Are you keeping pace with way things are changing, particularly in sales? Did you know that from evolution to now, we have changed the way we approach selling products and services 14 different ways? It started with the basic Barter system (Est. 6000BC) to the most recent Challenger Profile, which many of you may have heard me talk about in my sales training programs. Now, this is moving digitally towards Social Selling, where there are so many more tools and tactics available to us.

So, what is this social selling stuff? Before we move into the future, let’s take a quick look at where we have been:

  • How to win friends and influence people – initially set in the 1930s, this sales process evolved in a ‘true relationship and trust era’. This Dale Carnegie book was first released in February 1937 and is still in the top 20 books sold by Amazon today, and a great Sunday afternoon read for those of you who are that way inclined.
  • In the 1960s, the process of Professional Selling Skills (PSS) was introduced (I remember doing this training early in my career). This course is still available nationally through many different training organisations for those of you who missed out.
  • PSS was quickly followed by FAB, USP, Solutions Selling, LAMP, Strategic Selling, SPIN, Value Selling and finally Challenger Selling (for those of you who do not know what these acronyms mean, they are in the fine print at the end of this article1). I am sure that I don’t need to go into Challenger Selling in detail; however, this methodology is designed to encourage sales professionals to challenge their customers and prospects to come up with creative solution.

Now, I am sure that you want to know what this ‘Digital Social Selling Era’ means for our sales professionals (present company included). Let’s have a look at some statistics.

  • 90 per cent of top sales performers now use social media as part of their personal sales growth strategy.
  • Just under 50 per cent of the above meet or exceed KPI targets. This sits against 38 per cent who do not use a social media strategy. When mathematically calculated against the Challenger top performers, these numbers show that the assistance of a social media strategy improves your success rate by just under 21 per cent.
  • 67 per cent of the ‘buyer journey’ is now done digitally. If you don’t have a digital presence, you will go unnoticed.
  • Over 90 per cent of decision makers never return cold calls, but they will look at your profile if you have an online presence.
  • Nearly 60 per cent of businesses do not have a social media strategy. Given the above, best we all get online

There are so many new and wonderful tools in our sales armoury that many of the sales professionals I work with don’t realise exist or don’t know how to use. So, let’s explore some of them:

  • Finding prospects is now easier than ever. Let’s start with LinkedIn, who have over 600 million member accounts. I believe that if you are in selling and not on LinkedIn, you are missing out on the opportunity of tapping into professional networks as well as being able to research the decision makers in your target sector. Once you identify the decision maker, just skip the traditional ‘gate keeper’ and go straight to your target.
  • Using your newly developed online presence means that you can concentrate on your target audience rather than just random contacts. Do this through online intelligence using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram to name a few.
  • Once you have found the appropriate person or company you want to work with, and have done some online intelligence work (and no, this is not stalking), then you have the vehicle to leverage the contact – enabling you to move through the sales and buying process at a far quicker pace.

So, what’s next? Where will we be in 2025 and beyond? I can’t answer that directly, but I can give you some insight into some of the predictions that have been presented to me through my readings.

The five things that stand out are:

  • Technology will continue to increase at speed and it will remove some mundane tasks and administration.
  • Sales professional numbers will increase, but they will be more specialised in products, service and professionalism.
  • Relationships will be a strong part of selling again as people build partnerships and the challenger model strengthens.
  • Measurement will increase – Big Data will take over reporting and provide solutions rather than just questions.
  • Sales Management will become a discipline like sports coaching, marketing or other leadership roles.

To round out this discussion, if you are in sales and all of this seems foreign to you, you can do a number of things:

  • Retire and travel around the world.
  • Leave sales and get into another discipline… but you won’t get away from digital that’s for sure!
  • Embrace the era: use technology and let artificial intelligence (AI) or Siri do all the mundane tasks you hate, such as reports, administration and expenses; which lets you get on with what you like doing… selling.