You don't hear a lot about social selling anymore. Its promise was that every salesperson would reach their goals by simply hanging out on social channels and connecting with their prospects. But the loud voices that once shouted, "Cold calling is dead!" have been silent for many years.
Several of us were incredulous about these claims. We suggested that B2B sales organizations continue making cold calls. We were concerned that relying on social selling alone would weaken sales organizations’ pipelines. All the while, we treated the social channels as a tool for content marketing. I had predicted here that social selling was a fad that would go the way of all fads promising to make something difficult easy.
While they didn’t kill the cold call and revolutionize sales, the social channels are still around, and they provide a way to reach your prospects. There are now two primary approaches to social. The dominant choice is based on a spray-and-pray approach to prospecting. The second approach treats social as one medium in a prospecting sequence.
Regressing to Spray-and-Pray
When social-selling experts walked the earth, they would tell you that the first rule of social selling is not to sell. Even though they were wrong about social's ability to create new opportunities, they were on point about not selling directly. Eventually, the social experts recognized it was necessary to move off social and onto the humble telephone, a tool they seemed to resent. What the social experts got right was that you could sometimes use social media to start a conversation, especially with those who were enamored with the new town square.
We can describe 2015 as the height of social selling. Much has changed since then. Scammers and spammers violate LinkedIn's rules against automating messaging on their platform. There are now thousands of people using automation to send spammy InMail, making it difficult for B2B salespeople to have their messages read. The more spray-and-pray InMail comes through, the more all messages in the inbox get ignored.
In one common spray-and-pray scenario, the person that requests to connect with you seems legitimate and sincere. You accept their connection request and four seconds later, you have a message in your InMail with an explanation of what the person sells with a link to their calendar so you can schedule a meeting with them. When you don't respond, the spammer's automation sends another message to remind you.
We were all better off when the social experts were beating the drum of not trying to sell on LinkedIn. LinkedIn would be a far better platform if they were as vigilant about spam as Google. LinkedIn and Sales Navigator would be much more enticing if your message wasn’t destined to be surrounded by a dozen or more spam messages.
B2B Social Selling Now and Prospecting Sequences
Before we dive into how you might use social channels today, it's important to remember that you can use the social channels to listen to your prospective clients. It's a mistake to not look at your prospects on LinkedIn. Your contacts typed in every word on their profile, giving you some intel about what they want people to know about them. While you are looking at your prospect's profile, grab the link and add it to your CRM.
Some of your contacts will also publish on LinkedIn. By following them, you can monitor their conversations to learn what they are interested in and what social content they engage with. What you learn may be helpful to you later.
The modern sales approach to prospecting is a well-designed sequence. You can use the social channel to communicate with your prospective clients, even if your contacts are skeptical of every InMail. Let's imagine that you have made three cold calls to your prospective client, leaving a voicemail after every failed attempt to reach them. You've also sent your contact an email explaining the reason for your call with no request that they call you back. Because you are a human communicating to another human, you send direct mail, proving you are sincerely interested in your prospect. Your contact has heard your voice and read your messages, but they haven't yet seen your face.
Using all the available media to communicate has made you familiar. When you send a connection request, provided you have proven yourself as someone who may help your contact improve their results in some meaningful way, you increase the likelihood that they will accept it. Now they have seen your face, and if they are curious, they may look at your profile.
Avoid Spammer Scammer Tactics
To make social work today, you need to avoid doing anything that might reduce you to seeming like another fake profile or automated spambot. Connecting and immediately sending a request for a meeting makes it seem like you connected because you simply want a meeting. May God have mercy on you should you put a calendar link in your InMail. You will look like the people your contacts avoid and ignore.
Increasing Your Success on Social through Content Marketing
To improve your ability to connect with your contacts on the social channels, a pull strategy is more effective than a push strategy. By providing your contacts with insights and ideas on the social channels, you look like a person who is an expert and authority in their field. By being seen as someone who knows a lot about their industry, you will not only make it easier for your contact to connect, but you may also have contacts follow you or connect with you directly.
Who knew that years later we would need the social-selling experts to be the voice of reason, reminding the brutes that ruin LinkedIn that social doesn't work the way they are using it.