Sales, Social Media and the Changing Face of Closing Deals

11 Minutes

Sales is an evolving world, particularly in the digital era, in which the way consumers and companies interact changes in a near-perpetual fashion. Gone are the days of sales being conducted solely by salespeople in suits, booking face-to-face meetings and phone calls to seal a deal.

We live in an era where customer experience is king. According to Salesforce data, 51% of sales leaders are now focused on retaining customers through deep relationships rather than forging new ones, showing that the connection between brand and consumer is more powerful than ever.

In this environment, it’s more important that a customer feels valued and senses a bond between themselves and the seller - which is why some of the best salespeople in the world don’t appear to be selling at all. Inspired by the digital era, a generation of secret salespeople have emerged who use social platforms to initiate and maintain that all-important bond between themselves and those they are selling to.


Impact on productivity


Salesforce data indicates that as many as 60% of sales teams are now encouraging collaboration to improve productivity. In light of the success of secret salespeople, sales departments across the world are keen to reap the rewards by reducing its position as a silo and getting marketing departments involved in the process.

New research from Pareto has looked at how this changing face of sales is starting to take effect with consumers. Globally, according to Statista data, as many as 71% of those with internet access are now using social media. It’s here that many secret salespeople are reaching their audiences, fostering those relationships that can lead to sales without people even knowing they’re absorbing advertisements.

While social selling may sound like the realm of the modern day influencer, it’s actually a trend that is spread far and wide, with some of the biggest and best in the world of business employing such tactics. Everyone from Bill Gates to Jeff Bezos use social media to sell products, brand and ideas alike.

We identified six types of social media salespeople from the world of business, sport, music and popular culture, from Michael Bloomberg to Kim Kardashian, and looked at how they interact with their audience to promote, connect and, ultimately, sell.


Secret Sales People

Our research examined the social media activity of 100 personalities from a range of industries. It looked at the different ways they conduct themselves in interactions with their audience, including:


  • The type of imagery they use
  • The type of language and key words they utilise
  • Most prevalent social platforms
  • The storytelling style they use
  • Content themes and format
  • The industries they operate in



By considering all of these factors, we were able to build specific personas of social sellers based on common traits and how these help each person succeed. These are: The promoter, the motivator, the engager, the maverick, the nurturer and the supporter.


Each of these distinct personalities interact with their audience in very different ways, but despite the varying types of language and tactics used, each has one common goal – to sell.


The Promoter

'The Promoter'

The promoter is someone who is a natural leader. They take the stage with confidence and are not afraid to be at the head of any queue, innovating and revolutionising. They are full of energy and promote themselves, brands and products through the use of high energy positivity and enthusiastic language.

Promoters are not afraid to innovate, and for that reason, many of those who fall under this sales persona are leaders in the tech field, including some of the biggest success stories in the industry’s history. They are proud of their products and forward-thinking approach and are not afraid to push that train of thought out into the world.

Some of the most famous innovators include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the man behind Amazon, Jeff Bezos and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who make use of bold language like “huge”, “excited” and “great” to promote their products and their vision, alongside a strong mix of product imagery and photos that show them in the real world.

Other promoters who use social media to innovate and sell include Apple’s Tim Cook, Virgin supremo Richard Branson and TV superstar Oprah Winfrey.


The Motivator

'The Motivator'

Motivators are the true influencers of the social sales world. They encourage people to think beyond the product, taking a bigger-picture approach to their interactions. They are all about motivating people to act in a certain way. To do so, they make use of a bold, inspirational tone of voice, urging others to buy into their brand or product.

Inspiration is at the heart of everything the motivator wants to achieve, which is why people like Deborah Meaden fall into this category, using aspirational, encouraging language and connecting with her audience with quoted retweets to create her influential sales persona often using words like “inspire” to push her audience to succeed and buy into her train of thought.

Motivators, perhaps unsurprisingly, can be seen across a range of industries. In the world of business, people like broadcaster Mary Portas, fitness tycoon Duncan Bannatyne and journalist Ariana Huffington fall firmly under the banner of motivator. They’re joined by celebrities including Serena Williams, Will Smith and Jay Z, all of whom use carefully-chosen language to generate emotions and inspire their followers.


The Engager

'The Engager'

For the engager, trends are the main driver for connecting with their target audience. Pushed forward by a competitive edge, they promote things that are highly popular and look to sell by bringing these trends to the attention of their target audience. The engager is also keen to interact with their audience, and can frequently be seen on social media responding to followers.

True engagement is at the heart of everything the engager does, which is why people like author JK Rowling fall into this category. Responding warmly to her audience, with full, impactful information, Rowling is always keen to engage. She is also often seen to tackle the big issues, speaking up about trends seen across the world.

Other social sellers who qualify as engagers include the likes of footballer and sports pundit Alan Shearer, former boxer George Foreman and finance expert Martin Lewis, who is always at the cutting edge of everything to do with personal finance.


