bon jovi sales memeI’m asked frequently to justify why social selling is worth the time. Not three months ago, I was booked for a sales kick-off to teach a session on social selling until the CEO nixed the session, telling us he didn’t want to distract the sales team from closing business by wasting time with social media.

On the contrary, social media and social selling can accelerate finding, managing and closing business.

Below are 12 reasons why social selling should be a priority for most B2B sales organizations in 2014.

1. It’s proven
This time last year you could potentially argue that social selling was still new and unproven, but not anymore. There are countless individual and team examples of how social selling is having direct impact on closing deals, finding opportunities, increasing velocity of deals closing and more.

2. It’s far more efficient than cold calling
We did an A/B test with a client last year – taking half of the sales team’s time to continue cold calling, and the other half of their time engaging in social selling activities. Bottom line, the social selling time generated 40% more qualified leads and opportunities. It’s just far more effective when you call someone new with context and value.

3. The leads are the same, but come at a fraction of the cost
In some cases, that means free. You can simply use tools such as Hootsuite to find buying signals from prospects you care about. You can also use paid tools such as Socedo to find and engage leads via social, with the cost of attracting the very same customers at a fraction of the cost of paid search and other digital campaigns.

4. Your competitors aren’t fishing there (yet)
I’m still surprised how many companies aren’t yet fishing in these ponds. That will change over the next 1-2 years (if not sooner), but right now your customers and prospects are sharing buying signals and pain points via social (including complaints about an incumbent product or service) and you very well may be the first and/or only person to respond.

5. It reaches prospects earlier in their buying cycle
Once someone is ready to buy, you might be too late. If someone gives an explicit buying signal, more people are likely listening (and the prospect is likely reaching out more actively and to more potential solution providers). But on social, you’ll hear about pain far before the prospect may think to research a solution. That puts you in a fantastic position to deliver immediate value and preference, not to mention higher conversion to sale.

6. You get to solve problems vs. sell solutions (and that’s a great position to be in)
At the end of the sales cycle, you get to sell solutions. But you earn that right by solving problems first. You earn the right by identifying and quantifying problems the prospect may or may not have known that they had. That’s the first-mover advantage, and that’s what social channels deliver to you as the seller (and the buyer).

7. You can reduce or eliminate the traditional friction between the buying & selling process
Inherently, if you’re doing social selling right, you’re reaching people where they are – not where you want them to be. And if you respond and provide value in-kind, you reduce or eliminate the friction that often exists between buyer and seller. That could be the difference between you and every other seller out there, and could be the key differentiator that gets you the deal.

8. It doesn’t require a mature, active Twitter account
One of the common fallacies I hear is that you need an active social media account to practice social selling. Not true! You don’t need tens of thousands of followers, nor do you need to be publishing 10 times a day to be relevant. Social selling isn’t about talking, it’s about listening. And listening means you spend far more time looking for other people’s buying signals vs. publishing your own.

9. The buying signals are automated and come to you!
Sometimes the social Web feels like the greatest library in the world, with all the books on the floor. You’re not going to have a lot of luck, or be very efficient, if you’re trying to keep track of everything going on all of the time. In truth, only a small fraction of what happens online matters at all to you. Use tools such as Hootsuite, Socedo and others to spend your time with relevant people, relevant social signals, that matter to you – where you can provide value back. That’s where the magic starts.

10. It scales infinitely
You can literally identify and nurture an infinite number of prospects via social. You are no longer gated by how many people you can call, or how many you can keep track of via Post-It notes, calendar reminders or even your CRM system. That scalability makes the efficiency and ROI of social selling even more lucrative.

11. It gives your sales reps more control over relationship building
The signals you’ll find via social are all over the place, and most of them won’t have anything to do with work. But that’s a good thing. Get to know what your prospects care about at work and at play. What else has their attention professionally, and how does that relate to what you’re selling or enabling? What makes them tick elsewhere – family, football, what? Get to know how to build relationships, preference and velocity with your prospects.

