Social Selling: Farmers and Hunters

Social Selling is now top priority for Sales & Marketing.

One common misstep is to view Social Selling as a “quick win” or “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’ve identified four types of mindsets; only one really delivers benefits and clients.

Here’s a quick overview of them:


Browsing strategy is usually the problem with younger salespeople. They’ve used social media 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 target market is slim and (worse) the probability that you have multiple conversations with the same person is close to zero.

You tweet, you accumulate followers (most of whom will not help you close anything), but you’ll rarely engage with anyone.  Quickly, the lack of return and results leads to fatigue, and inevitably you’ll quit (or 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 or shortcuts; it requires dedication 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 spent in conversations to the bare minimum. It’s driven by keywords and automation.

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

In Social Selling (in actuality, an oxymoron) the goal is to establish and nurture a relationship with a person who may become a potential buyer (or referrer). 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 in their daily life.

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 relationships.


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 correspondence 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.

Today, with this approach, you’ll end up in the spam folder 99.99 percent of the time.

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

Cold tweets and LinkedIn mails will occasionally work too, but that is not really Social Selling. It is just spray and pray sales tactics on a social platform.

Gardening  – The Social Selling that works!

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

Here’s a simple way to do it right:

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

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

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

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

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

It’s easy when you blend “awareness” types of conversations (like small talk or emotional discussion), credibility (conversations where you can demonstrate 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

Fourth, 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.

Please feel free 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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