He has a great Podcast series, and in this one he interviews, Daniel Disney, social selling trainer and author and Benjamin D. The UKs Most Hated sales trainer. Or, the "nuclear option" as he says on his profile.
As you will hear in the opening of this podcast, they both have strong opinions on the subject of Social Selling.
"But my guests don't ordinarily see eye to eye on sales tactics. But who is the better salesman? That's the question I put to both Daniel Disney and 🇬🇧 Benjamin D. The UK's Most Hated Sales Trainer® on our lock-down special of the podcast. Should social selling be called social marketing? Is cold calling dead? "
Daniel suggests that Social Selling is a strategy that can be used to sell entirely through social, as well as managing accounts and the sales process on LinkedIn or social more broadly.
Benjamin says it is purely a prospecting methodology. The same as cold calling, as email marketing or even carrier pigeon.
An interesting debate.
A quick check on Google, we will see the varying interpretation of the term over the years :
"Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy." - Hubspot 2014
"Social selling is a way for sales teams to use social media to connect with prospects and provide them with value. Consider it similar to lead nurturing, in the sense that your goal is to engage buyers on an on-going, long-term basis." Forbes 2017
"Social selling. By now you’ve certainly heard of it, but you may not be entirely sure what it means. Is it the same as social media marketing? (No.) What about social media advertising? (Nope, that’s something else altogether.) Social selling allows salespeople to laser-target prospects, establish rapport and with their networks, and possibly even ditch the dreaded practice of cold calling." Hootsuite 2019
"Social selling is about leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals. This sales technique enables better sales lead generation and sales prospecting process and eliminates the need for cold calling. Building and maintaining relationships is easier within the network that you and your customer trust." LinkedIn Sales Solutions
Anyone who follows me or has seen me speak will know that I am not a huge fan of the term either. We now have modern selling and digital selling to contend with as well. Maybe one day we will get back to just selling.
Before all of this, if someone asked me what I did, I would say, I am in sales. That's it, plain and simple. That meant I would prospect, meet the prospect, close, execute the contract. I was in recruitment so we ran our process cradle to grave.
Fast forward to today, the makeup of sales teams has changed somewhat. PreSales, Sales Development Reps, Account Executives, Account Managers, Inside Sales, Field Sales, Customer Success, and of course we now have "AI" Sales assistants and sales engagement tools.
Benjamin says this "Selling is the art of communication".
He is absolutely right. Communication now comes in many forms and mediums though.
I disagree that it is purely a prospecting methodology. I also partly disagree that it is "Social Marketing".
I also disagree with Daniel to some extent that the entire sales process can be done through LinkedIn unless what you are selling is low value and a low risk to the buyer - think 2 clicks on Amazon.
Here is my take on this debate.
Let's take out the selling aspect of the term "Social Selling" and focus on Social. It is a channel of communication. It is not the only channel of communication, as is discussed in the podcast.
The latest stats from Simon Kemp show there are now 3.81 billion people on social media.
Facebook is very close to having 3 billion monthly active users across all of its platforms, take into consideration the countries such as China who ban it, and that 4.57 billion people have access to the internet, Facebook is close to having half the world's population using it.
LinkedIn is now at 690million members and engagement rate has increased by 26%.
2.9 billion Marketing emails were sent in 2019.
I could go on, goodness knows how many cold calls are made on a daily basis, face to face (now online meetings) happen on a daily basis, and more.
The key in all of this, is how does your intended audience, i.e. the people you want to buy your product and service, want to be communicated with? And where? And How?
I would suggest that it is a combination of all of the above. It will vary from Industry to Industry, as well as culture.
What one cannot ignore is that social plays an integral part in our lives, 24/7. And we are influenced by what we see and read, as well as who shares it - this is why a whole sub-culture of marketing was born called Influencer Marketing.
This is where sales can tap into the social part of the sales process, start, middle, and end.
The best route into a net new client or cross-selling within an account is a referral. According to Topsalesworld "Salespeople who actively seek out and exploit referrals earn 4 to 5 times more than those who don’t."
