What’s Stopping Sales From Embracing Social Selling?

Jim Keenan
Jim Keenan



depressed_salesmanI’m a huge advocate of salespeople. I love sales. But the longer I’m a consultant, the more discouraged I feel. They just don’t get it.

Social selling is a prime example. When I meet with clients and talk to salespeople, not nearly enough are using social media.   

Yes, every salesperson uses LinkedIn to find people and get introductions. Maybe they research a prospect’s profile before a call. But that’s not what I mean.

To me, fully leveraging the social aspect of social media means joining and getting involved in LinkedIn groups, creating content on a blog or social network to spur relationships and earn followers, disseminating insights, and engaging with strangers to turn them into contacts. 

That’s what social selling is about. Without content, social media loses almost all of its value.

But only a precious few sales organizations are doing this, and it depresses me. In an effort to improve my mood, here’s what I think is holding sales back from doing social selling right.

It’s not a silver bullet.

There’s so much pressure on salespeople to hit quota that any activity without a direct correlation to closing a deal is something they’re simply not interested in. It’s not as if a sales rep can count on six more prospects in the pipeline after spending as many hours on social media, like they could if they had spent their afternoon cold calling. Without that immediate payoff, they just won’t do it. 

Salespeople aren’t always insightful.

No one’s going to like this one, but it’s true. Some salespeople are great at pushing products, but they don’t have a command of the space they’re selling in. They don’t understand the business problems that tax their customers. They’re not following the major trends in their industry. 

What this means is that they don’t have much to say on social media. There’s not a lot they could post that potential customers would gravitate to, and they don’t have the background to spot and share interesting stuff. And no one wants to follow an irrelevant person.

Organizations aren’t providing support.

Whether it’s Marketing or Sales Enablement, a department needs to be assigned to help salespeople use social more effectively, and it’s not happening. Product specs aside, companies aren’t educating their reps on the things that matter in social selling -- industry research, customer business issues, etc. At least throw some insights or pre-packaged tweets their way. 

Personally, if I was a salesperson who wanted to get up to speed on social selling, I would take it upon myself. But if you want company-wide adoption, you need Sales Enablement or Marketing to systematize the effort. 

Senior leadership isn’t on board.

Recently, my team and I looked through the Fortune 500 and tried to identify all the heads of sales and then find them on Twitter. Of a list of 200 leaders, how many Twitter accounts did we come up with? Six.

If sales leadership doesn’t use social, there’s no hope for adoption at the manager or rep level.

Social media policies bar entry.

If you can believe it, there are still a sizable number of companies that block employees’ access to social media. 

It’s crazy. I remember when email first came out, not everyone was trusted with it. What if they email a customer something inappropriate? Before email, not everyone was permitted to have a work phone. What if they spend their whole day making personal calls?

Now everyone has email and a phone. One of your reps could call up a customer and call them a jerk. They could email them confidential information and you’d probably never know.

My advice? Hire better people and stop being stupid. Blocking social media isn’t damage control -- it’s strangulation. 

If the situations or mindsets I’ve described above are prevalent at your organization, get rid of them and start moving toward a more socially enabled sales process. Hopefully awareness is part of the solution.

Topics: Social Selling

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