Selling vs. Engaging: Forrester Shines a Light on Social Media for B2B Sales

October 3, 2019

Selling vs. Engaging: Forrester Shines a Light on Social Media for B2B Sales

Where are modern sellers getting it wrong on social media? How can we adjust our approaches for greater success?

A recent report from Forrester, Current Malpractice Handicaps Social Selling's Potential, offers data-driven insight on this critical focus.

Sellers Are Getting Results on Social Media

“Traditional sales tactics no longer work because desensitized buyers never or take days to respond to emails and refuse to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize,” according to Forrester’s report. “But savvy sellers who effectively engage on social networks are seeing meaningful results. These modern sellers create 45% more opportunities and are 51% more likely to achieve quota than those who do not embrace social (according to LinkedIn data).”

The numbers back up a trend so many of us are seeing with our own eyes: Social media offers an increasingly ideal environment to connect with decision makers and build relationships, as other channels fade in efficacy. A platform like LinkedIn hosts a pre-built community of more than 600 million members, who are actively seeking to learn and network.

But strategic missteps are causing many salespeople to come up well short of maximizing their impact.

Prevalent Mistakes When Selling on Social Media

The analysis from Forrester calls out four common mistakes (or “malpractices”) that are preventing sellers from leveraging social media to its full potential:

  • Treating social networks like promotional channels
  • Asking for something before establishing trust
  • Underresearching a contact
  • Engaging in random acts of sharing

The bottom line: Springing a sales pitch on someone you’ve never met before rarely works. This is true for social media just as it’s true for phone calls and in-person engagements. It’s important to think about the mindset and motivations of people using social networks, and align our approaches accordingly.

There are common organizational barriers preventing sales teams from leveling up on social media, according to the report. For example: failure to invest in comprehensive training, underinvesting in seller-focused tools, and taking an ad-hoc approach rather than a programmatic one.

How to Strengthen Your Social Media Sales Strategy

Stop selling and start engaging. This is the key directive put forth by Forrester. Sellers should focus on delivering value and building real relationships if they want social media to be a sustainable driver of pipeline, referrals, and reputation.

Here are some of the specific recommendations offered by Forrester, with our own added insights and linked resources so you can master each one.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

This means that 80% of content you share on social media should not be branded or promotional. It’s an instrumental step toward creating a value-oriented persona. The non-branded content you share can (and should) be relevant to your industry and offering, but in a more general sense. Basically, you want to position yourself as a credible and approachable authority in your niche.

The 80/20 rule was one of the curated tips we shared a few years back when offering up ways to streamline your B2B strategy.

Engage with Authenticity

Be yourself, and let your personality shine through. Folks on social media want to learn from and network with others. We recently discussed ways to generate business through a natural approach to social media. As we advised in our blog post: “Operate as you would when scrolling through your social feed for fun. Stop thinking of people as leads, and you will likely find over time that many of them become leads naturally.” 

Curate Relevant Content

Do you have content to share that is distinctly useful to professionals in your vertical? Understandably, it can be challenging for busy salespeople to identify fresh, quality content on their own, so this is an opportunity to orchestrate with marketing and rely on tools that cut down the required effort. You might find our recent examination of 2019 sales enablement trends helpful in this regard.

Become Relational Rather than Transactional

This is a vital nuance. If your goal is to generate a sale, it’ll be transparent to the person on the other end. If your goal is to establish a real relationship, that too will be evident, and likely more welcomed. You’ll find comprehensive guidance in our guide: Read Me If You Want to Build Valuable Relationships on LinkedIn.

Build Up a Bankroll of Goodwill

“Not every interaction will advance deals or translate into mutually beneficial business outcomes,” writes Forrester. “But there’s a goodwill piggy bank that builds up over time, and the benefits should be roughly mutual.” This ties back to the previous item. Sellers should adopt a mindset that social media efforts are focused on advancing relationships, not just deals. Look for opportunities to be helpful and to ease the complexities of solving business problems. Data shows that one of the most critical activities for modern sellers is boosting buyer confidence — not in your solution, but in themselves. Such acts will likely be remembered in the future when you want to reach out about a sales conversation, or request a warm introduction to an acquaintance.

Get the Full Scoop on Modern Selling

Nothing in the new Forrester report caught us by surprise, but it does add further substantiation to the trends we frequently cover here on the blog. For additional reading, you can check out the Forrester blog post on the subject via Mary Shea and Matthew Camuso. It includes a contrast of two different hypothetical selling approaches to clarify the divide between best practice and malpractice. And of course, the full report is worth digging into, as we’ve only scratched the surface of stats, insights, and quotes within.

Finally, you can subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Blog to stay up on the latest with all things modern selling.