Find Ian’s articles on Forbes.com
You’ve probably received marketing emails from people claiming that their social selling tactics can help you double or even quadruple your sales overnight. Have you ever wondered how can those claims be possible? I’m not trying to debate the success of those folks. Rather, I am a firm believer that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Social media can be a valuable tool for your business. That said, there are misconceptions about social selling, as well as prevalent tactics that could end up costing you business.
Biggest Misconception About Social Selling
Social selling is nothing new – it’s just that we now have easier access to more channels through which to communicate. Organizations that approach social media by blatantly foraging online for new clients have it all wrong.
When done right, social selling provides a way to communicate authentically with your community so they know who can help them. Your audience is inundated with a ton of self-promoting garbage from all kinds of businesses. The most successful companies understand the real goal of social selling.
The Goal Of Social Selling
Good social selling builds a community of people trying to overcome similar challenges. Create and share content with your community that clearly explains what problems you are good at solving. This helps your ideal customer see that you understand their issues.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the larger the market, the more narrowly you should target your message. If you want to stand out from the competition, be amazingly specific about the problems you solve.
Annoying Social Selling Tactics That Cost You Business
Be wise about the tactics you use to communicate on social media. Sadly, some companies still use techniques that cause you to think of them like a pest, or an overly clingy acquaintance. They send a note claiming extraordinary results that might not apply to you. Two days later, they send a follow-up note asking why you have not responded. Finally, they ask, “Are we still friends?” Not only are we not “still” friends, we never were.
Such tactics destroy your social media reputation and repel rather than attract potential business. You could be guilty and not even realize it. I hope you’ll appreciate why the following tactics are neither OK in person, nor on social media.
Pounding Your Chest
If you attended a networking event, would you stand in the middle of the room and shout out stuff about yourself or your company? Of course not – but unfortunately, that’s what many people do with social media. They send messages to their community with pathetic calls to action such as, “Like my page,” or, “Share this with your contacts.” Social media is a community. In a community, you seek out the person who helps others and adds the most value to other members of the group.
I was inspired by Shashi Bellamkonda’s article about how people jump the gun with online connections:
“Definitely never attempt to establish a sales relationship the minute they followed you.” Shashi goes on to share that just because someone connects via social media, you have not earned permission to send them a direct message soliciting business.
He added, “When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, sending them a sales pitch immediately is not good practice. Somewhere, someone probably said to always ask for the order and give the recipient an opportunity to buy.” If you sell snake oil or want to scare off potential clients, then go for it.
Otherwise, follow Derek Coburn’s advice in Networking Is Not Working. The first step in a relationship is seeing where you can add value for the other party. So few people do this, that by doing so, you’ll clearly stand out.
During my recent podcast interview with Shama Hyder, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, she shares three of the key principles for how best to utilize social media platforms.
Successful Social Selling
If you define social selling as being a great teacher to help your customers learn they can rely on you as a resource, then social selling is very effective. Craft your actions and messages on social media to help vs. sell. Take the time to articulate how you help others to demonstrate the value you bring to your community network. If you can articulate how you help others, someone just might connect you to someone who would be glad to meet you and learn more.
It’s Your Turn
Who have you seen do a remarkable job of adding value in social media? Share your observations in the comments below, or on Twitter or LinkedIn.