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Aberdeen Group's Report on Social Selling 2/2013

Jill Sida
Jill Sida
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February, 2013
   Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-
   Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results
The use of Social Media has become virtually universal, both for personal                                                   Research Brief
use as well as for a fast-growing set of business-to-consumer (B2C)
                                                                                                                            Aberdeen’s Research Briefs
applications. In the case of business-to-business (B2B) interactions, however,                                              provide a detailed exploration of
adoption rates have not been growing at as aggressive a pace. Still, new                                                    key findings from a primary
Aberdeen research on Social Selling reveals a number of best practices that                                                 research study, including key
contemporary professional sales organizations are using to grow their B2B                                                   performance indicators, Best-in-
success stories. This Research Brief will explore how top-performing                                                        Class insight, and vendor insight.
companies enable their sellers with the most effective tools to collaborate,
listen, and contribute to the world of user-generated content.

Setting the Stage: Social Selling Defined
In May and June 2012, Aberdeen collected the survey results from 182 end-
users regarding their use of social media to support sales effectiveness, with
the resulting research to be published in Social Selling: Unleashing the Power of
Social Media on B2B Sales Enablement (Q4 2012). By defining "social selling" as
utilization of one of the three following practices, we see in Figure 1 that
users of social selling far out-pace other companies around a number of key
performance indicators (KPIs) directly related to sales effectiveness:
      •                              Social Collaboration: The use of social media platforms to com-
                                     municate with internal or channel partner team members, in order to
                                     benefit from shared "tribal knowledge" in acquiring / servicing customers.

Figure 1: Current Performance Benefits of Social Selling
                                     70%

                                              64%            Users of Social Selling    All others
          Percentage of Attainment




                                     60%
                                                                   55%                 54%

                                     50%            49%
                                                                          48%
                                                                                                     46%

                                                                                             42%
                                     40%                                                                    38%



                                     30%
                                              Total team           Customer              Sales       Percent of
                                              attainment            renewal            forecast      sales reps
                                            of sales quota            rate             accuracy      achieving
                                                                                                       quota
                                                                                                      n = 182

                                                                                       Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012
This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent
the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not
be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc.
Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize
Sales Results
Page 2



                             •     External Listening: Traditional sales intelligence, i.e. demographic                               The Social Selling Best-in-Class
                                   data about people and companies, has become little more than a
                                                                                                                                      In April and May 2012, Aberdeen
                                   commodity. Instead, the more relevant information about prospects /                                surveyed 173 end-user sales
                                   customers is behavioral, i.e. what are they thinking or doing, and is best                         organizations to understand how
                                   collected via user-generated content regarding the individuals,                                    the top performers among them
                                   organizations and trends that impact the selling / buying relationship.                            use social media. The
                                                                                                                                      performance metrics used to
                             •     External Participation: While the first instinct of most salespeople is                            define the Best-in-Class (top
                                   naturally to sell, a more cautious approach focused on providing subject                           20%), Industry Average (middle
                                   matter expertise can be a more effective way to build credibility with a                           50%) and Laggard (bottom 30%)
                                   prospective customer. Buyers who have become unresponsive to                                       among these sales teams are:
                                   traditional sales / marketing messages are more likely to engage with                              √ 79% of sales reps achieved
                                   someone who has added value to their business; social communications                                  quota in the last calendar or
                                   are a natural fit for this approach.                                                                  fiscal year, compared with 43%
                                                                                                                                         and 15% among Industry
                                                                                                                                         Average and Laggard firms
Best-in-Class Use of Social Selling
                                                                                                                                      √ 16.3% year-over-year increase
For this study, Aberdeen has determined the Best-in-Class cohort of the most                                                             in total company revenue,
successful companies, as determined by KPIs relevant to sales achievements –                                                             versus 4.1% for Industry
see sidebar. Like Industry Average and Laggard firms, these top performers                                                               Average companies and an
provide Aberdeen with insight into the external business pressures that                                                                  8.7% decline among Laggards
motivate them to use social selling tools. The leading pressure reported by the                                                       √ 8.9% year-over-year increase in
Best-in-Class is “Customer and prospects are communicating on social                                                                     average deal size or contract
networks; we need to be there too” (71% nominated it as a top-two concern),                                                              value; Industry Average and
followed by “Address the diminishing effectiveness of traditional marketing                                                              Laggard companies reported
activities,” at 57% of the Best-in-Class. These two imperatives tell a compelling                                                        1.7% increase and a 6.6%
                                                                                                                                         decline, respectively
story regarding why social selling is so crucial: the need to communicate with
buyers in the spaces they occupy, and to put aside the traditional reliance on the                                                    √ The average sales cycle was
Marketing function to simply serve up highly qualified sales leads.                                                                      shorted by the Best-in-Class by
                                                                                                                                         0.7%, and by Industry Average
Figure 2: Social Selling Strategies, by Best-in-Class                                                                                    firms by 0.2%; Laggards report
                                                                                                                                         an average lengthening of the
                                                         Best-in-Class     Industry Average      Laggard
                                                                                                                                         sales cycle of 5.3%
                             75%     73%
                                                         70%
                                                                             67%
                                                                                                60%
                             60%
 Percentage of Respondents




