Sales Education Finds Community Gains Through Digital Channels


Research giant Gartner projects that 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur through digital channels by 2025. The research adds that buying behaviors within B2B have shifted toward a buyer-centric digital model since the beginning of Covid-19. As a result, Gartner forecasts that the future of sales will be permanently transformed in strategy, processes, and resource allocation.

LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) scores sales representatives on their relative mastery of four pillars of social selling (creating a professional brand, focusing on the right prospects, engaging with insights, and building trusted relationships). The platform reports that professionals with high SSI scores earn 45% more sales opportunities and are 51% more likely to hit their quotas. Furthermore, 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 appears to be a natural next step to moving products and services. In a recent report by EMR, Global Digital Marketing Market Report and Forecast 2023-2028, the global digital marketing market reached a value of nearly $321 billion in 2022. Furthermore, expectations are for the market to continue growing to a CAGR of 13.1% between 2023 and 2028, reaching a value of around $671.9 billion by 2028.

Education solutions to support a digital sales ecosystem are playing catch-up to the needs of those buying and selling in an ever-digital world. The current state of knowledge acquisition versus application might be gleaned from seller perceptions.

Hootsuite research revealed that 82% of companies 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 discussions and social causes, creating connections without the physical constraints of the natural world. Selling through these user-defined groups continues to grow out of personal connections and longstanding user experiences with the technology.

Chris Stapleton and Landon Stewart of Clients & Community represent a growing group of early-career entrepreneurs that recognized the value of an established technology platform in aiding sales opportunities. Like many, the story of their company was ushered in weeks before the world shut down due to Covid-19.

The twist in Stapleton and Stewart’s story is worthy of note in an approach to selling through digital means that has quickly made this duo one to monitor. Stapleton and Stewart leveraged the advertising industry to their benefit by refocusing the power of paid ads. Instead of going outside the confines of a defined group to attract members-turned-customers, they integrated ads within their groups.

They have shared stages with notable marketers and speakers like Tony Robbins, Russell Brunson, Dean Graziosi, Pete Vargas, Taylor Welch, Cole Gordon, and Ryan Holiday. Stapleton and Stewart’s ascent has given them a platform to support others with similar entrepreneurial passions. “We are incredibly focused on supporting the activities of our members to build their businesses into million-dollar companies. We have assisted our clients in generating over $100 million in revenue,” says Stapleton.

As corporations continue to investigate the merits of content marketing strategies across various social platforms, Stewart is committed to the individual entrepreneur. “It is one thing to build a business that is profitable for yourself, but Chris and I have been laser-focused on mentoring the largest contingent of Facebook group millionaires. We’ve helped prop up 17 thus far, and our goal is to support another 100 over the next 24 months.”

In the meantime, higher education plays catch-up to teaching skills native to Gen-Z and Millennials, initial explorers like Stapleton and Stewart will continue to sell their book and courses, accounting for over $10 million in revenue in under 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 through what means in a highly digitized world.

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

One 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-increasing digital world. The proliferation of online learning materials to advance strategies for entrepreneurs lends to a burgeoning generation of point-and-click community transactions.

The independence of entrepreneurs can often drive business-building decisions aimed at efficiently meeting customers at the point of sale. Digital environments have cultivated a collaborative rhythm to share ideas, news, and stories reflective of the lives people lead around the world.

While it may be difficult for corporations to fuse authentic selling into community groups of shared interest and practice into juggernauts like Facebook, individual proprietors are finding great value and market traction.

Stapleton and Stewart found themselves tasked with growing their professional mentor’s Facebook group back in 2015. A relatively simple but savvy inversion of established marketing methods like paid advertisements resulted in incredible growth and a company of their own. Millennials and Gen-Z are subsets of a larger and growing community of digital natives equipped to leverage technology in new and previously uncharted ways.

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

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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