Ask any salesperson and they’ll tell you that selling is becoming even more challenging than just two years ago.
In Jeb Blount’s new book, Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal he explains that the sales profession is in the midst of a perfect storm.Buyers have more power—more tools, more information, more at stake, and more control over the sales process than at any time in history.
And sellers are coming face to face with a brutal truth: what once gave salespeople a competitive edge like controlling the sales process, product information, and a great pitch—are no longer guarantees of success.
And just to make things more difficult for salespeople, because of a growing array of technologies to avoid marketing messages (caller ID, email spam filters, digital ad blockers, satellite radio, DVRs etc.), the ability to interrupt and get the attention of prospects is rapidly deteriorating.
As a result, the way your customers research purchases and buy has changed:
• 90% of customer buying decisions are starting online. (Forrester)
• 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors. (IDC)
• 57% of the buyer’s journey takes place before a sales professional is involved. (CEB)
So what are the top performing salespeople doing now? Social selling, amongst other things.
Social selling is not social media marketing. It's an upgrade to your existing sales approach that reaches and engages customers online, providing value and insight during their buying process. It helps to build the personal relationship with the buyer that leads to more sales and revenue.
Jamie Shanks, in his book Social Selling Mastery: Scaling Up Your Sales and Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer, explains: “Social selling is additive, not a replacement for how your team sells today.”
Buyers who use social media have larger budgets (typically 84% larger than the budgets of buyers who do not use social media according to IDC). But, studies show that the sales world is struggling mightily with the transition to using social media in sales.
Is it a fad? Call it what you like, but it works:
And with the right content, it works:
But there’s a catch – your marketing content needs to align with your buyer’s journey so that your prospect will get the right content and the right time. Companies that are able to successfully align their sales and marketing enjoy 19% faster growth and 15% higher profits (SiriusDecisions).
That’s why Jamie Shanks concludes his book Social Selling Mastery with this observation:
“I truly do believe that social selling is simply the by-product of effective sales and marketing integration. I also believe that solving this challenge will become the most important topic for companies over the next five years.”
photo credit: Tom Simpson Kiss by moonlight via photopin (license)
(A version of this article originally appeared in Inside Business - The Hampton Roads Business Journal, on May 1, 2017.)