focused on ways to personally evolve with their market. They consistently tap into their social networks to grow their business. They have adopted thecritical skills of the Social Seller.

The market moves quickly. And today, Sales Reps like these must focus on what works.  They are in touch with a few trends of the current reality:

  • Buyers spend more time online. 57% of the buying process is completed before buyer-rep interaction. (Source – CEB, The New High Performer Playbook, Arlington VA, 2012). This means the Buyer is researching before a Sales Rep enters the picture.

  • Social networks have earned a place in the business ecosystem. According to LinkedIn, the network now has over 200 million worldwide subscribers. To facilitate business dialog, the platform has integrated user-generated news feeds. Users go there not just for contacts, but for insights.

  • Thought leadership is more valuable than your product pitch. Buyer research on this topic often yields the same result.  Buyers want thought leadership because they “value insights over product pitches.”

The Three Types of Reps

The most successful Reps are the Social Sellers.  They are proficient with their online time.  Other Sales Reps can’t keep pace with them. Here are the three types of Reps to consider:

  • The Digital Daydreamer. These individuals are distracted. They consume nonsense “suggested” to them by search engines, social networks, or video portals. They don’t add value to the organization. They are Self-Centered, Unfocused, and read Non-Relevant information.

  • The Contact Collector. This type of Sales Rep cares about appearances. They worry more about quantity than quality. They “accept” invitations to connect because they believe a higher friend count defines influence. Though they consume Relevant information, these reps tend to be Self-Centered and Unfocused.

  • The Social Seller. They are Buyer-centered. Social Sellers do not think of themselves in terms of “selling.” They think of themselves as helping others buy. They connect effectively through social media platforms and promote their personal brand.  They don’t waste their time scanning Facebook. Social Sellers are Buyer-Centered, Focused, and Relevant.

The 7 Critical Skills of the Social Seller

There are  7 ways these new Social Sellers outperform the competition:

So how does a Social Seller evolve?  They flourish in the fast-paced, demanding online world.  And the market rewards them with revenue.  But their success will always rely on these seven skills.

  1. Define your personal brand. Remain focused on the industries of your clients. Combine your natural interests with their needs.  Then brand this combination as though you are a product. Your entire online and offline presence must consistently represent that brand.

  2. Better inputs lead to better outputs. Focus on sources and topics that make you more intelligent.  Choose the best possible information sources and read them often.  If you are an online ad sales rep, then read Advertising Week or MediaPost daily. The best way to influence the Buyer is to keep up with the top industry sources. Put effort into what Nimble calls “Social Listening.” Pay attention to the thought leadership your peers are posting.

  3. Expand your sphere of influence. Be a smart builder.  Build your online network* such that it helps you sell. Business cards are rarely exchanged these days. But if you get a card, immediately connect to them via LinkedIn. Add a personal note, not the generic LinkedIn salutation.  Sincerity builds trust.  Only when you are trusted can you be influential.

  4. Don’t sell, help others buy. The Buyer-centered approach assures you speak in relevant terms to real problems.  Buyers care less about your product than they do about solving their problems. Your personal brand and the information you share must reflect this.

  5. Online activities should lead to offline results. A growing LinkedIn network must lead to sales. Social Sellers have the ability to transition a virtual conversation to a real opportunity.

  6. Embrace the digitally-integrated lifestyle. Social Sellers are always connected.  Information moves quickly.  The successful Sales Reps are those who learn and adopt quickly. This requires a constant state of learning throughout the day.

  7. Let technology do the work for you. Social Selling is impossible without technology. You must be connected. Today there are many excellent mobile apps that enable the Social Seller.

*Understanding the Social Sales Cube (Fig. 1)

  • Social sellers connect on social media platforms.
  • Social Sellers look for relevance. The content they read is relevant to the products they represent and the needs their Buyers have.
  • Social Sellers focus their attention to optimize their time.
  • Social Sellers are Buyer-Centered. They talk about the needs of their prospects instead of “tooting their own horn.”
  • Social Sellers do not see themselves in terms of “selling.”

Dan Bernoske is a Senior Sales and Marketing Consultant with Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). SBI is a sales and marketing consultancy focused exclusively on helping B2B companies exceed their revenue targets. SBI uses the benchmarking method to help companies accelerate their rate of revenue growth. Benchmarking allows a firm’s clients to get access to and implement best practices from the top sales and marketing organizations.