Current Attitudes of Sales Pros Towards Social Media

I wrote a post earlier this year titled “The Invisible Sales Rep” in which I wondered out loud why anyone in sales would ignore the power and capabilities of the social web.  In the post I shared some real-life examples of what I have been finding within sales organizations.

Shortly after the post ran I learned of a survey produced by the respected Paul McCord (Sales and Management Blog) and Richardson Sales Training that asked sales professionals about their feelings and experiences with Social Media in Sales and Marketing.

Social Survey coverThe results are in and the 12 page free download is available here:  The 2011 Richardson/McCord Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey.

In his post Paul reflected on the two key items that jumped out for him:

1.  Both salespeople and companies, whether they currently use social media or not, are struggling to figure out how to use it effectively. In fact, few—even those with sophisticated marketing departments investing time and effort into the process—have any real social media strategy.  Undoubtedly, this will be true for quite some time to come–and, of course, that means there are and will be thousands out looking to take your money to help you learn the hows of making Social Media work.  The lesson here: be extremely careful as there are many who know little more than how to construct a tweet who are anxious to take your money.

2.  To date, social media has been pretty useless in generating actual sales.  By far the most use salespeople and companies are getting from social media is in the area of prospecting–finding new prospects to contact using traditional means, not in making sales.  Again, this will probably be the case for a long, long time–it may always be the case.  Except for web-based sellers, few are realizing any real sales volume from their social media activities.  The lesson?  If you’re thinking you’re going to make easy money by spending time on social media and not having to do the hard work of prospecting, well, good luck with that thought.  On the other hand, if you’re not using social media to help identify and research prospects, you’re probably wasting a heck of a lot of time elsewhere.

My thoughts offered for your consideration:

Sales Leaders: Read through the survey results and consider what the current state of your sales force activity.  Are your personal social media attitudes reflected in your sales team? You might not have needed Social Media when you were an individual contributor, but the game has changed.  Are you providing the support for your sales team to utilize the appropriate sales tools now available.  Are you hiring new sales talent that understands the new selling environment?  Are you training your sales team on these tools appropriately?

Sales Executives: Do you really understand how to use Social Media effectively for sales? Have you optimized your profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter to reflect who you are and what you do?  Are you connecting to your customers and prospects?  Are you utilizing the appropriate social tools to their fullest.  Are you investing a portion of your time/money into training of the newest thinking in this fast-moving environment?  Do you know what your customer and prospects are doing online?

Thanks to Paul and Richardson for making the survey results available for free.  I would like to hear what you think – spot on or way off base?

  • Linda Reyburn

    Might make more sense to survey more people whose companies are worth less than $1 million. Large companies are so large that social media, which is based on personal relationships, would be less effective. Small (1-10 employees) companies are still driven by personal relationships and referrals, so it would help them more – although they suffer most from lack of time.

    • Linda, As is always the case with surveys, a larger sample size is always preferred. Hopefully, the next survey that is done can include a wider base of sponsoring companies, thus increasing the likelihood of additional participation. I for one would welcome sending the invitation to all subscribers to Fill the Funnel.

      I disagree with your point though, that personal relationships are less important in selling from within a large company vs. a small one. I have worked in several of the largest tech companies in the world as well as start-ups with two people in them. From my experience, relationship is equally as important in either environment. There are differences in the selling process no doubt, but relationship is still king.

  • Point No 2: To date, social media has been pretty useless in generating actual sales.

    I spend several hours every day with 1.4 Million IT technology buyers. They would strongly disagree with this statement. Again more evidence of the massive disconnect between sales and IT buyers

    • Kenny, sounds like you have experiences more similar to mine than those uncovered in the survey. Care to share a bit more? I read your tweets to Trish at @bridgegroupinc about the survey and am hoping you give us more details about something that you feel so strongly about.

  • Sam Krassow

    I don’t think Paul’s and Kenny’s results are contradictory. This is a very enlightening little piece, and both opinions are ‘to blame’. I am in the former situation, and it appears Kenny, and you Miles, have been able to turn the corner. I’ve read/heard many thoughts on how to implement, but have not been able to come up with a plan that would be workable in my company. I need something that is easy to implement almost by myself, is not expensive (at least until I can show some results), and won’t take hours a day to use. And of course, is not from one of those impostors Paul mentions.

  • Kenny, I think the key to the different experience you’ve had vs the salespeople who responded ot our survey is embeded in your comment–IT buyers, that is, buyers who are predisposed to using technology to a much larger extent that most buyers. Certainly as the survey results explain, there are industries that do exceptionally well selling via social media, most do not, but certainly one would expect IT buyers to be one of those.

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