How Sales Managers Can Step Up Social Selling Adoption

Discover how sales managers can improve individual and company performance by following these social selling adoption best practices.

December 29, 2014


Often, it's the level of support from management that ultimately determines whether mission-critical initiatives move forward. Social selling adoption is no different.

As a sales manager, you play a critical role in helping team members recognize the importance of performing the key activities that generate results in the new B2B buying environment. Here are three ways you can lead and inspire a social selling culture at your organization.

1. Learn all you can about social selling

Just as B2B buyers prefer to work with experts, sales professionals prefer to learn from experts. And to ensure you are supplying ample motivation, it helps if you can convey the benefits of leveraging social networks in the selling process. For instance:

Sales leaders must be able to clearly rationalize social selling initiatives, and the above figures are among a growing body of research that is causing more organizations to escalate social selling adoption.

To ensure team-wide motivation, it’s also important to speak powerfully about the performance outcomes social selling can provide to sales reps. Eventually you can use internal metrics for validation, but for now it may be helpful to share that 78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers and that social selling leaders have 45% more opportunities and are 51% more likely to meet quotas than social selling laggards.

Focusing on the specific LinkedIn behaviors of successful reps can drive the point home:

  • Reps focused on new business who exceed quota perform 52% more people searches each month
  • Reps focused on new business who exceed quota make 148% more connection requests each month
  • Reps focused on existing business who exceed quota have 32% more internal connections with co-workers

Offer real-world proof whenever possible by showcasing the tactics and, more importantly, the results of your advanced social sellers. Showing sales pros what they can personally gain is critically important toward achieving buy-in.

2. Help the marketing team see the benefits of social selling

Marketing plans should be developed with social selling in mind. Today’s sellers are more effective when they are armed with content they can strategically share throughout the buying cycle. Marketing teams can boost effectiveness by working with the sales team to create content that addresses the specific needs and pain points of the company’s ideal buyer(s).

In getting marketers on board with social selling, emphasize how important their content is in a relationship-focused sales culture. In a 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, for example, 65% of purchasers said that winning vendors’ messaging had a significant impact on the purchase decision, and more than 80% of buyers reviewed five or more pieces of content.

Sales and marketing collaboration, or lack thereof, affects the bottom line. An IDC report shows that B2B solutions providers’ inability to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies has cost at least 10% of annual revenue. Coordinating sales and marketing efforts, on the other hand, can increase conversion rates at every stage of the funnel, leading to a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

3. Make sure policies align with strategy

In order to successfully create a whole-team approach to social selling, it may be necessary to adjust the old culture of protecting contacts. Sales reps may be more willing to open up their networks if the organization is willing to reconsider compensation criteria.

For example, performance might be based in part on social selling metrics such as size of network, quality of connections, and internal/external engagement. You might also tabulate referrals, introductions, and percentage of InMail responses. Rewarding social selling metrics that are predictive of real-world success at your company can inspire larger, more engaged professional networks the entire team can leverage. After all, social selling success is possible when network relationships are continuously nurtured over time.

Staying committed is critical, especially from a leadership perspective. By fully embracing social selling practices and leading by example, you can facilitate the lasting individual and organizational benefits social selling provides.