• September 1, 2016
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmarCustomerService.com

Social Selling Tops Sales Best Practices

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With social selling—the process of developing relationships with customers as part of the sales process—anyone has the potential to sell more, but the best companies have figured out how to use social selling as a real sales tool, according to findings from CSO Insights’ 13th annual Sales Best Practices Study.

Very few companies excel at social selling, though, according to the research. “Seventy percent of companies rated their social selling training as poor, so it’s no wonder companies are not doing it well,” says Jim Dickie, one of the authors of the report and a research fellow at CSO Insights, part of MHI Global.

Social selling, Dickie adds, “is something everyone has to get better at doing.”

Today the sales process is all about relationships, which ultimately build customer trust, Dickie states. “If you’re going to be selling around the world, you have to know your customer wherever he is and continue to show him that you are the most trusted vendor in your space,” he says.

That, Dickie adds, requires salespeople to know everything they can about their customers and prospects.

The research reveals similarities among world-class sales organizations—the top 7.7 percent of the overall study population, ranked by the number of qualified opportunities, new account acquisition, average deal size, year-over-year revenue growth, and sales quota attainment. It reveals that these leading enterprises establish processes for managing global accounts, implement social guidelines, and use sales analytics. These efforts have led them to outperform their peers by at least 21 percent.

To highlight the importance of analytics and data to the sales process, and to social selling in particular, other findings from the research include the following:

  • Ninety-four percent of world-class sales performers align sales and marketing to what the customer wants and needs, compared to 39 percent of all respondents.
  • Ninety percent of world-class performers reported the relevance of having access to key decision makers in large deals, compared to 38 percent of all respondents.
  • Ninety-seven percent of world-class performers developed executive-level relationships with strategic accounts in a systematic way, compared to 40 percent of all respondents.
  • Ninety-two percent of world-class performers have the organizational structure in place to adapt to buyer behaviors, compared to 39 percent of all respondents.

Other best practices indicated by the findings include the following:

  • Ninety-four percent of world-class sales performers allocate the right resources to pursue large deals, compared to 40 percent of all respondents.
  • Ninety-four percent of world-class performers understand why their top performers are successful, compared to 44 percent of all respondents.
  • Eighty-two percent of world-class performers have highly effective processes for getting new hires to full productivity, compared to 22 percent of all respondents.
  • Eighty-eight percent of sales managers in world-class performers spend adequate time monthly coaching individual team members, compared to 32 percent of all respondents.

Despite the fact that global account management is of growing importance, CSO Insights’ analysis showed this is one of the largest gaps between world-class companies and all others. While 91 percent of world-class sales performers have effective processes for global account management, 32 percent of respondents do not.

The right process starts with making a distinction between strategic and global accounts. Important next steps include defining how the customer makes buying decisions, how delivery is organized, and how many resources in each country are required to create the expected value for the customer.

And while he admits that there are no standard rules for selling, Dickie says there is one that is very basic and intuitive: “We have to teach salespeople how to have dialogues with customers and understand the markets they are trying to sell into,” he says. “We need to figure out who the right people are at [customer companies] and establish why we need to talk to them and why they need to talk to us.” 

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