Why You Must Stop Believing Social Selling Exists
Sure, LinkedIn and countless self-appointed “social selling experts” say social selling is a wave — catch it.
But have you noticed their tone lately? Many of these folks talk down to you.
“You are not doing it right, you are not taking it seriously enough.”
Or perhaps more accurately:
“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you'll be left behind. What? You don't know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I'll show you the way forward!”
Revolution they cry!
Problem is, the sales revolution they're selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet.
There is no revolution, only evolution. Believing there is a new selling paradigm risks your team's ability to adapt.
Are you willing to risk it? Are you risking it right now?
We Should not Name This a “New” Strategy
There is nothing new about sales — other than customers having better access to information, more quickly and easily. There is no need to invent a fancy new name for sales as it evolves.
“But Jeff, you're wrong: Giving this new strategy a name could help explain this new skill set in sales operations internally, to management. Especially if the company is still a bit behind in evolution when it comes to sales approach.”
But are you behind? Behind in what? Knowledge of how to work the tool?
Working a new tool like LinkedIn or Twitter is not making anyone successful — despite the marketing claims of companies and expert gurus who have a stake in the game.
Using the term “social selling” is, so far, most helpful to those selling tool-focused education or rah-rah cheerleading fodder themselves. These are the instant experts whose qualifications rest on "I use LinkedIn a lot.”
Literally anyone can be a part of this club.
Here's my beef with this situation: In the end, I'm witnessing less emphasis on sales techniques that work for sellers, and more emphasis on how to use tools.
I suspect this is because the people involved don't have (or practice) good, traditional sales skills!
The result: A lot of sales people practicing marketing on LinkedIn. Farming with it. And failing to start conversations. They're pushing posts, updates, comments, etc.
Social Selling Success Isn't Success at All
Successful sales pros are successful because they know how to find, qualify and close sales. They consistently experience success because they are superior researchers, diligent workers and excellent communicators.
By the way, they rock on the phone. Yes, the phone.
Says the “Sales Hunter,” Mark Hunter:
“Recently I was coaching a large national sales team selling to IT departments and we had huge success by integrating the telephone, email, social media and even in-person meetings together. The sales reps who had the most success were the ones that used the telephone the most.”
Mr. Hunter admits there were reps who claimed the phone didn't work. In fact, they fought it.
“But it was a short fight,” says Mr. Hunter, “because their results were so poor. The phone worked because it was used in conjunction with other prospecting tools.”
Success has less to do with knowing how to use any social or digital tool, and more to do with an effective communications technique.
Is LinkedIn Sales Navigator Worth it?
Investing in LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be smart — but only if you have a means to convert the tech tool into business. This requires having an effective prospecting technique.
Sellers I work with are pulling buyers on social. They're starting conversations with buyers by hunting them, then attracting them to a conversation. They're plumbing LinkedIn's database, discovering effective ways to start conversations.
They're sparking curiosity and starting discussions rather than trying to set meetings.
A recent customer, Dan, emailed me explaining why he was happy to meet me:
“I don't just want the 'how to' of the tool. I want to know what to do with it. LinkedIn can teach you how to use their ‘wrench’ but I want to know which bolts to turn and how, so to speak.”
Smart. Do you see the difference?
Most social selling training courses encourage unproductive behavior. The result is that many sellers are selling “socially” by being as anti-social as you can imagine. They are usually:
- Automating LinkedIn outreach using software tools LinkedIn prohibits
- Applying “push” prospecting tactics that have never, ever worked
- Spamming potential buyers even when they know it's ineffective and damaging
- Not learning what does work: “pull” communications tactics
The worst part: If you're investing in LinkedIn, your company pays a premium to achieve these horrors! Many organizations are spending between $10,000 and $250,000 on Sales Navigator.
All to access the tech tool — while overlooking the what to do with it.
We Are Undervaluing Technique
I think we see many pushing the term "social selling" because they have a product to sell, a tool. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But here's the issue: price versus true expense. Trade-offs.
That same customer, Dan, also said to me,
“I mentioned to my boss that I’d found some training that I thought would help move us forward with starting conversations that led to appointments on LinkedIn. He was supportive. But I guarantee you he was thinking of something I’d put on my expense report for a couple hundred bucks.”
Are we taking digital seriously enough? Yes. Very seriously, actually. But are we taking the tools more seriously than effective sales technique development?
My students often tell me: "We come to you for the piece LinkedIn doesn't give us — the communications methodology."
In fact, I have LinkedIn sales people attending my workshops! They are in search of a better way to start conversations about selling LinkedIn Sales Navigator licenses to large corporations.
As to giving sales new names as it evolves? Well, I don't see this as a new course in sales operations. I don't see it this way because everything I experience tells me "back to basics" works on these new digital platforms.
What do you think?