The future of social selling: predictions from the experts

Social selling is no longer the domain of B2C, but is taking the B2B world by storm. The power is now in the hands of the buyer and new tools and tactics are rendering traditional sales and marketing practices obsolete at a very rapid rate.

Over 45% of B2B organisations claim they don’t know how to optimise social media in their sales organisation. To tackle these issues and what it means for organisations, Huthwaite, in association with LinkedIn, recently brought together a panel of industry experts at its  Future Forum to share insights into the future of social selling and discuss strategies for leveraging this channel.

The bottom line, ultimately, is that B2B organisations need to acknowledge that face to face engagement remains their key prospect engagement model, but this needs transferring to the online world to capitalise social networks which are more transparent and scalable platforms to ultimately deliver more valuable face to face interactions.

We asked the experts what the future looks like for social selling:

Skill set

The principles of sales and marketing remain consistent. As Huthwaite’s CEO John Golden puts it: if you can’t sell offline, you won’t be able to sell online. The core skills of searching out and identifying the right profiles of buyers, how to listen and understand what is most important to them and being able to engage in value-creating, investigative dialogue with them remain the same.

However, the level of skill will become even more critical because the unskilled seller is going to be more exposed than ever due to the permanency of online records and the knock-on effect on their organisation’s reputation could be catastrophic. Sales people need have first and foremost the best fundamental selling skills regardless of where they sell as well as the skills necessary to leverage the social media world.

The hybrid marketer/sales professional

As sales and marketing work closer together, a new professional will emerge who leads with insights and value and closes with authority. A new role will form to bridge the gap between sales and marketing professionals, and successful sales professionals now will not be around in 10 years unless they develop marketing expertise. This view was espoused particularly by lead gen consultant Tom Skotidas, director of Skotidas.

Personal brand

Those who understand the power of the personal brand will use social media as a tool to develop and scale-up their profile to stay front of mind and build presence to reduce the challenge of the ‘cold call’ and derive success from social platforms. Chris Collacott, senior digital marketing manager at Deloitte says personal brands will be critical to the success of sales and marketing professionals.

Predictive solutions

Combining the use of behavioural data to surface relevant content with the rapid evolution of connected devices we will see our devices providing us with the information we are seeking before we are even asking for it. Coupled with the fact social media is becoming more sophisticated by utilising geolocation, as well as rich media interactions, marketers need to create their digital and social media footprint now to be relevant in the future, says Marie Sornin, social media director at Fairfax Media.

Platform

In taking a step back and observing where other platforms are failing, Google Plus will take the second-mover advantage and come through with an all-round solution, predicts Danielle Di-Masi, a business etiquette and digital relationship expert, while LinkedIn will continue to be the professional space to connect and network. The importance of social selling will grow as our clients see that their customers want answers instantly, preferably through online channels, which in turn reaps cost benefits for the organisation.

 

A lot of uncertainty remains around social selling in most B2B organisations, but this trend will continue to grow at a rapid rate, continuing the pressure for sales and marketing to evolve. Organisations don’t need to make the decision to adopt social media, as their customers have made it for them. Perhaps the biggest risk of all is not getting involved and being visible in this space.

 

Adam Thorp
BY Adam Thorp ON 15 July 2013
Adam Thorp is managing director of Huthwaite Australia-New Zealand, specialists in sales and marketing performance improvement. His 20 years of experience make him one of the industry’s most sought after experts in sales, marketing and account management, assisting organisations in aligning buyer-focussed strategies with realistic execution.