If you compare the lists of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 and 2014, you’ll see that just 61 companies appear in both lists.
Or look at it another way… Of the companies that were on the list in 1955, only 12.2% made it to 2014.
Almost 88% of the companies from 1955 have either gone bankrupt, merged, or still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies.
Forbes recently reported that 50 years ago, a Fortune 500 company could reasonably expect to be on the list for around 75 years.
Today, it’s less than 15 years and declining rapidly.
The lesson here is a simple one: adapt or die.
We live in the age of innovation and disruption.
And no industry is safe.
No company is too big to fail.
Just ask Kodak, Blockbuster, Blackberry, Toys ‘R’ Us…
The list goes on…
And while for some company’s innovation and disruption is a scary proposition, it also offers enormous opportunities for companies that understand times are changing. And with changing times, the sales process is changing; the way people connect and do business is changing; and standing still is a death sentence.
When it comes to sales, traditional methods – cold calls, cold email, networking etc. – are proving less and less effective.
Meanwhile, a modern selling strategy emerged: social selling. It has disrupted how deals are made and become the key selling strategy and revenue driver for some of the world’s largest companies.
The cold hard truth is that traditional sales methods are becoming irrelevant, and forward-thinking companies are aggressively capturing market share, growing rapidly and increasing their bottom lines by adopting social selling.
Social selling is the simplest, fastest and most ethical way to connect with your ideal prospects and turn on the tap of a continuous stream of high-quality leads. This modern selling approach brings predictable growth to sales and your bottom line.
According to LinkedIn, more than 90% of today’s top salespeople owe their success to social selling. If you’re not adopting this modern selling strategy, you risk getting left behind.
In this article, I explain where companies bleed money and lose opportunities, show ways they can stop falling behind, and share some cautionary tales of what happens when a company fails to evolve.
Where companies fall short and lose money
The tragedy of business-to-business (B2B) sales today is that good companies are sleepwalking into negative growth because they don’t realize the nature of sales has changed. Cold calling, cold email and networking are no longer effective ways to connect with modern buyers.
Consider these statistics on the current state of traditional sales methods:
- Only 9% of cold sales emails are opened.
- On average, it takes 18 calls to connect with a buyer.
- According to a Baylor University study, approximately just ONE appointment gets made for every 330 calls your sales team makes.
- On average, sales people make 33 dials per day.
- It takes eight attempts to reach a prospect with cold calls. In 2007, it took 3.68 attempts.
To compound matters, 90% of C-Level executives – the people with the power to make buying decisions – ignore cold calls completely.
And if you do get through to them, the overall success of cold calls is just 2%.
Now consider the yearly wages and training investments you make in your sales team, and ask yourself…
Is your sales team delivering an acceptable ROI?
Sticking to traditional selling methods creates a vicious cycle, threatening your business.
As a sales leader, you’ve invested time, attention, training and resources into your people, only to watch them fail to hit their targets month after month, quarter after quarter.
When this happens, good salespeople become disheartened and disengaged and decide to leave your company because they feel they’ll never hit their targets with the strategy they’ve been asked to execute.
That leaves you with the very expensive problem of recruiting and training new sales professionals.
When sales people discover the art and science of social selling, however, they find themselves empowered as they consistently convert leads and hit their numbers. As a result, they enjoy their work more and stay in their jobs longer.
Clearly, social selling is a win-win for companies AND their sales teams.
“Traditional sales tactics no longer work because desensitized buyers never (or take days to) respond to emails and refuse to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. But modern sellers who effectively engage on social networks are seeing meaningful results. These modern sellers create 45% more opportunities and are 51% more likely to achieve quota than those who do not embrace social.”
This passage, from a landmark report by marketing leader Forrester, sums up the pain as well as enormous opportunity B2B companies face when selling their products or services.
But what’s actually happened?
Why are businesses failing to connect with their ideal prospects?
The truth is sales has evolved, and smart companies have adopted new modern sales strategies, tools and platforms to steal away the business their competitors are still chasing with outdated strategies.
Modern buyers are more knowledgeable than ever before thanks to the internet, which has tilted the balance of power and access to information in their favor.
The modern buyer doesn’t want to be sold via the old ways.
They expect a great experience from today’s modern sellers and are only interested in speaking with someone who is well-researched, informative and almost instinctively knows where they, as a buyer, are in their buying journey and can speak to them at that level at the right time.
Consider the following:
- 74% of buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase.
- 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions.
- Buyers complete 57% of the buying decision before ever actively engaging with sales teams.
Essentially, modern buyers are armed with all the information they need BEFORE they get to the stage where they want to speak to a salesperson.
This means that for the modern seller, it’s about building a relationship – NOT closing a sale.
Given these two factors – an empowered modern buyer and the ease and accessibility of modern social connections – how can you strategically, efficiently and profitably build relationships that convert into clients?
