Social Selling Evidence from Consulting Firms

In normal course of events, when a salesman is out there to sell an idea/product/solution, (s)he is pretty settled about the value of the product. Either because (s)he has experienced it or has reliable proof that it works. For example, if a new soap is to be sold, the salesman does not need to establish value of product, it is common knowledge why soaps are used. And no one questions the common knowledge and ask “Is there is a proof that we need soaps?”. Not many soap companies would fund research on that question :)

I faced one such question from sales director at a ITeS firm to whom I was pitching our product and telling him how social sales intelligence will change the world of sales people. He asked me Is there a non-sponsored evidence as verifiable as utility of soap that social selling works. I was about to rattle the ROI numbers from studies published since Social Selling became a buzz word but then realized that all studies were conducted by social selling product companies with their own design. They had case studies with non-verifiable data. I said to him that I will come back with more groundwork.

I went back to my research desk and for the whole week I tried to find evidence that was non-sponsored and verifiable in common business knowledge. It was disappointing but was eye opening. It was difficult to have means (even if incentives) to measure impact of such solutions. It was like measuring the % impact of knowing preferences of the blind date before meeting him/her, on probability of marriage. I realized Mathematics did not hold the answer to this.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a clue through a regular Linkedin connection request. It came from an ex-colleague who is now a management consultant. And it struck me then that while both were working at the Monitor Group captive, there was a small team whose task was to track ex-Monitor consultants and partners across the globe. They gathered information on their current industry, location, company, and designation and interests that they recently added to profile. Back then, it felt like a wasteful exercise, but now it made so much sense. Though the method was primitive but I figure it is one of the best use of social selling business world can see today. My research got the direction it needed.

I researched further and found that across the experience levels, ~75% people in management consulting (MC) leave to join industry or ventures. Of these, ~54% are at decision making positions (Director, VP, CXOs) and could readily improve your chances to get foot into the door or further. I looked for examples where ex-consultants have given business to their alumna firms and there are more than enough (see The Firm by Duff McDonald). I tried to vet my findings and from two other firms, I was able to figure that they did keep a track of ex-consultants and their companies for they are easy target prospects.

It is hard to put a number to the amount of business that management consulting industry has earned from its primitive sales intelligence, but I am sure it must be several times the investments they made in tracking right people. And I believe the utility here is as commonly known as that of a soap. And it makes me think that if done diligently, sales intelligence can be a game changer in most B2B selling. What do you think?