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Mar 10, 2020 Sarah Goodall

Social Selling vs. Digital Selling vs. Modern Selling

Over the years I’ve noticed the vocabulary change in my industry and it’s starting to cause some confusion, so I figured it was time set the record straight. 

LinkedIn call it Modern Selling. Organisations like SAP call it Digital Selling. Most LinkedIn trainers talk about Social Selling


social digital modern selling


Is there a difference and if so, what is it?

First, it’s important to clarify the common theme to all these definitions – the word ‘selling’.  The irony is that none of these methods involve directly selling.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  The moment you try to sell using digital or social technologies is the moment you will likely put your buyer off.

I’ve spoken to customers, industry experts and influencers about the phraseology and here’s my take on what they are (and what they are not) and how they are different.

Social Selling is about building meaningful relationships via social networks.  It involves listening to your audience, identifying triggers to engage, connecting with them and consistently sharing content to help their network through their decision-making process.

Social Selling is not about popularity and connecting with thousands of people you don’t know.  It’s also not about spamming your network several times a day with content that isn’t relevant to their needs.

Modern Selling is about building a brand and not just a network.  It considers that people within your organisation (not just your sales teams) can influence buyers with their digital credibility, thought leadership and relationships.

Modern Selling is not about being the first to try every new social media platform as soon as they launch.  It isn’t about being trendy or cutting edge to get one up on your peers.

Digital Selling is about engaging prospects and customers using other digital technologies, of which social media is one of them.  Consider video, automation, AI, online presentations, CRM etc.  Building overall digital confidence within your entire organisation is critical because it involves your experts, marketing, leaders and wider employee eco-system.

Digital Selling is not about selling via every digital channel possible, creating digital avatars for your sales teams or selling via Chatbots.  Nor is it the role of the digital marketing team. 

LinkedIn Post Images (13)

So, whilst the three are connected, they’re a little different. 

Ultimately, to reach the modern/digital/social savvy buyer in 2020, all organisations need to learn how to transform their entire business and not just their sales teams.  Therefore, whilst trying not to be too picky, I feel this industry has possibly spent too long changing the wrong word.

What if we swapped out ‘selling’ for ‘business’?

Social Business

Digital Business

Modern Business

By digitally upskilling and activating the voice of all employees on social media (not just sales) organisations will benefit greatly from the value that comes via connected networks.  In my humble opinion, this is what most businesses are yet to realise. 

Connections turn into conversations

Conversations turn into relationships

Relationships turn into revenue (or a referral)

So, whatever the difference, the holistic objective should remain the same – to create meaningful relationships that ultimately drives business growth.


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About Tribal Impact

Tribal Impact is a B2B Social Selling and Employee Branding Agency.

We're a team of social media strategists, trainers, coaches, content creators and data analysts who are passionate about helping our B2B customers develop and scale their social selling and employee advocacy programs.

Learn more about us here.

Published by Sarah Goodall March 10, 2020
Sarah Goodall