Today’s post is by Jason Jordan, a founding partner of Vantage Point Performance, a global sales management training and development firm focused on training sales reps and sales managers. Jason is a recognized thought leader in the domain of business-to-business sales and co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code.
I sometimes do random things. Occasionally I’ll take my wife’s dog for a hike on the nearby mountain trails (which buys me goodwill with both the dog and wife). Now and then I’ll buy my daughter sushi from the gourmet deli (though she rarely eats it). I just bought a bunch of vintage t-shirts of 1980s rock bands (though I’m not sure where I can wear them). And, recently, I decided to investigate the impact of social media on sales management.
I awoke one morning with random, obsessive thoughts about social media. Actually, it was more of a random insecurity. At Vantage Point, we’ve spent the past decade trying to elevate the performance of frontline sales management. In all that time, I’d never really thought about social media’s influence on this role, even as “social selling” became a buzzword that I myself toss about (recall my penchant for random behavior). Had I somehow missed a meaningful innovation in sales management that was right in front of me? Had I not registered a change in management behavior because it wasn’t happening – or because I wasn’t paying attention?
That morning I decided to conduct some informal “research” into the issue. I searched our newsletter database and selected 5,000 sales managers…at random. I sent each of them a brief email asking only two questions:
- Has social media had an impact on your role as a sales manager?
- If so, how?
Informal as it was, my little research project served to greatly reduce my personal anxiety.
Foremost, a relatively low percentage of the sales managers even bothered to respond to my email – lower than we would expect for such a communication. To me this signaled that social media wasn’t an intensely hot topic for them; otherwise, it would have generated greater excitement.
More surprisingly, almost exactly half of the active respondents replied no to my first question. Given the pervasiveness of social media and its buzz in the sales blogosphere, I had been expecting to receive an avalanche of fervent yeses. Didn’t happen. Apparently, the wave of “social selling” has left most sales managers unaffected.
Then there was the half of the respondents who replied yes. In almost every case, the sales managers declared that social media had changed their role by enabling them to conduct research on their prospects, prepare for upcoming sales calls, stay up to date on customer news, or network to uncover new leads. In other words, social media had changed the way these sales managers sold, not the way they managed. Interesting.
The only legitimate sales management function that seemed to be improved by social media was recruiting and hiring new salespeople. For that purpose, social media is invaluable. LinkedIn is a free, real-time database of every salesperson in the world who has access to the Internet. Twitter and Instagram are windows into the personal lives (and indiscretions) of nearly as many people. For researching and recruiting your next team member, these are gifts of technology.
But only a small minority of managers cited this function – around 10 percent of the already small group of respondents. No one claimed that social media had made them a better sales coach. Or helped them build healthier sales pipelines. Or helped them create more accurate sales forecasts. Whatever you consider to be the central responsibilities of your sales management roles, social media appears to be a bit player in their lives.
In fairness to social media, I’ve seen several social media applications that could surely help with each of these legitimate management functions. And, as CRM and social media platforms become more integrated, emerging functionality will provide sales coaches with new insights into salesperson behaviors and performance. The social media story is still unfolding for sales managers, but we’re not there yet.
As it stands now, if your sales managers moonlight as sellers, then social media can help them manage their customer relationships more fully. But, if your sales managers actually manage, then social media is probably relegated to just a small corner of their desktops or mobile phones. My informal investigation revealed that its presence at the sales management level is tangential, and its impact to-date has been minimal – at least according to 5,000 random sales managers who received an unexpected email from me on a day I chose to do another random thing.