LinkedIn is one of the best places to do this, certainly for me anyway. However, your referral network is only as good as your network. Therefore if you are not connecting and curating, then you will not be able to leverage this.
HOWEVER. I also recognize that if you sell into the S end of Small to Medium Enterprise, who may not be that active on social, then calling up in the first instance may well be your best approach. Also, if you are selling cold calling training, then cold calling your prospects is also a great way to demonstrate your craft. Benjamin is a master of his craft, I have watched his videos and if I had a team of phone-based salespeople, I would most definitely get him in to train them. However, as is discussed in the podcast, people will find excuses not to pick up the phone or will dial the speaking clock.
Guess what. The same goes for social. People find excuses to not update their profile, send a connection request, write a blog.
We have all seen the research about the amount of research that happens online in the due diligence phase when buyers are looking for new vendors. Again, this will be different for all of you depending on what it is you sell - this is not one size fits all. As you move up the deal size and solution that is being sold, the more people are involved in the decision-making process, the more likely things can do wrong or against you. This is where social can very much support an overall sales process, as Daniel rightly says.
Back to online due diligence. First impressions count. Be it the first 10 seconds of a cold call, Benjamin has a brilliant disarming opener for cold calls, go find his videos on YouTube to see what it is. Or, that first impression you make online, or social. Typically this will be LinkedIn, but ultimately it is anywhere you can be found online.
Benjamin sells cold calling training, however he also has a brilliant social presence too. If someone recommended Benjamin to you as trainer, and you couldn't find anything online about him, you would question why. Is this the marketing aspect of "social selling" - yes, probably it is. You are presenting your personal brand.
Daniel also presents himself very well online, you would be slightly worried as someone who sells social selling training if he didn't.
Research from Chief Sales Officer Insights shows that if you present yourself online as a Sales Person, this is less desirable to your intended audience as they are seeking out subject matter experts. This was back in 2018.
Neither Benjamin or Daniel presents themselves as salespeople, they are subject matter experts in their chosen fields. Yet they both sell.
Maintaining visibility during a sales process is key. Again, this is not one size fits all. If you sell one-off transactions with no opportunity to upsell or cross-sell, then this will be less relevant, other then being able to leverage referrals. If however, you have sales cycles which are a couple of months, through to multi-year, selling high value and complex solutions, then social can play a huge part in maintaining the conversation and moving through the sales funnel. Note the word "part". This is not saying don't have phone calls, meetings, emails, etc. This is to support and mix up the mediums of communications. Is this selling? I would argue yes it is, it is selling in the 21st Century, by maintaining the channels of communication.
Can these types of sales processes be closed over social? No. can they support it. Yes.
As Benjamin says "selling is the art of communication".
This is the heart of it all. Communication. If your communication is poor, then you are not going to be able to sell your product or service, no matter what it is.
This can be how you communicate on the phone. How you write an email. How you present yourself online. The types of content you create and curate to communicate with. This all influences people's impression of you.
I don't doubt there are people out there who look at Benjamin's style and approach and think, not for me. Guess what. That is ok. It will save them both time. The same applies to Daniel, for me and for you.
I like you,or not
Benjamin argues about being liked versus being trusted. Again, if you are doing short transactions and come and go, fair enough. If you are in a sale process for the longer game, I would argue that there has to be an element of liking the person to a certain extent. I am not suggesting going down the pub, being Facebook buddies liking, but that you are at least amicable with each other.
Trust of course. I trust that you are not going to screw this up and then it blows back on me for making the decision to bring you in, trust.
Therefore is Social Selling a made-up thing?
It is as made up as Influencer Marketing, Account-Based Marketing, Sales Engagement, Modern Selling, Digital Selling, Virtual Selling. I could go on.
Does it work as part of an end to end sales behavior and strategy? This will depend on a myriad of moving parts as I have discussed in this blog.
Starting with your ability to be able to sell in the first place.
I will end on this quotation from the founder of Node, Falon Fatemi
"The science is only as good as the art of your selling."
Should social selling be called social marketing?