“Social Selling” Isn’t Social Stalking…

…It’s Social Effectiveness

Recently I overheard people at a conference talking about how connecting with people on LinkedIn is so great because “they expose all of their connections to you!!” The implication was this extra benefit of instant access to their network to “sell your stuff” or some other personal gain. The first thing they verbalized wasn’t to build a better relationship, or to better understand their new connection, but the first thing they thought of was “what’s in it for me” and a backdoor of access. The comment drew up all kinds of reminders about the low opinion people have of salespeople at times.

I don’t expose my network to connections anyway, and it felt very “icky” hearing how they would be combing through anything they would have access to in order to see what they can gain from it. This eagerness to exploit new connections in that way really missed the point for me, everyone that understands how to engage effectively knows this. A real-world example of the above is being in a client’s office, and when they step out for a moment diving into their rolodex to see whose numbers you can find– they let you in their office, right?

Social Selling isn’t exploiting your relationships in a way prospects wouldn’t appreciate

The above situation isn’t the intention of “Social Selling,” it isn’t exploiting your relationships in a way prospects wouldn’t appreciate. The purpose of adding a layer of social research is making relationships better, more peer-level, and stronger. It is perfectly fine to research your prospects, opportunities may present themselves through that, but immediately diving into their network with entitlement isn’t the point nor is trying to connect with everyone in their network.

I have had people try to connect with many people I know using a feigned connection to me as a way to get accepted, and maybe they got a LinkedIn connection out of it, but that’s all they got. If their goal was to have lots of connections, they were a success! :/ But if they aren’t doing something for those people, it has a shallow impact. Social Selling done right progresses and adds depth to your professional relationships. And it is something that great reps have been doing since sales became a profession, it’s just paying attention. 50 years ago it was paying attention to little personal details, sending cards and “gift baskets” (thank you Michael Scott,) and caring about your prospects enough to invest time into them. Social Selling is just a modern descriptor of something that isn’t new….

Real Social Selling can be defined with these activities:

  • Understanding your prospect while in a remote setting. Many first (second and third) meetings are now remote, entire sales cycles are remote. I have worked with people for years and in some cases rarely meet in person, yet maintain a strong connection because we pay attention to what is happening with them.
  • Preparation that makes meetings highly effective. There is no reason to join a meeting and not know who you are speaking to with the huge amount of data in the public domain–some of it created by your prospect. Even late-adopters of LinkedIn were forced by necessity to promote themselves and have a presence. Wasting time in meetings discussing things you could have found with 10 minutes of preparation isn’t a good use of the access you have with prospects.
  • Meaningful engagement with your prospects. Some simple actions can help you keep a pulse on what is happening with your prospect. You should connect with them on LinkedIn, not to stalk their network but to stay engaged. Share meaningful information that builds credibility and depth to the connection you have. You can learn more about the types of content that makes a difference to them through their activity online, that helps you narrow the focus to topics they are interested in.
  • Filling in the “white space” between conversations. People are now much more available digitally via social platforms. They may publish articles, share content, or various other activities you can engage with and extend the lifecycle of your live engagements. Also, you can demonstrate a level of sincerity by genuinely caring about what they are working on. Many B2B deals have long and complicated sales cycles, the relationship you build will make a difference in the long-term.
  • Stay in the “know” of their company. Setting yourself up for success means putting what is in the public domain to work for you. Have alerts set up for press releases, news, updates, etc. about your prospects. It enables you have meaningful engagement vs. the “just checking in” exchange. You can reach out to acknowledge awards, announcements, etc. It shows you care about your prospects and makes a difference how prospects perceive you.
  • Connect the dots. Staying engaged with your prospects enabled you to also see activities that can prompt you to reconnect sooner. For example, let’s say you see they recently connected with a rep from a competing company–that is a flag to see what is going on in there and if it makes sense to reengage sooner vs. later.

Social Selling doesn’t require being a power-user of social media nor does it take tons of time, but it does pay off when you invest in yourself to make sure you are as informed as possible and continually monitor your prospects and pipeline.

Below is a session from Dreamforce describing Social Selling in action. The tools you may use can change from time to time, the intentions are always the same–add value, create sticky relationships, and make up for distance with value and communication.

Social Selling Selling at Dreamforce

The author provides the following image credit: Getty Images
MariAnne Vanella
About the author: 

MariAnne Vanella is the Chief Executive Officer of The Vanella Group, providing High quality, high touch engagement and telesales-based lead generation services for enterprise technology companies since 2001. Previously Ms. Vanella was the Vice President – Corporate Marketing for Cisco, and the Director – US Sales for both GeoTrain and PictureTalk.  Follow her on Twitter and on Linkedin.