The Birth of the Social Sales Force - Social Media Explorer
The Birth of the Social Sales Force
The Birth of the Social Sales Force

Can you remember the last time you were cold called by a company? I can. I remember that familiar  embarrassed, awkward feeling wash over me as a complete stranger proceeded to subject me to a series of ill structured, and ill-concealed, sales questions in an attempt to ‘open me up’. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

The hard sell is dead. That’s subject to opinion, of course, in this instance however; it’s not just my opinion. It’s an opinion being touted by innovators, sales people, corporates and small businesses alike. In this article I’m going to be prodding an angry bear with a stick. I’m challenging the opinion still held by thousands of sales teams and companies across the world that cold calling and telesales is still king, and I’m bringing friends to the party.

What Is Social Selling?

Before we get too into any marketing and sales metrics, it’s necessary to define our key terms. First of all, what is Social Selling? It’s a term that seems to be thrown around a lot, but without any clear cut definition. At Square Social we define Social Selling as – “The act of using a social media platform to generate, nurture or close a sale”. To illustrate, we’ll use a simple example – generating a lead on LinkedIn by sending a targeted inMail message to a high level decision maker. A lead is of course whatever you personally qualify a lead to be. Now we know what ‘Social Selling’ entails, let’s move on and look at the emergence of the ‘social sales force’.

Smart Funnelling

Smart Funnelling is another term coined by our sales department at Square Social. Smart Funnelling, as we see it, is building a funnel in the most time, cost and effort effective method possible. We’re a B2B provider, essentially we sell our time and social media skillset to other companies, so building our sales funnel is heavily reliant on LinkedIn. Using the functionality that LinkedIn provides us, we’re able to build a targeted lead list with filters such as company size, location, seniority level of decision maker all the way up to degree of connection. Not only can we apply super specific filters to our LinkedIn lead searches, we can then save and automate this process. If you can find me a sales person who can save and automate their own lead generation process without being present, I’ll eat my hat.

LinkedIn Lead Builder

Hard Sales vs. Social Sales

The easiest way to define the difference between the two is – hard sales are hard, social sales are easy. A hard sell is unnatural, it’s like to trying to eat a chicken before you’ve cooked it, or take your date home before you’ve bought her dinner. That’s why they are so hard. A hard sell is one person trying to disregard the fundamental rules of human psychology and interaction. We’re hardwired to fear strangers, our croc brain makes sure of that – that’s why we’ve survived so long and been able to get to this very point of debating why our croc brain makes it so hard for us to cold call.

A social sale is easy because if you approach it correctly, it’s a warm sale. If you successfully add a connection on LinkedIn, you have common ground. You’re no longer John Smith the random stranger from X Company, your John Smith the guy I spoke with on LinkedIn about our shared love of fishing or amateur wrestling. Don’t get me wrong, going out on a random adding spree will generate nothing, in fact it will actively work against you. However, if you apply the same social rules of etiquette you would when networking and meeting people in the real world online, the results will blow you away.

How would a sales force apply this? Easy. Fluff your leads before you contact them. It might sound harsh, but that’s exactly what 90% of sales are, building relationships and developing common ground. That’s exactly how Eloqua’s sales reps were able to see a 30% increase in engagement between them and the companies they were targeting, an increased conversion rate of leads to opportunities of 25% and over 15% of their sales reps began over exceeding their sales quota. For more hard data check out the case studies here over at slideshare.

The bottom line is the landscape is changing, has changed, dramatically. Cold calling is not an effective method of generating sales in today’s multi-layered sales process, with multiple decision makers sometimes spanning multiple continents, using the old ‘tie them down for a face to face’ trick just won’t cut it anymore. Even if this process was still generating moderate results for you, why would you want to continue using an outdated process? It’s like purposefully refusing to remove the stabilisers from your bike because – “I’ve always done it that way”. Your bike is a lot quicker, easier to drive and breaks down a lot less without your stabilisers on.  Why would you spend hours upon hours expending effort on the phone, bypassing gatekeepers, overcoming objections, when you could just as easily use a Trojan horse approach and slip through the back door, so to speak?

The Proof Is In The (Social) Pudding

To draw on popular hip hop parlance, at the end of the day – talk is cheap. For those still unconvinced, I’d love to hear your opinions and reasons why. If the case studies provided haven’t opened you up to the concept of Social Sales, and I can’t see why they wouldn’t, get out there and try it for yourself first hand. Read up on LinkedIn etiquette and put together a concise strategy, if it doesn’t start impacting your bottom line you’re either doing it wrong, or selling Ipecac.

About the Author

James Thomas
James is a digital growth consultant at Square Internet. Square Internet help small businesses attract, convert, close and delight more customers.
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  • Baruni Shiva

    This was a good read. Social media certainly makes methods like cold calling pale in comparison. I was reading another article about how companies can adopt social selling. Companies need a proper strategy in place before actually setting out with the effort. What’s your take on how brands should adopt social selling?

  • Richard Huard

    Cold calling and hard sales suck. I hate trying to sell things this way. I love the soft sell method and using social media to do it! Great post for sure.

  • Dave Link

    Absolutely agree with you that the hard sell cold call is dead. However, sharing one or two common interests via LinkedIn is also very thin ice on which to base a sales relationship. It’s gotten better as of late, but I still get numerous emails each week from new business managers and others who are connected to me through threads as common as ‘marketing’ or ’email marketing’ – many of whom I’ve never met from companies I’ve never heard of. I consider those loose threads to be almost as off-putting as a cold call.

    While I understand it’s their job to generate new leads I’m much more inclined to consider a soft sale to be someone with whom I’ve chatted with at a conference or networking event, or even simply shared a comment thread with on blogs like SME. That thought leadership and shared idea building is where I would consider the easy social sale to be developed. Shared interests are one thing, shared knowledge and substantial common ground are another.

    • Jordan Lemmingson

      Totally get what you’re saying Dave! However maybe the answer isn’t that ‘LinkedIn doesn’t work’ as you’re alluding to. Just perhaps it’s because the people who have contacted you in this instance aren’t actually doing it right? Clearly they haven’t tailored their message to match their buyer’s needs!!

      LinkedIn is still very new as a sales tool, people need time to actually learn how to use it effectively. Personally I think your links between LinkedIn and offline networking are spot on. You wouldn’t approach someone in a conference event and try to sell to them instantly or try to fake a common interest because you’ve heard of their business or such like.

      I guess the key take away here is for you to take the lessons you’ve learnt from offline networking and apply them to LinkedIn? This should give you a better success rate and allow you to expand your network and make some positive connections with other people.

      • Dave Link

        Agreed 100%. I’m not saying that LinkedIn itself doesn’t work as a method of generating leads, but instead that the way in which LinkedIn is being used is flawed for many. You’re also spot on in suggesting people take their real world networking skills and find way to adapt them to the digital space.

        Social in general has great opportunity for sales, just so long as people treat it like what it is – a new platform for connecting and generating relationships and not just somewhere new to blast the message version of a cold call.


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