The use of sales technology, including Customer Relationship Management systems productivity apps and social media sites increased rapidly in the past year, according to a LinkedIn-sponsored survey by Censuswide.
The survey found that 91 percent of sales professionals say they are using such technologies to shorten lengthy sales cycles, close bigger deals and grow their revenue,
One of the more interesting findings is how buyers, particularly millennials, are using social media as part of the decision-making process of whether to engage with a salesperson.
Of millennial buyers surveyed, 62 percent said they regularly look up sales professionals on social media as did 54 percent of older Generation X users compared to 33 percent of baby boomers.
There’s a similar breakout in terms of talking to a salesperson, with 69 percent of millennials stating that they’re more likely to speak with a sales professional that has a professional social media presence, versus Generation X at 58 percent and baby boomers at 33 percent.
“Social platforms are gaining momentum related to sales. We’re seeing more buyers are interested in dealing with sellers who are active on social media,” said Justin Shriber, vice president of marketing for LinkedIn sales & marketing solutions, told eWEEK. “There’s a radical shift from the way business used to be done where we’re now seeing buyers are profiling salespeople.”
Analyst Jeff Kaplan said this shift makes sense from the buyer’s perspective.
“Making this information more readily available enables consumers to educate themselves about the salesperson before actually engaging with the person about his or her products or services,” Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies, told eWEEK. “Just as companies are recognizing that they have to build an engaging online presence to attract customers, salespeople are finding the same holds true for them.”
On the sales side, the survey found a big uptick in how much sales professionals expect their companies to invest in sales-related technology. In last year’s survey, 36 percent of sales professionals said they expected their company to increase their technology investments in the coming year. In the latest survey, conducted in April, 2017, 55 percent expect their companies will increase their technology investments.
Established collaboration tools such as Box, Google Docs, Microsoft Office and Dropbox are used by 59 percent of millennials, compared to 40 percent of baby boomers. But younger sales professionals have also moved on to or added newer productivity apps at much higher rates.
The survey found that tools like Asana, Smartsheet and Trello are more frequently used by 40 percent of millennials, compared to 24 percent of Generation Xers and 17 percent of baby boomers.
What’s more 39 percent of millennials are using enterprise communication tools such as Salesforce Chatter and Slack which are also favored by 39 percent of millennials versus only 15 percent of Baby Boomers.
Shriber said it was important to call out specific apps in the survey to show what sales pros are using to do their job. “The older more entrenched salespeople are using technology that existed when they came into their own,” he said.
“Millennials were born when the cloud and social, interactive apps are native to what they do.” He also noted that millennials rely disproportionately on social media, versus using the phone, compared to other age groups.
“Ultimately, it still comes down to the rapport between buyers and sellers. You have to have human interaction,” said Shriber. “But buyers are bombarded with information. Social platforms [are] a way for them to deal with that landslide of information.”
In LinkedIn’s own experience working with customers of its Sales Navigator tool, Shriber said he sees companies benefitting from having different levels of experience.
“A hybrid of Generation X and millennials in the organization is optimal. Gen
Xers understand how to get a deal done and millennials understand the new tools and help with their adoption.”
The second annual State of the Sales report surveyed 1,086 professionals in the U.S. who primarily work in B2B sales as well as 1,015 business decision makers from the United States who influence purchasing decisions.
Microsoft bought LinkedIn and its namesake social network for professionals last year for $26 billion.