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Social Selling: What It Is and What Sales Reps Should Be Doing

social media in business


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The old ways of selling are gone. In fact, you could say that the cart has officially come before the horse. The “cart” is, of course, a shopping cart (or the moment that a decision is made to buy offline in B2B terms), and the horse is the informed and influential salesperson.

The reason for this turn of events is clear and simple: the Internet.

The familiar scenario of the bygone era in which the seller educates, informs, and convinces the buyer seems quaint now. As a buyer, can you imagine not researching something that you intend to buy before talking to a salesperson? The scales have certainly tipped in recent years to make selling a greater challenge than ever before. So much information is readily available for both sellers and buyers. Sales reps no longer control the information needed by buyers to make purchasing decisions. Customers are self-educating online.

For many purchasing decisions, the primary question is no longer, “Why should I buy this,” but rather, “Why should I buy this from you?” Savvy sales reps are tackling this dilemma by starting the process of social selling.

As defined in a recent article in Forbes*, “social selling is about salespeople building a strong personal brand. It is about understanding the role of content and how content can be used to tell a powerful and emotional story. And, it is about growing your social connections.”*

The challenge for sales reps then becomes, “How do I create a brand not only for my organization, but also for a strong personal brand for myself in the marketplace?” Social selling skills and tools make that possible.


If you need more evidence to believe in the effectiveness of social selling — or, if you need ammunition to sell it to your boss — consider these statistics:

  • 84% of B2B executives use social media to research buying decisions.
  • Social sellers outpace those that don’t sell socially by a margin of 64% to 49% when it comes to team quota attainment.
These few figures support the notion that buyers are researching before contacting sellers. The bad news is that too many sales reps haven’t adjusted to that reality:

  • Only 31% of B2B salespeople include social networks in their selling process.
  • A paltry 26% of sales reps feel that they know how to use social networks for selling.
Help Your Reps Understand What to Do

Sales reps can no longer afford to wait until they’re actually talking to prospects to start talking to them. Those prospects are already informed about products and services, the competitive landscape, reviews, trends, and issues surrounding their needs and solutions.

Here are a few steps to help your sales reps get out in front of the conversation:

  1. Build and manage their social profiles. This could include starting from scratch or shifting their focus from solely personal to include their professional personas.
  2.  Grow their network. Quality is better than quantity, but don’t overlook people from your past who may be a target for a sale.
  3. Create and/or share content relevant to their clients’ problems. Show that you and your company have the experience and expertise to resolve issues that they face.
  4. Measure their progress and tweak, as necessary. Find out what’s working and what’s not, and adjust accordingly. That could mean doing more of the same, turning to different social media platforms, or refining the message.
*Keenan, Jim. “The Social Selling Curmudgeon, Are You That Guy?” Forbes, July 16, 2014.
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