Social Selling 101: Three Steps to Leveraging Social Media

By Peter Ostrow


If the sales training you provide to your sales team does not include guidance regarding social media, consider these facts based on Aberdeen's Social Selling research:

  • 100% of Best-in-Class sales organizations use Twitter to support their deal-making; vs. 78% of All Others.
  • 57% of these top performers have closed a deal that was originated through social media, compared with 36% of Industry Average and 24% among Laggards.
  • Again, every single Best-in-Class company (100%) indicates that "remote or mobile sellers have full access to our social media tools;" 60% of Industry Average and literally 0% of Laggards do the same.
  • 80% of the Best-in-Class have identified an “internal evangelist for spreading internal use, monitoring and best practices of social media,” compared with 42% of All Others.

These data points are a drop in the research bucket that clearly proves the business case for embracing best practices around social media in B2B sales environments. Any sales leader not recognizing that their sales people are virtually all using social media anyway — so they are well-advised to leverage the activity for the company’s benefit — are unlikely to achieve anything near Best-in-Class sales results without embracing these three approaches:

1) Social Collaboration

The use of social media platforms to communicate with internal or channel partner team members, in order to benefit from shared "tribal knowledge" in acquiring or serving customers. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Best-in-Class indicate that “internal communications are more effective via collaborative social media tools than by email,” compared with 40% of All Others, and these top performers recognize in particular that millennial-aged sales professionals are ever more comfortable interacting in these type of environments.

Action item: invest in an enterprise-class collaboration platform, make sure that all hierarchical job levels participate — including the CEO — and consistently provide sponsored, as well as peer-generated, training to sales and other staffers, in order to leverage the application to its fullest.

2) External Listening

Traditional sales intelligence, i.e., demographic and firmographic data about people and companies, has often become little more than a commodity. Instead, the more relevant information about prospects or customers is behavioral, i.e., what are they thinking or doing, and is best collected via user-generated content regarding the individuals, organizations, and trends that impact the sales process. Best-in-Class firms lead All Others by double-digit percentages in terms of deploying both a “Formalized a process for monitoring / disseminating user-generated content specific to our company,” as well as “…specific to our industry or competitors.”

Action item: train your team to be like today’s most savvy sellers, who begin sales conversations armed with the most recent tweets, posts, and blog content produced by their accounts. They also create automated “push” mechanisms — think Google Alerts, HootSuite, TweetDeck, etc. — in order to track relevant prospect and customer activity, as well as crucial business content and trigger events, in real-time.

3) External Participation

While the first instinct of most salespeople is naturally to sell, a more cautious approach focused on providing subject matter expertise can be a more effective way to build credibility with a prospective customer. Buyers who have become unresponsive to traditional sales  messages are more likely to engage with someone who has added value to the sales process by providing relevant content, information or insights; social communications are a natural fit for this approach. After all, Best-in-Class firms lead All Others indicating that “we extensively communicate with our existing customers via social media,” by a 43% to 26% margin.

Action item: teach your direct and channel sellers how to be content creators, or at least curators, rather than annoying social media spammers.

Figure 1: Social Selling Strategies You Should be Training


Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012

In addition to the action items above, Best-in-Class sales teams teach their team members how to execute on the items in Figure 1 far more aggressively than under-performers. Sales Operations and Learning-and-Development leaders are well advised to do the same. After all, comparing these top performers with all other survey respondents yields even more striking contrasts:

  • 67% vs. 13% — Training of channel partners to engage in online conversations with prospects and current customers
  • 60% vs. 29% — Training of sales employees to engage in online conversation with prospective or current customers
  • 56% vs. 35% — Ability to provide customers with learning, training, service or other add-ons, post-sale, via workspace or collaborative solution

download sales training research report

Written By: Peter Ostrow

Peter Ostrow is Vice President and Group Director of the Aberdeen Group, a leading provider of fact-based research focused on the global technology-driven value chain. Peter is an author, speaker, and a nationally recognized expert in Sales Effectiveness.

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