Sales Research company CSO Insights and Seismic, a sales enablement vendor, asked 400 global B2B professionals about the benefits of social selling tools. These tools include sales enablement, social listening, and social marketing solutions. A full 38% weren’t sure of the benefits of these tools speaking to a need for vendors to better explain their value and provide user metrics.
The problem of value attribution has long been an issue with sales intelligence services as well, but as sales intelligence has become more tightly tied into the overall sales and marketing process, clear benefits such as reduced time spent keying and maintaining account information and the direct display of account intelligence within CRM I-frames have helped validate sales intelligence tools.
Likewise, B2B professionals found the biggest benefits of social selling tools to be reduced account / contact research time (39%), an increase in the number of leads (33%) and deeper client relationships (31%). Broader process improvements were noted at lower rates with improved lead conversion (24%), shorter sales cycles (14%), and increased win rates on forecasted deals (13%) rounding out the benefits.
However, when the sub-group of professionals at firms which have aligned their social marketing and selling strategies was assessed, CSO Insights found a sixteen percent improvement in win rates. Furthermore, the benefits were better understood with 57% enjoying more leads and 56% found deeper client relationships. Amongst this group, only 18% were unsure about the benefits of social selling tools. Thus, CSO Insights concluded that the high percentage of B2B professionals doubting the value of social selling tools was due to “a lack of maturity.”
CSO Insights defined social engagement as “equipping salespeople with skills, tools, and content to successfully navigate the change, decision, and value dynamics along the entire customer’s journey by leveraging social media.” I find this definition a bit limiting operationally for vendors as it focuses exclusively on social media. Both social selling and sales intelligence vendors have made the mistake of ignoring each other. There are a few exceptions such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator adding a news feed and InsideView’s integrated social media Buzz tab, but most vendors either focus on profiles and news alerts/triggers or social monitoring and messaging. The lack of fully integrated social monitoring and messaging tools within sales intelligence platforms remains a missed opportunity to improve sales intelligence products.
A 2015 CSO Insights study of sales reps found that 33% felt social selling training was in need of a major redesign and 31% felt the training needs improvement. CSO Insights warns against reducing social selling training to LinkedIn or Twitter training. Research Director Tamara Schenk cautions that lessons from CRM training were not transferred to social selling training. “Salespeople are again asked to take tool training when at the same time the tool and the required skills have not yet been integrated into the current sales system, methodologies and processes. The result is the same. The new tool, social selling, is then considered as a time-consuming add-on rather than an effective enabler to create more and better business.”
Schenk noted that social strategy needs to be defined with marketing. “An organization’s social strategy has to be aligned along the customer’s journey. [Sales] Enablement leaders are in an ideal position to orchestrate this process. After that, social selling skills have to be integrated in the current methodologies, engagement principles, and processes. Only then, not earlier, can social selling training services be designed and provided. And using the technology effectively is just one element. Another key element is the content challenge. Relevant and valuable content to attract prospects has to be made available for salespeople, ideally on the sales enablement platform with no further internal obstacles to access this content.”
The CSO Insights research was conducted in July by Schenk and Strategic Advisor Jim Dickie. The study was based upon responses from B2B sales managers (61%), sales ops (21%), marketing (8%) and other roles located in North America (59%) and rest of world (41%).