Last week I attended a webinar run by the Sales Management Association on the topic of social media and sales operations. This event gives us a second look at the topic we first considered last week with the TAS Group’s ‘Enabling Social Enterprise through Sales’.
The event was based on a study done in conjunction with the University of Mexico and the Universidad Catolico de Chile. The study looked at 140 companies, specifically targeting responses from management level sales associates.
Summary conclusions as presented in the webinar:
- LinkedIn is considered the most useful platform for respondents, and drives the most activity
- Only ~1/3 of respondents deem social media engagement “significant” by their firms
- Respondents believe their own firms’ social media engagement lags that of their important customers
- Future engagement is expected in increase – more than half of responding firms will significantly increase their engagement with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
- ~2/3 of responding organizations do not have a social media strategy for the sales organization
- ~80% believe the sales force would be more productive with a greater social media presence
- Most respondents do not believe the sales force has a solid understanding of how to use social media, and few have had sufficient training
Right now, marketing is responsible for most of the social media activity done on sales’ behalf. Leading companies are developing sales-specific social media strategies as well as those carried out at the general corporate level.
Most companies have noted a significant increase in buyers’ use of social media, and sales organizations feel that they are in the position on trying to catch up.
The key to a productive social media strategy is finding a way to connect with the right people at the right time to start the right conversation. Most sales managers believe their teams would be able to improve their productivity with a greater social media presence.
So if social media is regarded as so important, why is their not more engagement, training and adoption aimed at realizing that increased productivity?
- Social contagion: Most sales people make use of social media because their competitors and customers do, not because they are executing a strategy developed from within their own organization.
- Short term view: Sales is a ‘coin operated’ function, meaning they are always focused on the current quarter’s activity, and don’t want to take a chance on something new if it doesn’t promise short-term payback.
So how does sales use social media? According to feedback from SAP:
- Getting people’s background and contact information to facilitate a connection or prepare for a call
- Gathering company and competitor information
- Better understanding of how their own company or products are perceived
- Demonstrate thought leadership representing solution differentiation
- Communicating events
- Collaboration with peers, partners and customers