                                                 47%          50%                                     48%           50%
                                           44%
                             45%                                                 40%
                                                                  30%                29%                                  31%31%
                             30%


                             15%

                                                                                                           0%
                             0%
                                    Expand lead        Educate sales staff Support customer Educate sales staff Track prospect/
                                     generation        on use of external     acquisition/    on use of internal customer sentiment
                                   activity through    social media tools service with social social media tools   to predict most
                                        social                                 platform                                effective
                                   media marketing                         enabling real-time                        messaging
                                                                               customer
                                                                            communication                                n = 182


                                                                                         Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012

Indeed, looking at the actions that companies take to alleviate these pressures,
we see in Figure 2 that the most successful companies significantly out-adopt

© 2012 Aberdeen Group.                                                                                                                    Telephone: 617 854 5200
www.aberdeen.com                                                                                                                                Fax: 617 723 7897
Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize
Sales Results
Page 3



others in terms of both marketing- and sales-centric strategies to help both                                                        Aberdeen’s PACE Methodology
their own staff, and prospects / customers, with these social tools. Of
                                                                                                                                    Aberdeen applies a methodology
particular note is the dramatic difference between high and low-performing
                                                                                                                                    to benchmark research that
companies regarding adoption rates of strategies such as coaching sales team                                                        evaluates the business Pressures,
members around the nuances of successfully deploying social selling practices.                                                      Actions, Capabilities, and
                                                                                                                                    Enablers (PACE) that indicate
Supporting Social Selling with Superior Capabilities                                                                                corporate behavior in specific
                                                                                                                                    business processes:
Once these highly effective social selling strategies are in place, organizations
are able to support their sales and service personnel with core competencies                                                        √ Pressures — external forces
that ensure the best opportunities for them to succeed. In Figure 3, we look                                                          that impact an organization’s
at a number of process-oriented business capabilities that the Best-in-Class                                                          market position,
are deploying more frequently than other firms. These approaches share in                                                             competitiveness, or business
                                                                                                                                      operations.
common an awareness of the many external constituencies – over whom sales
organizations traditionally have little control – that can impact overall                                                           √ Actions — the strategic
corporate success or failure. These processes give sellers an edge in many                                                            approaches that an
situations by intelligently deploying social media tools:                                                                             organization takes in response
                                                                                                                                      to industry pressures.
Figure 3: Better Processes Yield Better Results                                                                                     √ Capabilities — the business
                                                                                                                                      process competencies
                            75%      70%                 Best-in-Class     Industry Average     Laggard                               (process, organization,
                                                               60%                                                                    performance and knowledge
Percentage of Respondents




                            60%                                                        56%
                                                                                                              50%                     management) required to
                                           46%
                            45%                                                                                      39%              execute corporate strategy.
                                                                                              31%                       29%
                            30%
                                                 21%
                                                                                                                                    √ Enablers — the key
                                                                     20%
                                                                                                                                      functionality of technology
                            15%                                                                     9%
                                                                                                                                      solutions required to support
                                                                           0%
                            0%                                                                                                        the organization’s enabling
                                   Process to identify
                                     external social
                                                            Formalized processes Formal ability to launch
                                                           supporting social media reactive social media
                                                                                                            Process for “like-to-
                                                                                                            lead,”i.e. prospects
                                                                                                                                      business practices.
                                      influencers           initiatives undertaken       campaigns            showing interest
                                                             by channel partners based on trigger events entering our marketing/
                                                                                              or               sales pipeline
                                                                                   content requiring “rapid
                                                                                         response”
                                                                                                                   n = 182
                                                                                         Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012

