Over the last couple of years, we at CSO Insights have identified critical success factors for social selling success. The first one is aligning the social strategies between marketing and sales. The second one is driving higher levels of social selling adoption across the sales force.
Let’s begin with the alignment of social strategies between marketing and sales. This is not the same as an overall marketing and sales alignment; this success factor covers specifically the alignment of social strategies between marketing and sales.
Organizations continue to align their social strategies. In 2017, only one-fifth had formally aligned social strategies. In our 2018 Sales Enablement Study, this group increased to one-third!
It’s interesting to see that more and more organizations recognize that they cannot ignore social selling. Instead, organizations have begun to embrace the potential of leveraging social channels to engage with the right buyers earlier to drive their sales performance. The next question is, of course: does it matter? Short answer: yes, it does.
Formally aligned social strategies across marketing and sales show win rate improvements by 9.3%. The costs of doing nothing are even worse: win rates decreased by 10.7%.
In fact, the win rates for the one-third of organizations that reported having formally aligned social strategies increased to 54.1%, which is a difference of +4.6 points to the study’s average of 49.5%, and an actual improvement of 9.3%. And the costs of doing nothing are severe. Having no alignment of social strategies across marketing and sales leads to win rates of 44.2%, and that’s a difference of -5.3 points compared to the study’s average of 49.5%, and an actual decrease of 10.7%.
Now, let’s look at the second most important success factor: social selling adoption, the percentage of salespeople who use social selling skills, techniques and tools on a daily basis as part of their workflow.
More and more organizations drive their social selling adoption: the low adoption rates (below 50%) decrease, and the adoption rates between 50% and 75% increase.
In 2017, 71.2% of organizations reported adoption rates below 50%. In 2018, that number is only 61.8%, which is good news because more organizations have moved to higher adoption levels. In 2018, 27.4% reported adoption rates between 51% and 75%, compared to only 15.8% a year before. This group has almost doubled. The number of organizations that reported adoption rates greater than 76% is about the same in both years.
What does that mean? The good news here is that organizations continue to integrate the use of social selling tools and techniques in their selling processes and workflows. Doing so helps them to move from adoption rates lower than 50% into the range of 51%-75%. Now, the next question becomes: what is the impact of social selling adoption on sales results?
The better the social selling adoption rate, the better are the win rates for forecast deals and for quota attainment.
In more detail (and always compared to the study’s average of 49.5% win rate for forecast deals):
- Adoption rates between 51% and 75% show +3.4 points, which is an increase of 6.9%
- Adoption rates between 76% and 90% show +12.0 points which is an increase of 24.2%
Is this just for win rates? No, there is more good news. The performance impact for quota attainment shows a similar trend: Improvements in the 51%-75% range are 5.4%, and 15.5% in the 76%-90% range.
For sales leaders, sales enablement, sales operations and marketing leaders should sit together and develop an integrated social strategy along the customer’s path with an enablement initiative to engage, equip and empower the sales force effectively.
Let’s look at six practices that help you to drive your adoption rate and your performance.
- Fix the foundation and align the social strategies across marketing and sales:
It’s a prerequisite and a critical success factor at the same time. Only one integrated social strategy that covers the entire customer’s path ensures clarity, consistency and effectiveness.
- Develop a holistic social selling approach to drive adoption:
Here is what’s not driving adoption: investing in LinkedIn and Sales Navigator and rolling it out based on technical-features-and-functions training. Instead, develop a holistic approach of social selling enablement (skills, techniques, tools) along the entire customer’s path.
- Implement social selling enablement based on your processes and use cases:
Focus the enablement program on HOW to drive buyer engagement, not on how to push the tool buttons. Make sure that the training is focused on HOW to leverage social selling tools to connect and engage with the right buyers. Make sure that the initiative is based on the modern buyers’ key preferences (see also CSO Insights 2018 Buyer Preferences Study).
- Implement a social selling coaching program in parallel:
Your social selling training will fail if you don’t implement any reinforcement mechanisms. Develop social selling coaching program for your sales managers to get them up to speed. Leverage their street wisdom to design the entire social selling approach.
- Make sure that there is shareable social content available:
With all the new tools and the newly developed skills, if your sellers have nothing to share, it’s hard for them to apply what they learned. They need content, especially for prospecting purposes, content that is valuable, relevant and differentiating for your target buyer roles.
- Measure progress and success, but only measure the right things:
Measure what matters, and adjust accordingly, focus on conversion rates, regarding value, volume and velocity.