The Science of Social Selling

January 4, 2016


Though you may believe social selling is imperative for your organization, it can be challenging to drive adoption and measure the results of a new way of selling. That’s where the Social Selling Index (SSI) comes into play. With it, organizations can track adoption and gauge the impact on pipeline and revenue.

It’s a given that you can’t change what you don’t measure. And when it comes to social selling, you’re changing sales reps’ behavior and need a way to measure how well you’re doing that. By doing so, you can understand whether or not reps are on the right track and making progress.

Measure and improve performance with SSI

The SSI is a score on a scale from 0 to 100 showing how reps are performing social selling activities on the LinkedIn platform. At the lower end of the range are laggards who are slower to adopt social selling behaviors. At the higher end are leaders who are excelling at adopting and embracing social selling behaviors on the LinkedIn platform.

The following four SSI components each represent 25 points out of the 100. SSI assigns a score for each component and one overall score.

  1. Creating a professional brand. Because sales reps are often the first impression a target buyer has of a company, it’s important that they build and maintain a professional brand.
  2. Finding the right people. It’s important to find the right decision makers and influencers before the competition does.
  3. Engaging with insights. Being a subject matter expert is incredibly powerful in today’s world, positioning sales reps top of mind with prospective customers.
  4. Building strong relationships. By establishing and building a strong relationship with a champion within target accounts, sales reps greatly boost their chances of ultimately winning over the right people -- and closing the deal.

The impact of a high SSI

So what is the significance of a high overall SSI score? LinkedIn conducted research comparing social selling leaders with an SSI of 70+ to social selling laggards with a score of 30 and below. Compared to laggards, the leaders see twice the number of new clients, meetings secured, and opportunities generated via the LinkedIn platform.

Because only 1.4% of all sales professionals score an SSI of 70+, the top social sellers are creating an edge for themselves and by extension for their companies. The good thing is that in the past year, we’ve seen sales reps as a whole move from 21 to 28 on the scale. In other words, on the adoption curve, social selling has just crossed the chasm and is moving into early mainstream.

How Microsoft helps its reps boost their SSI

Here’s a glimpse into Microsoft’s social selling journey and the value of helping its sales reps boost their SSI.

Microsoft’s social selling journey started two years ago when it realized the IT buying journey had dramatically changed and that buyers were using social media to learn about their favorite brand’s products and services. This triggered the company to launch a social selling program along with a CRM system to manage all the reps in the program. The program focuses on evolving reps accustomed to cold emailing to ones who are using insights to socially engage with customers. Microsoft tracked reps’ social-selling-related activities in CRM and merged the SSI with its CRM database for a comprehensive view of how socially engaged its reps were.

It then shared insights with key executives at Microsoft during a mid-year review. It found that sellers on the higher end of engagement were generating 38% more opportunities, and that for every 10 points a seller’s SSI increases, the seller will generate 4.3 more opportunities. This helped drive executive alignment, which cascaded down to everyone from sales leaders and directors to their sales teams. Combined with social selling enablement webinars and education sessions, this executive alignment has been crucial to Microsoft’s success.

Another critical component of Microsoft’s social selling program is its stable of LinkedIn certified coaches. These coaches are experts at social selling, with a solid grasp of how to engage with customers over social. They work with Microsoft’s reps to create personalized social selling strategies, and use the centralized view in the CRM system to hold sellers accountable and talk to them about their strengths and areas for improvement.

Microsoft’s reps are continually increasing their SSI and the company will continue pushing for an increase because a higher SSI represents behavioral changes that equate to more effective sales.

Want more insights into how your company can cross the chasm to capitalize on the social selling trend? Download our eBook of the same name.