                            •     Identify external social influencers: with the Best-in-Class more
                                  than three-times as likely as Laggards (70% vs. 21%) to support their
                                  sellers in this way, such top-performing companies are enabling their
                                  team members to recognize and monitor the bloggers, tweeters and
                                  other free-form commenters who can potentially reveal both positive
                                  and negative customer sentiment about the company and its products.
                            •     Provide channel partners with social selling support: Aberdeen
                                  research published in Partner Relationship Management: Channeling
                                  Better Sales Results (March, 2012) showcased a Best-in-Class (defined
                                  by peak results in channel sales quota attainment, and growth in
                                  channel lead conversion rates and overall corporate revenue) that was
                                  63% more likely than other companies (31% vs. 19%) to provide
                                  “Syndicated social media providing posts about news, market changes
                                  and trigger events.” Simply put: if your revenue is partner-driven, why

© 2012 Aberdeen Group.                                                                                                                   Telephone: 617 854 5200
www.aberdeen.com                                                                                                                               Fax: 617 723 7897
Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize
Sales Results
Page 4



        not provide them with the same support you offer on-staff sellers,            Sector Definition: Social Selling
        especially if your channel does not sell exclusively for you?
                                                                                      For the purposes of this
    •   Rapid response capability: Today’s 24-hour news cycle practically             research, “social selling” refers
        demands – and enables – the tracking of user-generated content in             to Best-in-Class adoption of:
        real-time, accompanied by a response to any political, product                (1) internal collaborative social
        challenge or sudden event with immediate effectiveness. In practical          tools used by sales
        B2B terms, this translates into sales teams tapping into the social           professionals to benefit team-
        media stream so that important events – mergers / acquisitions, C-            based selling; (2) how sales
        level personnel changes, legislation that impacts products or services        teams “listen” to external
                                                                                      social content pertaining to
        – can be digested and responded to with organized, prepared and
                                                                                      their customers, accounts and
        effective sales activities. For example, a user-generated LinkedIn            target markets; and (3) active
        update about a senior line-of-business leader changing roles, can be          use of posts, tweets or wikis
        leveraged by an attentive account manager in the middle of selling to         by sales reps who contribute
        the executive’s former firm – the sales approach will need to be              to the online conversations, in
        quickly re-crafted – as well as gaining the upper-hand by being “first in     order to more effectively
        the door” regarding the contact’s new role.                                   impact eventual buying
                                                                                      decisions.
    •   “Like-to-lead” jumps from consumer to business: most of us
        are now seeing Facebook ads triggered by the people, pages and
        institutions we follow. In the B2B space, the similar act of sharing
        content generates an opt-in approach that marketers love, because
        they are pinpointing more likely sales-ready leads based on the active        Fast Facts: Organizational
        nature of content curation, as opposed to the passive use of                  Capabilities Supporting Social
        increasingly ineffective purchased email lists. The Best-in-Class are         Selling
        39% more likely than other companies (50% vs. 36%) to adopt this              √ 80% of the Best-in-Class have
        new and rapidly growing approach to targeted marketing and selling.             an identified internal
                                                                                        evangelist for spreading
In addition to these process-oriented capabilities, we see in Table 1 a number
                                                                                        internal use, monitoring and
of knowledge management competencies implemented by the Best-in-Class at                best practices of social media,
dramatically higher rates than under-performing survey respondent                       vs. 52% of Industry Average
organizations.                                                                          and 11% of Laggard firms.
                                                                                      √ 75% of the Best-in-Class have
Table 1: Knowledge Management Social Selling Best Practices
                                                                                        internal subject matter
  Knowledge Management                 Best-in-      Industry                           experts (SMEs) or other go-
                                                                     Laggard            to staff members specifically
        Capability                      Class        Average
Social media used to capture and                                                        focused on social media; 70%
                                         88%             43%            22%             and 27% respectively of
disseminate documents internally
                                                                                        Average and Laggard
Use of customer / prospect data to
drive marketing or selling messaging
                                         75%             50%            27%             companies do the same.
Private “deal room” or workspace                                                      √ A company policy for
                                         75%             19%            0%
used by both buyer and seller                                                           employee use of social media
Capture data to engage customers                                                        exists within 60% of the Best-
through personalized social              70%             35%            40%             in-Class, 50% of the Industry
communications                                                                          Average, and 8% of Laggards.
                                                  Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012   √ 60% of Best-in-Class
                                                                                        companies train sales
Whether using social media tools to collaborate internally or interact with             employees to engage in online
prospects / customers while armed with highly specific intelligence about               conversation with prospective
                                                                                        or current customers;
© 2012 Aberdeen Group.                                                                  Industry Average854 5200
                                                                                          Telephone: 617 and Laggard
                                                                                        organizations do so at 36%
www.aberdeen.com                                                                                Fax: 617 723 7897
                                                                                        and 19% respectively.
Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize
Sales Results
Page 5



their behavior, likes and priorities, these highly successful sales organizations
demonstrate the superior use – and benefits – of social selling.

