A Luxury or a Necessity?

“Social selling can transform the way companies engage with prospects and customers,” writes Forrester analyst Peter O’Neill. That’s because social selling helps businesses engage potential customers earlier in their buying journey and makes it more likely that sales reps will attain quota.

Yet many sales leaders have not embraced social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Sure, many have encouraged their teams to leverage social selling. However, they themselves have not invested time and energy into social selling. That’s because they view social networking as a luxury that they simply do not have time for.

But here’s the startling truth: A VP of Sales who ignores social networks won’t be a VP of Sales for much longer. Adapting to social – and the digital age more broadly – will be a defining factor in how enterprise sales teams increase their productivity and communicate with their customers.

Let’s take a look at two research-backed reasons why sales leaders need to embrace the social age.

Aligning Social Selling with Company-Wide Digital Strategies

Today, high-performing sales leaders don’t silo their go-to-market strategies from other departments. Instead, they align their department’s activities with the company’s overall strategy. And the very best sales leaders actively participate in setting the direction of a company’s overarching vision and goals.

You might be scratching your head, wondering how this pertains to social selling. So, let’s cut to the chase: digital transformation is a major concern for CEOs, which means that digital transformation needs to be a major concern of yours, as well.

PwC surveyed over 1,400 CEOs across the United States, and they found that CEOs are striving to foster digital change across departments. These forward-thinking CEOs recognize that business is changing. Customers are becoming more digitally savvy, and to grow revenue, companies need to stay in lockstep with their buyers.

How will CEOs execute on that vision? Half of CEOs surveyed by PwC view social media as an integral part of the digital transformation.

That is good news for a VP of Sales. To keep her seat at the executive table, a smart VP of Sales will map her sales strategy to the company’s larger vision. In 2016, that means wholeheartedly embracing digital transformation and showing how social sales will play an essential part in the company’s vision for a digital future.

Leading from the Top

In the section above, we looked at the upstream reason for embracing social selling. As you can imagine, there’s also a downstream reason for sales leaders to engage on social networks. Embracing Twitter and LinkedIn for sales is about leading your team by example.

Too many sales organizations have been unable to successfully execute a social selling strategy, and that’s partly because the sales leaders have not modeled the right behavior and attitudes for their reps. In order for social selling initiatives to be successful, the VP of Sales must believe in the impact of social sales on revenue, and he must model the right behavior for his team.

Studies have shown that a leader’s behavior is contagious, and it can have a trickle-down effect within an organization. In fact, technical skills and strategy skills are among the most contagious behaviors that leaders can pass down to their direct reports. Though many people continue to believe that senior leaders don’t need technical acumen, research shows that leaders with poor technical acumen are also the least effective leaders.

That research has important ramifications for your sales team and their social selling effectiveness. The social savviness of a sales executive is contagious. How a VP of Sales engages with his social networks will manifest itself in how a mid-level sales leader engages with his social network. And how a mid-level sales leader engages with his social network will impact how a sales rep will engage with his social network.

Let that sink in. Take a moment to reflect on your social presence. All your bad habits on social are as contagious as conjunctivitis.

For example, if you don’t have a social profile, chances are good that your direct reports will follow your lead. Or perhaps you never share thought leadership content with your network, and you’re struggling to get your sales reps to maintain their professional brands on Twitter and LinkedIn. Once again, your sales reps are following your lead.

Sales leaders can greatly influence the effectiveness of their social selling programs. But to do so, they need to change their unfortunate habits, replacing them with best practices.

When that happens, sales reps will take social selling seriously. Moreover, by using social, they will better understand its inner workings and see its impact first hand. In turn, sales leaders will be better at delegating responsibilities to their direct reports and shaping the vision of the social selling program.

Hiring a VP of Sales?

Companies are still determining the best way to adapt to the digitally savvy modern buyer. As a result, almost everyone is in catch-up mode. On the one hand, it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone, especially if you’re feeling behind the curve. On the other hand, it should incite you to action. To capitalize on this moment of transition, companies need to get a head start on their competition by setting a clear go-to-market strategy that incorporates social.

At the helm of this change needs to be a strong sales leader. Not only must the sales leader be able to relate the social sales strategy to the company’s overarching vision and strategy; that sales leader must also have a strong social presence that is worthy of imitation by mid-level managers and sales reps alike.

Without those two components, your social and digital sales initiatives are likely to fail. So, if you’re in the market for a new VP of Sales, take the time to understand the candidates’ views on the buyer in the digital age. Ask the candidates’ how they would incorporate social selling into a go-to-market strategy. Furthermore, check to see if the job candidates would lead the team by example. Look at the candidates’ social presence. Review the candidates’ tweets and “recent activity” on LinkedIn.

Doing so is worth the extra effort. In the digital age, hiring the right VP of Sales is one of the biggest decisions you can make.

Want to Learn More about Social Selling?

Flip through the Executive’s Guide to Social Selling Success.

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