The Maverick

'The Maverick'

Straight talking, to the point and, at times, abrupt, the maverick is not afraid to speak their mind. They are bold and driven to find success and to achieve this, they are willing to take risks. Some mavericks can veer towards low agreeableness, but they use their creativity and firm holding of their beliefs to make this work for them.

Mavericks often take a chance with the things they say, pushing the boundaries to make themselves and their cause stand out. While this doesn’t always win them friends, mavericks are rarely unnoticed and their ability to ruffle feathers gives them an edge when it comes to visibility.

For mavericks, wit is their main form of communication, often saying things that might be seen as controversial to drive a reaction. Mavericks include people like film star Ryan Reynolds, who uses self-deprecating humour and funny imagery to connect, and motoring expert Jeremy Clarkson, who often makes bold statements designed to cause conversation.


The Nurturer

'The Nurturer'

Quite the opposite of the maverick, the nurturer is all about friendship, family and the strong bond that can exist between a seller and those they are looking to influence. They put real importance on driving those relationships to make people feel like they are a part of something, using loyalty, relatability and reliability, kind language and patience to connect with their audience.

Many business people see the value in that bond that can exist between influencer and consumer, which is why tycoons like retail mogul Theo Paphitis and interior design expert Kelly Hoppen use this style to engage with their audience. They chiefly make use of a mixture of product imagery and real-life photos woven with language like “grateful”, “support”, “well done” and “dream” to push home that emotional connection.

Other nurturers include the likes of fashion icon Victoria Beckham and former Nestle and Procter & Gamble CEO Paul Polman, both of whom strive to connect with their audience in a deeper way.


The Supporter

'The Supporter'

For the supporter, social promotion is all about having a purpose. They put across a brand, product or ideology because, first and foremost, they have a strong moral or emotional connection to it. They are forward-thinking in their approach to interaction, making use of passion and ideals to drive home their dedication to a cause, seeking to resonate with their audience as a result.

Secret salespeople who fall under the banner of supporters exist in a wide range of industries, including sport, politics and business. In the business world, finance tycoon Michael Bloomberg makes use of a mix of real life imagery and written tweets comprising language like “glad” and “celebrate” to really drive home the emotional connection he has with the topics he’s discussing.

Likewise, scientist Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocoin pushes her support for causes she believes in to the fore with retweets and use of language like “proud” and “legacy”.

Other celebrities who fall under the banner of supporter include football icon Lionel Messi, former President Barack Obama and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.


The Persona Split

As well as identifying key personas in social selling, our research sought to find out how these personas act, as well as where they are most prominent in terms of industry. The data shows that there are some similar trends at play, particularly when it comes to industry spread, with certain industries proving to be dominated by a particular persona.


Social Selling Platforms

'Social Selling Platforms'

Regardless of persona, the overwhelming finding from our research was that Twitter remains the dominant platform for social selling. Whether maverick or motivator, every one of our personas chose Twitter as their primary place for selling to consumers.

Instagram was the second-most popular platform for social sellers to reach their audiences, perhaps surprisingly scoring well above Facebook, which only the Motivator and the Supporter were found to use.


Imagery use

'Imagery Use'

The majority of our personas were found to be using a decent mix of imagery when it comes to selling on social media, but the split in imagery types changed quite significantly depending on the type of selling taking place.

For example, the Maverick uses an even split of promotional and real life imagery to connect with their audience, while the Motivator errs far more on the side of the latter, with 70% of photos they use being real life. This was a trait shared by the Supporter, who also sees nearly three-quarters of their imagery coming in the form of real life. Perhaps surprisingly, only the Nurturer was found to use promotional more than real life.


Personas by Industry

'Personas by industry'

Unsurprisingly, in many cases people who were found to fall into certain categories shared their position with those who work in similar industries, with some sectors seeing a distinct wealth of certain personas.

For example, the vast majority of those who work in the technology industry were found to be Promoters when it comes to selling, which makes sense given the forward-thinking, leading the way approach they often take. Entertainment was also dominated by Promoters, while the creative sectors found themselves categorised as Nurturers most often.

Social sellers exist in every industry, playing a vital role in engaging consumers and influencing their decisions, without appearing to. These secret sales champions are helping to evolve the industry by harnessing a more personal approach, putting a greater focus on that all important digital-era factor – the customer experience.


Sales is evolving with technology, and over the past five years we’ve started to see a rise in what we like to call ‘secret salespeople’, and their power base is social media. These people are driving new buying behaviours. To stay ahead, the sales industry has to evolve. The ‘jack-the-lad’ shiny suit salesperson simply won’t cut it. There’s a new breed of highly intelligent, motivated, calculated new salespeople, focussed on building and nurturing relationships. Irrespective of leapfrog technology, and sales ‘persona’, what’s interesting is that relationship building skills is still the core trait for 21st century sales success. It drives everything we do at Pareto, and I suspect it always will."
- Jonathan Fitchew, CEO of Pareto


Pareto are market leaders in sales assessment training and development.

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