Your Social Selling Strategy Is Broken

At the heart of most social selling strategies are poisonous ideas. Concepts that “experts” claim are best practices — that actually decrease chances of earning buyers’ business. Ideas like: Never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting you customer. It’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it.

How to Avoid Broken Links, Broken Layouts, and Unhappy Subscribers (2015 Direct Marketing Day Virtual Conference Session)At the heart of most social selling strategies are poisonous ideas. Concepts that “experts” claim are best practices — that actually decrease chances of earning buyers’ business.

Ideas like: Never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting you customer. It’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it.

“Saying this is wrong and it’s hurting people,” says sales trainer Anthony Innarino.

“More and more self-styled gurus popping up and pontificating to the sales profession that one form or another of prospecting is dead,” says author and sales trainer Jeb Blount.

“They pander to the salespeople who are scared of, uncomfortable with, or simply don’t want to do the hard work of sales.”

When it comes to selling on social media Blount and Innarino have a provocative perspective.

“Selling is about conversations and commitments. But conversations without commitments isn’t selling. It’s just conversations,” says Innarino.

In essence, it’s marketing. Broadcasting.

Marketing is often about soft outcomes. Sales is about hard outcomes: Commitments.

“I defy any quota carrying sales rep and go to their sales manager and say, ‘listen I really want to focus on social selling … so I want to spend most of my day creating content and sharing it.’ You’ll soon find yourself in a new role. Probably not in that company, probably not in sales,” says Innarino.

Is Your Team Hunting or Farming?

The lines between marketing and sales are blurring. This is precisely the problem. Today’s digital sales forces are been reduced to farmers, rather than being armed as better hunters.

It’s becoming more about usage of LinkedIn, less about qualitative outcomes. Sales conversations!

“The big push on ‘social’ selling has turned a lot of SDR teams into ‘send a LinkedIn invite then try to sell them 5 minutes after they accept,” says Mike Andersen, VP of Inside Sales at Mimosa Networks.

Sales people are not, and should not, be marketers (farmers). Yes, they should be listening using social media like LinkedIn and Twitter. But they should be using social to hunt more — farm less.

Are your sellers exploiting LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find potential customers and qualify them as buyers faster? Great. But don’t let them get bogged down with commenting on posts, posting updates, sharing articles and press releases (creating noise).

My research and experience leads me to conclude: There are loose correlations between being visible on social media and closing sales. Farming is important. It’s just less important than prospecting.

Today’s most effective sellers are using LinkedIn to locate, research and provoke problem-solving discussions with potential buyers. Hunt.

Are Your Hunters Being Forced to Farm?

Do your sellers feel they’re being forced to perform pointless activities on social media — that do not help find, nurture or close business faster?

Is there tension between sellers, management and marketing? Disagreement over what direction to take, why and how? You’re not alone. This is the hunter-farmer conflict.

A Lie That Keeps You From Success (Part 1 of 3)

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics. What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics.

What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

Get on board, the train is leaving without you! We’ve reinvented sales prospecting and you’re missing out!

But here’s what the gurus (cleverly) don’t tell you: Prospecting best practices remain the same. What works rarely changes. With social selling:

  • your cold calling tactics should evolve a bit—not reinvent themselves
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube don’t replace cold calling—they advance it

Cold calling is alive and thriving. In fact, effective cold call tactics can feed your social selling strategy. Sellers have the chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

“I often wonder … if the advocates to the ‘death of cold calling’ movement have mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it pleasing to the palate,” says Kraig Kleeman in a lucid stream of thought on the Association for Talent Development’s LinkedIn group.

5 Signs Your Social Selling Strategy Is a Ticking Bomb
“The (cold calling is dead) argument appears delicious and intoxicating, but somehow its outcome creates a harmfully poisonous effect,” says Kleeman.

He is right. The tsunami of false claims about cold calling being dead can cause you to believe it is a factual reality—and act accordingly. Therein lies the danger.

Believing cold calling is less effective might cause you to rush into social selling and:

  1. Use LinkedIn as a replacement to cold calling—and be banned for using connection requests
  2. Fail to spark conversations with buyers via LinkedIn updates due to misguided tips
  3. Ask for appointments in “first touch” InMail/emails to prospects (big mistake!)
  4. Waste time trying to spark conversations in LinkedIn Groups because of ineffective scripts
  5. Teach ineffective methods to your entire team by hiring a misguided social selling trainer!

Let Social Filter: Trust Your Instincts
What works in cold calling works in social selling. Period. Don’t let any guru tell you otherwise.

An effective cold call produces raw insight on where the buyer is in the decision-making process. If they’re in it at all! It doesn’t set an appointment. It doesn’t ask for a meeting. It is discovery-focused. You’re filtering prospects and placing them in “buckets.”

