Study: The Future of Social Selling

By Devon Glenn 

Sales professionals see the value of social media, but are still in the early stages of measuring ROI, according to a report conducted by Forrester Research and commissioned by Hearsay Social.

Using social media, 80 percent of customers discover new brands, products, and services through family and friends, while 36 percent rely on salespeople, the researchers found.

Businesses that require more personal interaction and trust, including those in the real estate, finance, automotive, and high-end retail industries, have the most potential for growth on social media, according to Hearsay Social founder and CTO Steve Garrity.

Today, Hearsay launched the next generation of its social sales platform and a new Hearsay Social Brand Solution to help businesses plan, publish, and measure messages across all their social channels at a high volume.

Forrester’s study showed that companies aren’t measuring branding or awareness for their social campaigns, but are starting to measure results in the areas of sales and retention, if only anecdotally.

While most of the 18 participants in the study said they ultimately move their conversations offline and onto the phone or into the office to complete a sale during the buying stage, they also said that social media can be used throughout the four stages of the customer lifecycle – discover, explore, buy, and engage – as a supplement to other methods. These tools provide more depth, stronger relationships, and a wider reach.

Participants in the study said that social sites help with lead generation by showing degrees of connection and, as one respondent said, by “keeping my name in the frontal lobe.”

Content marketing led the way in the exploration stage in helping reps establish themselves “as a person, not as an insurance agent,” said one marketing manager at an insurance company, who also said, “the social posts that create the most engagement are the personal posts that the reps themselves write.”

Garrity saw an improvement in retention among his customers. One beta tester of Hearsay’s service “gave up direct mail and moved to a purely social strategy,” he said. By focusing on serving her customers through a business Page on Facebook and setting clear metrics, this business owner cut her churn rate for existing customers by 2/3 year-over-year.

“Good salespeople come across as helpful,” Garrity said, and on a social platform where word-of-mouth spreads quickly, “the good people rise to the top.”