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How Does Social Selling Compare to Traditional Selling?

Traditional selling, be it in the form of cold calling or advertising, has been around for a long time. And while it may still hold a somewhat important part of the overall sales process, social selling is emerging as a new entry in a salesperson’s repertoire. As both an inbound and outbound selling technique, social selling is a great way to connect and communicate with customers and prospects.

When it comes to B2B companies, in particular, social selling provides tremendous sales opportunities, not only in terms of generating but also nurturing leads throughout the entire buyer’s journey. It will also allow you to close more deals over the long-term. 

While social networks have been incorporated into traditional selling over the years, many salespeople have somewhat failed to understand the real purpose of what social media is all about. Bombarding people with advertisements has only lead to ad fatigue. Meanwhile, sales pitches have become viewed as nothing more than spam. Social media is more nuanced than that. It is and has always been a place where people come together, form relationships, and discuss. Social selling is, therefore, a more refined technique that must seamlessly integrate these concepts.   

So, how does traditional selling compare to social selling? Let’s start by defining each type. 

What are Traditional Sales?

Traditional sales have always been centered around the sales person. B2B sales done in a traditional fashion often meant grabbing the attention of the prospect by interrupting them and telling them why they should be interested in your offer. It also placed a high emphasis on making a sale on the spot.

To be fair, this is not an ineffective technique but it’s awfully reminiscent of how snake-oil salesmen used to operate. Today’s customer, however, is far more informed than in the past, making traditional selling somewhat obsolete. Below are some of the most common tactics of traditional sales. 

Cold Calling

Cold Calls have come to be dreaded and, frankly, avoided by the recipient at all costs. The same thing can also be said about cold emails (their digital cousins). They are unsolicited, often impersonal, and almost always interrupt the prospect. These rarely make for a great first impression. Cold calls and emails work, to the limited extent that they do, by volume, which is a highly ineffective and time-consuming process. Burning through leads is not something that a well-run B2B would want to do, given their relatively short supply, as compared to B2Cs. Granted, phone calls can still be a welcomed addition to B2B lead generation, but not through cold calling. 

Information Secrecy 

Traditional sales also typically rely on guarding as much information as possible up until the point that a prospect is turned into a customer. The logic was that if you give too much information away too soon, people won’t want to buy anymore. This lack of transparency no longer works in today’s digital age where information is readily available to everyone – in particular, interested B2B decision-makers. 

Scripted Pitches 

Traditional sales have always been all about the sales quota. This is why most strategies relied on a scripted sales pitch, which was typically hyper-simplistic and lacked any customization. Not only are these pitches static and annoying but also insulting to informed decision makers. Such generic scripts never address individual needs and pain points and can only work on those who’ve already decided to make a purchase from you, in the first place.    

In order to close more deals in 2020 and beyond, sales teams need to become social selling experts

What is Social Selling? 

Social selling is a way by which a sales rep uses his or her social media network to find, connect, and nurture potential customers. It’s a way of building trust and meaningful relationships with leads, but also a way of working toward better customer retention.

As a digital selling strategy, social selling is about answering questions by providing every individual prospective customer with pieces of content that are relevant and provide value. It’s a way of establishing your personal brand as a thought leader and industry expert in such a way that you will be the first person they think about when they are ready to buy. 

That said, this sales strategy is not about spamming your contacts with countless tweets and messages. Your social selling efforts or about building trust, rapport, and long-term relationships. It’s about listening across social channels for mentions of your industry, brand, product, or competitors, and jumping into the conversation with useful information and a solution to the problem. Contrary to its name, there is very little selling happening in social selling.  

Social Selling Statistics

What the statistics show, is that this technique is considered a top-performing strategy by many sales professionals. In fact, around 78% of companies using social selling are outperforming their peers. Keep in mind that, without social selling, consumers are roughly 57% of the way through their buyer’s journey by the time they come in contact with a sales rep. Also, about 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of executives will use social networking for their buying decisions. A social selling program will, therefore, put you at the forefront of people’s purchase research. 

In addition, some 62% of B2B buyers are more receptive to sales people if they are providing them blog posts and other valuable insights relevant to their business. If a sales rep is also regarded as a thought leader or industry expert, that number jumps to 92%.  Some 87% of potential customers also have a more favorable impression of sales professionals if they’ve been introduced via their own social channels and network of connections. 

A third of B2B sales and marketing teams have also stated that their social selling strategies helped them increase their lead generation. Lastly, sales professionals using B2B social selling strategies saw 45% more sales opportunities and increased their chances of hitting their sales quotas by 51%. 

The Benefits of Social Selling vs Traditional Selling

When potential customers are on a social media platform, they are inviting a conversation. They are there to interact and learn and are looking to consume content. They are not there to be presented with a scripted sales pitch. As long as you are there answering questions and addressing their pain points, they will continue to welcome your engagement. 

Every social media platform offers some level of conversation search capability. This means that you can use social listening to prospect future customers and influence their purchase decision. Social media also offers you a treasure trove of information about almost every prospective customer so that you can familiarize yourself and personalize your interactions. Let’s also not forget about leveraging your existing social network by asking for endorsements and recommendations to get a foot in the door. These are valuable benefits unique to social selling.

So, when it comes to traditional selling vs social selling in the digital age, there’s one clear winner. If you want to learn more about social selling best practices, subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest delivered straight to your inbox.