“Social selling” may be the latest buzzword worthy of a place on the BS bingo game board, but it’s a serious concept that affects every B2B sales rep, sales manager and sales executive on the planet. At the current rate of adoption, “social selling” is about to become as ubiquitous in the B2B world as “content marketing”, and I don’t think you want to be left behind.

From April 2012 to October 2014, the use of social selling on LinkedIn jumped by an average of 199% across industries, with Technology – Software leading the pack. You can see the surge in the following chart I remade from a LinkedIn CEB presentation.


But does social selling work?


Just because social selling is growing in use, does that mean it’s delivering results or is everyone just grabbing at the latest shiny object?

That question can be answered – definitively, in my opinion – with data from a number of sources. Here are six statistics that certainly seem to indicate social selling is on the rise because it improves sales performance– a reality sure to warm of the heart of any sales exec.

  1. Use of social media is the #1 factor for achieving high rep performance. Sales reps who use social as a major selling channel are 81% more likely to go from a 25 percentile to a 75 percentile performer. (CEB)
  1. Reps who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed quota; they find an average 45% more opportunities; and they are 3X more likely to go to the President’s Club. (LinkedIn)
  1. Sales professionals who use social selling help best-in-class companies achieve a 16% gain in year-over-year revenue – four times better than at typical companies. (Aberdeen)
  1. Sales reps who use social selling are promoted to manager, director or VP 17 months faster (LinkedIn)
  2. 64% of teams that use social selling hit quota compared to 49% that don’t (Aberdeen)
  3. IBM reported an amazing 400% increase in sales in the first quarter tied to a pilot program of social selling. (IBM)


Why is social selling delivering such great results?


While we’re looking at numbers, here are a few that help explain why social media has become such a key sales channel.


  • 70% of all B2B buyers are likely to be using social media for making buying decisions. And it’s not just low or middle level buyers. When we look strictly at C-level decision makers, the percentage jumps to 84%. That bears repeating. 84% of C-level decision makers are likely to be using social for making buying decisions. (IDC)
  • 57% (or more) of the purchase decision is done before a B2B buyer calls a supplier. (CEB) Buyers are doing their own initial research, much of it on social media.
  • 92% of buyers delete email and voice mail from people they don’t know. (Triblio)
  • Buyers are 5X more likely to engage with sales people with a warm introduction, easily attained via social media. (LinkedIn)
  • 82% of prospects can be reached via social media. (InsideView)


What do all these numbers mean for sales teams?


First, B2B buyers have already pushed contact with typical sales reps to the last possible moment, instead conducting their own research – primarily online. This is not new. It’s been happening ever since the Internet opened the gates to information that was once closely guarded. What is new – at least for the past four or five years – is the increasing reliance by buyers on social media as a key channel in gathering information to make a buying decision. To say it again, we’re now at the point where 84% of C-Level buyers are using social media to make buying decisions.

Second, B2B sellers are catching on quickly and becoming skilled social sellers in record numbers. LinkedIn data shows us the overall use of social selling has doubled over the past two years. (See chart above.) Experts from Aberdeen, Forester, CEB, Sales Bench Index, and McKinsey, to name a few, predict 2015 is the year social selling will begin to go mainstream and adaptation will explode over the next five years.


The bottom line is this: your buyers are looking for you on social media. If you don’t embrace social selling – if you don’t learn to love it – you simply will not be found; and your competition will.


Where to start


The vast majority of B2B buyers rank LinkedIn as the most important social network, and independent research from Oktopost shows that LinkedIn is responsible for generating 80% of social media leads; so why not start there. You can quickly determine whether or not your specific target audience is active on LinkedIn by running simple searches.

To get serious about social selling on LinkedIn, I believe most sales teams will benefit heavily by investing in Sales Navigator, LinkedIn’s platform for sales reps. To understand why the investment is worth it, read Liz Lawson’s review of Sales Navigator here.

The Conversion Company helps B2B firms harness the power of LinkedIn via social selling, lead generation programs and community development. If you want to know more about getting started in social selling or taking your team to the next level, we’re here to help.