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Must Read
Ravi's Corner


The Social in Selling isn’t so new after all

Trade and selling are as old as humanity, according to intellectual historians like Peter Watson. The humans who lived in pre-historic times also needed to exchange goods and services for their requirements. Barter involved locating another human willing to accept what was offered in exchange for whatever was required. The two sides had to meet at some place, which became a rudimentary market place

Earliest use of money is traced to BCE 5000. By BCE 700, Lydians issued what were possibly the first coins, seeding the origins of today’s commercial markets. Wiki credits Greek philosopher Aristotle with identifying two uses for every object – the original purpose it was created and as an item to barter or sell. And barter or sales wasn’t possible without an interface between the two sides desiring the transaction

As human civilizations evolved further, kingdoms driven by agrarian economies, largely unconnected with each other, existed for centuries thriving on a combination of currency and barter.

Voyaging on sea, connected countries and maritime trade flourished. Chinese silk and Indian spices reached other parts of the world. Sellers and buyers crossed oceans, braved storms and risked their lives to meet each other for exchange of goods.

Walter A Friedman’s Birth of a Salesman - The Transformation of Selling in America (Harvard University Press in 2004) gives a fascinating account of society taking baby steps into the industrial age, birthing salesmanship. In the decades following the Industrial Revolution, sales beckoned men with a love for travel and commerce, looking to progress through competition in the market. They became professional peddlers selling a staggering variety of things ranging from harecombs, needles and buttons to sewing silk, beeds and brushes. Carrying trunks bursting with goods, they travelled on pulled wagons or horseback in search of buyers

By late 1800s, John H Patterson of National Cash Register Company in USA, had patented methods for sales success. In 1850s Equitable Life Assurance Society brought out Hints for Agents that suggested sales best practices such as sales arguments for reps to rehearse. These covered sales genres including book canvassers, atlas salesmen, lightning-rod peddlers and Bible Society canvassers. A prerequisite, in all of this, was the primary need for the seller to establish connect with the buyer

Much later Alfred Fuller who started the Fuller Brush Company perfected door-to-door selling in 20th century USA. Fuller not only became a storybook success, his salespeople, the Fuller Brush Man archetype, became part of American folklore, bringing goods to the buyer’s door step

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in sales since mankind started trading, it is the script of the sales story:

“Seller meets buyer. Sale happens”

Cut to the world of sales today, when transactions often happen even without face to face meetings. Hitting a button on a mobile or computer screen completes a purchase or sale. The share of ecommerce in global retail sales is projected to doubling from around 8 percent in 2015 to over 17% in 2021. So, does this mean sales as we know it is dying? Granted, internet and social media have transformed commerce. But the sales story script stays the same.

Irrespective of timeline, past or future, as long as Sales People reach and influence their Customers, early enough in the buying cycle, they will remain relevant. Our ancestors in the selling profession have, in their time and age, shown us the way to rise to the occasion. It is now our turn. ‘Social Selling’ is knocking on our doors!


3 Ways to personalize B2B Sales using Social Selling

You step on the threshold and doors slide open. Approach the escalator and it whirrs into motion. Your phone listens to you and gives you answers. Cars will soon drive themselves so you can browse the news on your way to office

Welcome to the era of personalization. Sales is no exception. And this expectation of personalized treatment is not confined only to Ecommerce. In an article carried by Harvard Business Review (July 12, 2017), Justin Shriber, Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing solutions makes a compelling case on how this buying expectation now influences even B2B purchases.

Poorly timed, generic pitches no longer cut it with B2B Customers. What does work, however, are relevant offers made at the right moment. Shriber asks the question – How can you deliver personalized experience at scale and answers it by taking a close look at 3 things that leading sales professionals do differently by leveraging the Internet and social media.

3 New social selling approaches that get results

1. Precision, not carpet bombing

Today’s sales professional has access to an arsenal of data analytics that was not available to his seniors of yester years. ‘Intent signal’ is one such powerful tool, which can help predict imminent buyer behaviour.

