Social media continues to generate business hyperbole but the burning question is whether it can actually help salespeople sell.
Not so, according to the findings of two surveys presented at the 2012 annual convention of the Southwestern Psychological Association in Oklahoma, City.
The research, reported by behavioural scientists Trelitha R. Bryant and George W. Dudley, surveyed 4,768 salespeople in more than 1,000 US companies about which form of client communication is most helpful for generating new sales.
Almost 70% said established forms of communication such as face-to-face and telephone contact, were most helpful generating new sales, while only 10% claimed email was most effective and less than 10% said other forms of computer-mediated communication were most effective.
The evidence also suggests that the results were not age-related.
To confirm their results, the research team conducted a follow-up study of 1,512 additional salespeople, with the outcome essentially the same (68% said conventional, 2.8% computer-mediated).
"Further analyses uncovered another relationship," Dudley said. "Salespeople claiming social media is most effective might be struggling with sales call reluctance, an emotional impediment to production characterised by apprehension, conflict, hesitation or avoidance specifically associated with sales prospecting. They had elevated prospecting distress scores on eleven of the twelve forms of sales call reluctance measured by the test."
Bryant added: "The second study confirmed what we learned in the first, including the link with sales call reluctance. Computer-mediated social media may help find a date, keep tabs on old friends or support a political campaign. But most salespeople don't think it's as helpful as conventional person-to-person contact for generating new sales."
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined MyCustomer in 2007.