Enabling Success: What are the Right Tools?
With knowledge management and processes optimized for effective social
selling, let’s examine which technology enablers are most frequently
deployed to leverage these core competencies. As summarized in Figure 4,
we see a striking comparison: 100% Best-in-Class adoption of mobile access
to social media tools, compared with literally 0% among the under-
performing Laggards. We know from Aberdeen research in Sales Mobility:
How Best-in-Class Remote Sellers Are Replacing “See” with “Do” (April 2012)
that 50% of this Best-in-Class (the strongest performers around sales quota
attainment, lead conversion and customer retention rates) provided their
front-line sellers with “mobile access to social media content (either internal
collaboration tools or external sites),” compared with 37% of all other
companies. This gap is far wider in the current Social Selling research,
underscoring the need to empower sales and account reps with an anytime
/ anywhere / any device ability to sell socially.

Figure 4: Technology Enablers Driving Social Selling Performance

                                      100%               Best-in-Class    Industry Average      Laggard
                            100%
Percentage of Respondents




                                                          80%
                            80%
                                             60%                           57% 57%
                            60%                                 57%                            56%
                                                                                                     50%
                                                                                                                    40%
                            40%                                   33%
                                                                                   20%                  17%               21%
                            20%
                                                   0%                                                                        0%
                             0%
                                    Remote or mobile          Social      Social business      Social media         Social graphs
                                     sellers have full   bookmarketing        platforms           sharing           (visualization
                                          access          tool (record       (combines       tools (e.g., allow      of company
                                   to our social media       favorite         contacts,             site             organization
                                           tools          user-curated       calendars,      visitors to share    chart with mutual
                                                             content     communications,          content          connections to
                                                           in browser)     social stream)       with social           prospects)
                                                                                                networks)
                                                                                                                       n = 182
                                                                                         Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012

Additional enablers showcased as Best-in-Class favorites in Figure 4 include
the ability to share / curate content that can be leveraged by selling
teammates, the advantages of combining all of this data into a single selling
platform, and a relatively new solution, social graphs. These visualizations of
one’s social relationship to co-workers, prospects or customers can help
locate an internal subject matter expert, or choose which external individuals
may be easiest to contact due to shared interests or connections.




© 2012 Aberdeen Group.                                                                                                                Telephone: 617 854 5200
www.aberdeen.com                                                                                                                            Fax: 617 723 7897
Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize
Sales Results
Page 6



Conclusion: Making the Most of Social Selling
For organizations that have successfully deployed the capabilities and enablers
above, a number of advanced protocols and activities, while not in widespread
use by all companies, nevertheless are supported by more Best-in-Class sales
organizations than Industry Average or Laggard companies – Figure 5.

Figure 5: Best Practices for Mature Social Sellers
                             40%
                                                              Best-in-Class         Industry Average       Laggard
                                       34%
                                                                 30%
 Percentage of Respondents




                                                                                             29%
                             30%                                                                                       28%
                                                                       26%                         26%

                                             20%                                                                              21%
                             20%
                                                                                                                                    15%
                                                                              11%                        11%
                             10%                    8%



                             0%
                                   Social media helps reps    Internal collaborative      Regular, active use of   Our sales team actively
                                   make direct connections     social tools benefit               posts,         “listens” to external social
                                   with prospects to refine    team-based selling        tweets, forums by reps     content pertaining to
                                     forecasted pipeline                                  contributing to online  customers, accounts and
                                                                                        conversations, to impact        target markets
                                                                                       eventual buying decisions
                                                                                                                              n = 182


                                                                                            Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012

These “master-class” approaches reveal the value of individual sales reps
taking the time to build up their own online profile, through the curation of
relevant content; making connections with prospects, customers and partners;
and collaborating with team members to share and deploy best practices that
become, essentially, a rising tide that lifts all the ships of quota attainment.




© 2012 Aberdeen Group.                                                                                                                          Telephone: 617 854 5200
www.aberdeen.com                                                                                                                                      Fax: 617 723 7897
Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize
Sales Results
Page 7




For more information on this or other research topics, please
visit www.aberdeen.com.

