What is Social Selling?

You might certainly have heard about social selling, modern selling or digital selling but if you are still unsure or confused, you are in the right place to get a clear understanding of what social selling is exactly. In this article we will cover:

Definitions:

The term “social selling” emerged in 2012 and has become a buzzword after the launch of Linkedin Sales Navigator in 2014 and the growing need from salespeople and sales leaders to use Linkedin and social media more strategically to better adapt to changing buyers behaviours, maturing competition and to achieve sales goals

This methodology is building on existing sales skills and methodology, not replacing them.

Linkedin’s definition :

Social selling is about leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals. This sales technique enables better lead generation, and eliminates the need for cold calling. (2)

Ernst & Young’s definition :

Social selling is a key way to engage earlier in the cycle, particularly as buyers are increasingly looking to social networks for pre-purchase advice and recommendations. […] Building relationships is crucial, supported by tailored content that adds value and establishes the seller as knowledgeable opinion leaders. (3)

Our definition:

Social selling, Digital selling & Modern selling: What is the difference?

The term “Social selling” has been used for more than 10 years. It has emerged after the birth of the “Sales 2.0” concept in 2006. Yes! That long ago. It is sometimes confused with terms such as “Digital selling” or “Modern selling” used by Linkedin itself. They essentially mean the same and Social Selling is the term most widely used. (more than the double according to Google Trends statistics below)

Google trends graph representing the rise of popularity of the term "social selling" over the last 10 years compared to Digital selling and Modern selling

Digital selling means selling by using digital assets and communicating with buyers via digital channels.

It is an omnichannel method that may include social media mostly Linkedin and Twitter in a B2B industry as well as other digital channels and tools like email, chat, video, CRM, tracking, sales intelligence, automation apps, etc.

Social selling means selling by leveraging social channels but it is often implied that digital channels and tools are part of the social seller arsenal.

All terms include the word “selling,” but in reality, sales professionals do not sell on digital or social media as most buyers respond negatively to sales approaches online. The terms refer to the process of researching, prospecting, educating, connecting and engaging to generate more sales leads, grow sales pipeline and start more sales conversations with qualified buyers to ultimately take them offline.

Characteristics of a social seller

According to a 2019’s Forrester research on current Social Selling’s practices and potential, “today business buyers expect relevant content to find them and are more likely to engage with informed and empathetic sellers who share it” (5).

Sales professionals who are Social Sellers:

  • Have profiles on social media primarily focused on buyer’s interests

  • Socially-surround executive buyers.

  • Maximize referrals by leveraging connections

  • Are better and faster informed on their accounts

  • Research and stay at the forefront of their customers’ minds

  • Are helpful and informative, not interruptive or spammy

  • Are supporting the buyer’s journey with timely insights

  • Have a consistent social daily routine

  • Create 38% more opportunities and are 51% more likely to achieve quota than counterparts (6)

  • Aren’t actually ‘selling’ at all

What is NOT Social Selling

A brand running old traditional marketing campaigns on social media today would be a disaster for the campaigns and the brand. Customers on social media have different behaviours and expectations. Best in class marketers have a social media marketing strategy part of their digital marketing strategy, itself part of the overall marketing strategy.

Well, sales professionals are not social sellers because they use Linkedin or Twitter as part of their sales arsenal – however big their Linkedin network or great their sales results may be.

A business or sales team is not social selling until a strategy and methodology has been planned, piloted, implemented, measured and improved on an ongoing basis.


Social selling is not:

  • Finding and connecting to prospects before establishing trust.

  • Sending bulk inMails via Sales Navigator and hope for the best

  • Treating social networks like promotional channels

  • Sending connection requests in mass and as soon as some are accepted, send a promotional message

  • Sharing, commenting or connecting randomly and occasionally

  • Social Media Marketing

Since 2012 when I moved to Dubai with Linkedin until today, the majority of messages I receive from salespeople in the middle east region are poorly personalized or spam.

Many sales professionals and companies in the region still do not have a rigorous and consistent social selling strategy. Unfortunately for them, malpractices do not only hurt the brand of their business but also handicap sales potential.

This is true globally according to a recent Forrester report (7) and it is true in the region.

Hopefully, more education with local case studies, articles on the topic, relevant training programs will change mindsets and behaviours in the region for the sake of buyers and will elevate the reputation of sales in the Middle East.

This is Extra Mile’s humble vision.

Sources

  1. Linkedin – 2019 LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report Pocket Guide
  2. Linkedin Sales Solution
  3. Ernst & Young – Harnessing the power of digital selling
  4. Google Trends
  5. Forrester – Current Malpractice Handicaps Social Selling’s Potential – 2019
  6. Linkedin Sales solutions
  7. Forrester – same than above