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Forget What LinkedIn Says: What Does it Take to Begin Social Selling?

By Sander Biehn | Mar 3, 2015

Using social media to modernize sales teams is a tantalizing prospect for most companies. The reasons for Social Selling are so familiar they have become sickly rote:

Buyers less likely to take phone calls and emails than ever

Buyers go online to start the buying journey

Sales is not called in until the buyer has already formed important opinions

The solution:  Modern sellers must engage with buyers online via social media

Ok, assuming you get all that the only question is, how?

You could enable your sales teams with tools that allow them to share, develop and track leads and tie it all back to your CRM. But by doing this you are sure to incite mass confusion and contribute to bad data as each sales person combs the Internet for compelling content and then uses their own brand of social selling to serve that up to prospects they hope are interested.  This method cuts Marketing out of the loop and ensure nothing will be measured in a meaningful way.

Or you could take a more measured approach.

Based on our work with larger companies, here is a list of things you are going to need to run a sophisticated social selling program that will drive real results:

Engage Marketing (and Sales) Day One:  Any successful program will be a marriage of Sales and Marketing. Sales will drive the tactics around training and content that are needed to get engagement and excitement around social selling, but Marketing brings something much bigger to the table. Marketing knows how to Scale and Measure. Sales teams will want new contracts and deals. But tying these results to social selling is tricky. If you are pulling all your LinkedIn prospects into Salesforce via LinkedIn Navigator, the only thing you have to measure is what LinkedIn provides to you—which is by default socially derived.Some training companies are promising ROI in the form increased use of social media by Sales. That is great, but that isn’t the goal of social selling.There is another way. It’s called Marketing analytics.

Content Matters:  Gaining the attention of prospects and customers online is going to take more than regular blogging. It is going to require a solid strategy. Knowing who your target audience is and what problems they face on a daily basis should be your only guides to creating content that sells. If you are feeling unsure on either of these, check with a front line seller.  You may find that you need to create many different kinds of content to reach different types of buyers and verticals. This is one of the key aspects of social selling. You need to be ultra-targeted. We call this Micro Content Marketing at Thought Horizon.

Training:  Experience with social selling will vary by sales person. Giving them the basic mechanics of using social networks and any tools you want them to use should only be one aspect of any training program. We recommend a healthy dose of showing them how to influence buyers by being good social selling citizens. Blasting opinion after opinion or article after article is not going to win the heart of prospects. Gaining 10,000 followers in India when the sales person’s territory is Indiana will be meaningless. There are ways of seeming relevant on social media, but they have nothing to do with actually being relevant.

Analytics and Measurement:  Let’s stop fooling ourselves, shall we? A post on LinkedIn or Twitter has no monetary value. 10,000 followers is not worth one cent. Social media for social media sake only hurts the reputation of businesses truly looking to innovate in this space. Analytics must measure the impact of social media on prospects and buyers. This is the only way to turn social selling into a lasting program and not a one-shot “oh, we tried that” affair.  

It’s about time social selling grew up. Speaking at a conference last month in Amsterdam, I was complimented on my presentation by a Dutch digital marketer. She told me people had been talking about social selling for 3 years and never tying it back to real metrics and real success that can be measured by marketing. Let’s get real and make social selling a success for businesses everywhere.  For more information visit us at

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