Few Sales Professionals would contest the fact that the landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. First we saw the transition from generalists selling door-to-door in a transactional manner, relying heavily on cold calling, to a more consultative and partner-based approach. Next, we became more reliant on email selling, purchasing lists of “leads” and connecting through specialized, industry-specific networking events. The recent conversion to social selling, however, has been a bit more difficult.

Some sales professionals continue to shy away from social selling because they believe it is impersonal and overwhelming. Without the benefit of a targeted and well-researched approach, it can feel like trying to find a needle in a very large, ever-changing, and overcrowded haystack. With hundreds of platforms and billions of users, how can a salesperson find his or her target audience and truly differentiate himself when it is so easy to be drowned out by all the chatter? While the internet and social media has made it easier to contact prospects to some extent, the new challenge is how to stand out and tell a compelling story. Marketing and sales are now being forced to collaborate, in a world where the lines are blurred between the two departments.

Social Media is a juggernaut for salespeople because it utilizes both word of mouth marketing and customer-generated content to spur engagement. For TurningPoint Executive Search our percentage of referral-based revenue has dropped from 45% to 10% in the last 2 years. At the same time, the percentage of revenue stemming from our social channels has increased to 32% from only 12% two years ago. Simply put, social media – which for our firm includes LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+ – combined with our website is constantly bringing in new revenue. This is why it’s imperative that our sales professionals are active participants in the social media game.

5 Reasons Social Salespeople Are Essential in Sales

1. Simply put, your goal is to increase sales and growth opportunities. A recent study conducted by social sales specialist Jim Keenan, found that 78% of salespeople using social media outsold their peers. In addition, they were 23% more successful at exceeding their sales quotas than their non-social media peers. If you want to increase revenue, you must first be seen by your customers as a credible and visible solution. Utilizing social media increases your ability to identify your audience, it positions you as the expert in your field and allow you to engage with your prospects, ultimately making the sale.

2. You already have all the necessary tools at your fingertips… literally. It would be difficult to find a professional who is not engaged with some form of social media. Whether it be a Facebook or Twitter account or even a LinkedIn Profile, most professionals have a distinct digital presence. Therefore, becoming a social salesperson does not require extensive training or acquiring new products. Most social media platforms are extremely user friendly and can be mastered simply by investing some time in understanding how to optimize and utilize your own account. LinkedIn is an excellent place to begin. Every good salesperson should have a LinkedIn Profile that showcases their expertise as well as the product or service they currently sell.

3. Your customers are spending their time online, like it or not. By actively participating in these communities you have the opportunity to engage and build relationships. Not only are customers spending time on the internet, so are employees, corporate executives, fans and “futurists”. Each of these groups can generate qualified leads by giving you a glimpse into their challenges and frustrations. Social media also provides an opportunity to better service current customers, garnering more referrals. When a customer complains about the service they received or a disappointing product, you are privy to that information and are able to engage and develop a relationship with the user by assisting them with their issue. It is that trusted relationship that will solidify a customer’s trust which can lead them to refer and recommend your services or product.

4. You recognize the shift in the buying cycle. It’s no surprise to learn that customers have done extensive research on their own before ever engaging a vendor. This research is largely being done through social media. By leveraging these social media platforms you are able to engage with your potential customers earlier in the buying cycle. Social listening allows you to be privy to their questions and concerns while they are investigating. By the time they are ready to enlist the help of a vendor, you’ve already established your reputation as an “expert” and you have built that essential relationship, as outlined in Andy Paul’s new book “AMP Up your Sales”.

5. Social listening puts you in the driver’s seat so you can steer the conversation. Showing a prospect that your product or service is the one they are looking for is easy to do when you know exactly what they are looking for. As customers pose questions and concerns, you are able to present specific, custom solutions. Looping in the marketing department is key. By making marketing aware of customer concerns or recent trends, they are able to produce content that addresses those topics. Having the ability to direct customers to your company’s website and/or blog gives you the opportunity to solidify your reputation as the “expert” in addition to keeping their eye on your product or service.

In order to be successful in today’s sales arena, sales professionals must engage in social selling. Finding, and engaging with your target audience is the key to creating a solid relationship and establishing yourself as an expert in your field. A customer’s confidence in your expertise allows you to drive the conversation, presenting your solutions and ultimately, closing the deal, generating revenue and increasing growth opportunities.