Social Selling – This Could Take a While

A few things happened to me this week that remind me how long It can take for new sales techniques to be adopted – and become a habit with sales people.

I was discussing a situation with one of my sales consultant friends where they are seeing a sales force where solution selling is still only a skill of the minority.

This sales force is largely made up of “product presenters” that don’t ask about the prospect’s business. These sales people show up to sales meetings and say things like “check out our new product. It’s great, right?” and “look at such-and-such a feature” rather than saying things like “what are your major business challenges? And how are you going about achieving those?”

The result of this “product presenting” sales approach is that the company is only selling its core legacy products and very few of its new products that are strategically important to the company. In addition, there seems to be a large amount of discounting going on even for the company’s core products.

This scenario is in no way an isolated case from my travels around many small firms. My experience in these environments is that only a fraction of the sales people in these firms solution sell.

But solution selling is 35 years old. It’s hardly a new skill. And yet many of the sales people in these companies are not doing it. They’ve all heard of solution selling. In fact, many of them seem to have been trained in it – in one way or the other. Many of them even say they were solution selling when they’re not.

So if a methodology like solution selling that was created 35 years ago is not common practice yet what of Sales 2.0 and Social Selling. I’d place those approaches as 6-7 years old?

I’ve stated that in a few years sales people that can’t Social Sell will be like an assistant that can’t use a computer but only a typewriter. Their career prospects will not be good. But maybe my view of the timeline here is that of an innovator wearing rose-colored glasses. Perhaps the typewriter users have a much longer career ahead than I think.

Is there a way to speed up the adoption of Social Selling and Sales 2.0?

Vehicles like the Sales 2.0 conference and Anneke Seley’s great book Sales 2.0 have certainly brought these approaches to the attention of sales people and managers worldwide. But once people know about these approaches how do we make them a habit? After all nearly all the sales people I mentioned at the beginning of this post knew about solution selling – in fact they treated it as old hat. But they did not do it. They knew about it but it was not a habit.

Do companies need to hire a bunch of sales trainers to train on Sales 2.0 and Social Selling? Will sales management coaching do it? Do we need to train the trainer (sales managers) in lots of companies and that will do it? Do companies need to buy lots of Sales 2.0 tools? And putting those tools in place will change behavior?

What do you think? How do you speed up adoption of new techniques and turn them into habits in your company?

5 Responses to Social Selling – This Could Take a While

  1. Kurt Shaver December 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Nigel, you nailed it. Yes, Social Selling is being adopted very slowly. Your comparison to Solution Selling reinforces the reality that cultural changes take a long time… WITH executive sponsorship, mid-management support, and constant reinforcement training and management. It takes even longer if any of those components are missing.

    One thing that makes social selling skills different than Solution Selling or even CRM skills is that many people first used free applications like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in their personal life. Hence, they come to work thinking they are already doing it. Some think they are practicing social selling by accepting a few LinkedIn invitations each month or having a Twitter account.

    Companies should count on social selling adoption taking as long as CRM adoption. Measure it in months if not years.

  2. 1099 sales January 17, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Nigel, I also agree with your post you said the right things people are not still taking marketing the way they should take it , they still believe in boosting their products and inspiring others to buy them by just asking such questions like what do you think about our product isn’t it great or other things like that , I personally agree with your point of view social and correct policy for selling is just crawling very slowly in the society when there are already people who can do solution selling and can improve their business performance.

  3. Frank E. Paterno October 29, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    We’ve started to talk about social selling as the modern version of walking into a someone’s office and scanning for university diplomas, family/pet pictures, etc in order to find some personal connection with the person. The cool part about social media is that this can be done before even meeting the person. Having trouble getting a meeting with a CMO? Find them on Twitter- see what they are talking about and what’s on their mind. Send some targeted tweets to catch their attention. You have a better shot of meeting them in person if you can relate to them on social media.

  4. Shahid Ali Khan March 10, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    Hi Nigel,
    I think the adoption of Social Sales will increase once there are well known methodologies (training and rollout packages) in the market. The social sales ‘solutions’ are not well known in the corporate market especially in industries like shipping / supply chain / logistics and other industries which is mostly stuck on old school sales techniques. However, I have a feeling that they can be snuck in through the back door of the organisation through either social selling enthusiasts or come through the front door by having more visibility in business magazines / trade journals.

    • Nigel Edelshain March 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm #


      I like your thoughts on how social selling adoption may occur. As long as it happens and helps sales people in their lives, I think either “front door” or “back door” will do.


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