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Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Pure Social Selling Nonsense

Yesterday the article’s headline read, 84 percent of B2B Sales Start with a Referral — Not a Salesperson. Today the headline has been changed to read How B2B Sales Can Benefit from Social Selling.

The text is the same, “Outbound B2B sales are becoming less and less effective. . . . Meanwhile, 84 percent of B2B buyers are now starting the purchase process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90 percent of all B2B buying decisions.”

Poppycock.

Enter, Reality

Pull up your pipeline of opportunities right now. Look at the name of the company for the first opportunity on your report. Was that opportunity generated by a referral? What about the next opportunity? If the first two weren’t referrals, then statistically speaking, the next eight opportunities were generated that way.

Wait? What is this you say? None of those opportunities were generated by referral? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Think of all the salespeople you know. How many of them have a pipeline with 84 percent of the opportunities generated by referral? How many have a pipeline with 10 percent of their opportunities generated by referral, for that matter? For most salespeople, 10 percent would be far better than they have now, and more than many of their peers.

The reality is that very few opportunities are generated by a referral. In fact, most salespeople don’t ask for them, and even fewer buyers go out of their way to refer their suppliers to their peers.

A Lie Repeated Long Enough

The problem with lies is that if they are repeated often enough, they eventually begin to sound like the truth. You’ll likely see a slide with this 84 percent statistic at a sales conference in the next year, with this HBR article cited as its source.

No doubt you’ll hear that social selling is what generates enough referrals that you should no longer use any other method to prospect and create opportunities, least of all cold calling.

The fact that this may very well become the newest in a long line of bunk will not make it true. Nor will it make it useful.

Poor Social

Poor social selling again takes a beating. Drivel like this over promises and under delivers.

For social selling to be a useful toolkit for salespeople, it doesn’t have to create a pipeline that is made up of 84 percent referrals. It doesn’t have to exclude all other methods of prospecting. Worse still, because so many ridiculous statistics are bandied around as if they are truth, they are all now suspect.

If you want to build a pipeline of referrals, call your best clients and ask them to refer you to someone they know who would benefit from the same value you created for them. If you want to use social as part of this process, go to LinkedIn and see who they know before you make the call.

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