The State of Social Selling for Sales Leaders: 24 Best Practices for 2016

Equip your sales team to succeed in 2016 with these social selling stats, tips, and quotes from leaders in the profession.

November 19, 2015


Social selling has been steadily increasing in popularity for the past decade, and is now at a tipping point. Organizations that have already made the switch are pulling ahead, and soon the rest of the profession will be left to play catch-up.

Now is the time for forward-thinking sales leaders to champion a social selling transformation for their sales teams. Our research shows that as sales teams adopt social selling best practices, they become more inspired and more likely to exceed quota.

To help you jumpstart your team’s social selling initiative, we have pulled together inspirational quotes, best practices, and statistics from thought leaders in the sales profession. Use them to get inspired, make the case to upper management, and begin the transformation that will drive success in 2016.

The Planning Stage

  1. Put some skin in the game.

“As early adopters—or the early majority—commit and make career bets if you believe in social selling.” Mike Gamson, Senior VP of Global Solutions, LinkedIn

  1. Take a comprehensive approach.

“Embed social media into everything related to your sales organization: your existing sales process, award program, metrics, dashboards and systems. If you keep the program standalone, you won’t see adoption.” Jill Rowley, Startup Advisor, Jill Rowley #SocialSelling

  1. Align with marketing.

“Social selling is a shared effort between the sales and marketing teams. Ideally, marketing produces the messaging and sales utilizes their networks to deliver the content to potential buyers.” Lindsay Kolowich, Staff Writer, HubSpot

  1. Get executive buy-in.

“Social media usage should start from the top. If the executive team feels social media is important and becomes a role model for others to emulate, it becomes harder for most salespeople to ignore its importance over time.” Neal Schaffer, CEO, Maximize Your Social

  1. Make it central.

“We made a conscious decision to roll out LinkedIn globally from the start and establish quickly that this was the foundation to PTC’s social media strategy.” Julian Lee, Sales Enablement Director, PTC

  1. Share the vision from the top down.

“Every company has a vision. But can your sales reps clearly articulate it? Probably not. Why not create a welcome video from the CEO or a founder just for new sales reps? Make hearing the why both personal and motivating at the same time.” Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist, The Bridge Group

At the Kickoff

  1. Start with team members who are already succeeding on social.

“Socially engaged reps can demonstrate best practices and jump-start momentum for your rollout.” Mark Ghaderi, Sales Enablement Lead, SAP

  1. Train salespeople to use social tools effectively.

“Training is key. Salespeople need to understand why this activity is important and how to connect with prospects to build relationships the right way so they will eventually build their pipeline.” Koka Sexton, Content and Social Team, LinkedIn Corporate Communications

  1. Provide coaching that matches your team’s selling style.

“As part of our social selling program, we maintain a bench of LinkedIn certified coaches. These people are experts at social selling, with a solid grasp of how to engage with customers over social. Because everyone sells and uses social differently, our coaches work with our reps to create personalized social selling strategies.” Philip Amato, Marketing Communications Manager, Microsoft

  1. Encourage your team to build personal brands.

“Professional profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn often shape prospective buyers’ first impression of your company. Ensure that your team is presenting the right image with completed profiles that feature compelling, customer-centric messaging.” Alex Hisaka, Global Content Marketing Manager, LinkedIn

  1. Make sure your team is strategically connecting with high-value prospects.

“It is not just about finding individuals, but how the salesperson is performing when it comes to finding the influencers. It is not just about going high to find senior level people; it is about finding the right people.” Dan Lurie, Product Analytics Lead, Pinterest

  1. Motivate your team to engage with insights.

“Social selling works best when the sales reps are directly engaged — making themselves trusted sources of information, insights and advice.”  Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing Inc.

