Social selling

Sales tactics in today’s B2B world are vastly changing and it is slowly becoming a popular notion that cold calling as part of the sales process is beginning to dwindle. Whether that’s true or false, social selling is gaining popularity, as individuals and sales teams are employing tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms are said to have a much lower overhead with immense ROI if mobilized correctly. Whether it’s through sales or marketing initiatives, a much more qualified approach is now becoming an expectation of buyers. There are many different sales processes that exist and no particular one stands above them all, however, it is crucial to understand why social selling is evolving.

In 2015 millennials accounted for 35% of the workforce, outpacing Baby Boomers and Gen X, who each accounted for 31% of the workforce respectively. The habits of millennials have come into question in recent years as their presence in the workforce has increased. Cellphone dependence and social media addiction highlight some of the criticisms surrounding millennials; meanwhile their resourcefulness and ability to multitask are praised. However, regardless of which habits are useful or not, the key takeaway is that they are here to stay, and are only beginning to account for more and more of today’s workforce. Social selling has a direct correlation to the purchasing habits of millennials and the way they are able to connect with brands. This demographic is driving change in the world of sales, on the side of both the buyer and seller.

In Hubspot’s 2015 report, State of Inbound Sales, 28% of salespeople said their top priority was to close more deals, and 18% said their top priority was to improve the efficiency of their sales funnel. Overall teams seem to be striving to close more deals at a faster pace. 42% of respondents agreed that the most difficult part of the sales process was prospecting, whereas closing and qualifying did not seem to bear the same level of concern. Tools such as Linkedin Sales Navigator boast the ability to create leads based on sensitive criteria. An example of a search could be “Marketing Coordinators working in the legal industry, at companies with 50-200 employees in Toronto, Ontario.” This would appear to save time when it comes to lead generation, however without social selling, other equally productive methods certainly exist.

The priority of social selling has not shown much change year over year on a B2B level however. Despite the lack of uptake, the statistics supporting the success of social selling prove that it does offer some value. Research conducted by the Aberdeen Group shows that 48% of salespeople who utilized social selling were able to hit their quotas compared to 38% who did not. However only 26% of respondents agreed that they knew how to properly utilize social media to increase sales. As social selling gains popularity, it is important to understand that despite it’s slow growth thus far, it will increase in value as millennials continue to increase their presence in the workplace.

Simply put, as millennials continue to enter the workforce, social selling will be something increasingly familiar to them, something their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts would only be acquainted with much later in their careers. If social media and sales do find their perfect fit, it will become a fundamental aspect of sales. Social media as a whole has begun to have an exponentially larger impact on the world than expected. Usage levels on messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and Snapchat have started to overtake the usage levels of traditional text messages. Tools such as Skype and Slack are now core business tools for many companies. As well, a career in social media did not truly exist before 2010, and has now shown an immense rise. From Q1 2010 to Q2 2013 jobs in social media increased by 1357%. While similar reporting is not available for 2016, its impact is apparent. Overall, cold calling is still highly integral to any sales process, but it is important to recognize the pace at which millennials are starting to enter the workforce. With key future implications on both a customer and enterprise level, understanding millennials is crucial!

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Designer, marketing and sales specialist Jeff Khansis is Business Development Associate at The Printing House in Toronto. He is a graduate of Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM).