When I originally started out as a salesman (many years ago!!), the sales process was quite simple – make some leads, follow them up with a demo or meeting and then (politely) chase them up to get some commitment. Diagrammatically it looked like this:

Then in 2003 the sales process started to evolve with the birth of LinkedIn and the evolution of smarter (and more researched) clients. The old methods became less effective and this was even before the “new thinking” sales books like Challenger Sale (which came out in 2013).

Over the years the sales process has become much more complex in many ways, but also divergent with product type sales taking a more automated approach, whereas high value, solution or services sales look much more like this:

There has always been some confusion in people heads about social selling versus social media and I often refer to one as a conversation with someone you know in your home whereas social media is much more like shouting into the street or wearing an A frame and seeing who looks at you.

LinkedIn can be used as a broadcast platform, but its effectiveness is very limited by doing so. Hence, we have those people who want to ‘connect’ for no apparent reason other than to be ‘connected’ as they are choosing to use it as a megaphone to share content and hoping you might see or read their update. We’ve written much about this before and you can find a relevant blog here.

Used well LinkedIn is such a fantastic tool to use for elegantly selling solutions and services through a more networked, more relational lead and consultative approach without overtly “selling” in the traditional way – often much more comfortable for most people.

  1. The first stage has to be having a real network, by that I mean having people you are really connected to, people who you trust and know well enough that you can easily pick up the phone or message them to ask about someone you think you want to meet or if they could introduce you to somebody you would really like to know or meet up with over a coffee (my preferred method).
  2. This is often enabled or supported by some evidence through profiles, shared connections (who people can ask about you) and your own activities showing your perspective and influence in public.
  3. Whilst we can all get referrals when people remember us and our preferred types of clients, we are all busy and hence we often forget to join the dots where we should. LinkedIn gives you a way to find the people you want to meet that your network already knows and simply ask for a referral – as we all like to help the nice people we know (see 1. above)
  4. Once someone introduces you it puts an additional layer of credibility over you as they are saying you’re a nice person, but you can enhance this in a number of ways. Being a nice person is a given but some proof about your impact within your profile, recent recommendations for your work and having the right skills can really help to expose your full value.
  5. Nothing will ever replace meeting someone and I am often told that “once I get in front of someone for a chat it is easy to explain, the problem is getting in front of people.” Well, if you think about the steps above 1 through 4, then that will identify and prove you are a nice person and give you the map to ask the person for the referral, then all you need to do is ask! Don’t send a message, a connection or an email! Meet them over a coffee or pick up the telephone and call them and ask them for the referral or introduction or perhaps even whether you should meet them in the first place.

Interestingly, the research supports this highlighting 24 interactions from a cold start before someone will commit to buy from you versus 2 to 3 if you are referred or introduced through social selling or networking.

The purpose of this blog is not to say the traditional ways such as mailshots, cold calling and more don’t work – they do but just not as efficiently or effectively as social selling when it is done well.

It is always fascinating to see the shift in body language and perspective when we start to show people simple things within LinkedIn or talk about results clients have got and we’re always happy to have those chats with people.

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