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How Not to Suck at Social Selling

 

socialnetwork

Like many of you, I get my fair share of spam.  While most of the spam we think about is of the email variety, our social networks are becoming increasingly more crowded with useless requests and messages and pleas to connect.  My fear is that we are doing to social what we have done to email.

I believe that social networking has been an enormous boon for the sales profession.  Another way to learn about and engage with prospects and industry leaders?  Yep, I do not think any sales professional would turn down that opportunity.  But as with any novel platform, it attracts both the good and the bad, and of late, LinkedIn and Twitter has been experiencing much more of the latter.

What do I mean by bad social networking usage?  Here are a few examples I received just this week:

  • Sending a generic connection request, especially if we have never met or spoken to each other
  • Sending a connection request where you pitch me from the very first sentence
  • Sending an InMail that is also nothing but a long winded pitch
  • Sending a connection request from a blatantly fake LinkedIn profile
  • Tweet replies out of context and pushing their agenda
  • Auto DM’s on Twitter that are nothing but a link to some download

Enough people tolerate these behaviors that it gives some modicum of hope to the sales and marketing spammers.  The growing volume of these activities however is starting to have an effect.  Even legitimate requests are getting ignored and some people I know have a backlog of hundreds of these requests totally unanswered and unopened.

My plea to you is to not be the person that adds to the noise and spam.  How to do that?  I have three thoughts that will help get your social selling approach on the right track.

You need to focus on the person you want to connect with, not on what you want to pitch.  You have to be able to answer the “what’s in it for me” question from the perspective of the person you wish to engage and connect with.  Another way of thinking about this is to answer the question of “why you want to connect”.  If your first thought is you want to sell them something, you got your prioritization wrong because before you can sell anything, you got to build a connection which leads to my next point.

You need to express a genuine interest in the people you wish to engage and understand what they care about.  You can get a sense of that in a number of ways such as reading an article they wrote or tweets they shared or updates they posted on LinkedIn.  Then you can share something of interest or value with that person like an interesting article or quote.  You are creating a sense of reciprocity in the process by taking interest in their thoughts and content and responding in kind.

You need to switch your approach from buyer / seller to teacher / student.  You have no idea what needs a person may have, so it is better to engage from the perspective of needing help and asking someone more knowledgeable for advice and guidance.  People have more of an inclination to help others once they are engaged in a conversation and feel the request is genuine.  Do not pummel people with questions, but ask one or two thoughtful questions that at least shows you have done your homework.

The point is that effective social selling is the polar opposite of the hard sell.  If you agree that the pushy sales tactics that make us cringe are ineffective in face-to-face interactions, then the same holds true for your online activities.  You need to build trust and credibility, and not abuse either with being pushy or going in for the close.  That just does not work in this day and age. because there is too much noise and too much information available to buyers.  Instead, be hyper focused on what the person you wish to connect with truly cares about.  That is going to go a long way in establishing credibility and opening up opportunities down the road to discuss whatever it is you sell.  You are playing the long game here and building rapport, not trying to score quick hits.

That is the core to social selling and what makes you successful in sales in the long run.  If you take nothing else from this post though, at the very least tape this mantra to your computer screen:

“Be authentic, care about people, avoid business speak, add value in every conversation.”

 


 

 

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Chris Potter

About the author: Mark Birch

Mark is an early stage technology investor and entrepreneur based in NYC. Through Birch Ventures, he works with a portfolio of early stage B2B SaaS technology startups providing both capital and guidance in the areas of marketing, sales, strategic planning and funding.

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