Some examples of how intent signals work:

Intent Signal What it can tell you
Job change In a new role now – Can be expected to make bold moves
Social posts A peek into top-of-mind questions
Hiring patterns Indicator of investment

Using the signals, you can slice “likely buyers” into finer categories like “buyers who are ready to buy now”. There are advanced filters and bots that can be used for spotting qualified leads

2. Winning conversations, no vague questions

Conversation starters such as “Can I ask you a few questions?” no longer work. Surveys have found that 4 out of 5 buyers believe that salespeople they encounter do not understand their business. On the other hand, “I noticed that you’ve been thinking about...” is an attention grabber. But how do you find out what’s on the buyer’s mind? Social media threads followed by prospective buyers could provide strong pointers ahead of face to face meetings. Given that B2B purchased decisions are reached by committees, typically comprising 6 to 8 people, there is zero tolerance for vague questions from uninformed sales reps. So, the salesperson who gets to the crux of the buying request with the right questions wins the deal

3. Closer engagement all through, not just at closure time

More than a fifth of the deals sputter and fall through because salespeople do not engage with the buyers all through their buying journey, says Shriver. With no on-going value forthcoming, the buyer feels no obligation to maintain a dialogue. While making a connection through a referral could result in longer engagements, using technology tools to assess what piques buyer interest and what doesn’t, could be a big help. Such information can be used to craft subsequent interactions

3 Steps to create organisation wide impact

Results at the individual salesperson level are great to have. What about the organisation? For organisation-wide impact, combining social selling with appropriate technologies can make a huge difference. This will involve 3 steps:

(i) Create centers of excellence - Says Shriver: “Leading sales organisations are establishing a ‘center of excellence’ which defines and oversees the rollout of practices that operationalize social selling”.

(ii) Monitor and measure impact - Lead indicators can include things like – How many new prospect meetings were secured through social media? What is the time invested in using social media to prepare for client calls? Lag indicators will cover incremental bookings achieved, win rates and average selling price

(iii) Ensure senior management buy-in - Social selling can succeed only if it is led from the top. Senior management should model social selling best practices through their active participation and use their networks to create opportunities for their teams

Shriver cites case studies to demonstrate how social selling can have a significant and positive impact on number and size of deals and growth in the sales pipeline

The sales lesson here? Be where your Customers are. Talk to them in terms of their interest. Personalize the offering even if it is a B2B sale. Listen to their needs. Win their trust in you, your products and services. Help them buy from you. Leverage Social Media to multiply your leads but execute the sales process flawlessly following the ‘timeless’ basics of selling that don’t change

Must Read

You are the key

Who makes your decisions? If you answered “I do”, Clifford Pickover, writer and associate editor, Computers and Graphics disagrees. Pickover refers to what he calls Internet Prosthetic Brains (IPBs) which shape many of our decisions. “With increasing frequency, people around the globe seek advice and social support from other individuals connected via the Internet. Our minds arise not only from our own brains but also from IPBs – those clusters of people with whom we share information and advice through electronic networks. The simple notion of “you” and “me” is changing” says Pickover (Source: edge.org)

The dramatic effect of this IPB phenomenon has disrupted the sales domain too. Salespersons no longer hold exclusive sway over the minds and hearts of buyers, individuals or institutions. In this always-on, heavily interconnected world, how does a salesperson locate a prospect, influence his thinking, nurture a relationship and make a sale?

“You are the key” assure Apurva Chamaria and Gaurav Kakkar in a book by that title. The book sets out to show you how to unlock doors through social selling.

There are two things that make the book remarkable – First it is entirely contextualized to Indian market conditions and second, it is authored by a practitioner who offers ideas pre-tested and validated in the crucible of his professional experience.

