Where Social Selling Goes Wrong

30 Jun
June 30, 2014

There are differing schools of thought on LinkedIn connections, but I’ve always been of the view that it’s not the number of connections (I’m looking at you people who put in your connection count as part of your name), it’s the quality of them. I’ll admit though, I sometimes accept LinkedIn connections from people I don’t necessarily know or have worked with, when I think their updates might be an interesting read.

This leads, at times to the unsolicited pitch email for business, something that many of us now accept as part of the social process.

Where the process of social selling seems to break down though, is that there are too many assumptions, not enough research, and the misplaced notion that a social connection is a sufficient substitute for building a relationship.

If you’re using social to sell, it shouldn’t be different to any other sales process or social media engagement. It starts with listening.

To illustrate, I got one such email last week from a new connection, which began by saying “I wanted to reach out to you to tell you about our business”.

If an email begins like this, you would hope that the person sending it has done some research into the business you work in. It became obvious in the space of the email that they had not.

A better start to a sales email would be “I wanted to reach out and ask you about your business”. This should be the beginning of a conversation, not a straight out pitch.

It then closed by saying “I would love to make some time to come and discuss how we could help”. Another assumption – that there is something they can help with.

How could they close it better? “If you think you have a need for the service we offer, I’d be happy to discuss further”.

While social media is not new, the notion of social selling is still a grey area, particularly given so much advice is “whatever you do, don’t sell”.

But it can be used to build effective relationships, if there is a genuine need for a product. There are common challenges that many face, but this shouldn’t be a substitute for effort to identify a prospect.

As an example, yesterday I tweeted this to Buffer, who are on of my favourite tools to use list:

Within 10 minutes, I had a rep from HootSuite reply to tell me that HS did support G+ and to reach out if I would like to know more. Perfect, low touch reply – just to let me know there is an option if I want to know more. 

This is the kind of opening you should aim for when social selling.

Listen for the opportunities. Never assume because you know where someone works and what they do that the challenges they face are the same as the last person you sold to.

How about you? Any great (or not so great) social sales pitches or processes you’ve seen?

PHOTO – Michael via Flickr

Tags: , ,
  • I sometimes receive invitations to connect from total strangers that begin with “as you are a person that I trust” laughable!

    Social is the operative word here; we wouldn’t begin pitching to a bunch of people we’ve just been introduced to in a social environment; why do it online?

    • Ben Shute

      Thanks for the comment Peter, and you’re spot on.

      The templates for connection on LinkedIn are designed to serve what the platform was intended to do, as opposed to what people use it for.

      The fact that people don’t take thirty seconds to customise it speaks to the point of the post where there is little research or thought in the process, and just a sell sell sell attitude.