You use the right approach on the right platform. The best platform to do this on is…
LinkedIn: Your Big Opportunity
LinkedIn is not the flashiest or most exciting of the dominant social media platforms, but it is where business is done.
Because it’s the only social media platform where you have an ungated access to CEOs and decision-makers, who flock to LinkedIn to connect, converse and do business.
According to LinkedIn:
- More than 80% of B2B leads generated on social media are through LinkedIn.
- More than 45% of LinkedIn users are in upper management, such as managers, VPs, directors and C-level executives.
- 90 million senior-level influencers and 63 million decision-makers use the platform.
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to find and connect with your ideal prospects – the influential decision-makers who can make the deals that will take your business forward – now you know.
They’re on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn offers enormous opportunity for any sales team that implements a fully-integrated social selling strategy.
The advantage that LinkedIn has over other social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, is that it is a professional platform with a high-quality audience actively looking to network, engage and discuss business.
You can use the platform to engage with your ideal prospects in a direct way that is helpful to them, demonstrating your expertise, building your authority and nurturing key relationships.
The old ways of selling relied on a shotgun approach: blast your offer as far and wide as possible and hope to land a few hits.
Thanks to LinkedIn and its advanced search options, you can find people who fit your ideal client criteria perfectly. Now, you can take a sniper’s approach, strategically targeting, connecting and nurturing relationships with exactly whom you want.
Additional Reading: What Sales Leaders Need to Know About Social Selling
Adapt or die… Cautionary tales from companies who stood still
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, if you stand still, your business will get overtaken.
Sales teams still employing traditional sales methods will find it harder and harder to hit their numbers because the demands of the modern buyer, and the sales journey in general, have changed.
Companies who have been quick to adapt to these changing conditions and integrate social selling in their strategies are reaping the rewards.
Those who haven’t adapted are quickly losing their market share.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of once-dominant companies who were slow to adapt to technological change and the wants and needs of their markets.
In 2000, Blockbuster Video was the biggest video rental company in the world, boasting 9,094 stores and 84,300 employees.
Today, it has one store left in Bend, Oregon.
Blockbuster’s demise can be put down to one thing – digital disruption.
As technology allowed people to download or stream movies at the click of a button, the market’s expectations changed. Now speed, wider choice and convenience ruled, and driving to the video store on a Friday night was not the ritual it once was.
Blockbuster was too slow to address the needs of its market, and a competitor, Netflix, stepped in to fill the void. Today, Netflix has 158 million global subscribers and a market value of $184 billion.
Although Netflix and Blockbuster essentially did the same thing – they sold movies to people – only one delivered the product the way its evolved customers wanted it. The other went extinct.
RIM (Research In Motion)
In the first decade of the 2000s, there was one phone brand that was loved by business people, celebrities and regular folk alike.
The BlackBerry was king thanks to its physical keyboard, web and email capabilities and rock-solid security. There was a time when being asked for your BBM (Blackberry Messaging) pin was as common as being asked for your phone number.
But RIM failed to move with the times in a spectacular fashion.
Enter the iPhone and its touchscreen capabilities, which turned the smartphone market on its head.
Now it was clear what the market wanted – big, glossy touchscreen smartphones and the ability to pick and choose the apps you loved to make your user experience a fast and fun one.
Apple and all other Android phone makers understood this.
RIM did not. It remained welded to its physical keyboard and robust but restrictive operating system.
The market voted with its wallets, and the Blackberry’s time as the only phone to own was done.
Kodak was the dominant force in the photographic film market for much of the 20th century. Cameras, film, photograph development – its end-to-end business model looked impenetrable.
Until the digital camera (later the camera phone) revolutionized the industry.
Ironically, the company had the chance to lead the digital photography revolution, but instead it chose to protect what it had rather than innovate, disrupt and cement its longevity.
A Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera back in 1975, but he was promptly told by his bosses to halt the project and not tell anyone about it. Kodak failed to see digital photography as a disruptive technology that would allow it to get ahead of its competition.
A former vice-president of Kodak Don Strickland said: “We developed the world’s first consumer digital camera but we could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the effects on the film market.”
Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Now consider these two companies who knew they had to evolve and adopt a modern selling strategy to stay ahead of the competition…
IBM: The company saw a 400% increase in sales after it invested in social selling training for its team. It relied heavily on personalized corporate content, social accounts and employee advocacy to achieve this result.
SAP: This German software company says social selling drove a 32% increase in revenue, and sales staff were 10% more likely to achieve quota. LinkedIn Sales Navigator was the nerve center of its social selling program, giving sales reps a simple way to research and engage with prospects and customers. SAP cites a shift in sales mantra, with a new emphasis on guiding and supporting prospects, as opposed to a hard sell approach.
When it comes to their current sales and marketing strategies, many businesses today face a fork-in-the-road moment.
They can stick with what feels comfortable and familiar but slide into irrelevance.
Or they can take decisive action, embrace the new way of selling and reap the rewards.
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