Social Selling- is it becoming a distraction and hindrance for you?

So I was looking for my source of inspiration/topic to write on and as I sat down to my desk at home late on Sunday night I saw the stack of To Do’s. Now any good sales person in my opinion needs to have great time management skills as well as self-discipline and motivation. You could expect that by this introduction that I am to go on talking about time management and how you can work smarter. Well I’m not. The good news, if you need to better your time management skills, is that there are many other business posts about that topic. However, going back to the stack of “To Do’s”, sat on top of the pile were some of the action points and follow ups from the recent management meeting, in particular some of the notes whereby we were discussing sales tools. Following the management meeting there has been a big push coming from all departments to help and improve existing sales efforts. Many of my own team have come to me talking about social selling and some introducing me to technology applications that help analyze the data helping sales efforts. So thank you team for the enthusiastic input. Additional thanks to Heather, Joran, Rachel and Matt who have contributed to many wins in the past but also changes and improvements brought about following the management meeting. These have contributed considerably as we drive some of the best engagement and demand generation results, all without needing to spend big on expensive technologies.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are some cool technologies spearheaded by the likes of LinkedIn that are becoming such a big part of the B2B sales/marketing world. The whole concept of social selling is an interesting one indeed. As we look to scale the CDM sales team even further, given our current leadership position within the industry and the growing demand for our services, it is very clear that the need to identify an easy, replicable and consistent sales process is more important than ever. In today’s business environment data and analytics play a big role, a fact underpinned by IBM CEO Ginny Rometty’s “bold prediction” last month that “In the future, every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson” and “our lives will be better for it”. For those of you who didn’t know Watson is a very advanced analytics/supercomputer that IBM has made a BIG bet on, for those of you still don’t know, it beat a bunch of really smart people on Jeopardy.

Remembering her statement as I trawled through the many notes that I had, as well as others my direct team had written along with those of the many technology vendors that have been reaching out or I have reached out to for further information on solutions it made me start questioning what social selling is about. What is it? What isn’t it? Why do we need it? Thinking of Ginny’s phrasing in particular had me suddenly thinking differently. As a CEO of a multi billion-dollar global company such as IBM, you have a fair amount of public and private scrutiny. Her phrasing was done it in a way that doesn’t bring about the idea of robots revolting and enslaving mankind first of all which is nice, although I will probably still go and see the upcoming Terminator movie. Maybe if she had said Watson would make mankind’s decisions she would have one promoted the Terminator movie more so that the big advertising budgets are doing, she might also have many IBM stakeholders and public opinion against her. But for me she phrased it as such that related to after 3 further hours of reading through notes on that Sunday night. It made me realize that many of the sales tools and the hype around social selling probably weren’t going to make our CDM sales lives better. It had made me question all the hype on social selling and what it is and what it isn’t. Several vendors have said to me “social selling is the new definition of selling”. In my opinion it isn’t, and the definition of selling will remain ambiguous. However where social selling can help many organizations is with bettering the sales process which can be defined as a “systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, by which a salesman relates his or her offering of a product or service in return enabling the buyer to achieve their goal in an economic way.” Thanks Wikipedia.

So we will be adding sales tools and new technology into the day-to-day to help build upon an already strong sales process. I’ll be the first to say that a sales process is never perfected. It can’t be as we need to factor in the human element and not the data in that we deal with different buyers and those buyers are humans who are themselves unique and different. So whilst data and social selling will help some of the sales process, don’t get carried away thinking that by magic it will overnight replace in-person, phone and email outreach. If you are of this school of thought then you are most probably allowing it to become a time consuming distraction. Please think about the next time you “like” and “comment” on the mass of spam content on the ever-increasing social media channels that we interact across daily. Social selling helps you nurture a relationship across these channels if done in a non-creepy and non-spam like manner. It will never replace the in person meeting or sales conversation whereby you can engage immediately with someone, feeling out and communicating directly around their wants, needs, likes and dislikes. After all we are the market leaders for hosting face to face business meetings at our events as well as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US in 2014 and hopefully in 2015 pending the Inc.com announcement. We achieved this by developing and nurturing relationships with clients directly, engaging them on what they want and creating best of breed solutions to meet this. Not by “liking” or “commenting” on the 1+1=????

Good luck and happy hunting as we close out Q2 and 1H.

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