Sales education achieves community benefits through digital channels


Research giant Gartner predicts that 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will take place through digital channels by 2025. The research adds that since the onset of Covid-19, B2B buying behavior has shifted to a buyer-centric digital model. As a result, Gartner predicts that the future of sales will be permanently transformed in strategy, processes and resource allocation.

LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) scores sellers on their relative mastery of four pillars of social selling (creating a professional brand, focusing on the right prospects, leveraging insights, and building trusting relationships). The platform reports that professionals with high SSI scores earn 45% more sales opportunities and are 51% more likely to meet their quota. In addition, they state that “78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media.”

With estimates that half of the world is active on social media, a natural demand for effective social media marketing strategies seems like a natural next step to move products and services. In a recent report from EMR, Global Digital Marketing Market Report and Forecast 2023-2028The global digital marketing market will reach nearly $321 billion by 2022. In addition, the market is expected to continue growing at a CAGR of 13.1% between 2023 and 2028, reaching a value of approximately $671.9 billion by 2028.

Educational solutions to support a digital sales ecosystem are playing catch-up to the needs of those who buy and sell in an always digital world. The current state of knowledge acquisition versus application can be deduced from vendor perceptions.

Hootsuite research found that 82% of businesses agree that social media is a “vital channel for delivering exceptional customer experiences”. However, only 58% of companies surveyed have a defined strategy for supporting social media efforts.

Facebook Groups launched on October 6, 2010, and since then the digital community sandbox has supported lively discussion and social causes, building connections without the physical constraints of the natural world. Sales through these user-defined groups continue to grow from personal connections and long-term user experiences with the technology.

Chris Stapleton and Landon Stewart from Customers & Community represent a growing group of start-up entrepreneurs who see the value of an established technology platform in supporting sales opportunities. Like many, their company’s story was heralded weeks before the world went into lockdown due to Covid-19.

The twist in Stapleton and Stewart’s story is worth noting in an approach to selling through digital means that has quickly made this duo a person to watch. Stapleton and Stewart used the advertising industry to their advantage by refocusing the power of paid advertising. Instead of going beyond the boundaries of a particular group to attract members who became customers, they integrated ads into their groups.

They have shared stages with well-known marketers and speakers such as Tony Robbins, Russell Brunson, Dean Graziosi, Pete Vargas, Taylor Welch, Cole Gordon and Ryan Holiday. The rise of Stapleton and Stewart has given them a platform to support others with similar entrepreneurial passions. “We are incredibly focused on supporting our members’ efforts to build their businesses into multi-million dollar businesses. We have helped our clients generate more than $100 million in revenue,” said Stapleton.

As companies continue to explore the merits of content marketing strategies across social platforms, Stewart is committed to the individual entrepreneur. “It’s one thing to build a business that is profitable for yourself, but Chris and I are focused on nurturing the Facebook group’s largest contingent of millionaires. We have helped 17 so far and our goal is to support another 100 in the next 24 months.”

In the meantime, higher education is playing catch-up for teaching skills native to Gen-Z and Millennials, budding explorers like Stapleton and Stewart will continue to sell their books and courses, generating more than $10 million in revenue in less than two years.

Elizabeth Losh, professor of English and American studies at the College of William & Mary, describes the challenges universities face in figuring out what to teach and by what resources in a highly digitized world.

“There is a lack of clarity about who should be responsible for teaching digital skills,” she explains. “And there is a tendency for a single discipline to claim that territory — or for no one to claim it. There may also be a stigma attached to taking or teaching courses related to digital material that is considered ‘basic’. It is simply seen as a remedy. Whenever something is seen as a cure, people don’t find it very attractive to be associated with,” says Losh. “I would say the corrective mindset is the wrong one to take.”

You could argue that the group environment within Facebook is a more comfortable classroom environment or lab to attract both buyers and sellers in an ever-expanding digital world. The proliferation of online learning materials to promote entrepreneurial strategies lends itself to a burgeoning generation of point-and-click community transactions.

The independence of entrepreneurs can often lead to business decisions aimed at meeting customers efficiently at the point of sale. Digital environments have developed a collaborative rhythm for sharing ideas, news and stories that reflect the lives people lead around the world.

While it may be difficult for businesses to fuse authentic sales into community groups of shared interest and practice in juggernauts like Facebook, individual owners find great value and market appeal.

Stapleton and Stewart were tasked in 2015 with growing their professional mentor’s Facebook group. A relatively simple but clever inversion of established marketing methods such as paid advertising resulted in incredible growth and a business of its own. Millennials and Gen-Z are subsets of a larger and growing community of digital natives equipped to leverage technology in new and previously unknown ways.

Apparently, a “post” and a “like” have potentially more value than initially anticipated. Stapleton and Stewart are banking on the explosion of sole proprietorships offering digital and virtual products and services to become the norm of the gig economy. After creating one of the largest and most active groups on Facebook with over 44,000 members, they may just have a point of sale to make.

Interviews have been edited and shortened for clarity.


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