                                            Related Research
 Better Sales Forecasting Through Process                    Sales Performance Management 2012:
 and Technology: No Crystal Ball                             How the Best-in-Class Optimize the Front
 Required; July 2012                                         Line to Grow the Bottom Line; December
 Sales Intelligence: What B2B Sellers                        2011
 Need To Know Before the Call; June                          Sales and Marketing Alignment: The New
 2012                                                        Power Couple; December, 2011
 Sales Mobility: How Best-in-Class Remote
                                                             Sales Training 2011: Uncovering How the
 Sellers Are Replacing “See” with “Do”;
                                                             Best-in-Class Sustain, Reinforce and
 May 2012
                                                             Leverage Best Selling Practices; October
 Lead-To-Win 2012: Managing People,
                                                             2011
 Process and Technology to Optimize the
 Last Mile of the Sales Cycle; March 2011                    Leveraging the 360 Degree Customer
 Partner Relationship Management:                            View to Maximize Up-Sell and Cross-Sell
 Channeling Better Sales Results; March                      Potential; September 2011
 2011                                                        Streamlining the Top of the Funnel: How
                                                             Inside Sales Teams Source, Qualify and
                                                             Close Business ; February 2011
 Author: Peter Ostrow, Vice President and Research Group Director; Customer
 Management, Sales Effectiveness
 (peter.ostrow@aberdeen.com) LinkedIn Twitter
For more than two decades, Aberdeen's research has been helping corporations worldwide become Best-in-Class.
Having benchmarked the performance of more than 644,000 companies, Aberdeen is uniquely positioned to provide
organizations with the facts that matter — the facts that enable companies to get ahead and drive results. That's why our
research is relied on by more than 2.5 million readers in over 40 countries, 90% of the Fortune 1,000, and 93% of the
Technology 500.
As a Harte-Hanks Company, Aberdeen’s research provides insight and analysis to the Harte-Hanks community of local,
regional, national and international marketing executives. Combined, we help our customers leverage the power of
insight to deliver innovative multichannel marketing programs that drive business-changing results. For additional
information, visit Aberdeen http://www.aberdeen.com or call (617) 854-5200, or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call
(800) 456-9748 or go to http://www.harte-hanks.com.
This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies
provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless
otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be
reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen
Group, Inc. (2011a)




© 2012 Aberdeen Group.                                                                                                      Telephone: 617 854 5200
www.aberdeen.com                                                                                                                  Fax: 617 723 7897

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Aberdeen Group's Report on Social Selling 2/2013

