Some people are still struggling to come to terms as to what social selling is.

Does this mean social selling needs a rebrand?

In the last three to four years I have been performing what is called “Social Selling”. The first 2 years I was following the principles without even knowing there were any pre-agreed and certainly not knowing that there was a new name for this new approach to sales.

Let’s start with taking a definition from a Google search – what is “Social Selling?”

Let’s use Wikipedia’s definition: ‘’Social Selling is the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process. Today, this often takes place via social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, but can take place either online or offline’’.

For me, the most important part of that definition paragraph of social selling is ‘as part of the sales process’ and I feel that’s where a lot of confusion is occurring. Now, please don’t mistake my sentiment here, Social Selling is a great phrase. It looks good and it rolls off the tongue easily. However, too many people are wasting time arguing over what it is, what it means and probably most contentiously, if it has taken over from the telephone (no in my opinion, but that’s a different subject).

The term, it’s generally felt, emerged around 2006. There are varying thoughts as to who first coined the term, but my colleague Kevin Tully informs me it was likely to be Nigel Edelshain. At around the same time, the name Sales 2.0 was being branded about too, but Social Selling started to become common place around then. No doubt it’s adoption and use from early social pioneers such as Koka Sexton and Gabe Villazmeer helped the phrase become commonplace.

As much as Wikipedia isn’t the end word on all things, it does appear to back this up.

"The University of British Columbia first established the science of social selling during research. They found that where there are incidental similarities between a buyer and seller, it is more likely a purchase would take place.[1] For example, if two people follow the same sports team, they are more likely to feel a connection. The use of social technology can be used to discover incidental similarities and thus creating a quicker bond with the potential client.[2]

Whilst the University of British Columbia discovered the science, it was Nigel Edelshain who was first to put the science into practice and coined the term sales 2.0. The name came from the web 2.0development in 2006.[3] Edelshain suggested in an interview that he felt the biggest problem with selling was regarding the prospecting phase. The reason is many sales techniques during the 1990s and early 2000s often could only be put into practice once a salesman had contact or was in a meeting. Following the development of sales 2.0, the buzzword social selling emerged.[4]"

As mentioned above, I got in touch with Nigel on LinkedIn to verify his account. He categorically said that it was not him that coined Social Selling, but did lay claim to sales 2.0. Here is his full response to the question ‘Do you think Social Selling needs a re-brand?

Gary, OK, got it. Here’s my answer: My OPINION is it’s NOT the main issue. Fun to debate but not actually changing the world.The real issue is that we make sales more effective and more fun, a profession people are dying to get into. My concept for the name “Sales 2.0” was/is “to take the sales profession to the next level”. That MISSION is still a work-in-progress. “Sales 2.0” as a “brand” got morphed into using software tools to help you sell. “Social Selling” may be suffering the same fate. These are “crowdsourced” terms so the way people use them changes over time.Maybe we need a rebrand on “social selling” but I don’t think it’s where we need to spend a lot of energy. My thought is we need to focus on helping sales people, sell more , sell effectively and have a great time doing it!Nigel

A viable alternative to the name could be, “social prospecting”. It might sound clumsy, but it explains what it really is.

Those that use social selling on a daily basis, of course, know what it is and what it entails, but those on the fringes or who want to use it as an excuse to say the phone is dead – don’t. 

For me, Social Selling has a massive future regardless of the semantics. That said, some clarity over the name could be advantageous.

If you’re looking to learn more about social selling and how to monetize your social selling process then I’d recommend signing up to Jack Kosakowski’s Social Selling 101 course.