An effective cold call is brief, blunt and basic. It facilitates to both sides: “Might there be a larger conversation to be had here? Why, when and how?” Done!

The buyer is in control and sets the meeting, demo or call date. Your job is to find the pain—uncover (or confirm) the reason why this prospect might want to talk to you.

Next, your job is to start a journey toward the buyer discovering (for themselves) why they want to talk more. It’s a process, a discipline. That’s why cold calling works so well!

This is the most effective way to approach social selling. First, have a system. Second, focus on the buyer so much they ask you for the next contact—or ask you to stop.

Let social media filter leads for you.

Don’t Do What You’ve Been Told
This may sound crazy, but it’s the best advice I can give. Stop using social media and LinkedIn to:

  • Make initial contact with prospects via LinkedIn connections
  • Send emails/InMails that ask for appointments—overlooking cold call best practices
  • Post updates on LinkedIn without a way to provoke buyers to contact you
  • Comment in LinkedIn groups without a means to spark curiosity in you (get response)
  • Message prospects on LinkedIn using a common group as a reason to speak

If you’re doing any of these, don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Otherwise good people who are looking to ride a wave have given you bad information. Unfortunately, they’re using fear and unbridled enthusiasm as weapons. Just say no.

Boldly Stand-up for the Facts
Kleeman wisely reminds us how the degree of sales productivity can be judged by observing. Take a look at what is going on around you. Notice who is adopting practices based on speculation versus the adoption of fact.

Take a look at the output each group is achieving. (How much money they’re making!)

In other words, are your sales peers being praised as “social selling leaders” simply for “being on” social media? Or are they being financially rewarded based on the facts—how much business they’re winning?

The Best of Both Worlds
Throwing out the old and implementing a very unproven new is hogwash. It’s a lazy strategy based on hot air. Tools like LinkedIn are providing a better way to identify and warm-up cold prospects … and finding “ready to buy” leads. Tons of value there. But …

“Try telling a broker of refurbished airplane parts that raw list cold calling is not a vital activity for revenue capture … try telling a manufacturer of plumbing, HVAC, and home improvement products that cold calling aimed at resellers and end users is ineffective,” says Kleeman.

“You just might need a degree in martial arts or unfettered access to the US military’s drone missile fleet to defend yourself,” he jokes.

Cold calling is alive, thriving and (surprise!) feeding winning social selling strategies. Today is your chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

Forget about reinventing sales prospecting! Make sure your team has a prospecting strategy that exploits what already works using new social tools.

What Is Social Selling and Where Do I Start?

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process. Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process.

Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and discover: What is social selling and how are sellers generating more leads, faster? What is the process your sales team should be applying?

Social Selling Is a System
Let’s grip the wheel, firmly. Revolutions bring about change that make things easier or better. Has social media made your life easier lately? Are you getting more leads and closing them faster?

I rest my case!

Effective social selling is a system. Systems are not sexy.

A system is a repeatable process with a predictable outcome. Input goes in, certain things happen and out pops a result.

Social Prospecting: New but not Complex
The prospecting piece of social selling is mostly about:

  1. Getting buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turning response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

If anything is new about this process it’s the role direct response marketing techniques play. For example, social media copywriting is catching on.

The process today’s best social sellers are using generates leads faster by helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via short-form social content)
  • realize they just found part of it (using longer-form content) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Engagement and Trust Are not the Goals
Will you agree with me that engagement is not your sellers’ goal? Engagement is the beginning of a process. It’s a chance for front line reps and dealers to create response—and deeper conversation about a transaction.

If not, engagement is a chronic waste of your reps’ and dealers’ time.

I know “experts” insist that being trusted is a strategy. But it’s not.

It is the output of a successful prospecting strategy!

Increased trust is a sign your sellers are applying the process effectively. It’s not a goal!

As a small B-to-B business owner myself, I know what gets you paid. It’s not engagement. It’s not your image or personal brand.

You or your boss measures performance based on leads.

So let’s keep your social prospecting approach practical: Attention, engagement and a simple, repeatable way to create response more often. These are the components of an effective social selling system.

Why You Don’t Need a Social Selling Strategy

“What’s your social selling strategy?” I hear it all the time.
“You need one,” the experts insist.

But I say no, in most cases. Here’s why: Listen to what the experts say. Pay attention to what they say goes into a social selling strategy. Hint: It’s nothing new!

Yet we keep hearing “experts” claim listening is a new idea—or how we must get trusted to earn the sale.

So I give you permission to fire your social selling consultant or sales person if this is the best they can do.

What’s Your Telephone Strategy?
Not convinced? Consider how we don’t have B-to-B telephone strategies for prospecting. We have systems, approaches to applying the tool effectively. What defines our success in tele-prospecting?

Listening to customers? Nope. That’s the entry fee.

