I love talking to sales leaders about their lead development, inside sales and lead qualification processes. But sadly, I am more accustomed to hearing about the disappointments and failures than the successes. With only 54% of reps hitting quota, that isn’t much of a surprise, right? Well, recently, I was invited ‘inside the fold’ to observe the current state and behaviors of a prospect’s sales team—and what I experienced was shocking. While there were scores of reps in front of their computers, it was eerily quiet. After a while, I asked a few reps what they were doing and the reply was ‘research’. I couldn’t fathom what kind of research could take so long. What were they looking for? How long a prospect has been at the company or who they took to prom? If they worked for FRONTLINE Selling, I would’ve told them to pick up the damn phone! But according to their manager, they were ‘social selling’. And that’s the buzzword that’s killing revenue.
Social Selling isn’t a farce
I’m not here to tell you that social selling has no place in B2B sales—it most certainly does. But when it becomes so time-consuming that it eats away at your reps’ time on the phones, it’s officially a detriment to the sales process. One of our inside sales managers, Chris Duncan, famously said “With all the tools available, sales people have come to believe they can do just about everything without doing anything.” And social selling is a perfect example of doing less with the hope of it resulting in more.
Humans will naturally take the path of least resistance, and we cannot ignore that it is far easier for reps to attempt to connect online than to hop on the phones. I get that—we are all guilty of similar behavior every day. I order pizza online instead of dialing up the store. I Google a company to learn about them instead of calling and simply asking to speak to someone. Being online is easier, but removing that human element from sales is dangerous. We all know that people buy from people, but they don’t buy from online profiles.
Social Selling vs. Research
One of the great benefits of the internet is the ability to learn about your prospect before a call. But Business Development Reps treat sites like LinkedIn as if it’s a CIA secret that only they know exists. The information one can acquire through ‘online research’ is the same information every other sales person can gather—so nothing your reps uncover is likely to be earth-shattering or the secret key to getting that first appointment. Even if your sales rep finds some tidbit of information to use, how comfortable are you with their ability to consistently consume, internalize and then express that information in a constructive and effective manner?
Shrewd sales managers know that social selling is completely different than researching a prospect. It’s about sharing helpful content, engaging with your prospects in the online spaces where they lurk, and developing a relationship and reputation as a thought leader. That’s not even remotely the same as researching a prospect before placing a call, but somewhere along the line, the two concepts have blurred. In the absence of solid training on what social selling is and how to do it effectively and efficiently, your reps will almost assuredly waste time ‘going down the rabbit hole’. In fact, according to Docurated’s State of Sales Productivity 2015 study, sales people are only spending about 1/3 of their day actually selling. Yikes. Isn’t it time to pull back the reins on disruptive behaviors and focus on proven, productive ones?
Get back on the phones
I’m all for using new strategies and tools that enable your team to be more efficient and productive. But too much time is being wasted on non-selling activities and it’s up to you, the managers and leaders, to take back control. Educate and train your team on the value (and limitations) of social selling and every other distracting activity that is sapping your revenue.
The phone is, and always has been, the key to B2B sales, and I challenge you and your team to go ‘old school’. Just pick up the phone…again, and again…and see what happens. As a successful salesman who did exactly that for over 20 years, I can confidently say there is no more effective way to create sales opportunities.
So get your reps back on the phones. And when they start experiencing unbelievable success, they can post it on LinkedIn. That’s my kind of social selling.