  • 1. February, 2013 Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User- Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results The use of Social Media has become virtually universal, both for personal Research Brief use as well as for a fast-growing set of business-to-consumer (B2C) Aberdeen’s Research Briefs applications. In the case of business-to-business (B2B) interactions, however, provide a detailed exploration of adoption rates have not been growing at as aggressive a pace. Still, new key findings from a primary Aberdeen research on Social Selling reveals a number of best practices that research study, including key contemporary professional sales organizations are using to grow their B2B performance indicators, Best-in- success stories. This Research Brief will explore how top-performing Class insight, and vendor insight. companies enable their sellers with the most effective tools to collaborate, listen, and contribute to the world of user-generated content. Setting the Stage: Social Selling Defined In May and June 2012, Aberdeen collected the survey results from 182 end- users regarding their use of social media to support sales effectiveness, with the resulting research to be published in Social Selling: Unleashing the Power of Social Media on B2B Sales Enablement (Q4 2012). By defining "social selling" as utilization of one of the three following practices, we see in Figure 1 that users of social selling far out-pace other companies around a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) directly related to sales effectiveness: • Social Collaboration: The use of social media platforms to com- municate with internal or channel partner team members, in order to benefit from shared "tribal knowledge" in acquiring / servicing customers. Figure 1: Current Performance Benefits of Social Selling 70% 64% Users of Social Selling All others Percentage of Attainment 60% 55% 54% 50% 49% 48% 46% 42% 40% 38% 30% Total team Customer Sales Percent of attainment renewal forecast sales reps of sales quota rate accuracy achieving quota n = 182 Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012 This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc.
  • 2. Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results Page 2 • External Listening: Traditional sales intelligence, i.e. demographic The Social Selling Best-in-Class data about people and companies, has become little more than a In April and May 2012, Aberdeen commodity. Instead, the more relevant information about prospects / surveyed 173 end-user sales customers is behavioral, i.e. what are they thinking or doing, and is best organizations to understand how collected via user-generated content regarding the individuals, the top performers among them organizations and trends that impact the selling / buying relationship. use social media. The performance metrics used to • External Participation: While the first instinct of most salespeople is define the Best-in-Class (top naturally to sell, a more cautious approach focused on providing subject 20%), Industry Average (middle matter expertise can be a more effective way to build credibility with a 50%) and Laggard (bottom 30%) prospective customer. Buyers who have become unresponsive to among these sales teams are: traditional sales / marketing messages are more likely to engage with √ 79% of sales reps achieved someone who has added value to their business; social communications quota in the last calendar or are a natural fit for this approach. fiscal year, compared with 43% and 15% among Industry Average and Laggard firms Best-in-Class Use of Social Selling √ 16.3% year-over-year increase For this study, Aberdeen has determined the Best-in-Class cohort of the most in total company revenue, successful companies, as determined by KPIs relevant to sales achievements – versus 4.1% for Industry see sidebar. Like Industry Average and Laggard firms, these top performers Average companies and an provide Aberdeen with insight into the external business pressures that 8.7% decline among Laggards motivate them to use social selling tools. The leading pressure reported by the √ 8.9% year-over-year increase in Best-in-Class is “Customer and prospects are communicating on social average deal size or contract networks; we need to be there too” (71% nominated it as a top-two concern), value; Industry Average and followed by “Address the diminishing effectiveness of traditional marketing Laggard companies reported activities,” at 57% of the Best-in-Class. These two imperatives tell a compelling 1.7% increase and a 6.6% decline, respectively story regarding why social selling is so crucial: the need to communicate with buyers in the spaces they occupy, and to put aside the traditional reliance on the √ The average sales cycle was Marketing function to simply serve up highly qualified sales leads. shorted by the Best-in-Class by 0.7%, and by Industry Average Figure 2: Social Selling Strategies, by Best-in-Class firms by 0.2%; Laggards report an average lengthening of the Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggard sales cycle of 5.3% 75% 73% 70% 67% 60% 60% Percentage of Respondents 47% 50% 48% 50% 44% 45% 40% 30% 29% 31%31% 30% 15% 0% 0% Expand lead Educate sales staff Support customer Educate sales staff Track prospect/ generation on use of external acquisition/ on use of internal customer sentiment activity through social media tools service with social social media tools to predict most social platform effective media marketing enabling real-time messaging customer communication n = 182 Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012 Indeed, looking at the actions that companies take to alleviate these pressures, we see in Figure 2 that the most successful companies significantly out-adopt © 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 www.aberdeen.com Fax: 617 723 7897
