Social Selling Blurs the Line Between Marketing and Sales

Kurt Shaver

In the past, marketing and sales had distinct roles. Marketing generated leads while sales converted those leads. Social media has blurred these separate responsibilities because applications like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have given every salesperson the potential to be an individual marketer. Innovative companies are seizing this social selling opportunity by implementing a new type of collaboration between marketing and sales. This collaborative method can be seen in a social selling pilot by IBM, which reported a 400 percent sales increase.

Like many 20th century processes, traditional marketing and sales methods are changing due to the fact that any individual with an Internet connection has the capability to be a worldwide publisher.

That is good news because trust in marketing messages is on the decline. 47 percent of survey respondents say they trust paid ads, yet confidence has weakened 24 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent respectively since 20091. Buyers seek content from trusted social networks. 92 percent of respondents said their trust is in earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Nowadays, much of this occurs through social media.

Buyers now are 60 percent of the way through the buying process before engaging a salesperson.2 Salespeople want to be a trusted advisor to their customers, building a strong, personal relationship and contributing valuable information throughout the consultative selling process. Social selling can aid these objectives, as building rapport involves finding commonalities and the information available via social research makes it easier than ever. Contributing valuable information can be more challenging. While good salespeople know how to build relationships, they are often too busy and not trained on how to create corporate messaging. Additionally, they may not be authorized to publish on the company’s behalf.

The result is that marketing is the official creator of the approved corporate message but marketing lacks trust. On the other hand, sales enjoys high trust, but lacks the resources for creating professional messages with regular frequency. The solution is marketing and sales working together. Marketing supplies the right messaging and sales acts as the trusted distribution network.

4 Steps for Success

The following encompasses four steps of a cross-departmental social selling strategy:

Listen – Marketing monitors what is being said online about a company, its products, competitors, and industry. There are a growing number of social listening tools for this task.

Create - Marketing uses knowledge gained from listening to create a menu of social posting messages for the sales force. It is recommended that a high percentage of messages include web links to facilitate measurement.

Select and Customize – Salespeople review the menu to select and customize messages to post to their particular audiences (LinkedIn Connections, Group members, Twitter followers, etc.). It is important to note that some messages may need to be transmitted without modification.

Measure – Marketing measures the results either via social influence tools or directly by tracking clicks back to the supplied web links. This creates the closed-loop necessary to determine social selling ROI.

As an example, a computer security company may discover a new vulnerability in a popular operating system. To combat this, marketing alerts customers, soliciting their input on the perceived risks with a customer base e-mail blast and a web link to a survey. At the same time, marketing creates a social post for the sales team. The message for sales includes the same survey with a different web link. In doing so, the separate links allow for comparison of responses, and the social post to the salesperson’s network has the advantage of coming from someone the receiver actually knows. Plus, the resulting increase in credibility strengthens the relationship between the salesperson and the customer. This example underscores the need for salespeople to build social connections with their customers. Here “social” means business relationships, not necessarily personal relationships.

By combining the messaging skills of marketing with the trusted network of sales, innovative companies are increasing the odds that the right message gets to the right person at the right time.

Kurt Shaver is CEO of The Sales Foundry, a company specializing in helping B2B companies implement Social Selling strategies. For more information including getting your personal LinkedIn score in  two minutes, visit

1 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey

2Corporate Executive Board