Social Selling: Farmers and Hunters

Social Selling is now top priority for Sales & Marketing.

One pitfall is to approach social selling like a “quick win” / “on the side” tactic for easy sales.

Through the experience of large scale social selling projects in the last three years (mainly on Twitter & LinkedIn) , we identified four types of mindset but only one really delivers benefits and clients.

Here’s a quick overview of them:

  • Browsing 

    Browsing strategy is usually the problem with younger salespeople. They’ve used social for years,  tweeting and snapping is second nature.

    But more is needed.

    If you just go with the flow on a social platform, the probability that you spend time with  potential prospects or influencers in your market is slim and ( worse) the probability that you have multiple conversations with the same person is close to zero.

    You tweet, accumulate followers (most of them who will not help you close anything) but you’re never gonna really engage with anyone.  Quickly, the lack of return and results, makes you give up to fatigue and quit or you will be asked to quit by your boss.

    Social Selling is a business process and it requires strategy, planning, on-going execution and measurement; There’s no magic, it’s hard work and discipline.

  • Search Engine

    Search Engine strategy is usually the tactic recommended by agencies and people who specialize in optimizing for Google.

    You spot all mentions of the problem solved by your product/solution and automate responses to reduce the human time in conversations to the bare minimum. It’s driven by keywords and automation.

    Well … that’s not really how people work. We love chitchats and social discussions. We hate being funneled into a robot and over anything, we hate being sold to.

    In Social selling ( an oxymoron) the goal is to establish and nurture a relation with a person who may become a potential buyer or referrer. So until we live in a world where seller bots talk to buyer bots, automation is not going to work.

    One example from the Financial Advisory business:

    Spotting mentions of “retirement plan”, “estate planning” or the name of a competitor will only pop ads from competitors. Affluent people seldom use such keywords.

    On the other hand, striking a conversation with local affluent people who are in transition to retirement and talk about baseball, kids, dogs, personal finance, food and travel will lead to meaningful relations.

  • Hunting

    Most older sales people ( Fuller Brush Salesmen) make this mistake frequently. You give them a prospect or a list of prospects and they run the script and knock at every door.

    Most will cold call, cold email or shoot LinkedIn inmails with a generic script.  The better ones customize their pitch or even better use referral … and sometimes it works but this is not really social selling.

    But you end up in the spam folder 99.99 percent of the time.

    It happens to me when I  skip the “relation building”phase or when I over message a prospect.

    Cold tweets and LinkedIn mails work too but that is not really social selling. It is just spray and pray sales tactics on a social platform.

  • Gardening  – Social Selling that works !

I like the gardening analogy. Indeed, talking about relationships, we often use words borrowed from gardening like “grow”, nurture”.

Here’s a simple way to do it right:

#1 First, you need to know what kind of crops you want to grow.

It’s what people do when they reflect on their business, strength & weaknesses and market conditions. It starts with  competitive position, compelling message and a go to market strategy.

here is an excellent article from Gail Graham about why it matters, in the context of the financial advisory market.

#2 Second,  you need to map your niche and id the prospective clients. When you focus, your content and conversations is more likely to be seen by the people you target.

#3 Third, make it a day to day activity. Water the garden daily! Listen and engage with the people you target;

Its easy when you blend “awareness” type of conversations (like, small talk, emotional discussion), credibility (conversations where you can demonstrated expertise), support/help (this is the number one reason people will talk to you) and opportunities (events, questions…).

Here are a few guidelines we have written on how to build relations on Twitter:

How to engage on Twitter : Events

How to engage on Twitter: Questions & Requests

#4 Measure and adapt. It is a process and it is still a numbers game. You need to ensure you have enough prospects to generate enough interest. But you also need to be careful not to have too many (Dunbar number).

You need to capitalize on your successes and adjust your segments, listening filters and engagement techniques as you discover what works and what does not.

Don’t hesitate to share about your social selling experience ! It is still an emerging practice with lots to be learned !


Photo credit: barbourians via / CC BY-SA

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