5 Social Selling Adoption Hurdles, and How to Clear Them

Learn how to make your team’s social selling initiatives more successful with top-level support, training, goal-setting, momentum, and confidence-boosting.

July 7, 2015


Legendary football coach Lou Holtz once said, "Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I'll show you someone who has overcome adversity." This quote holds especially true when you’re trying to make a radical change in a system where people are comfortable with the status quo.

We know that adopting social selling is worthwhile for sales teams; the evidence is overwhelming. Salespeople who excel at social selling have more opportunities, close more deals, and are more likely to make quota than others. But even though the benefits are clear, making the paradigm shift away from traditional selling can be challenging for sales leaders.

Social selling adoption means change, and change requires leadership, time, and effort. To help you navigate organizational change, here are five of the most common hurdles that hinder social selling adoption, along with tips for overcoming them.

Hurdle #1: Lack of buy-in from leadership

Since you’re reading this post, you have likely bought into social selling. But allies are needed across the entire management team to make meaningful change. Your reps will be able to tell if management is not 100% committed to the plan, which gives them an excuse to be less than fully committed, too.

Clearing the hurdle:

Before you begin a social selling initiative, make sure your executives are sold on the benefits. There is a wealth of case studies available on the web, showcasing real-world success stories of social selling adoption. You can compare these case studies with trends you have seen in your organization (like a decrease in your lead-to-close ratio) to make an argument in favor of change. Finally, ask sales reps who are already using social selling for specific examples of when social selling has helped your organization’s bottom line.

Hurdle #2: Insufficient training

As many as 75% of salespeople say they have received no formal social media training at work. Many sales leaders simply tell their reps to “get on LinkedIn” without exploring what the reps should do when they get there, what the etiquette is, and what their goals should be on the platform. If your social selling initiative does not include comprehensive training, your reps are starting with one hand tied behind their backs.

Clearing the hurdle:

It should come as no surprise that the remedy for insufficient training is, well, training. LinkedIn has a wealth of introductory material for sales reps, from general best practices to improving upon each of the four social selling pillars. If your initiative includes LinkedIn Sales Navigator, LinkedIn’s social selling experts will help you with the training process to maximize your sales team’s potential for success.

Hurdle #3: No clear goal with a plan to get there

It’s easy to say the goal of a social selling initiative is to win more sales and increase revenue. But that kind of vague goal-setting won’t help you succeed. It’s important that every stakeholder knows exactly what your social selling adoption is trying to accomplish, and the steps it will take to reach the goal.

Clearing the hurdle:

It’s best to start your social selling initiative with goal-defining plan that includes the following:

  • A statement of purpose
  • Steps each responsible party is expected to take
  • How progress will be measured
  • A clear definition of success

LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) is a good place to start when you’re setting goals and measuring progress. It highlights the social selling activities that are most likely to improve sales performance.

Hurdle #4: Declining corporate momentum

Once everyone is on board, it’s easy to get excited about the prospect of positive change. After a month or two, though, that “mountaintop” experience might fade as people settle back into the day-to-day. As a sales leader, it’s important to stop your team from slipping back into old habits.

Clearing the hurdle:

Continue to monitor your team’s progress toward your goals, and provide training to anyone lagging behind. Identify early adopters who are already enjoying success with the new program, and let them be role models and mentors for the rest of the team. A true social selling paradigm shift doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s critical to keep everyone’s eyes on the prize.

Hurdle #5: Fear

Some members of your sales team will resist the social selling shift out of fear: fear of learning a new system, fear of letting go of previously-effective tactics, fear of the exposure being active on social media brings. These fears can keep them members from putting their best effort into social selling.

Clearing the hurdle:

Promote confidence through ongoing training, again using your top social sellers to motivate and encourage those who are still making the adjustment. It’s also important to remember your reps still need to hit quotas and pay bills, so allow them to gradually supplement their traditional selling tactics over time until social selling becomes their new norm.

 Social selling is the clear pathway to success for sales in the modern, digital world. Companies who adopt a social selling initiative are regularly winning more sales and bringing in more revenue than those still stuck in the past. Help your team transition to a more productive model of sales by clearing the hurdles that stand in the way of social selling adoption. Once you have an entire team committed to the cause, your organization can leap over the hurdles and make a smooth transition to a more profitable paradigm.

For more advice on moving your sales team to social selling, download The Ultimate Guide: How to Use LinkedIn for Social Selling.