Social Selling: Social Media as a Value-Adding Platform for Salespeople

Even though he shies away from saying he coined the term social selling, Koka Sexton was indeed one of the pioneers of the term. Social selling is leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and achieve your sales goals. He discusses the best way to engage and use social platforms, and emphasizes that many sales professionals either lack participation or do not participate correctly on social media platforms.

social selling: 79% of salespeople who use social media as a tool outperform those who do not use social mediaThe Value of Social Selling

Social Selling
Koka Sexton discusses the value of social media in marketing.

One of the main takeaways from Sexton’s idea is that social media should be a value-adding platform, not a sales platform. He stresses that it is not acceptable to present a sales pitch to a client during an initial interaction. Instead, he advises

salespeople to build relationships with potential clients by engaging with their social media updates and continuously adding value that would be of interest to clients. Sexton is confident that sales representatives would thrive with the right coaching from their sales managers. It is for this reason that proper training of both managers and representatives is necessary.

Building Client Relationships

Koka Sexton’s career path is both diverse and impressive. He went from a career in law enforcement to a career in digital marketing. His current position is Digital Marketing Advisor at HootSuite. As an innovative marketer, he created success in each of his endeavors. It is helpful to take Koka Sexton’s insight into account considering his professional success. Social Selling studies confirm his notions of the value of social media relationships.

For instance, 90% of top performing salespeople use social media as a part of their sales strategy. Furthermore, over 10% of sales representatives who use social media have closed five or more deals because they were active on their platforms.  According to Sexton, successful sales representatives first connect with individuals whose social media platforms relate to their company. They then begin to understand client’s needs by listening to their thoughts on social media and aim to contribute valuable input. The input given will positively impact the relationship with potential clients, which can lead to sales.

How is Social Selling Successful?

Below are some more statistics that highlight the significance of social selling.

  1. 98% of sales representatives who have over 5,000 connections on LinkedIn meet/surpass their sales quota. 
  2. 79% of salespeople who use social media as a tool outperform those who do not use social media. 
  3. 55% of buyers research products/services on social media.
  4. Social sellers who were engaged generated 38% more new opportunities than those who were not engaged 
  5. 86% of IT buyers use social media to make decisions on technology.

The idea of social selling is growing at a fast pace. Koka Sexton predicts that social selling is just going to become sales at some point because all sales activities will somehow originate through social networks. Technology is even being used to identify the correct connections for sales representatives.

Koka Sexton’s Take on Social Selling

Here is a Detailed Summary of Koka Sexton’s Interview with Visionary Marketing.

My original career path was in law enforcement. I started off as an individual sales rep, and my measurement was based on the number of dials a day and talk time, which I thought were crazy metrics for salespeople to be assigned to. I had a love-hate relationship with marketers. They’re very nice people, but what they were doing from a marketing standpoint back in 2010 was limited. They were buying lists from companies and running events that were generating non-qualified people.

I was handed this virtual phone book and told to call through leads and see if there’s interest. I knew there was something wrong with that, so I found a way to generate my own pipeline outside of marketing’s purview. I did that by leveraging social media. I started understanding how social networks can help me grow as a professional. I gained knowledge because people were sharing insights, and I learned how to identify, connect, and engage with other decision-makers on these platforms. I became a successful salesperson because I had a higher success rate by connecting with these decision-makers rather than interrupting them with calls/emails.

I made the switch to the dark side when I got my very first marketing role. I say that in just because I  admire marketers now. I focused on how to implement a program for salespeople to leverage social media and how to measure pipeline in revenue from social activities. As I perfected that, I created something called Social Selling University. It became an education for other salespeople on activities they should perform on social media. I started gaining a notoriety because I was the only person being as vocal as I was around salespeople.

I was then recruited to work for LinkedIn. I shy away from saying that I created the term social selling. What I will say is that I feel highly confident that I was the original pioneer. The word had been used but never in the full context of what I believed it could be which was: how do salespeople use social with social media? Social selling was confused into e-commerce and a bunch of other things. I took it from an idea down to a b2b application of how do you leverage social media as a salesperson.

I was part of the content and social strategy for the sales solutions division at LinkedIn. The social launch of that product gave me insights around how LinkedIn views the sales audience.  I went from working the b2b to capacity, to working with the consumer product, to working with the corporate communications team -where I ran social media for LinkedIn globally. I left LinkedIn after the acquisition was announced with Microsoft. And then HootSuite came along and asked if I would work with them, and I’m a huge fan of HootSuite

I believe that the biggest obstacle for sales professionals using social media is their lack of confidence on how to engage and use platforms. That manifests in non-participation or bad participation- where social media salespeople act like traditional salespeople. Social media should be used as a platform to educate buyers in a way that makes them want to have conversations with you. It is not a sales platform; It is a value-added platform.

When you get an InMail from someone trying to make a sale immediately after connecting, your reaction is to disconnect. So now that salesperson has lost you forever. Salespeople need to understand how to build relationships before trying to sell. When you’re trying to connect your network strategically, it’s in a sales person’s best interest to build their network. You can reach out to IT directing makers and say something about how fascinated you are with the things that they’ve shared. It’s a low and inviting barrier of entry because it drives to the ego of the buyer. It helps the salesperson become more educated on what’s happening in that industry. Once you’re connected you can start building that relationship by engaging with their updates. Constantly adding value from some insights you think a buyer might be interested in may make the buyer say “I would love to be involved in something like this”. That’s when you’re able to take it offline.

I think it comes down to training. It’s the idea of sales managers being held accountable to how their sales reps behave and teaching them the best practices. Sales Managers are usually looking at the pipeline and revenue numbers, but I believe that sales managers could be amazing coaches to their teams.

I think the next stage of social media where we’re finding the largest amount of traction is how we empower our sales organizations to become sharers of information. When we look at the activity of sales professionals, the idea of how do we get them started is just to build this habit of sharing.  Feeding the sales teams the right content for them to share through their social networks will help them grow. When I think about the future of social selling, at some point social selling is just going to become sales because all of these activities will somehow be originating through social networks. I think what gets interesting is when we start looking at future technologies. Artificial intelligence, AI type tools that are helping with predictive analytics based on information you may own within your own CRM or what is being found through the larger social ecosystem and identifying these contacts for these sellers to actually get involved with.

Diana Mylonas

Diana Mylonas

Junior Consultant at Visionary Marketing
Third year communcation and business student at Villanova University; Currently studying abroad in Paris, France.
Diana Mylonas

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