Social Media Not a Bonanza for Sales Prospecting

by RaeAnne Marsh

Social-MediaA vigorous social media presence is widely seen as essential for success in today’s hyper-competitive direct sales environments. But even among the younger, always-connected generations, it is not found to be most effective for actually generating new sales.

In a survey of more than 2,200 salespeople, Trelitha R. Bryant, senior V.P. of field testing and research at Behavioral Sciences Research Press in Dallas, Texas, found 68.5 percent said traditional forms of initiating contact with potential buyers (face-to-face: 36.2%; phone calls: 32.3%) are still the best for generating sales. Only about 16 percent endorsed technology-driven methods (email: 12.6%; social media: 3.1%; text messaging: 0.4%). CDs/DVDs (0.3%) and “snail mail” (2.2%) were also included, along with two standard catch-alls, “Not Applicable” (5.7%) and “Other” (7.4%). 

Expecting the results to be age-related — reasoning that younger salespeople may be more comfortable using new technology than older salespeople — Bryant instead found there was no significant age relationship. “Age is not a factor,” Bryant says, “but discomfort contacting potential clients is, and depending on social media to prospect for new business may be how some salespeople cope.”

“Indirect methods of making contact with prospective buyers may be helpful for certain kinds of selling,” says Jeff Tanner, Ph.D., marketing professor and executive director of the Innovative Business Collaboratory at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Marketing. “But in high-dollar sales settings like financial services and business consulting, offerings are best presented face to face.” He observes that the fault for poor performance in generating new sales may be attributed to an over-reliance on less direct forms of prospecting when it may actually lie in the salesperson’s discomfort with time-tested, face-to-face, person-to-person approaches to clientele-building.

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