Social selling using LinkedIn has been part of the sales landscape for several years, but it has exploded over the past year because of the pandemic. For many businesses, the cancellation of conferences and trade shows has meant the loss of one of their primary lead generation opportunities. So, they turned to social selling on LinkedIn. The problem is that it’s being done badly… too many people in sales have taken their old, bad sales habits and just moved them over to this new channel.
And I know this is happening because – unfortunately – I have been the frequent recipient of these lousy sales activities. So, in an effort to help seller-doers and full-time sales reps not embarrass themselves or their firms, here are three social selling tactics to STOP IMMEDIATELY if they’re currently part of your repertoire.
1. Bad follow-up. Let’s say you invite a sales prospect to connect on LinkedIn and they except. Great! Now what? Well, your first follow-up should not be a sales pitch. It will likely anger and polarize the recipient. But I get it all the time… “Thanks for connecting yesterday, Steve. Here are 27 things we sell – let’s schedule some time to talk!” No! No! No! You have not earned the right to sell to me yet. Social selling is – first and foremost – about being ‘social’… about using the LinkedIn platform to establish and cultivate a relationship. And just like an in-person relationship, it takes time.
2. Bad invitations. Evidently, for some bad salespeople, mistake #1 (above) isn’t aggressive enough. They need to sell even harder. These knuckleheads don’t even wait until you’ve accepted their invitation. They actually use the invitation as their sales pitch: “Hi Steve, here’s a list of all the things we sell… want to connect?” Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how many of those I accept?
C’mon people… wise up. Don’t pitch in your invitation. [And at the other end of the spectrum, don’t use the generic one that LinkedIn gives you, either.] Instead, spent a few minutes writing a customized invitation and in it, share with that person why you think you should be connected with each other (because you’re in the same industry, or you’re in the same LinkedIn groups, or have shared connections, or went to the same college, etc.). Then, once they except, go about building a relationship that leads to buying opportunities.
3. Conversation interruptus. This is the newest addition to the DO NOT USE list… and it happened to me just a few weeks ago. I published an article on my LinkedIn profile about customer satisfaction surveys (C-SATs). It was very well received and started a nice thread of discussion among several professionals in our industry. After a day or two of back-n-forth about the C-SATs, someone jumped into the conversation (interrupted it, really) and said, “Need help with your customer satisfaction surveys? We do them… and here’s a link to them on our website… and here’s my phone number… call me!” I was furious. Not only did he interrupt and ruin the flow of a really good conversation, he came off looking like a complete idiot. And a really lousy sales rep. Don’t be that guy!
Bottom line. Social selling is here to stay. But like developing any business relationship, social selling is about slowly and smartly cultivating a relationship so that, over time, each contact will get to know you, then like you, then trust you. And when that happens, the door to a selling opportunity will open wide.