  • 3. Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results Page 3 others in terms of both marketing- and sales-centric strategies to help both Aberdeen’s PACE Methodology their own staff, and prospects / customers, with these social tools. Of Aberdeen applies a methodology particular note is the dramatic difference between high and low-performing to benchmark research that companies regarding adoption rates of strategies such as coaching sales team evaluates the business Pressures, members around the nuances of successfully deploying social selling practices. Actions, Capabilities, and Enablers (PACE) that indicate Supporting Social Selling with Superior Capabilities corporate behavior in specific business processes: Once these highly effective social selling strategies are in place, organizations are able to support their sales and service personnel with core competencies √ Pressures — external forces that ensure the best opportunities for them to succeed. In Figure 3, we look that impact an organization’s at a number of process-oriented business capabilities that the Best-in-Class market position, are deploying more frequently than other firms. These approaches share in competitiveness, or business operations. common an awareness of the many external constituencies – over whom sales organizations traditionally have little control – that can impact overall √ Actions — the strategic corporate success or failure. These processes give sellers an edge in many approaches that an situations by intelligently deploying social media tools: organization takes in response to industry pressures. Figure 3: Better Processes Yield Better Results √ Capabilities — the business process competencies 75% 70% Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggard (process, organization, 60% performance and knowledge Percentage of Respondents 60% 56% 50% management) required to 46% 45% 39% execute corporate strategy. 31% 29% 30% 21% √ Enablers — the key 20% functionality of technology 15% 9% solutions required to support 0% 0% the organization’s enabling Process to identify external social Formalized processes Formal ability to launch supporting social media reactive social media Process for “like-to- lead,”i.e. prospects business practices. influencers initiatives undertaken campaigns showing interest by channel partners based on trigger events entering our marketing/ or sales pipeline content requiring “rapid response” n = 182 Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012 • Identify external social influencers: with the Best-in-Class more than three-times as likely as Laggards (70% vs. 21%) to support their sellers in this way, such top-performing companies are enabling their team members to recognize and monitor the bloggers, tweeters and other free-form commenters who can potentially reveal both positive and negative customer sentiment about the company and its products. • Provide channel partners with social selling support: Aberdeen research published in Partner Relationship Management: Channeling Better Sales Results (March, 2012) showcased a Best-in-Class (defined by peak results in channel sales quota attainment, and growth in channel lead conversion rates and overall corporate revenue) that was 63% more likely than other companies (31% vs. 19%) to provide “Syndicated social media providing posts about news, market changes and trigger events.” Simply put: if your revenue is partner-driven, why © 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 www.aberdeen.com Fax: 617 723 7897
  • 4. Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results Page 4 not provide them with the same support you offer on-staff sellers, Sector Definition: Social Selling especially if your channel does not sell exclusively for you? For the purposes of this • Rapid response capability: Today’s 24-hour news cycle practically research, “social selling” refers demands – and enables – the tracking of user-generated content in to Best-in-Class adoption of: real-time, accompanied by a response to any political, product (1) internal collaborative social challenge or sudden event with immediate effectiveness. In practical tools used by sales B2B terms, this translates into sales teams tapping into the social professionals to benefit team- media stream so that important events – mergers / acquisitions, C- based selling; (2) how sales level personnel changes, legislation that impacts products or services teams “listen” to external social content pertaining to – can be digested and responded to with organized, prepared and their customers, accounts and effective sales activities. For example, a user-generated LinkedIn target markets; and (3) active update about a senior line-of-business leader changing roles, can be use of posts, tweets or wikis leveraged by an attentive account manager in the middle of selling to by sales reps who contribute the executive’s former firm – the sales approach will need to be to the online conversations, in quickly re-crafted – as well as gaining the upper-hand by being “first in order to more effectively the door” regarding the contact’s new role. impact eventual buying decisions. • “Like-to-lead” jumps from consumer to business: most of us are now seeing Facebook ads triggered by the people, pages and institutions we follow. In the B2B space, the similar act of sharing content generates an opt-in approach that marketers love, because they are pinpointing more likely sales-ready leads based on the active Fast Facts: Organizational nature of content curation, as opposed to the passive use of Capabilities Supporting Social increasingly ineffective purchased email lists. The Best-in-Class are Selling 39% more likely than other companies (50% vs. 36%) to adopt this √ 80% of the Best-in-Class have new and rapidly growing approach to targeted marketing and selling. an identified internal evangelist for spreading In addition to these process-oriented capabilities, we see in Table 1 a number internal use, monitoring and of knowledge management competencies implemented by the Best-in-Class at best practices of social media, dramatically higher rates than under-performing survey respondent vs. 52% of Industry Average organizations. and 11% of Laggard firms. √ 75% of the Best-in-Class have Table 1: Knowledge Management Social Selling Best Practices internal subject matter Knowledge Management Best-in- Industry experts (SMEs) or other go- Laggard to staff members specifically Capability Class Average Social media used to capture and focused on social media; 70% 88% 43% 22% and 27% respectively of disseminate documents internally Average and Laggard Use of customer / prospect data to drive marketing or selling messaging 75% 50% 27% companies do the same. Private “deal room” or workspace √ A company policy for 75% 19% 0% used by both buyer and seller employee use of social media Capture data to engage customers exists within 60% of the Best- through personalized social 70% 35% 40% in-Class, 50% of the Industry communications Average, and 8% of Laggards. Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012 √ 60% of Best-in-Class companies train sales Whether using social media tools to collaborate internally or interact with employees to engage in online prospects / customers while armed with highly specific intelligence about conversation with prospective or current customers; © 2012 Aberdeen Group. Industry Average854 5200 Telephone: 617 and Laggard organizations do so at 36% www.aberdeen.com Fax: 617 723 7897 and 19% respectively.
