Let’s be honest: nobody likes the cold call. The seller knows nothing about the buyer’s needs, and the buyer, knowing that this contact is simply someone trying to make a quick sale and the result of the buyer being on a generalized list, feels no sort of fellowship or sense of connection with the seller. Thankfully, there is a better way which doesn’t involve high-pressure situations, does promote a sense of community and compatible interests, and incorporates something that we all (to varying degrees) use anyway. Today’s word is social selling.
Breaking down the term (and the concept), there’s social and selling. Coming into English from Middle French, the adjective social has its roots in the Latin socialis, meaning ‘united, having a sense of companionship, or living with others’, and was first used in the general sense by Scottish bishop William Couper (or Cowper) in his work, The Anatomy of a Christian Man (1611), recording that: “Neither in this life nor in the life to come, hath God ordained man to live alone. By his first creation he was made a social creature.” As for the verbal noun selling, its root comes from the Old High German sellen which is derived from the Proto-Germanic saljanan, meaning ‘to offer up, deliver or sell’; moreover, the first usage of selling can be found in a Middle English manuscript dating to around 1325 (MS Rawlinson B. 520).
At its core, modern social selling is the idea of developing and involving a relationship of interests via social media as a part of the sales process. While there is no firm date of when or where the term originated, it can (or should be) estimated that our usage of it likely revolves around the time of the founding of the first social media website that is truly devoted to professional networking, LinkedIn, on December 28, 2002.
Unsurprisingly, outside of our current internet-based understanding of the term, neither the term itself nor the overall concept behind it is anything new. Though the first use of the conceptual term social networking can be found in a 1973 issue of the professional journal, Public Administration Review, which writes that: “Through the process of consciousness raising and social networking, he becomes aware of the organization and environmental forces impinging upon him.”, the overall theory behind it actually dates back to the 1940’s and 50’s, during a period when being a member of the right clubs, going to the right parties, and being a part of the right social circle allowed sellers to gain intimate knowledge of potential client’s needs.
Essentially, with social selling, the point is to build productive relationships. Using social media, a seller offering a product or solution will seek out specific areas of interest where the product/solution could be beneficial. Through communicating ideas and interacting with other users, the seller can better understand the needs of the potential buyers, thus giving him both valuable feedback and the opportunity to present his solution to the buyer at the right time. On the other hand, for the buyer, this sort of interaction isn’t pushy or pressured, demonstrates a shared understanding, and thus improves communication with potential sellers – meaning a more understood and customized solution.
More than just idle time on social media, these efforts can make a tremendous difference. Looking at those who use social selling, they are, compared to those who don’t use social selling, both 51% more likely to meet their sales quota and 78% likely to outperform their peers. Adding to this in a LinkedIn survey, 62% consider the addition of social selling essential in helping with total sales.
Regardless of whether you consider this a new idea, or an old idea done in a new way, the fact is that it allows for better, easier, and open communication between buyers and sellers.
* Source: LinkedIn Business Solutions