12. It increases velocity of engagement, preference & purchase among prospects
This is imminently measurable, and proven. Those you engage via social, as long as you’re authentic and focused on the customer-centric problems that ultimately lead to change and purchase, will convert faster and at a higher rate than traditional prospects.

I’m sure there’s more, but 12 seems enough for now. Curious to hear from those already profiting from social selling what I’ve missed here.

  • How are you defining social selling in the A/B test?

    • We gave the reps a set of tools and workflows to both identify new prospects in their territory via buying signals and keywords on social, as well as tools such as Hootsuite and LinkedIn Contacts email summaries to specifically follow and engage their existing prospects & customers with trigger events. So basically, it was still outbound prospecting but largely in response to social signals vs. just calling the next name on a list.

  • Tiffany Brown

    I’m surprised about the CEO who nixed the session, he must not trust his employees to be ambitious and capable salespeople. They actually teach social business these days in many MBA programs. That’s too bad! We are actually starting to see leads come through more regularly on Twitter for both the business I’m in and the non-profit I’m involved in.

    • Great to hear! Those leads are real, and exciting to hear you’re getting material volume for the non-profit sector too.

  • Sean Burke

    All of these are great points. I would be interested in working with a progressive company to test Social vs. Traditional (head to head) for at least 30 days. Know anyone who might be interested?

    • Hi Sean, depends on what you’re looking for. Industry, size, etc?

      • Sean Burke

        I’ll put together some ideas and send them to you. We’ve already done some prospecting speed tests. I’ll explain more in my follow up

  • Jordi

    Matt, yet another great article from one of the top social selling experts. Thanks! Worth sharing!

  • Interesting take on a sales professional’s use of social.

    I got “you just have to be there to use it” and agree. There are no special rules, what we called our “NO RULES” philosophy when we wrote the first book about Twitter back in 2008

    You did mention posting but I didn’t see LISTENING. The best thing about social media is that it’s SOCIAL. That doesn’t mean that reps have to do “social things” it refers to business as a social connection. We buy from people we know, like and trust. So we might connect with someone who likes football by listening see what their favorite team is, we don’t have to post game stats πŸ™‚

    Cold calling is dead. No matter how you meet people (offline, online, whatever), there’s no excuse for not knowing who they are and connecting before giving them a pitch

    • Thanks Warren! Completely agree that the most important thing salespeople can do on social is listen. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I don’t think cold calling is dead. You can still call someone without having spoken with them before, but if you call with context, with value based on something you already know about them or know that they need, it can still work wonderfully well.

      • if you call with context, it’s not cold.

        When I think of cold calling, I think of index cards when I worked in a sales room. We had a name address and phone number. That was in the 1970’s πŸ™‚

        In the 80’s we would have someone call yellow page listing, but never pitch. We’d ask qualifying questions and built a list for b2b.

        Auto dialers helped kill any chance for that working for b2c. Caller ID added nails to the coffin and I’d bury anyone who got me on the phone cold today.

        I first realized this a couple years back when a agency friend wanted to have me meet a vendor he thought had a breakthrough for social CRM. The friends did an email intro, we got on a GoToMeeting when the vendor was in my friends conference room.

        Call started with the friend telling the guy about me and setting the stage for a demo.

        Then the guy starts with “Tell me a little about yourself” … I spit out a passable answer and told him I was anxious to see what he had.

        When he proceeded to ask me more about me, I realized what a waste of time that was and said “why don’t you just Google me and then we can talk”

        As soon as I said it, I felt 1) I was arrogant and 2) There really was no excuse for him not to prep

        I’ve been on calls where the client ended the call because someone did that. Today, I don’t even book a phone meeting until I”ve had a couple of exchanges via email or social.

        That’s why I say “cold calling is dead”

        On the other hand, I know i can walk into any business, (or by phone) and engage someone enough to make it warm in 2 mins. Those meeting never start with “hello my name..” and never pitch. .. I suppose that would qualify for what you are calling “cold calls” though that’s a lot warmer that we did in the old days LOL