  • 5. Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results Page 5 their behavior, likes and priorities, these highly successful sales organizations demonstrate the superior use – and benefits – of social selling. Enabling Success: What are the Right Tools? With knowledge management and processes optimized for effective social selling, let’s examine which technology enablers are most frequently deployed to leverage these core competencies. As summarized in Figure 4, we see a striking comparison: 100% Best-in-Class adoption of mobile access to social media tools, compared with literally 0% among the under- performing Laggards. We know from Aberdeen research in Sales Mobility: How Best-in-Class Remote Sellers Are Replacing “See” with “Do” (April 2012) that 50% of this Best-in-Class (the strongest performers around sales quota attainment, lead conversion and customer retention rates) provided their front-line sellers with “mobile access to social media content (either internal collaboration tools or external sites),” compared with 37% of all other companies. This gap is far wider in the current Social Selling research, underscoring the need to empower sales and account reps with an anytime / anywhere / any device ability to sell socially. Figure 4: Technology Enablers Driving Social Selling Performance 100% Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggard 100% Percentage of Respondents 80% 80% 60% 57% 57% 60% 57% 56% 50% 40% 40% 33% 20% 17% 21% 20% 0% 0% 0% Remote or mobile Social Social business Social media Social graphs sellers have full bookmarketing platforms sharing (visualization access tool (record (combines tools (e.g., allow of company to our social media favorite contacts, site organization tools user-curated calendars, visitors to share chart with mutual content communications, content connections to in browser) social stream) with social prospects) networks) n = 182 Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012 Additional enablers showcased as Best-in-Class favorites in Figure 4 include the ability to share / curate content that can be leveraged by selling teammates, the advantages of combining all of this data into a single selling platform, and a relatively new solution, social graphs. These visualizations of one’s social relationship to co-workers, prospects or customers can help locate an internal subject matter expert, or choose which external individuals may be easiest to contact due to shared interests or connections. © 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 www.aberdeen.com Fax: 617 723 7897
  • 6. Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results Page 6 Conclusion: Making the Most of Social Selling For organizations that have successfully deployed the capabilities and enablers above, a number of advanced protocols and activities, while not in widespread use by all companies, nevertheless are supported by more Best-in-Class sales organizations than Industry Average or Laggard companies – Figure 5. Figure 5: Best Practices for Mature Social Sellers 40% Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggard 34% 30% Percentage of Respondents 29% 30% 28% 26% 26% 20% 21% 20% 15% 11% 11% 10% 8% 0% Social media helps reps Internal collaborative Regular, active use of Our sales team actively make direct connections social tools benefit posts, “listens” to external social with prospects to refine team-based selling tweets, forums by reps content pertaining to forecasted pipeline contributing to online customers, accounts and conversations, to impact target markets eventual buying decisions n = 182 Source: Aberdeen Group, June 2012 These “master-class” approaches reveal the value of individual sales reps taking the time to build up their own online profile, through the curation of relevant content; making connections with prospects, customers and partners; and collaborating with team members to share and deploy best practices that become, essentially, a rising tide that lifts all the ships of quota attainment. © 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 www.aberdeen.com Fax: 617 723 7897
  • 7. Social Selling: Leveraging the Power of User-Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results Page 7 For more information on this or other research topics, please visit www.aberdeen.com. Related Research Better Sales Forecasting Through Process Sales Performance Management 2012: and Technology: No Crystal Ball How the Best-in-Class Optimize the Front Required; July 2012 Line to Grow the Bottom Line; December Sales Intelligence: What B2B Sellers 2011 Need To Know Before the Call; June Sales and Marketing Alignment: The New 2012 Power Couple; December, 2011 Sales Mobility: How Best-in-Class Remote Sales Training 2011: Uncovering How the Sellers Are Replacing “See” with “Do”; Best-in-Class Sustain, Reinforce and May 2012 Leverage Best Selling Practices; October Lead-To-Win 2012: Managing People, 2011 Process and Technology to Optimize the Last Mile of the Sales Cycle; March 2011 Leveraging the 360 Degree Customer Partner Relationship Management: View to Maximize Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Channeling Better Sales Results; March Potential; September 2011 2011 Streamlining the Top of the Funnel: How Inside Sales Teams Source, Qualify and Close Business ; February 2011 Author: Peter Ostrow, Vice President and Research Group Director; Customer Management, Sales Effectiveness (peter.ostrow@aberdeen.com) LinkedIn Twitter For more than two decades, Aberdeen's research has been helping corporations worldwide become Best-in-Class. Having benchmarked the performance of more than 644,000 companies, Aberdeen is uniquely positioned to provide organizations with the facts that matter — the facts that enable companies to get ahead and drive results. That's why our research is relied on by more than 2.5 million readers in over 40 countries, 90% of the Fortune 1,000, and 93% of the Technology 500. As a Harte-Hanks Company, Aberdeen’s research provides insight and analysis to the Harte-Hanks community of local, regional, national and international marketing executives. Combined, we help our customers leverage the power of insight to deliver innovative multichannel marketing programs that drive business-changing results. For additional information, visit Aberdeen http://www.aberdeen.com or call (617) 854-5200, or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call (800) 456-9748 or go to http://www.harte-hanks.com. This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc. (2011a) © 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 www.aberdeen.com Fax: 617 723 7897