What Sales Leaders Really Need to Know About Social Selling

Contrary to what you may hear, social selling isn’t a NEW idea. I can say that because I’ve been using the term in my writing and speaking since early 2009, as I was writing my book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media. Rather than trying to take credit for the term though, I want to suggest that you, as a sales leader, need to be wary of the sales trainers and software platform sellers merely trying to capitalize on a “buzz term” they think is hot.

Why am I bothered about the abuse of the term social selling?

Well, for two reasons:

1. The misguided assumption that the use of social tools (LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Twitter or Facebook) on their own is the strategy that will increase sales and cure sales performance problems.

Use of technology is NOT a sales strategy!

Far too many of the “self-proclaimed” social selling experts want you to believe that all your sales people need to know is how to use LinkedIn, and once they do, sales will magically increase. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of LinkedIn since I became member number 874,098 on July 22, 2004, and am thrilled that my company was recently selected as one of seven to join LinkedIn’s Sales Solutions Certified Partner program. But for all the love, I know, as you need to know, that LinkedIn – just like any other technology - is a sales tool that enables a sound sales approach but does not replace it.

Ask yourself, what good is technology if your sales people do not follow a sales process; they lack basic common sense, good communication and sound selling skills?

I don’t need to tell you the answer. You already know what it is.

2. The over reliance on technology is quickly replacing the basic principles of great selling.

The gap is only getting wider as more and more sales people seem to think that the technology will do the actual selling for them. Good communication, listening, business and sales skills and even the basic principles of etiquette is disappearing…quickly!

Social selling is not merely a set of tactics reliant on one technology platform or even a combination of platforms. I believe that Social Selling is a strategic way of thinking about what today’s buyers want and expect from sales people. Yes, technology is part of the equation and can help you reach your prospects more quickly, but what are your sales people saying and doing once they get in front of them?

What do you, as the sales leader, really need to know about social selling?

Unless you have a plan that is aligned with sales objectives, the right people with the right skills, a process followed consistently, use of the right platform(s), sales messages communicated from the customer point of view, defined metrics to track, and an approach that is mixed with equal parts persistence and patience, you haven’t a prayer of achieving the sales results you seek.

Technology is only a fraction of the real sales story, but the so-called experts won’t bother to tell you that!

11 thoughts on “What Sales Leaders Really Need to Know About Social Selling

  1. OMG!! great post Barb! there’s such a unique opportunity with social selling and I look to you and others in the market to make sure it’s successful as part of a larger Sales Org transformation.

    • Thanks Brian! I am just soooo tired of people making it sound like technology by itself gets it done. Frankly, I don’t care how great your LinkedIn profile might be, and it should be great, but it still doesn’t replace great selling skills. I hope I can get people to think more strategically and holistically about it all.

        • Sure Joss - those are great tools. And I’m confident that there are many other great tools that I don’t even know about. My blog point is that the starting point is with a strategic plan to determine objectives, clearly target your audience, choose the right technologies to support your plan, give your sales people training and guidance so that they are effective, follow your process consistently and measure and track the results.

          It just bothers me that people fly into the technology without being clear about their objectives, they flounder around and then proclaim that social media doesn’t help in driving sales. Done well, it absolutely does.

          Thanks for weighing in!

  2. Thanks for this eye opening post, Barb. As a marketer, I often tell clients that social media is part of the story, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Social platforms are built on the foundation of traditional sales and marketing principles, but the social experts would never tell you that!

    • Here here Jacqueline! Every article I read (well most) regarding social selling focuses on technology or it’s your personal brand, or it’s a great profile. So much more to it than that!

  3. Hi Barb.

    I certainly agree with you that it’s not about the tools, but how you use them and you selling skills.

    But I’m puzzled at your comment that”so-called experts won’t bother to tell you that”.

    As far as I can see, everyone says it’s not in the tools.

    Are there really a bunch of social selling experts out there saying “it’s all about the technology, it doesn’t matter how you use it or what your sales skills are?”. Surely not?


    • Yes, Ian there are numerous folks trying to sell their LinkedeIn workshops (as one example) who don’t bother with the strategy and other key elements related to success. I became so bothered by all the noise that I was prompted to write my most.

      I appreciate the validation that tools without strategy leads to nothing worth investing dollars in.

  4. Pingback: Is It Time to Get Real About Social Selling? | Motivation Live

  5. Usually I don’t learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, very great post.

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