The business of selling has always been social. Though the end results of generating new revenue are still the same, the tactics like anything in life must change to meet the current landscape.
A brief history of sales
The art of bartering is sales in its earliest form; for the most part it was transactions between people from different villages, tribes or communities. Each with their own resources they would use to exchange for other resources. It was a trying process that would sometimes require long journeys across land and sea.
This person to person contact built strong relationships, developed confidence on the side of the buyer and seller and with something as symbolic as a handshake, sales people would put their reputation on the line for their product or service.
The modern telemarketing call center was created and entire phone banks were created to leverage the ability to connect with customers at a scale unheard of just a short time earlier.
The evolution of modern sales
As the 21st century rolled in, email was becoming more prevalent. I remember one of my first jobs where email was just starting to be used. It was actually a heavily debated topic with the leadership team if sales people would have access to email or if it should be reserved for only the executives.
Can you imagine not having email?
Email became the new tool for sales people to communicate with prospects without having to go door to door or hoping to reach them on the phone. Unfortunately this new tool was relied upon too heavily and the ultimate result of trying to play the numbers game was labeled SPAM
Not so long ago I was a sales rep carrying a quota in a highly competitive market. It was clear to me then that the sales tactics being passed down from my predecessors was not working. Dialing for dollars and pitching anyone that would answer the phone was a losing battle. I had to make an important decision; do I keep down the losing path or do I get off the beaten trail and do something radically different and surely disruptive?
Inevitability of social selling
This brings us to our newest sales tool, social media. Not just a tool for marketing, social media becomes a precision instrument for social selling. The art of listening and engagement at a global scale can be very profitable if done right.
The social buying process has turned sales sideways and given more control over to the buyer. Buyers no longer have to get information from sales people, they can self educate, research best of breed technologies and ask their trusted connections for recommendations.
Now instead of having lengthy discovery calls, sales professionals are expected to have social insights on their prospects and an understanding of what’s going in the industry.
These new trends have led to the executives even following other executives social profiles in an attempt to stay connected, informed, and available for collaboration whenever it’s feasible.
The age of social selling is upon us. High performing companies like IBM, ADT and Salesforce among others are already reaping the financial and brand benefits of empowering their sales teams with training in social selling and access to the best tools available.
The world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn, now has 300M members and growing at the rate of nearly two new members a second.
Do you think B2B buyers are going to stop getting connected with other professionals in their industry?
There are now 5.7B people searches each year on LinkedIn and growing rapidly. Is that number going to reverse course?
Do we think plummeting cold call rates are going to suddenly stabilize and then reverse course and get better? Today cold call rates are 3% effective and dropping. Tomorrow do we believe they’ll get better and get to 5% and then to 10% success and beyond?
Are plunging email response rates going to improve? Do we really think that as the volume of email increases exponentially, we’re going to reverse course and soon our reps will enjoy far higher email response rates? And by the way, voice mail response rates will start soaring back up too?
In such a world, isn’t it inevitable that your sales reps will be at a severe disadvantage without LinkedIn, how could they do their jobs without it?