There are individuals far smarter and more qualified than I am who love social selling, but it’s a phrase that can mean a million different things. But in general, it’s a way for sales teams to connect with prospects and provide them with value via social media.
Does a salesperson’s activity on social media help with sales? Probably, if he’s not posting too many memes or Buzzfeed articles about which Harry Potter character is his spirit animal.
Thought leadership is unquestionably an important player in developing credibility, which in turn leads to winning new customers. Can one build credibility through writing articles and sharing them? Call me three weeks after this gets published, and I’ll let you know!
All kidding aside, as the CEO of a B2B sales-focused company, I think stats like “78 percent of social sellers outsell in comparison to colleagues who don’t use social media” are bad for business, even if they might be true. They give salespeople license to hide from less glamorous, grittier sales activities that are must-haves for any successful sales organization.
The Problem With Social Selling
Too many salespeople lean on social selling. They’re either too lazy to make cold calls, send cold emails, and research prospects, or they’re too afraid of rejection. Writing an opinion piece on the future of your industry and sharing it with your 17 LinkedIn pals is risk-free. Retweeting an article from the CEO of Facebook requires little grit or time.
Picking up the phone and hammering out 50 cold calls, on the other hand, stinks. Doing research on a company, identifying the ideal decision maker, and crafting a perfect prospecting email takes time. But these tactics work.
Social selling implies that you are selling to prospects already in your extended network. While there are ways to expand your network, this method isn’t terribly realistic for the average salesperson. The chief financial officer of Netflix isn’t going to block off 45 minutes for a face-to-face meeting with you because you emailed him a copy of your e-book. Creating a network you want to sell to is tricky, and even if you are able to do it, decision makers are constantly inundated with whitepapers, case studies, videos, and e-books.
So how do you ensure that you’re steering your sales team in the right direction if you decide against social selling methods? Here are three tactics my team has used.
1. Hire only relentless prospectors.
My sales team is made up of them. It means that they’ve succeeded at prospecting in the past and will do it again. In every sales interview, I ask for examples of how and when the interviewee has taken a prospect from a stranger to a client. If a potential hire can’t give me several concrete stories showing his or her ability to do just that, the interview process is over.
2. Don’t project your own mindset.
Stop worrying about how you respond to being prospected. I know, I know: You hate being prospected, and your inbox is packed with folks trying to sell you stuff. You would never respond to cold outreaches from a stranger. Even if you’d rather have someone favorite your tweet, endorse you on LinkedIn, or direct message you on Instagram, it doesn’t matter. Even if cold outreach goes against what you think is true about your business, test it out.
3. Embrace the cold call.
Some pretentious founders of “groovy” companies see cold calling and cold emailing as inelegant. They must believe that their firms are above the fray and that they can win customers by writing whitepapers, redoing their websites twice a week, and upgrading their logos. Maybe that customer acquisition formula works for them. If so, Godspeed.
But CEOs and CMOs need to put their feelings aside and try the cold call and cold email approach. Ditch the “I am in a relationship business. You can’t start relationships with a cold call” mindset, because it’s wrong. My team has about 150 clients, all of whom we have great relationships with, and nearly all of them evolved as the result of cold outreach.
Social selling may have a reputation for being the best sales tactic of the modern age, but don’t be fooled by the hype. Cold outreach is not dead. Keep these tips in mind when building up a strong sales team.
Calling isn’t dead. Cold calling is. Once you’ve researched a prospect, it’s no longer a cold call.