What the rise of social selling means for marketers

How to make sure you benefit from the rise of social selling

March 25, 2016

It seems that wherever you look at the moment, you’ll find a new piece of research showing the momentum behind social selling. We just released a study showing that roughly three quarters of UK sales professionals now spend between 5 - 10 hours on social media each week. Meanwhile, the sales resource, Sales for Life, revealed that three quarters of companies would be putting more emphasis on social selling this year. This has big implications for the future of sales, and big implications too for the future of B2B marketing. Especially since social selling is only just getting started as far as its impact on the funnel is concerned.

We’re entering the Age of Adoption for social selling

Both studies suggest we are reaching a tipping point for social selling. It’s already had a big impact on the ability of early adopting sales people to reach their targets, despite the fact that many of these pioneers are operating without a fully developed social selling structure behind them. They are often self-taught social sellers who’ve started using LinkedIn to reach out to prospects on their own initiative. In the Sales for Life study, 69% of active social sellers fall into this category, whereas only 8.5% are working within a social selling framework that’s fully integrated into the sales process.

All of this seems about to change, though. We know from the clients approaching LinkedIn about our Sales Navigator solution that a handful of social selling advocates can quickly bring about change across an entire organisation. Once executives see the difference social selling makes to these pioneers’ results, they tend to rapidly scale it across the organisation as a whole.

What social selling means for marketers

The Sales for Life figures confirm the impact that a sales strategy built around social has on the bottom line. Of those engaged in social selling, 63.4% reported that their company’s sales revenues increased in 2015, substantially more than amongst non-social-sellers, and 91% expected revenues to increase further in the next 12 months. Of all those surveyed, 62.9% said that social selling would be important for closing more business in 2016.

As a marketer, it’s obviously good news if your sales teams are adopting an approach that helps them close more deals. And the future impact of social selling goes beyond that. LinkedIn recently conducted an in-depth study of how sales and marketing are meeting their prospects’ expectations throughout the buyer’s journey. The key finding that jumped out for me was the massive impact that a well-designed social selling platform has on how the two departments are aligned – and how effective they are. In organisations that aren’t particularly knowledgeable about social selling, around 55% of marketers and 52% of sales people report that relationships between the two are growing stronger. When social selling tools are embedded within an organisation, this jumps to 77% and 71% respectively. Most importantly, the proportion of buyers who report stronger relationships with vendors almost doubles from 37% to 64% when social selling is involved.

Why LinkedIn dominates social selling – and how to take advantage

Interestingly, in both pieces of research, LinkedIn is the clear number 1 platform used for social selling. Of the socially active sales professionals that Sales for Life interviewed, 84% were using LinkedIn to engage and nurture prospects on social. In our own UK research, 81% of sales and business development professionals reported that they are using LinkedIn for social selling.

There are many reasons why LinkedIn is a favoured choice. There’s immense reach, and fantastic data and insights. There’s also familiarity. Since many sales people are already using LinkedIn to reach out to prospects, there’s a natural evolution towards using LinkedIn for more advanced social selling. As important is the way that LinkedIn superbly connects the activities of sales and marketing. When the two departments are aligned, they can deliver a seamless buyer journey that builds awareness and expertise through content and then converts this into purposeful sales conversations – and they can do this through a common channel. We find that clients of both our sales solutions and marketing solutions place a high value on this.

Making the most of social selling

Social selling is a huge opportunity not just to drive revenues in 2016, but to build better and more effective sales and marketing organisations. As marketers, you have a great deal to gain from this. Bring sales and marketing together through the right social selling platform, and you’ll be well on your way to building sustained competitive advantage.