Trust? Nope. That’s the outcome we desire.

Success when dialing-for-dollars is based on if your system works—or not.

“You didn’t need a telephone strategy when the telephone was invented,” says sales productivity coach Philippe le Baron of LB4G Consulting.

“You learned how to use the new tool … to reach out to people you could never have dreamed of reaching … and get a face-to-face meeting with the ones who qualified.”

Today, tele-prospecting success has little to do with phone technology. It has everything to do with your telephone speaking technique—your conversational system.

Just the same, you don’t need a social media strategy today. You need a practical, repeatable process to increase sellers’ effectiveness (productivity) and make their output more predictable … using social media platforms.

Systems work for you. You don’t work for systems!

So don’t let gurus trick you into feeling like a laggard. Don’t let me catch you throwing money at sales trainers claiming buyers are fundamentally revolutionizing the way they buy. Focus on ways to:

  1. Get buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turn response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

Good luck. Let me know how I can help!

How to Create a LinkedIn Social Selling Strategy

What is your LinkedIn social selling strategy? If you don’t have one—or your sales team isn’t generating leads on LinkedIn—you’re not alone. In fact, most dealers and reps are mimicking the mistakes of marketers. They’re relying on attraction and influence tactics. Instead, trust your selling instincts to an effective LinkedIn social selling strategy.

What is your LinkedIn social selling strategy? If you don’t have one—or your sales team isn’t generating leads on LinkedIn—you’re not alone. In fact, most dealers and reps are mimicking the mistakes of marketers.

They’re relying on attraction and influence tactics. Instead, trust your selling instincts to an effective LinkedIn social selling strategy.

Avoid what we already know doesn’t work: influencing. Help your reps start provoking prospects. The key to unlocking more appointments is compelling prospects to share pains and ambitions sellers can work with—not hoping to influence them into action.

Why Your Sellers Are Failing
A sales rep or dealer’s LinkedIn profile can be a lead generation magnet. Likewise, groups, direct messages and InMail can be too. So why are sellers experiencing such poor results?

LinkedIn experts keep pushing techniques that FAIL. Not because they’re bad people. Because their ideas are simple to execute. Too simple.

“I think it is so unprofessional when people just keep regurgitating or recycling articles that they wrote in the past or sharing links over and over to try to gain interest,” says Mike Reed. Mike is a front line rep for a client of mine who’s asked to not be named.

This is why most sellers fail. They’re going to modern-day battle with pitchforks being sold by self-appointed experts. Many of which have never sold anything!

“Next thing I know is that seller or subject is now being seen as credible (by their superiors) just because they are constantly in regurgitating information,” laments Reed.

And the beat goes on. Monkey see, monkey do—we fail more.

What You REALLY Don’t Have Time For
I know many sellers say, “I don’t have time to invest in a LinkedIn social selling strategy.” My clients tell me this daily. Plus, most don’t know what to do with it—and how to go about it.

The result is reps doing as little as possible of what is as easy as possible.

What you REALLY don’t have time for is techniques that are easy to do—that fail!

  • Promoting content in updates and in Groups
  • Adding rich media to your profile
  • Being seen as an expert in Groups

Fail, fail, fail.

Dump Attraction and Influence as Goals
The first step to setting your LinkedIn social selling strategy is to disregard success metrics coming from today’s LinkedIn gurus. Your sellers must reach beyond grabbing attention of buyers or trying to influence them. They must reach beyond:

  • teaching connections something new—so reputation rises
  • counting number of views and comments on posts/updates
  • applying a personal view to company-supplied content when posting

After all, how can “improved reputation” a meaningful outcome for a rep?

Today’s top social sellers know—they cannot afford to live like marketers. They don’t get paid to broadcast on social media and hope for attention and engagement.

Sellers get paid when we engage in ways that move us down the sales funnel—closer to a closed deal.

That’s why your goal must be direct provocation of prospects that connects to a lead capture and nurturing process.

Start Asking These Questions
Need a LinkedIn social selling strategy that empowers reps with the right tools? We’ve got to start asking better questions of experts, consultants and sales trainers.

Questions like HOW, exactly, does:

  • promoting content shorten selling cycles?
  • adding rich media to a profile create leads?
  • being seen as an expert lead to more appointments being set?

Your team isn’t failing because they’re slow or stupid with LinkedIn prospecting. Nor are you a laggard for not having a LinkedIn social selling strategy. If you’re still reading you’re ready to take action on my call to action.

Make sure your dealers and reps don’t mimic B-to-B marketers. Trust your selling instincts. Let them guide your LinkedIn prospecting strategy.

Help your reps start provoking prospects to take action and arm them with content that scratches customers itches—in ways that generate more appointments for sellers. Let me know how it’s going or if you have questions in comments!