Social Selling: The New Breed of Buyers Leave Cold Calls for Dead


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Traditionally, salespeople had to buy lists, maintain and manually update private Rolodexes, and hope they find the right decision makers within their contacts. On top of that, they additionally had to use a cookie cutter sales process, which included painful cold calls. As social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn become an essential part of our online lifestyle, so must our collective ability to use these platforms to further build our personal, professional and brand reputations. Once we harness that ability, we can cut ties with old Rolodexes and painful cold calls.

The number one sales rule in today’s world is to understand your buyer’s digital footprint: what they’re interested in, what they need, whom they trust, and where they congregate. According to ComScore, 82 percent of the world’s online population is reached by social networking sites. LinkedIn, for example, has 175 million members, adding another two every second. That means millions of prospects are updating their job status and sharing their connections as well as asking and answering questions every day.

People have changed the way they buy and we have to changed the way we sell. In 2011, the Sales Executive Council published research that found typical customers complete 57% of their buying journey before contacting a supplier.


On the far left of the buyer journey (see Figure 1 – Buyer Purchase Decision Timeline) is the starting point, where the buyer due diligence begins. This is where a buyer realizes that they may have a problem and starts performing research. Typically they begin this journey by typing a key word, phrase or sentence into their search engine; indicated in orange. The middle of the journey is when the buyer makes first contact, reaching out to sellers in a variety of different ways, saying “I am working on a problem. I stumbled into you. You may be able to help me?” So naturally, in 2012, Strategic Business Insights’ (SBI’s) research found buyers research before contacting sellers increased to 61%. In 2013, it jumped another four percent to 65%. This year, SBI expects a repeat of the last two years with a move to 69%. This fundamental shift in behavior is the result of a new breed of buyer. A breed of buyer that is well informed, technology enabled, saturated with media, and suffering from information overload. As a result, he/she does not have the time or the desire to meet with sales people. Therefore, they self-direct their educational process towards searching of a solution to their problem.

Engaging with Today’s Buyer

What can we do to influence the new buyer? Become proficient as a social selling and prospecting company. Today’s salespeople have an incredible opportunity to use their social media tools to find this new breed of buyer. Newer social tools have been helping deliver relevant and compelling messages as well as creating meaningful relationships. According to SBI, 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is completed before they talk to a salesperson. 75% of B2B buyers claimed social media would likely have influence on a future purchase decision.

Social Selling is not merely shifting the sales process from established methods to social tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Social selling doesn’t replace the fundamentals. Instead, it enhances good salespeople, making them more effective and efficient by building a strong personal brand, understanding the role of content and how content can be used to tell a powerful story: a story with the ability to raise a brand’s reputation and help drive sales. Social media needs to get the same treatment as traditional sales strategies. When selling to an account, you have the ability to discover key decision-makers, influencers and what’s on their minds.

There are many factors that make Social Selling very effective, including the ability to engage with customers and prospects virtually any time, even if you are not available for a call or meeting. Public profile pages, LinkedIn posts, tweets and other content become a digital representation that can start or keep the sales process going.


In fact, social media provides salespeople the ability to engage with future customers directly without picking up the phone. Prior to tools like LinkedIn, salespeople had to buy lists, maintain and manually update private Rolodexes, and hope they find the right decision makers within their contacts. On top of that, they additionally had to use a cookie cutter sales process, which included painful cold calls.

Social Selling Tools

There are three categories of social selling tools: the social channels, social intelligence applications and social monitoring applications. Thanks to LinkedIn, BranchOut and Quora, you can now build your network around Internet profiles of contacts on these social channels.

  • LinkedIn is the destination for business professionals. LinkedIn’s inMail is one of the more effective social tools as 30%+ of inMails are opened as these are coming from trusted contacts within your network.
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows sales people to build relevant prospect lists through targeted searches, retrieve full profiles of third degree contacts, leverage coworker connections and offers the ability to send messages to anyone on the network, not just those you’re personally connected to.
  • Business oriented groups and apps like BranchOut can filter your Facebook contacts to help narrow down reach but just know people just want to connect with family/friends, not brands.
  • Quora is a popular question-and-answer forum for the business community. Quaro allows you to execute two important activities as a social sales person: establishing credibility by taking part in relevant discussions, and listening in on conversations to identify potential buyers as they ask and answer questions.

Social media provides salespeople the ability to engage with future customers directly without even having to pick up the phone – fostering an environment where our target buyers, prospects, and customers are publicly providing information about themselves in real time.

What we at Mitel have called upon our staff to collectively execute is a strategy that utilizes small themed campaigns around a central place. Mitel’s network being as large and diverse as it currently is, especially following our merger bringing Aastra’s collective network allowing us to effectively target and create and deliver personalized content around our brand to through a broad network of contacts across social platforms.

This is a tremendous opportunity to know your prospects, their challenges, frustrations and even their current vendors. Social selling, like traditional, begins and ends with listening. It’ about comprehending buyer wants and needs, stocking it with relevant graphics, guides, how-tos, videos, analyst reports, and more.

Martyn Etherington
Martyn Etherington is the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief of Staff at Mitel. He is responsible for all aspects of the company's corporate marketing strategy, brand, and digital programs globally. As Chief of Staff, he is responsible for the execution and follow-through of the CEO and Mitel's business priorities. Prior to joining Mitel® , Martyn served for 11 years as Tektronix Vice President of Marketing.


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