Sales professionals, particularly Millennials, are increasingly using social media to find prospects, make a pitch and even close deals, according to a LinkedIn-sponsored survey.
The survey of more than 1,000 sales professionals across the United States covering a cross-section of industries and company sizes, found that 90 percent of the top salespeople surveyed said they use social selling tools versus 71 percent of sales professionals surveyed overall.
Millennials were also found to be 33 percent more likely to use sales intelligence tools that generate background and contact information on leads than their industry peers aged 35-54.
Justin Shriber, head of marketing for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, says the sales process has traditionally been based on relationships, and technology hasn't changed that. What has changed though is a shift in people's expectations of how they should be treated.
"We're in an era where consumer-based technology is pervasive and there are fantastic services like Netflix and Uber that anticipate what you want without having to ask you," Shriber told eWEEK.
"We've become conditioned to expect technology that already knows something about us without having to bother us by asking basic information." As a result, he says sellers still following the old-style cold call routine of trying to find out what a company might want to buy or even if they're talking to the right person aren't getting their calls answered or returned.
Conversely, the social media-savvy sellers are taking note of tweets and social posts about deals and initiatives that represent a sales opportunity. LinkedIn itself offers a program called Sales Navigator that's designed to connect sellers with the right people at companies they want to sell to. It can also point out connections the salesperson already has to a potential customer who might help facilitate a "warm" introduction, adding a measure of legitimacy to their initial contact.
Analyst Jeff Kaplan of THINKstrategies says social selling tools are definitely necessary for a new generation of buyers less interested in the traditional sales process. "They want to transact business as efficiently as possible, and they aren't interested in a cold call asking them what they do. They simply don't have time to take those calls or answer those emails," Kaplan told eWEEK.
"There is an expectation now that the salesperson knows something about you and your business, and social media tools are a good way to figure that out," he said.
While the LinkedIn survey shows younger people using social selling tools more, Shriber says those 45 years and older who do use the tools are more effective. "The younger generation is driving adoption, while the older sales pros know how to close deals. Nirvana is bringing those two together," he said.
Shriber also says the survey found that the top sales performers work for companies that have institutionalized the use of social selling tools.
Salesforce Versus LinkedIn
The survey identified Salesforce.com as by far the most widely used customer relationship management (CRM) platform, with midsized businesses being the biggest users, even more so than enterprises and small businesses. Salesforce has invested heavily in a range of social media features and tools to enhance its platform, but Shriber says LinkedIn offers distinct advantages.
"Salesforce is the best CRM platform out there. We have made a tremendous investment to integrate with them and make sure we are considerate of their workflow," said Shriber. When asked about competing with Salesforce, Shriber compares it to the peanuts and chocolate that taste better combined in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
Salesforce acknowledges that "they don't have our 400 million-member database updated in real time that gives tremendous insight into the state of the mind of our members at any given moment," said Shriber.