Sales methods haven't changed much over the years. But, social selling has clearly been a new and fresh approach to sales.

I received an interesting survey last week. The survey is meant to measure the adoption and usage of Social Selling strategies across the corporate business world - social selling in B2B. That's what the survey introduction said. Additionally, the survey is interested in seeing how companies are refining their sales approaches to increase and maximize their efforts in a highly connected world.

I thought "Okay, that's interesting." So, I took the survey. Here are my thoughts on the 20 questions in the survey.

But wait - I want to clear something up.

We learn a lot from questions. So, as I took this survey, my mind wandered to the "why" the question was being asked. That's what I'll elaborate on as I address each survey question.

Question 1: Please indicate your role within your organization

  • Sales Management
  • Marketing Leadership
  • Learning and Development
  • Human Resources
  • Executive Leadership
  • Other

Interesting. One would think that social selling approaches are mainly isolated to sales and marketing, but apparently there are some organizations where social selling has gone beyond and is now being used in HR, Learning and Development, etc.

Definition of Social Selling

In the next question, the survey defines social selling as the following:

Social Selling is when individual salespeopole in an organization use social media such as Linkedin to connect and interact directly with buyers.

These individuals provide value by answering questions and offering thoughtful content until prospects are ready to buy. The stated purpose of Social Selling is to widen the opportunity to engage with buyers, effectively grow the sales pipeline and enhance product marketing reach.

Social Selling would include sales and account rep activities focused on the following areas:

  • Posting
  • Sharing
  • Group Interaction
  • Content Curation
  • Blogging

I found their definition of social selling adequate, but really broad. After all, blogging has been around for a long time and, while curation is a new term, that, too is not new. Yet, their definition isn't exactly putting new lipstick on an old pig, as it were; there are new technologies that have made selling through social media both possible and more ubiquitous.

After the definition of social selling is given, the next question asks "Does your organization currently use any type of social selling?" This question is meant to establish a base - perhaps a picture that shows a before social selling and after social selling.

B2B Adoption of Social Selling

Following is an interesting question:

"To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: our sales and account reps actively engage in social selling and it is having a significant positive impact on our sales revenue growth."

Then a question on current social selling capabilities of the organization:

"Please rate the proficiency of your sales and accout reps using social selling"

And now a question on the organization's perspective of social selling:

"Please rate the importance of using social selling to close more business"

And a few questions to establish how much the organization has adopted social selling:

"Currently, what percentage of your sales and account reps actively engage in social selling?"

"Currently, what percentage of daily working hours do your sales and account reps engage in social selling?"

Another question on the adoption of social selling as a training program:

"What is the current state of your social selling program?"

  • No Social Selling Training Program
  • Sales and Account Reps are Self-taught
  • We have a formal Social Selling Training Program
  • Social Selling is Fully Integrated into the Sales Process

I found this last question quite interesting: they want to learn about existence and state of the social selling training with B2B organizations. I found the last option quite important - in that question, social selling is viewed as part of the sales process. I think that's quite important. Social Selling, by itself, may not provide much value but when it's integrated into the current sales process, it could yield huge benefits.

More questions on social selling adoption in B2B companies:

"How does your Executive Team value Social Selling?"

Social Selling and Revenue Growth

Then a question that's a little out of context given the previous questions that were asked:

"How beneficial do you think Social Selling would be for your company's sales process?"

The next question assumes the survey respondent already has a social selling program in place:

"What are your biggest challenges implementing a social selling training program?"

  • ROI is not proven externally to justify to senior leadership
  • Insufficient internal training resources
  • External training costs are high
  • Requires a significant shift from our current sales approach
  • Lack of internal management buy-in

On its face, the responses appear to be basic change management choices. I guess with any new program - or unproven program - there's going to be resistance to social selling.

Now, a few questions on training budgets for social selling:

"In a fiscal year, what is the average budgeted training and development cost per sales or account rep?"

  • We have no social selling budget allocated
  • $500 or less per sales or account rep
  • $501 to $1000 per sales or account rep
  • $1001 to $1999 per sales or account rep
  • $2000 or more per sales or account rep

We know that the VP of Sales has a large budget - after all, sales is responsible for revenue for the company. But, the new and emerging trend of social selling may or may not have training budget allocated yet. Interesting question.

Back to adoption of social selling in B2B companies - where the answer options are Increased, Decreased, or Remained the Same: During the past 12 months . . .

"The percentage of sales and account reps actively engaged in social selling has . . ."

"Percentage of daily working hours sales and account reps are engaged in social selling has . . ."

"Your company's sales revenue has . . ."

Knowing quite a bit about statistics and survey methods, I'm afraid that this question may try to create a correlation between the level of social selling and revenue. A simple cross-tab in this case is not good enough to demonstrate a relationship between the level of social selling and revenue.

The next question repeats except the qualifier is around the expectation "for the next 12 months. . ."

Social Selling Tools

Now, a few questions on social selling tools:

Please indicate your familiarity and usage of the following social selling tools:

  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Social Selling Index Score

And a curveball - something I hadn't heard of before:

"Have you acquired your LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) score for each of your sales and account reps?"

Interesting. I hadn't heard of the LinkedIn Social Selling Index Score before. I had to Google it and learn more about it. Here's LinkedIn's explanation of it:

LinkedIn's Social Selling Index* is a first-of-its kind measure that ranks company utilization of LinkedIn as a social selling tool. Gain visibility into your company's activities, uncover new opportunities, and benchmark yourself against peers and competitors.

*For companies with over 100 employees and 10 sales reps

It seems, at least to me who is a newbie in all of this, LinkedIn is trying to create a service or product around social selling, by standardizing a score to indicate the level of expertise with using LinkedIn as a tool for sales. That's smart of LinkedIn.

Social Selling Metrics

Now, onto social selling metrics:

"Are there other social selling metrics you are using to measure the success of your social selling program?"

Now, a question on the characteristics of a deal for B2B companies:

"On average, how much time does it take to close a deal?"

Why would a survey about social selling ask this question? I wonder if the authors of the survey believe that social selling has the potential to shorten sales cycles. On its face, social selling as a touchpoint in the Buyer's Journey could possibly help shorten sales cycles.

But from a survey perspective, the authors could've asked additonal questions here that would really shed light on the potential of social selling to cut sales cycles shorter. But they didn't.

Conclusion

Social Selling has the potential to really enable sales by shortening sales cycles, generating new leads, and in meeting the buyers where they are. The survey questions in this social selling survey seem to indicate that fact.

What do you think? What's your organization's experience with social selling? Let us know in the comments.

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