For the yet-to-be-convinced-skeptics the book offers a grand tour de force of how selling has evolved from the days of barter to arrive at Social Selling today. To establish why Social Selling is important, the authors quote familiar and new statistics and look at how the technology, client and seller sides of the Sales story are changing beyond recognition. Defining social selling in terms of a systematic process to ‘reach’, ‘discover’, ‘engage with’ and ‘act’ on opportunities, the authors identify 4 pillars of Social Selling | Listen, observe & learn | Research & build bridges | Engage, hook & impress | Collaborate & Close. The reader is offered a 6-step social selling process and forewarned on possible challenges with social selling

The sections on Understanding Social Platforms and Creating your Social Media Persona, Content Curation, Creation and Publishing, Identifying Prospects, Listening to Prospects, Approaching and Engaging with Prospects and Enterprise Social Selling Framework brim with actionable ideas, examples, quotes, quips and even some cartoons to lighten the reading.

If you are looking to implement social selling in your organisation, the book has plenty of ‘steal-worthy’ templates, formats and examples that you could quickly customize and use. The parts on listening to prospects provide tips on active and passive listening and recognizing buying signals for action, something that B2B sellers will value a great deal. There are social-platform specific tips that can ramp up your skills rapidly. Exercises and end of section space for notes are thoughtful value adds for readers aspiring to become self-taught experts on social selling

The book is a virtual Do It Yourself kit for those starting on their social selling journey. The case studies and real-life stories shared can add insights to the seasoned practitioners as well

Ravi's Corner

The Other

  • A Pristine India
  • Tidy, Proper, Clean and Pure
  • The magic of Green
  • The blissful fresh air
  • Blessed by nature's bounty
  • We are arriving..
  • The destination is no longer unseen
  • Captained by honest hearts and missionary zeal
  • We shall dare and do
  • And let's not forget the Salesperson
  • With his tool kit sharpened and ready
  • Always thinking of The other
  • He finds himself by being firmly behind
  • A genuine advocate of The Other.
  • Clean and Bright is the Salesperson 
  • And the Customer is no longer The Other


  1. I’m here to tell you that social selling isn’t difficult, it’s just different. No kissing on the first date: let’s get to know our prospects better first!” - Amar Sheth,
  2. “Listening is the new prospecting” – John Jantsch
  3. “By 2020, 85% of the buyer-seller interaction will happen through social media” – Josiane Feigon
  4. “As you develop your network, share worthwhile and valuable content, be memorable and respond to contact and engagement opportunities, results will develop over time” – Jelle den Dunnen
  5. “It is the cold that is dead – not the calling” – Trish Bertuzzi
  6. “When you start with what’s at stake for the buyer, you earn the right to their attention.” – Jake Sorofman
  7. “Remember … social selling is selling later and getting social first – Sunita Biddu
  8. “Sellers who’ve embraced social media are creating new opportunities that totally bypass traditional sales channels. It’s about good selling – using all the tools that are available to you today.” – Jill Konrath
  9. “The bigger conversation beyond social as a channel is that the modern buyer is digitally-driven, socially-connected, mobile-empowered, and has unlimited access to not only information, but people.” – Jill Rowley
  10. “As a sales person, we must be visible. We must put ourselves out there so that the buyers, when they’re looking around for answers, can find us.” – Koka Sexton


Forget mass markets, think micro, to click with social media SAYS TOM PETERS

“We don't know what social media's most effective marketing uses will be in the future. But if you want to get a hint of what it will be like, here's my suggestion: Don't think mass marketing. Don't think of advertising-type metrics, such as reach, frequency, big numbers, and "cutting through the clutter."

Think micro. Think relationships. Think of a customer saying, "What's in it for me?" not a marketer saying, "Cool, I have another marketing tool!" Think of customers talking with each other, not companies adding social media to their "marketing mix."

Executives feel a need to be "On Facebook and Twitter," as if being "On" these sites signifies that they are up to speed on the latest marketing tools. But being "On" these social media sites doesn't mean a thing. When your customers use social media to talk to each other about you ... now that means something”


Mercuri Mail is a thoughtful compilation of meaningful articles drawn from Mercuri India archives, and from timeless management literature. Edited by Jaishankar Balasubramaniam & Sridhar Srinivasan of Mercuri Goldmann (India) Pvt. Ltd. This publication is for private circulation only.

www.mercuriindia.com; | mary@mercuri-india.com

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