As I write and talk about frequently, to succeed with social selling three things are needed: Strategy, Skills and Execution. Unfortunately, many sellers are jumping straight to tactics without having established an initial plan that they can measure and track against and consistent execution is often poor. I’ve written about these things in the past. Today, I want to focus on the topic of skills.
There is a level of noise related to social selling that has become a little ridiculous. Yes. If you are in sales today (or in business for that matter), you need to understand how the use of social channels like LinkedIn fit. But what you don’t hear often enough, which is why I keep banging the drum, is that you must have great selling skills if you plan to close business. It is great if you become adept at using social to set up sales meetings, but social media isn’t going to help you after that. What you do in the meeting is what matters most.
In RAIN Group’s report, What Sales Winners Do Differently, there were 42 factors that separated the winners from the distant second place finishers. Among the factors that buyers identified as being most important to them in making a buying decision:
- educating with new ideas and perspectives
- collaborated with me
- listened to me
- understood my needs
- connected with me personally
- helped me avoid pitfalls
- crafted a compelling solution
These were among the top 10 factors that buyers cared most about. Yet, in listening to and observing hundreds of sales calls and presentations and reading countless emails that sellers send to prospects, it is quite obvious to me that most sellers aren’t considering that their sales approach is out of alignment with what really wins the sale.
Very few educational institutions offer a degree in sales, which is surprising given the financial impact that sales has on any business. In lieu of a formal degree, you might expect that sales leaders insist that their sales people are formally trained on the mechanics of effective selling before turning them loose on unsuspecting prospects. If only that were true. Very few companies have a formal sales program that teaches the right people skills (sales and technology) and a process that is replicated consistently across the sales organization.
Research conducted by Harris Interactive and Career Builder discovered that:
- 1 in 6 sales managers in firms that have missed revenue goals in the last year cited a lack of sales training as a cause.
- 55 percent of sales leaders said their companies spend $10,000 or less on sales training annually.
Those companies that do invest in training are doing it internally and usually with a focus on product features. Clearly, enough investment in the science of great selling is not being made. Without training, how do sales people learn? Mostly by trial and error, and that’s costly for their employer. New sales people may shadow a few top sales performers or be encouraged to follow the “best practices” of their peers, but that’s risky. Top performers may make their numbers but are you sure that their selling skills, behavior and process are what you want others to model?
Add social media to the mix and selling becomes a little more complex. There is an art to navigating in the social sphere and using social tools to blast broadcast sales spam will have a negative impact on your brand and slow down the ability to achieve sales goals.
Sales leaders need to ensure that an investment in skills development programs for their people, which include ongoing reinforcement, is made. Anything less and they risk leaving revenue results to chance! By the way, if you are in sales – don’t wait for your employer to invest in you. You need to invest in you. All great sellers invest in their own success. You should too!