Social Selling Is Not a Thing: An Open Letter

July 13, 2017 0

69% of salespeople say they use social selling to attract and convert prospects. Although, while social selling is the label sales organizations have collectively decided to use for classifying the efforts they make toward connecting with potential buyers through personal online profiles, social selling isn’t actually a thing. Well, not really.

Sales Reps and Social Sellling

Here’s the idea: social selling removes—or at least reduces—the need for salespeople to deliver traditional pitches and follow-ups.  Overall, the objective is to create conversations and build connections related to your product or service offering, meant to generate sales organically. The seller’s job is to provide the knowledge and guidance each buyer needs for his or her journey to the final step, a completed sale.

The key to social selling is more the social, less the selling.  Sound familiar?  If you’re a marketer it does. Social selling isn’t really its own thing, it’s part of another thing: Regular old content marketing.

Social Selling - Buyers Matter

Because social channels are connected to real people who genuinely exist in the actual world, conversations and information used to network with them need to be sincere and authentic. Most users respond more favorably when offered helpful advice and demonstrations of benefit, rather than product-centric messaging.

It does seem, however, that many sales reps who use social are having trouble letting go of the hard sell. Consequently, they approach social selling with the same tactics they’ve always used to achieve business results. It’s very hammer/nail and it’s a bit of a bummer for us nails.

So, faced today with yet another “TIME SENSITIVE – EXCLUSIVE INVITATION” from a distant social media connection, I thought it was only fair to respond. Here’s my Open Letter to Social Sellers:



Dear Go-getting Sales Rep:

It would be great if, when you use social media to reach customers, you’d sell to us the way we want to buy.

Do you sometimes forget that we consumers don’t usually buy just for the sake of buying? That we spend on products and services based on our needs? If you want us to believe you have the magic pill that we’ve all been missing, you should meet us where we are.

Firstly, showing proves. Skeptical of empty sales promises, marketing hype, so-so products, and up-selling pressure, we consumers have developed a bullet-proof immunity to flimflam. Proclamations and exaggerations just bounce right off. You’ll announce how impressive you are, but we, the overmarketed-to public, probably won’t believe a word until you show us you’ve got the goods.

How? Get testimonials from happy clients and showcase them. Provide free, helpful content. Can you quantify metrics? Do you have reviews, endorsements? Use them to highlight your knowledge and show off your experience.  When you can back up the big talk, we are more likely to trust you and ultimately, buy from you.

While we’re on the subject of big talk, think back to the last networking event you attended. Did you make your way to the middle of the crowd, climb onto the nearest tabletop to begin screaming your credentials while tossing your business card at everyone who happened by? Of course not!

Your parents would say that’s because you were raised well. Sure, that’s probably true.  But also, it’s because you’re a smart businessperson who knows that loudly (and randomly) forcing your message out only encourages people to move away, fast. That’s just as–maybe even more–true on social. So please, use your indoor voice. It can make the difference between you amping up our interest, and you being placed on permanent mute.

Furthermore, you may not know this, but we don’t like it when you try to establish a sales relationship the minute we connect with you. Just because we’re willing to network via social media, doesn’t mean you’ve got consent to send a direct message soliciting business. You can’t have us at hello.

It’s not that we’re against hearing what you have to say, but we’d be more open to it if you’d demonstrate that your primary goal is earning our trust and building a relationship, rather than trying to sell, sell sell. If we sense that you’re primarily pushing product promotions, we’ve probably already tuned you out.

Finally, a really great way to increase our trust is to under promise and over deliver.  Maybe you’ve heard that a few too many times, but it’s cliché for a reason. We ask that you please don’t ever mislead us as to what you can or are willing to do. It upsets us. 

So, to sum up, not only do we buyers expect you to offer a product or service that we genuinely want and need, and the ability to show how you’re adding value and solving our problems, we want to be able to trust you.

Nobody said this was going to be easy.

If you’re not willing to let go of the hard sell and work to build our trust, we’ll probably buy from someone else who is, even if the offering isn’t as good. Oh, and also block you.