Word-of-mouth has long fueled the success of countless companies, big and small. But over the past several years, through the rise of the digital age, word-of-mouth has evolved into something with unlimited potential—something known as dark social. Now, a recommendation (or negative feedback) can reach millions with a single click of a ‘share’ button.

On this episode of Winning the Challenger Sale, we speak with dark-social pioneer Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, who explains just how far a single share can go. Modern buyers want to make their own decisions and look for recommendations from trusted sources—we dive into just how you can leverage that to maximize your reach and growth.

Join us as we discuss:

  • How dark social’s scale far outweighs word-of-mouth
  • The undeniable value of product-led growth
  • Segmenting and executing your sales process based on buyer intent

Listen to “#67 Winning Over the Modern Buyer Using the Power of Dark Social” on Spreaker.

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How dark social’s scale far outweighs word-of-mouth

A term pioneered by Chris himself, ‘dark social’ doesn’t refer to a Stormtrooper’s dinner party. Dark social is a prevalent phenomenon that continues to grow as more and more customers rely heavily on social media and technology-based experiences and networking.

What is dark social?

Executives who, historically, rarely participate in online communities, consume podcasts and digital experiences or gain knowledge through social platforms have now widely entered the digital world. What they consume and who they interact with defines the information they receive, therefore influencing buying decisions.

“This information influences how they’re deciding what business priorities to resolve and which vendors to consider,” Chris says. “This is all happening completely in the background.”

Why does dark social matter?

Companies rely heavily on technology to measure trends and adapt their strategies. But this dark social phenomenon isn’t trackable. 

“Dark Social does not create intent data or get attributed by software. All these different touchpoints that make meaningful impacts on buying decisions mainly on creating demand—companies don’t see the effects.”

When companies can’t account for dark social, they are unable to adjust their strategies to give customers what they actually want. In fact, they may even be out of tune with their audience’s wants and needs entirely.

The scale of dark social is what ultimately sets it apart from word of mouth.

“In 2023 you can share something on TikTok, podcasts, LinkedIn—all these different places,” Chris says. “You can touch thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions with one posted message.”

Social selling as a solution

By the time buyers reach out to have a conversation with sales, they are already over halfway through their buyer journey. Simply put—buyers want to do more of the process independently. 

And above all else, buyers trust their peers. In the digital age, they know where and how to access their peers in a variety of different ways across several platforms—most of which cannot be tracked by attribution software.

The solution? Inject yourself into your buyer’s community and add value.

Enabling your team to participate in social selling may look different across teams, but the participation of each is equally important. Chris shares how to enable each of the following teams:

  1. Sales
  2. Marketing
  3. Customer service
  4. Executive

The undeniable value of product-led growth

Product-led growth (PLG) is undeniable. It’s succeeded throughout history and perpetuates today. But there are modern motions that can help you maximize efficiency and effectiveness in regards to PLG.

“Having dual bottom-up and top-down motions in your go-to market for users and key decision makers is an undeniable trend companies who build it from the ground up get a lot of advantages from,” Chris says. 

But even with a dual approach, companies should also stack on their enterprise motion—a move many struggle with.

When an enterprise has been started top-top, inserting PLG into existing systems is a challenge that shifts the entire model behind a sales team. By building PLG into enterprise motion from the ground up, companies can have greater control over their entire strategies and have deeper, better insight into their customer base.

Segmenting and executing your sales process based on buyer intent

Another secret to increasing your sales efficiency: segmenting your sales process based on buyer intent.

According to Chris, there are three major segments customers can belong in:

  1. Declared intent: This person has expressed interest in purchasing by reaching out to sales.
  2. Assumed intent: This person has interacted with your business in some way that suggests they may be interested in purchasing. Examples can include downloading an ebook, subscribing to your newsletter or actively engaging with your social media.
  3. Low/No intent: This person is someone who would require cold outreach.

Then you can build different introductory resources and processes based on where each person is. When you can tailor your strategy to each of these buyer intents, you can connect more deeply by better serving each audience’s needs.

“Understand what people want,” Chris says. “Then have some understanding about their level of intent and the other steps they want to complete before they reach a level of a declared intent.”

Segmenting buyers by intent also allows companies to tailor and target their strategy based on where their audience is. According to Chris, the goal is to ultimately have an audience that wants to buy before they ever reach your sales team.

“We have to architect our go-to market strategy to make that happen,” he says. “Partners, community, content, dark social—there’s a ton of different levers that you can pull.”

Want to learn more about leveraging dark social in your sales strategy? Listen to the full episode of Winning the Challenger Sale where Chris reveals more about how you can break into dark social channels, segmenting and targeting portions of your audience and encouraging your team to participate in social selling.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for it in your favorite podcast player.

Andee Harris

Andee Harris is CEO of Challenger. Andee brings more than two decades of experience growing and scaling service and technology businesses. She has previously led multiple companies, both as CEO and Senior Vice President, through periods of rapid revenue growth, critical fundraising, and successful acquisition. These companies include Highground (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), TMBC (acquired by ADP), Syndio and Emerging Solutions (acquired by Emtec).