Set Goals and Metrics

  1. Center your goals on social selling activities.

“If we are going to get sales people to behave differently, we have to measure and reward them differently. We should be measuring things like size of network, quality of connections, number of followers, and internal collaboration because social selling is a team sport.” Jill Rowley

  1. Make SSI a KPI.

“Our goal is to continue to increase our Social Selling Index because a higher SSI represents behavioral changes that equate to more effective sales. Those behavioral changes have translated into ROI, more sales, and more opportunities.” Phil Amato

  1. Consider team-based performance metrics.

“When your sales organization puts relationships first, performance metrics should do things like measure success by adding a team quota to a rep’s compensation plan as a meaningful incentive for the sales organization to work together as a team.” Jonathan Harbison, Sales Product Consultant, LinkedIn

Encourage Adoption

  1. Start with incremental process.

“Salespeople want to maximize their use of time and don’t want to have to learn new tools. Make it easy by setting up 15 minutes a week every Friday afternoon for starters. Or host a weekly lunch during which you train and get all salespeople up and running on social media.” Neal Schaffer

  1. Encourage the team to share successful strategies.

“As we build on the momentum of early success, our sales teams begin to leverage one another’s best practices and strategies. This type of competition and collaboration directly impacts adoption, engagement and accountability.” Trish Sparks, Director of Sales Product Consulting, LinkedIn

  1. Use gamification to spark enthusiasm.

“We tracked Sales Navigator stats in Salesforce and monitored InMail activity. And we created leaderboards and correlated SSI to top performers – and integrated it with Salesforce. Managers can access dashboards and reports in Salesforce to see ROI and sales reps can use these to demonstrate their wins.” Phil Horn, VP Ticket Sales & Service, Sacramento Kings

  1. Collaborate within the team and across departments.

“The key to modern-day sales success is collaboration…In a 2014 study of global sales best practices, 94% of high performers collaborated across departments to pursue large deals, as compared to 43% who did not. For a department that’s always on the lookout for every competitive edge it can get, those are significant numbers.” Isaac Garcia, SVP & General Manager, Central Deskto

  1. Equip the team with the content they need to succeed.

“Adapting and curating content to be shared allows sales people to project thought leadership and enhance personal credibility, but not every sales person will be able to do this. Sales-enablement teams must feed social-ready content for sales people to leverage.” Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer & Executive VP, Miller Heiman

  1. Communicate your willingness to help.

“As a sales leader, one of the biggest barriers that you likely face is that most reps on your team are probably uncertain about your openness to helping. Many likely feel their deal is not big enough to warrant your time. So tell your sales team how and when they can engage you.” Mike Gamson

Advanced Strategies

  1. Delegate competitor research to find hidden prospects.

“Make each sales rep responsible for monitoring a certain number of competitors using LinkedIn. As you gather competitive intelligence, use it to build a central repository. Who is your competitor connecting to? If you see potential prospects on that list, add them to your spreadsheet. Use this spreadsheet to alert your sales team to deals you might be losing.” Jamie Shanks, Partner, Sales for Life

  1. Integrate a CRM system for a holistic view of your sales people’s activity.

“When a seller joined the program, we created a CRM ticket and entered all the education we delivered to that rep – for example, if she attended a coaching or onboarding session – so we could track those key activities. We merged the Social Selling Index with our CRM database so we had a comprehensive view of all of our reps, how socially engaged they are, and their correlating SSI.” Phil Amato

  1. Encourage executives to share their networks.

“At Softchoice, all the high-ranking executives…are offering access to their vast and powerful networks for the various sales professionals to leverage. Even their CEO has encouraged everyone in the company to come to him for an introduction to someone in his network (with a valid business reason).” Ateet Davé, Sales Product Consultant, LinkedIn Sales Solutions

Adopting a social selling mindset has produced incredible results for sales teams across industries. The organizations that realize the most success make social selling the foundation of their sales philosophy, not just a grafted-on set of new practices. Use the advice in this post to champion a social selling transformation in your organization, and your team will be well equipped to ascend to new heights in 2016.

For more advice on leading the social selling transformation in your organization, download Crossing the Chasm: How to Capitalize on the Social Selling Trend.