Flawed…Strategic Selling without Strategic Social

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

The Summer 2012 edition of the “Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management” was a special issue on the perspectives on personal selling and social media.

An article from James Andzulis, Nikolas G. Panagopolous and Adam Rapp on “A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process” caught my attention as it laid out context and a process describing the evolution of social media in sales.

Throughout the article, the researchers drew the comparisons between the internet and social media and the finer grain differences between B2B and B2C selling.

Whilst the article doesn’t dwell on these macro elements, it did make me think of the earlier stage internet commerce and where we are now with the social web. When internet commerce started to take off it was largely an extension of traditional commercial outlets. What we have seen accelerate in the time since the publishing of this article in 2012 is the lack of reliance of a physical commercial building to initiate a social or commercial presence.

Whether we think of this as evolution or straight our step-change doesn’t matter but it does raise the question around social and its connection with sales strategies.

The researchers paint their 4-step “Process Evolution of Social Media in Sales” — in it they question the connection and maturity of sales strategy with social. It is only at this point that they suggest social when fully integrated with a sales strategy is a fully evolved process.

I don’t challenge this position, but I do question the speed at which traditional selling is embedding social into their go-to-market.

A scan of major IT companies will show that social, when under the company’s banner, resembles something closer to press release 2.0 and standalone opinion pieces from the socially active amongst the customer facing teams. Some may argue that this constitutes a strategy linked voice…I argue the opposite.

I argue that the lack of co-ordination across the full breadth of the customer facing teams by definition doesn’t constitute a sales strategy. I would also contend that the lack of social media confidence from the senior leaders in the traditional IT companies is the single greatest barrier to their sales teams enacting a social go-to-market strategy embedded in the overall go-to-market for companies and account teams.

Account teams reach their highest performance levels and deliver their greatest business value to customers when managers and peers test and improve their strategies. Until this can include social, then the testing and improving will be flawed.

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