Social Selling

Social selling has been rising in popularity for awhile. There’s a reason: It works. It’s not a magic bullet (don’t nix cold calling yet), but social selling does work. According to research from the Aberdeen Group:

  • 6% of the salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers.
  • 46% of social sellers hit their quotas, compared to 38% of other reps who don’t.

Despite the good results, many sales people are still holding back. Several research studies have documented this. PeopleLinx’s 2015 The State of Social Selling is one of the most recent.

Social Selling

Given how widespread the use of social media is, those stats are a bit alarming. They’re also alarming because most buyers will be well along in their buying process by the time they actually talk to a sales team member.

Depending on which study you cite, buyers are up to 67% of the way through the sales process by the time of their first contact with a sales rep. Now, those figures are under dispute, but even if buyers are only a third of the way along, it’d be nice to be present for those first touches, right? That’s part of what social selling is about.

If you want to get started with social selling, or if you want to become a more advanced social seller, keep reading. We’ve framed this post to show you what the best social sellers do. Follow their lead to get more of your leads to close.

1) The best social sellers understand what social media is – and isn’t.

Sales success comes as much from a mindset as a skills set. Social selling is no different. If you don’t really get the core principles of social media, you’ll struggle – no matter how many LinkedIn tricks you know.

Here are a few guiding principles:

  • Social media (and social selling) is not advertising. It’s supposed to be a two-way conversation. That well-worn metaphor about social media being like a party is still true. It’s not polite (or interesting) to make social media – or social selling – all about you.
  • Social selling is not “set it and forget it”. A good social presence requires some work every day. It requires interacting with other people and having something to say, even if you’re sharing someone else’s article. That said, you can use some social media automation tools to queue up social posts ahead of time.
  • Social selling is more about being helpful than it is about selling. Always be asking yourself “Am I being helpful?,” “Am I delivering value?” Focusing on only what you want from your social media relationships will hurt your results. That’s why the best social sellers are authentic and helpful. First, last and always.
  • Social media changes. Fast. I sympathize that it’s hard to learn new technologies. It’s frustrating to try to keep up with all the changes that happen on social platforms. But that’s the way it is. A bit of curiosity and flexibility goes a long way on social media.

2) They know how to use social media.

Remember that stat from the opening – the one about how only 26% of sales reps feel they know how to use social for selling? Call me crazy, but I think that’s the #1 reason there hasn’t been more adoption of social selling.

If you’re not comfortable with a technology, you’ll avoid using it. And, if and when you do use it, you’ll likely do it poorly and under half steam.

That’s why the smartest social sellers know the ins and outs of social media. They take the time to read up on new tricks. They watch how other social sellers work. They’re constantly learning. That gives them a confidence less-frequent or new social sellers don’t have. It also means top social sellers can work faster and get in more prospect contacts every day.

Want proof that skills can boost social selling adoption? Check out the charts below. A bit of training and company support makes a difference:

company support

Unfortunately, it appears most companies aren’t offering this kind of support. According to that same PeopleLinx report:

  • Only 22% of companies encourage the use of social selling
  • Only 11% train their employees to use social selling
  • …and only 6% measure (and thus reward) their employees based on their social selling

There’s more proof of how social selling is a low priority for companies from Altimeter’s 2015 State of Social Business report. Social selling is the second last in the chart below.

Relationship Building with Social

If you want to start performing like a top social seller, either make a self-improvement project out of learning social media, or start pressing your company to bring in some social media training.

3) They do their homework.

“Sales is a numbers game.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. And while just dialing like a banshee will indeed improve your odds, please think quality over quantity. Don’t blast the same follow-up to everyone.

I realize it’s hard to find the time for customized messages. You’ve got to make a certain number of touches per day. But how long does it really take to look at a website or learn even a little bit about someone by looking at their LinkedIn profile? Two minutes, max.

If you’re worried about getting sucked into doing too much research, set a timer to restrict your research time to two to three minutes per lead. Then write an email or leave a voicemail (or a LinkedIn invitation to connect) that shows you know at least a bit about the company beyond what the contact form included.

Want a tool to help speed this up? Consider Riffle, one of Jack Kosakowski’s favorite social selling tools.

