Despite all the hype surrounding social selling, only 8% of companies identified social selling as a “top sales priority.” (Cue the sound of crickets chirping.) Social selling has become a cottage industry. There is no shortage of “LinkedIn experts” offering to help optimize your social selling efforts, but how many people are actually closing deals as a result of social selling? Here’s my opinion on what’s behind the social selling hype and why so many are failing at it.
What social selling isn’t
Far too many social sellers have simply transferred annoying sales practices from one medium to another. When today’s buyer wants information about a product or service, they are looking for material that is useful, relevant and, most of all, not overly “salesy”. Having learned that cold calling is producing diminishing returns, these “social sellers” are now using a similar approach on LinkedIn. We’ve all seen it — you receive a request to connect on LinkedIn. You accept. Faster than the beat of a hummingbird’s wings, you receive a LinkedIn message from your new connection. It’s a generic sales pitch with absolutely no context to your unique situation. I’m fairly inclusive about accepting connection requests, but this “social selling” tactic is making me rethink that.
I have had many lead generation “experts” use this approach with me. A minimal amount of research ( taking two seconds to review my profile) would show that I help other businesses generate conversions, not just traffic. And even 30 seconds of research would allow these “social sellers” to qualify me out of their sales process, saving us both time. What they’ve done is transfer annoying sales practices from the telephone to LinkedIn. The prevalence of these practices has a lot to do with the fact that business leaders are just starting to attach importance to social selling.
What social selling should be
In my opinion, social selling is more of a tool than a sales channel. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use social media to generate sales leads, but you need to be respectful and helpful with your social sales outreaches and offer value first. Here are few tips for your outbound social selling.
1. ALWAYS use context in your outbound social selling. Do research on the person you’re approaching and their company and explain how your solution could potentially help them.
2. Get to the point! People are busy and don’t have time to read your 5,000 word capabilities statement. If someone approaches me and briefly shows me that they have taken the time to research me and my company, I try to at least give them the courtesy of a response. Unfortunately, most people that approach me don’t do that.
3. Be respectful. Cyber stalking is scary and is not going to close deals for you.
Your social selling is significantly more effective when the person you’re approaching has some awareness of you and your company when you’re reaching out.
How to use social selling as a tool
Social media is best used as a tool to support your integrated sales and marketing efforts. The concept behind social media is that it is a two-way conversation in which participants can choose subjects and people to interact with. If you respect those principles and earn trust, selling will be a natural progression of the communications process. Here are some suggestions on how you can gain trust and build relationships to help you sell.
1. Use social media to promote your content. If you’re not producing content that is helpful to your customers and prospects, you should be. Promote your content on your company’s social media accounts first then share to your personal pages. It’s up to your social followers to decide whether to access it or not. The best way to get people engaged with your content is to make it good. Unhelpful or unprofessional content will hurt you more than help you. In promoting your content, remember to be relevant and not just talk about yourself and company. Don’t be that person who ruins LinkedIn Groups with self-promotional spam.
2. Use social media to start relationships. If you want to develop a relationship with a person or a company, a good place to start is to follow them on their social media accounts. Give to get. Rather than send an unsolicited sales pitch, try re-tweeting or sharing some of their content. Believe me, that will get you noticed by someone who is promoting content on social media. They will be much more likely to engage with you than the person who immediately goes for the kill with the spammy sales pitch. One of the biggest mistakes I see social sellers do is rush to move the sale ahead. They connect, and then they pitch their product or service. I don’t like it — and your prospects don’t like it. Instead, look for what’s in common, and have a conversation about that. Be a person and make a real connection.
3. Use social media to research and qualify prospects. The more focused you are in your sales and marketing efforts you are, the more successful you will be. Rather than spray and pray, use social media to learn about your prospects and tailor your communications with them. If nothing else, view a prospect’s LinkedIn profile and check out their website before you make any sales approach. LinkedIn’s ‘The State of Sales’ Reports shares…
- 77% of buyers saying that they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson if they didn’t do the necessary homework that would give them insights or knowledge into their business.
It’s not rocket science, it’s mostly common sense!
If you view social selling as an immediate revenue generation tactic, you will invariably crash and burn. However, if you’re helpful and respectful on social media, selling should come as a natural consequence to building a meaningful business relationship with people and businesses.
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