Social Proximity: It’s About Who You Know, Not Who’s Nearby

Pivot from the outdated method of geographical sales assignments to an approach that’s based on the social connections of your sales team.

August 15, 2016

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If you’ve been in B2B sales for a while now, perhaps you’ve noticed the trend: though buyers still care about developing trusting relationships with sellers, they hold far fewer face-to-face conferences with sales reps and teams. That’s largely due to the wealth of information available to your customer on the Internet— buyers feel less pressure to meet with you when the answers to their questions are a short click away.

In this changing world, you should follow the buyer. If your customers don’t need to schedule an in-person consultation, there’s no need to divide your sales time based on their physical proximity to your prospects. Instead, move toward social proximity: groundbreaking concept based on degrees of social connection that’s proven to lead to better relationships and more sales.

Moving Away from Geography

The idea of assigning sales by geographical location—that is, divvying up sales reps based on which prospects are physically closest to them—has shaped the processes of sales teams since the dawn of time. In fact, despite myriad changes in the way buyers make purchasing decisions, assigning geographical territories remains a dominant approach for most organizations and sales teams.

In a modern sales climate, however, it simply doesn’t make sense to work from a location-based perspective. Increasingly, inside sales has replaced face-to-face selling, while the Internet has reduced the time it takes to connect to a buyer to mere seconds. As more sales are done remotely, the value of local knowledge has been eclipsed by the value of personal knowledge—reps who are trusted, familiar, and understand a prospect’s needs will be much more successful than a cold rep that knows the same neighborhood.

In addition, buyers can now do most of their own research online, and no longer expect (or want) sales reps to come knocking on their doors. In such a radically evolved ecosystem, it only follows that geographical considerations should go the way of the Rolodex.

Understanding Social Proximity

In a sales climate in which physical proximity is less and less important, social proximity is the new king. But what precisely is social proximity, and why does it matter? According to Jill Rowley, a self-described social selling evangelist, “social proximity is a relationship-based approach of assigning opportunities and accounts based on the social connections and engagement of your sales team.”

Essentially, social proximity is a way of measuring how connected each salesperson on your team is to a given prospect—using social media measurements, such as LinkedIn connections—then leveraging that information to win deals.

Increasing Conversions with Social Selling

Social proximity works because buyers care more about relationships, trustworthiness, and the value that an individual salesperson can provide them than they do about geographical closeness. As Rowley describes it, social proximity is “really about understanding who your best fit customers are based on the value you can deliver to those customers and the business outcome you can help them achieve.” When you can do that, you’ll increase conversions and sell more efficiently.

Of course, while social proximity can help you approach prospects in a more targeted, effective manner, there’s a lot of groundwork to accomplish first. LinkedIn’s features can help you to discover which reps are most closely connected to your prospects, but in order to ensure long-term success, individual salespeople must think social from the get-go.

By employing social selling strategies—everything from making more connections to boosting your online brand—your sales team can ensure that you’re positioned for long-term, social selling-driven success. When it comes to assigning opportunities, social connections are more important than territory.

 For more insights and tips on how to make your sales process more social, download our 33 Tips eBook.