We know that personalized messages get significantly higher conversion rates. A bit of research also says to your prospect:

  • You understand their unique situation
  • You are the type of person who takes extra care and treats people well
  • You’re more engaged than 90% of the other sales people who are going to contact them today

Still skeptical? Okay. Figure something out for me: How many fewer contacts will you be able to make if you did those two minutes of research for each lead? Now, if you got 20% more sales to close from those personalized contacts, would it be worth the extra time?

4) They leverage more than one medium and more than one social media platform.

Top social sellers are active on more than one social media channel. They are equally adept via–

  • Email
  • Phone
  • Text message
  • LinkedIn InMail
  • Skype call
  • Twitter direct messages
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • And more

They know tricks like how to record a short personalized video (less than 30 seconds) on their phone and then send it to someone via Twitter. They use visuals to educate their prospects, not just whitepapers and text-based content.

All this gives them far more channels to reach people through. It means that if they’ve got a visual learner, they won’t turn them off with a wonky whitepaper. And if they do have a quant on hand, they’ll have the charts and graphs and technical specs to keep them happy, too.

This can be a stretch for new social sellers. If you’re still on Twitter baby steps, sending a video message might seem out of reach. And that’s okay. Try to learn even one new format every month, and you’ll be going multichannel with the best of them in no time.

5) They use industry tools and sync them up.

If you’re going to have all those channels to communicate through, why not integrate them? That’s what top social sellers do.

For example, they’ll get a premium LinkedIn account. That LinkedIn account will get hooked into their company’s CRM. On top of that, they’ll use a few email tools to save some more time. They might also use social media tools like to build their Twitter following, or an email finder tool like VoilaNorbert. (Or they might use Act-On Anywhere, to keep marketing assets handy when they’re working on other platforms or apps.)

This integrated social selling is ideally something a company would offer. Hopefully, you’re at a firm that’s at least got some marketing automation software set up, and hopefully your sales management software talks to other platforms.

But even if neither of those things is in place, just having a premium LinkedIn account, a couple of inbox management tools, and some social media automation software can get you pretty far along.

6) They understand that they’re as much in the business of teaching as they are in the business of selling.

This is more of a mindset tip than a skills tip. I mentioned it earlier when I was talking about being helpful. Good social sellers view the whole sales landscape through the lens of being helpful. And that has great consequences on social media. It can take many forms, including:

  • Sending someone an article that’s perfect for some issue they’re struggling with
  • Introducing one person to another
  • Thanking people publicly for their good work
  • Making recommendations about companies or services that might help someone (companies that aren’t your competitors, of course)
  • Sharing content that espouses values or industry trends you want to support
  • Sharing humor or inspirational quotes (especially on Fridays)

All this, of course, is another way to be authentic. And likable. And trustworthy.

7) They are well-connected to the marketing department – and to the content creation and content marketing strategies.

Remember how the buyer is far along in their buying process by the time they talk to a salesperson? Well, that means the company’s content is making a lot of the first impressions potential buyers get of your brand and product. Good social sellers want to know what those first contacts are about, so they know the content the marketing department is publishing. They might even help shape which content gets made.

After all, those early messages matter; all that content has to perform. It has to attract the attention of the ideal prospects. It has to be good enough for buyers to make the choice to engage with your content, rather than your competitors’ content.

So whether it’s tweets, white papers, LinkedIn posts, eBooks, webinars, or conference booths, smart social sellers know what content their company is putting out. Ideally, they’ll also have a voice in that process.


The best social sellers aren’t necessarily social media gurus. But they do know a couple of things:

  • They understand what social media is – and isn’t
  • They know how to use social media platforms with confidence
  • They take the time to research their leads so their follow-ups are more relevant and personal
  • They are on multiple social media platforms and they reach out to prospects through multiple channels
  • They use marketing automation, CRM software, and other tools to speed up their work
  • They teach first and sell second
  • They know what content the marketing department is publishing and they may even help shape what content gets created

Have we missed anything? What other things do you think top social sellers do differently?

People buy from people, not companies, and social media is one of the best channels for building meaningful connections with your prospects. Download, Social Selling: 5 Steps to Building Relationships with Social Media to learn the five key steps to use social selling to build relationships that last, provide value, demonstrate consistency, and are mutually beneficial.