Along with the increased awareness of the power of the social channel, there has been a disturbing trend of freshly minted “Social Selling” gurus proclaiming that social selling will solve all of your sales problems.
I recently witnessed one of these “gurus” pronounce all other forms of prospecting dead and advise salespeople to shift all of their energy and focus to social selling (of course using his complicated 9-step system that he was willing to sell at a special discount). Ironically and hypocritically his pitch was made via a cold email.
Another expert cold called my VP of Sales on the telephone to pitch her social selling program as an advanced lead generation program that would eliminate cold calling forever. He challenged her: “If your program is so good, why are you cold calling me? Shouldn’t I be calling you?” That abruptly ended the call.
Social Selling is not a panacea. Contact and conversion rates via phone and email dwarf conversion rates on social media.
The social channel enhances, elevates, and sometimes accelerates your prospecting efforts. It is certainly a powerful channel that should be a core part of your sales prospecting tool box. But Social Selling is not a replacement for focused and deliberate outbound prospecting efforts.
The Social Selling Challenge
From time to time though I’ll hire a new sales rep who will challenge me on this premise. Last year one of my new reps walked into my office and declared the telephone dead. He’d read an article by a social selling “expert” and then attended one of his webinars. My rep claimed that he’d learned how to eliminate cold calling (which meant ALL calling) with a more powerful LinkedIn strategy.
“Besides,” he told me, “no one answers answer the phone anymore. Buyer 2.0 wants to talk to salespeople on their terms.” (I remember thinking to myself Buyer 2.0? WTF!)
He even uttered the words, “old school,” as we debated his position on calling vs LinkedIn as I pointed to the phone and insisted he pick it up and start dialing.
So I challenged him. He could employ his “new school strategy” for a week, and I would go old school and open up our database of prospects, get on the phone, and interrupt “buyer 2.0’s” day.
At the end of the first day he proudly came into my office beaming that his contact requests had been accepted by seven people – “good prospects” he said.
“Awesome! So how much did you sell?” I asked.
“You don’t understand Jeb, it doesn’t work that way.” He replied. “This takes time.”
I looked down at my call sheet. I’d completed 73 dials, made 19 contacts, and sold two deals for which I’d collected credit cards – real money in the bank.
We repeated this exercise for four more days. At the end of the week I’d closed 15 new accounts and collected payment on all of them. He’d been successful in getting a whole slew of people to accept his connection requests, liked and commented on lots of posts, followed company pages, joined groups, posted content, and . . . sold nothing.
To be sure, I used social media too. I sold two deals when the prospects called me back after I left a voice mail, sent an email, and then pinged them on LinkedIn. I also sent connection requests to the prospects I sold and the ones I’d had conversations with on the phone but was unable to close. While building my call lists I scanned LinkedIn profiles for data points that might make my calls more relevant. In other words, I wove social media into a balanced prospecting effort rather than making it my exclusive channel.
Following our exercise, the exchange of a $10 bet, and a coaching conversation that included a calculator on which I introduced him to how much commission he would have earned if he’d closed those sales, my new rep agreed that he’d fill up his bank account faster with a balanced approach that included interrupting people rather than hanging out on the social channel all day waiting for them to interrupt him.
Balance Prospecting Across Multiple Channels
Before running headlong into this brutal reality, my new rep had adopted a methodology from a “guru” who promised an endless stream of prospects that were ready to buy, along with minimal effort and no rejection. No muss, no fuss, no interrupting.
If you decide to buy into this crap you might want to keep your resume warmed up. If you think social selling is the new magic fairy dust that will turn you into the next sales superstar you are in for a rude awakening.
Social selling will not solve your pipeline woes or provide an endless stream of inbound leads with little effort. It takes far more than a Linkedin connection, content curation, and hope to move today’s buyers to take action.
This is why savvy sales professionals and top earners balance prospecting across multiple channels including the phone, email, text, in-person, networking, and social.
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