Peter Ostrow Aberdeen Group on social selling

Heads up: the new social seller is bagging your business

By Shaon A.M. MacLean

Please don’t be mistaken. Posting a profile on LinkedIn and sharing on Twitter or Facebook is not how the social sales rep is winning over your customers. In fact, LinkedIn tells us only 50.55% of LinkedIn profiles are correctly done.

I believe it. The last four sales teams I reviewed only had two or three reps out of 15 with complete profiles; very few were cultivating their personal gold mines–their networks. Porter Gale describes this updated version of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in his manifesto titled Your Network is Your Net Worth.

It’s one of the reasons that testimonials are vital for your website as well as your Linkedin profile. The best reps in your field are positioning themselves in the digital world and they’re taking advantage of your absence in the networks.

“The best sales people are not on your payroll,” says Jill Rowley, who always tops the Linkedin list with the most connections. “They’re your customer advocates.”  I don’t need to remind you that LinkedIn counts more than 300 million registered users today. You can find her profile here:

Teach online selling

Sales professionals need help agrees Peoplelinx founded by early LinkedIn employees. Peoplelinx recently surveyed a cross-section of 277 business-to-business (B2B) sales professionals in the U.S. on their use and perceptions of social networks for selling.

The trainers learned that only one in four sales professionals feel they know how to use social for selling. Company leadership isn’t helping much, either: Only 22% of respondents say their companies encourage social selling.

Too bad. Here’s some stats from Rowley comparing those who use social selling over those who don’t:

  • 64% vs 49% attain team sales quotes
  • 55% vs 48% benefit from customer renewal rates
  • 54% vs 42% forecast accurate sales
  • 46% vs 38% achieve sales rep quotas

Sales leadership 

This also makes sense given research from the Aberdeen Group who report a whopping 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence, at all. How do we expect the sales rep to improve performance in the digital world if leadership lives in a vacuum of top-line comprehension? Only 22% of sales professionals say their company encourages the use of social for selling, and only 11% say their company offers formal training.  A tiny 6% say their company measures the use of social for selling.

When companies offer formal training programs, social selling adoption jumps to 74% from 28%. The percentage of sales professionals who find social valuable increases to 96% from 67% while the percentage of sales professionals who actually use social as part of their process rises to 78% from 28%. The percentage of sales professionals who have closed business (within the past three months) which was influenced by social jumps to 74% from 38%.

Here’s another useful nugget from the Peoplelinx study: The number drops to 25% usage for the 30-44 age group, then rebounds to 34-35% for both the 45-60 and 60+ age groups. Wisdom at work? Not surprisingly, Millenials are the most likely age group to use social for selling at 42%.

Lead generation opportunities appealed to respondents more than the post-sale phase of the customer lifecycle. “This may simply reflect a tendency of sales professionals to focus on pre-sale activities more than post-sale relationship-building,” says Peoplelinx.

Here’s more brutal stats from the Aberdeen Group: Best in class performers saw a 17.9% year-over-year growth in total while worst performers met targets 18% of the time.

They also asked what keeps sales managers up at night:

  • 50% don’t convert enough sales
  • 45% worry about excessive deal slippage
  • 35% lose efficiency in recreating proposals
  • 35% takes too long to close a deal

Tips on building your social networks-and net worth

Here’s 4 things to help get you in front of the crowd:

1. Stay current: When a potential client clicks on your LinkedIn profile, make sure they see an up-to-date headline for the company you now head up or where you now work.  LinkedIn is open 24/7 and you can believe that others are checking your profile at 3 am when sleep alludes them, especially close to month-end.

2. Your network: See Porter Gale, above. Please remember that the 50 groups you’re allowed to join in LinkedIn  should include those of your current clients, prospects, and other employees at your company. Join groups that reflect your customers and prospects more than your own professional associations. LinkedIn has evolved to be way more than a place to house your resume. That’s so yesterday.

3.Fresh and clean: Please take a professional photo. That image of you in university doesn’t convey the integrity of your position as company president responsible for other people’s heard-earned budgets. Ensure that your employees reflect the integrity and solid core values of the organization you lead.

4. Create and curate content for your team. People in sales often don’t enjoy the process of writing, editing, graphic design, taking pictures, shooting video. Don’t get me wrong, some do. For those who don’t, though, it’s the responsibility of the owner or management to create necessary content and to educate sales staff on how to distribute material that is relevant, aligns with your company’s value proposition; evergreen content is most useful. Editorial calendars help here.

Finally, keep an ever-present eye on your networks. They need to be maintained and not abandoned. It’s vital to check in regularly, so contacts who send you a message asking for a proposal don’t go unattended for weeks or months.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


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