In 2013, social selling started to become mission critical. Social selling has shown up in research from time to time in the past. However, there has not been enough evidence to prove it worked. That changed in 2013. SBI started to see proof that if sales forces put forth the time and energy to master social selling, they hit the number. It appears we are just getting started on this trend and will see another 7 to 10 years of it. In the past, a sales force had to depend on marketing for sufficient leads to make the number. Over the last 3 years, SBI has seen an over rotation in the dependence on marketing. Marketing has created optimism implementing lead generation programs, lead management initiatives, demand generation programs, marketing automation technology, etc. All these tools are needed, but they are not delivering the expected results. SBI research has found sales forces that depend primarily on marketing for opportunities to fill the funnel are unlikely to make the number. It is now time for sales to take ownership of opportunity identification through self-reliant prospecting. The way to do that in 2014 is through social selling. A complete review of Social Selling research can be reviewed at this event. Below are a few data points to support this finding: Social Selling is the number one source of rep generated opportunities. Today, about 30% of opportunities are sourced from marketing while 70% are sourced by sales. Successful reps began adopting social selling techniques in 2012 to source their own opportunities. Social Selling represents the number one shift in sales training dollars, a 48% increase in 2013. New trends typically do not get significant discretionary training budget dollars as they are unproven. The 2013 budget increase is evidence it is working. Social selling has the highest lead to close conversion rate of all prospecting methodologies. Social Selling sees about a 15% prospecting conversion rate, at least 5 times greater than the 3% prospecting success rate from marketing activities. When thinking about Social Selling, think LinkedIn. It is the number one platform used in B2B selling, capturing 56% of the share and growing at a rapid pace. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and many others make up the remaining share; suggesting LinkedIn is the single most important social platform. The 3 Steps to Social Selling Excellence There are three social selling steps leading sales forces implement: 1. Create World-Class LinkedIn Profiles Prospects today rely on the web to do their research. Not just research on problems and their solution options, but on people who can help them in their journey. When a buyer does a search looking for help, which LinkedIn profiles appear? If not a seller’s, the seller has lost an opportunity. When a buyer looks at a LinkedIn profile, the first question he asks is if this person can help me – Photo, Headline, Connections, Experience, Organizations, Honors/Awards, Projects, Education, Skills, Experience, Endorsements, Testimonials, etc. Is the profile internally focused on the seller or the seller’s company? Or is the profile buyer centric? If the profile does not convey the seller is someone worth meeting, the buyer will not engage with the seller. 2. Increase the Reach of the Sales Force This is done by multiplying the number and quality of connections in their LinkedIn database. In 2014, sales forces will make or miss their number based on the quantity and quality of the team’s LinkedIn Connections. LinkedIn Connections is the sales database. Marketing has their own database built from purchased lists, website form fills, etc. A quality sales database should be large enough to support Social Selling. It must include the right people. It cannot consist of fraternity brothers, people from the country club, etc. 3. Generate Referrals Amongst Buyers To monetize the sales database, a process is needed to get warm introductions to decision makers in target accounts. Learn how leading organizations use a 5 step process to generate Social referrals. You can review the full research findings by signing up here. It is a free onsite session with you and your leaders. In this, you will learn about the most effective forms of social debt. You will also get equipped with dozens of tools, templates and guides. What Should You Do Now? Leading sales organizations are taking 4 immediate actions to get value out of Social Selling. Have the sales force re-write their LinkedIn profiles to match the Buying Process Map. The sales force needs to represent themselves as a group who understands the buyers they are trying to reach. Audit the LinkedIn connections of the sales force for quantity and quality. Determine if they have enough effective reach. Train the sales team on building quality connections. Everyone needs to grow their network intelligently. Develop, train and implement a social referring program. Lastly, make sure to sign-up to review SBI’s complete annual research study here. The core area of focus in this review is on social selling. Evolve your sales force with the industry to “Make Your Number.” Your 2014 number depends on it. If you would like to download a copy of our recent research and learn more about the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, please register for the Global Premiere Event, live from Barcelona, November 4th. Register today!