The Days of the average sales rep making his quota are over. In his new book, “Socialized!: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, Forbes columnist Mark Fidelman shares amazing insights about how the most successful sales organizations are employing social technology to deliver better sales performance. This is the first in a series of posts adapted from Mark’s book.

Join Mark Wednesday December 5  for a free live webinar to hear first hand how high performing sales teams are leveraging a new social sales playbook to win. 

Dear Salesforce: Average is Officially Over

The first time I recall hearing the question “what’s the point of using social media for sales?” was when I was a Vice President of Sales for a software company presenting to a room full of salespeople in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Their objections that social media didn’t work were intense: “I’ve tried Twitter and it’s a bunch of nonsense,” or, “No one responds to my sales requests on LinkedIn.” There was a noticeable disdain in the room for anything related to sales prospecting and social media.

I’m still hearing those objections.  I have heard salespeople recently make the argument that the reason they are not meeting their quotas and are losing more deals to the competition is largely because of the economy or that their marketing team just doesn’t “get it”. When I ask them to expound on the latter point they usually respond: “Our marketing organization doesn’t generate quality leads – no one takes our phone calls.”

Up until recently, salespeople with average sales skills, making an average amount of phone calls, doing an average product demonstration, could earn an above-average income. But, that age of average is over. And salespeople need to shift to a new playbook.

They have to because their prospects and customers have so much more access to above average information, extraordinary industry experts, and extraordinary tools.  Their prospective customers now expect the same “above average” conduct from them – indeed, something extraordinary.

Yes, it’s becoming more difficult to get prospects on the phone, more difficult for marketing to differentiate their product offering from their competitors, more difficult to rise above the noise. It will increasingly be so. But one thing hasn’t changed – people crave high quality business relationships.

In a recent survey I conducted, 73% of people base their buying decisions on credibility and trust. Over 80% of them make purchasing decisions to solve problems.  They also reported that they need to hear or see a salesperson’s name an average of 7 times before they remember them. And when they do, they almost always remember them even 6 months later.

But, according to a recent study by InsideView, over 90% of CEO’s said they NEVER respond to cold emails or calls. That means the ROI on traditional sales approaches is drastically dwindling.

We need a new sales playbook. One that aligns with the way our customers are making buying decisions. Salespeople must also get back to what they do better than anyone else in business – build quality relationships.  I can find no better way to accomplish both than the use of social tools and media.


Here are 5 plays from the new Sales Playbook:

  1. Build credibility and trust by sharing quality information on social media about your prospects problems – don’t always point to your organization’s products as the solution.
  2. Build a following by engaging in conversations with industry thought leaders, influencers and potential customers – don’t sell, just be helpful.
  3. Engage current prospects in the sales pipeline on social media – again be helpful.
  4. Promote industry thought leaders, influencers, partners, and suppliers on social channels – this will show potential customers that you’re a generous and quality person.
  5.  Turn your competitor’s customer complaints into new sales opportunities – be careful here, but there’s no harm in helping someone in need.

Developing a following is a guaranteed way to grow your pipeline.  Our research also shows that over 70% of sales are completed in the 4th to 10th interaction. If you are regularly engaging contacts and staying top of mind, you are well ahead of the competition.

Remember however, building a reputation on social media takes work. But in the long run (and I promise this will happen to if done right) your prospective customers will be contacting you – not the other way around. They’ll know that you’re sharing or creating quality content that helps them solve a problem. They’ll know that you are who everyone else goes to as the industry expert. They’ll know that your organization employs quality people which will make them feel more comfortable doing business with you.

Yes, average is officially over. Don’t get caught in the old age reading from the old playbook.

You’re better than that.


Mark Fidelman is CEO of Evolve! Capital and author of the book Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.  Fidelman writes the popular Forbes column: Socialized and Mobilized. Follow Fidelman on Twitter @markfidelman.  




Nick Stein is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Salesforce A former staff writer at FORTUNE and current affairs producer at CBC News, Stein's work has received three Business Journalist of the Year awards, a CAJ award, and has been anthologized in the Best Business Stories of the Year. He holds a BA from McGill University and a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.