Get social or get left behind

Paul Nolan

Mike Derezin, vice president of sales for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, says in an era in which social sellers realize 66 percent greater quota attainment than those using traditional prospecting techniques (a Sales Benchmark Index statistic), if you’re sales team doesn't adopt social selling strategies, it may not be selling for long.

SMM: How do you define social selling?

Derezin: I define social selling as simply leveraging social media and social networks to increase sales. That’s through acquisition if you’re a hunter or through growing existing accounts. The main way to do it is to use social media to find the right buyers, engage with them and better understand them.

SMM: Is it about making the right connections at prospect companies or is there more to it than that?

Derezin: There’s far more to it. The four key value propositions of Sales Navigator [LinkedIn’s SAAS social selling tool] are helping you find the right people, gaining insights and understanding your buyers, engaging with the buyer and integrating LinkedIn into your daily sales work flow. A lot of salespeople used LinkedIn, and they should. But if you’re in sales, you need to get a lot more out of LinkedIn. Sales Navigator provides you with advanced search capabilities so you can drill in using dozens of filters that are not available for free. If you want to search by seniority, industry, growth, ZIP code…All of these variables that are critical to pinpoint the right prospects, you can only get in Sales Navigator.

SMM: What is the general skill level of B2B sales teams in regard to social selling?

Derezin: We actually can answer that with data. For any salesperson on LinkedIn, we have a score between zero and 100 of how well they are adopting LinkedIn in terms of social selling. Since we have a score for every individual, we can easily aggregate that by industry, by company, by country or however you wish and get what we call a social selling index (SSI). We have seen that SSI has continued to grow year over year. Most technology companies are now embracing social selling as either part of their selling strategy or a primary part of their selling strategy. There is a lag in non-tech companies, but the gap is shrinking.

SMM: Why have non-tech companies not embrace social selling more quickly?

Derezin: A lot of them are looking to see who will go first. It’s a fascinating dilemma, because how can you gain a competitive advantage if you don’t do things that your competitors aren’t doing? Yet there is this phenomenon out there that “I need to wait and see what everyone else has done and I need proof before I do it.” We’re starting to see businesses like banks, real estate firms and manufacturers recognize that this could be a competitive advantage for a few years before their peer set starts to use it. It’s just a matter of time. It’s inevitable.

SMM: Where is social selling headed in 2017?

Derezin: First, multi-threading will become a crucial strategy. Reps need to build multiple relationships across client companies. There are far more decision-makers in the B2B process than ever before. This is somewhat understood, but I don’t think it’s appreciated as deeply as it should be. Historically, in sales you may have had one or two key people who made a decision. For example, maybe a sales rep knew the IT director and the CIO, and they were buying a lot of stuff. Now, there is a lot of decentralization of decision-making. CEB has a stat that was widely used that there are 5.4 B2B buyers in any buying process. In one year, that moved up to 6.8 buyers, and I think that’s even too low. As a sales leader myself, I see that for some of our smaller sales, you’ll see eight to 10 people involved in a $15K transaction. If you get into a $100K-plus transaction, you can have 20 people involved.

Second, successful sales solutions will address engagement. You have lots of reps blasting people with cold emails and cold calls, and someone in their company may have just had dinner with them and knows them. When you don’t reach the right people within a prospect company, your company and your sales rep look bad. For example, I got a cold outreach from somebody and I’m clearly not the right person. With a little bit of research, they could have identified that immediately. Buyers are increasingly impatient with that kind of outreach. The second part about that outreach was I know 10 executives at that company quite well. If they took a few minutes to leverage LinkedIn or other social media, they could have come right through the front door.

Third, buyers will continue to be more discriminating. They want to see that the seller has taken the time to understand them and what matters to them. A lot of NBA teams sell suites and tickets to companies. The Sacramento Kings have had massive ROI because, through Sales Navigator, they are learning about their customers and understanding who are true fans instead of just blasting. More salespeople will send customized emails and tailored content, and will find quality trumps quantity when reaching out to potential buyers.